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Re: orion-list Pliny Qumran analysis (A. Baumgarten question)
According to Stephen Goranson:
> I read your proposal with much interest. Pliny's sources obviously
> cannot be limited to Latin, as they plainly include many Greek sources.
> And, as Greg Doudna wrote, finally:
> "Finally, the Qumran texts pretty obviously are related to the Essenes, [....]"
> I have not studied all of the sources of Pliny--he names so many of
> So, if I may ask:
> 1) Are there indications that Pliny used Syriac sources?
Not that I know of. I am using Syriac as a philological example of the
development of meaning of the root, which in Hebrew and Aramaic
is kaf.pe.pe. and variants, and in Syriac is the equivalent of
kaf.pe.alef., with the basic meaning of `bend' or `bow.'
> 2) Are there indications of the meaning you raise in any Qumran Aramaic texts?
See Klaus Beyer, DIE ARAMAISTISCHEN TEXTE VOM TOTEN MEER, 609, where the
meaning is <German>`beugen</>,' and one reference is to Targum Job 30, 14,
which I don't have with me. As a noun meaning `hand,' derived from `bend,
bow,' apparently, it is found in the Genesis Apocryphon and the
Testament of Levi as well as in Targum Job (Iyyov). As the verb meaning
"to bend, bow" it is mostly found in Targum Job--of the texts published
by 1984 and available to Beyer.
> 3) Is the Syriac meaning you raise attested early enough to have been used
> by a source from the time of Herod the Great?
Well, we're in the same boat in trying to establish the age and date of a
source. The word is used in line 125 of the Syriac Jewish Poem of the
Maccabaean Martyrdoms that is the subject of my dissertation in the form
nun.kaf.pe. alef., where it is a description for the
priest/scribe/sage/ancient martyr named Eleazar. He is the Head or Chief
of the 'chaste ones' or `pious ones.' In Aramaic kaf.pe. means `palm' as
in palm of the hand. In Latin, `palm' is either the tree or the palm of
the hand. An Aramaic usage of kaf.pe.alef. meaning `palm tree' in the
Tosefta (250 or so CE) is attested in Jastrow, though the possibility is
always there when using Jastrow that there is no underlying support from
It is said that Pliny did not tolerate it well when his staff corrected
themselves or went back and made a change. I don't remember at the moment
whether that detail comes from Rackham in the Loeb Edition, or from
Stern's comments on the passage. I tend to think the former, quoting a
letter concerning Pliny the Elder's work habits.
That's a tenuous basis for saying that the underlying text is Semitic,
hinging, as it does, on a supposed mistake in the choice of Latin words to
translate nun.kaf.pe.alef or a similar Semitic word.
Based on stylistic evidence--classical source criticism--and on two
separate lines of investigation, the Syriac Jewish Poem of the Maccabees
probably goes back to Eupolemus, ambassador to the Romans under Judah the
Maccabee. However, there is no early attestation of the Syriac Poem in a
manuscript, and this word could be a substitution--maybe it originally
said "essenes," and a more familiar word was substituted.
I believe I had also located evidence in Greek for the same combination of
`to bend' with palm trees and palms of hands. It would seem--unfortunately
for a solid case--that the way of looking at the result of bending a tree
or a human or a hand traveled from language to language around the
> Stephen Goranson
> P.S. As you may recall, I very very speculatively suggested a slight
> possibility of a play on Tamar as feminine, prior to M. Agrippa.
Yes, I discovered that tonight, in reviewing the end of your article
posted on the Orion list at
where you say
That "socia palmarum" refers to actual trees is made more plausible by
new climate studies: the area was wetter then than now.18 And de Vaux
already noted the presence of date palm wood, palm leaves, and date
pits at Qumran.19 Yet there may be a word play here. Botanically,
palms are male and female, but in Hebrew tamar is usually taken as
female; in addition to the personal name, see Shir ha-Shirim 7:8
(7:7 in RSV: "You are stately as a palm tree, and your breasts are like
its clusters"). Could there be an echo in Agrippa's source of an earlier
Hebrew remark that was less than complimentary? That must remain
speculative, and Agrippa surely presents Essenes in a positive light.
In any case, abdication of sex, "omnes venere abdicata" does not
necessarily require banishing women, or men, from one's sight (or
1. Stephen Goranson, Annotated Article entitled "Rereading Pliny on the
Essenes: Some Bibliographic Notes, posted at the following URL:
http://orion.mscc.huji.ac.il/orion/programs/Goranson98.html and dating
from the year 1998.
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