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Hello, George -

>1) Unless it is some aspect of the translation I have, the Hyppolytus
>writing is written as though it is STILL describing active factions of
>the Essenes.  Josephus would have been writing AFTER at least SOME of
>these factions would be suppressed, if not gone.  For example, the
>description of the Sicarii by Josephus would have been written after the
>Sicarii would have been no longer able to kill uncircumcised philosophers
>of religion.

Certainly there is something rather strange here - but why would the
assumption of another source help? Would another source claim that this WAS
going on in Hippolytus' lifetime? If so, you would still need to explain
why that source behaves so strangely : the principle of not multiplying
entities unnecessarily is surely against this.

Note that this a-historicism is true for all the descriptions of all the
sects. My theory is that Hippolytus is interested in comparing them as
philosophies, rather than as historical incidents, hence it is not
particularly important for him to distinguish between past and present.

>2)  If Hyppolytus DID get his description of this most brutal faction
>from Josephus, and if Josephus has been edited by later copiests, why
>would the later copyists spend any effort making the Sicarii sound nicer
>than Hyppolytus does?  If my memory serves me, Josephus and the other
>writers are MUCH less detailed about how the "sicarii" faction operate. 
>Would Hyppolytus INVENT a whole modus operandi?

I do not at all claim that Hippolytus got his description solely from
Josephus, rather that is is a compilation of various sources known to him
(and to us) with H. smoothing our rough transitions between various
factoids with his glosses. As for forced circumcision, I believe the story
is known at least about the Macabbees, so perhaps H. assimilates it to the
description of zealots whom he clearly sees as another sword-happy group :) 

An expanded description is by no means a proof of an alternative source - I
think one would look for a very particular kind of new evidence to
establish the existence of another source - something that could not be
deduced from the already known sources (e.g. Pliny's placing the Essenes
specifically near Ein Gedi). I do not think that the forced circumcision
story is that kind of an item.

Best, Asia