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Re: orion-list Pliny Qumran analysis (M. Agrippa)
Goranson has an unfortunate tendency to overestimate the support of
secondary literature for his positions. Menahem Stern does once refer to a
"main Herodian source." Goranson apparently places great weight on this
phrase (despite its implicit acknowledgement of other existing sources).
Goranson carelessly assumes that the Essene excursus can only belong to this
Herodian source. But Stern is a better scholar than to make such an
unfounded assumption. Stern nowhere assigns the Essene excursus to this
Herodian source. Stern believed the Herodian source was updated by material
from the Flavian period, as Goranson acknowledges. Did Stern believe the
Essene excursus derived from a Herodian Era source? He never says so. Might
Stern have considered it possible that the Essene excursus was a Flavian Era
addition? This is a distinct possibility, especially since Stern believed
that En-gedi lying in ruins reflected the situation after the Jewish War, and
the Essene passage is closely connected with that of Engedi.
Stern also contrasts the accounts in Josephus and Philo, in which
Essenes lived in scattered villages and towns across Judea, with that in
Pliny. "From BJ, V, 145, which is a a description of Jerusalem before its
destruction by Titus, we learn about a gate of the Essenes, which implies the
existence of an Essene community in Jerusalem. Presumably, Pliny knows only
of the Essenes living in the vicinity of the Dead Sea..." (Stern, 479). This
juxtaposition seems to hint that Pliny's account reflects the situation after
the Jewish War (a familiar conclusion in scholarly discussions of the
passage). Goranson's superficial reading of Stern overlooks such clues to
That Stern did not advance a firm opinion on the date of the Essene
excursus suggests he did not perceive evidence of sufficient bearing to draw
such a conclusion - Stern drew specific dating conclusions wherever possible.
Any scholar careful to accurately represent the views of Stern would concede
that Stern never dates the Essene passage to the time of Herod or excludes a
Flavian Era context for the same.
Other scholars have properly distinguished between geographical and
literary sources behind Pliny's account of Judea - the Essene excursus
obviously falling into the latter category. This further cautions us against
carelessly identifying the source behind the Essene excursus with the
Herodian [geographical] source.
Other than defending his reading of Stern as implying a Herodian Era
date for the Essene excursus, Stephen Goranson failed to respond to any of
the salient points I raised in my last post. I will briefly reiterate that
the passage on the Essenes is incompatible with the many samples of Agrippa's
commentarii that we possess, and make one last observation. In Pliny's
preface, Agrippa is not listed as an authority for book 7 - in contrast to
books 3-6 on geography. Dilke, on p. 52 of his chapter on Agrippa in _Greek
and Roman Maps_ draws the following reasonable conclusion.
"Book VII of the Natural History is anthropological, and in it Agrippa's
commentary does not appear, so that it is unlikely to have had any concern
with descriptions of tribes, which perhaps helps to confirm its concentration
Pliny's excursus on the "solitary tribe of the Essenes, which is
remarkable beyond all the other tribes in the whole world" shows its source
describes the various tribes of the world and their remarkable customs, and
contains precisely the sort of ethnological descriptions which Agrippa's
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