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orion L. Silberman's BAR letter on Ein Gedi

Lou H. Silberman wrote in a letter to Biblical Archaeology Review 
(Sept/Oct 1998 p.12f) "...that the Essenes lived above Ein Gedi and its 
spring, and not at Qumran." Since Prof. Silberman is a respected 
scholar and since BAR is a widely-read magazine, it may be worth 
pointing out that his letter does not at all establish his 
two assertions. (If anyone has an e-mail address for him, please 
forward this to him.)
	Silberman characterized J. VanderKam's discussion on this 
subject (in The Dead Sea Scrolls Today) as "convoluted." Now, though I 
could suggest some some changes in that book's discussion of Pliny, I 
must say that VanderKam's writing, in general, is quite clear, and this 
book is, in my opinion, one of the best scrolls books now available. 
Silberman does have one valid objection, *if* one reads VanderKam's 
sentence, "Sukenik suspected a connection between Qumran and the 
Essenes when he read the Manual of Discipline,"  and *if* one assumes 
that means "when he *first* read this text"--because Sukenik did not 
know the scroll cave's exact location when he first read this scroll. 
But, Qumran aside for the moment, Sukenik surely suggested an Essene 
identification for the scroll and a connection with Pliny's text. 
Silberman goes on to use a 1948 New York Times article, which is *not* 
quoting Sukenik at that point to characterize Sukenik's views, and he 
makes a debatable assertion about what could and could not have been 
considered the "neighborhood" of Ein Gedi. Of course, students of 
Judaean history were at the time more familiar with Jewish residence at 
Ein Gedi than at Qumran; hence it was natural for some to read or 
misread Pliny with that in mind. Silberman presents no evidence that 
Sukenik doubted the Qumran connection, once he learned of the 
location of the caves and the ruins. But the central issue, certainly, 
is not what Sukenik thought, but what we can now conclude, given the new
	Silberman claimed that Y. Hirschfeld's dig showed that his site 
near Ein Gedi was the Essene site described by Pliny's source. This 
claim has been refuted at length on orion: among other things, the site 
is too small and too late to be the one Pliny's source noted. (If it is 
eventually shown to be another, later and smaller Essene site, so be 
it; for whatever reason, Pliny didn't know, or at least didn't write, 
what Josephus and Philo did: that Essenes lived in many places.) 
Silberman compared Hirschfeld's site with Qumran 1a, but, in fact, the 
architectural remains at the two sites are quite different. And, in any 
case, if Silberman rejects the Essene identification of Qumran, why 
even attempt to show the Ein Gedi site as Essene by comparing them?
	Silberman wrote that calling "traditional" the reading of Pliny 
as describing Jericho, the Essene settlement, Ein Gedi, and Masada in a 
southward or downstream manner meant merely that that's how de Vaux 
translated it. But both possible translations (the other indicating 
elevation by "infra hos") were known before 1947; de Vaux himself cited 
a nineteenth-century German example manifesting his understanding.
	Silberman cited Crown and Cansdale's BAR article as evidence 
for "infra" placing Essenes higher than Ein Gedi. But that article 
contains many errors (some previously noted on orion). That article and 
the book by L. Cansdale do not take advantage of the important
published analyses of the use of "infra" in Pliny and his sources 
(Marcus V. Agrippa, in this case, in my view). These studies 
consider 18 uses of "infra" in the geographic books of Natural History. 
Cansdale's book has received two of the most negative reviews in the
recent literature, from J. Magness in Dead Sea Discoveries and from E. 
Puech in Revue Biblique (both 1998). G. Bowersock is cited as 
specifically denying Crown and Cansdale's interpretation of a Pliny 
example (in H. Shanks, The Mystery and Meaning of the Dead Sea Scrolls, 
1998, p.215 n.46; the treatment of this issue otherwise by Shanks is 
not reliable.)
	In short, without fully repeating  observations previously 
made at more length and with more bibliography on orion, Silberman's 
letter fails to make its case. And it illustrates the continuing 
reverberations of the misunderstanding of imagining that Pliny visited 
Judaea; instead, Pliny, who was never in Judaea,  used a source from 
the time of Herod the Great.
	Since the orion archives is a little bit difficult to search 
unless one knows the dates of the relevant posts, and if our 
moderator Avital approves, I could send a paper, "Rereading Pliny on 
the Essenes" to her to place on the website. At least, it could provide 
in one place a brief discussion and a collection of some of the 
relevant bibliography.
best wishes,
Stephen Goranson
stephen goranson