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Re: orion-list Pliny Qumran analysis (A. Baumgarten question)
Thanks for shifting us towards the methodological questions involved in
the attempted reconstructions. If I could be "skeptically modest" about a
particular point in Pliny, rather than absolutely certain that it forms
part of an argument, I would suggest the following:
A) We don't know the language of Pliny's source for the passage on the
B) Given the way Pliny worked, writing down notes as readers or
reader/translators read to him, the peculiarities of simultaneous
translation may well have crept into Pliny's text, offering an
explanation of some of the peculiarities of the text.
C) Going back to Greg Doudna's desiderata, we might be able to
understand Pliny's "socia palmorum" as a rapid translation from the
Aramaic or Hebrew--or even Syriac. In the latter language, the Semitic
root for open palm/palm tree/pray-er comes to have the meaning "pious
ones." Easy enough for a reader/translator to come to the word and
supply the Latin for "open palm/palm tree." Now "Society of palm trees"
makes a little bit of sense in the passage--after all, there are *now*
palm trees very near Qumran. However, "society/association of pious
ones" makes another kind of sense, given the discoveries at Qumran.
[The root, by the way, is in no way a cognate of "essene" in *any* of
the variations of proposed etymologies. It *could* be a synonym of
As you point out, Al, there are vastly different ways of reconstructing
the partial information that remains to us, and we come up with different
pictures. If the hermeneutic circle is confined to Latin as the original
language, we bend the incongruities of the text into shapes that fit
the assumption of Latin. However, if the hermeneutic circle is broad
enough to consider the way Pliny is described as having worked, we may
include more information and arrive at different understandings.
But then, of course, others can fault such an approach for incorporating
Thanks for helping us talk about the nuts and bolts of the thinking we
do about Dead Sea matters and how we know what we know.
All the best,
Sigrid Peterson University of Pennsylvania email@example.com
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