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orion-list radiocarbon/63

David Suter wrote:

> Shouldn't 63 BCE be termed the terminus a quo and therefore, from the
> presence of historical references, be taken as the earliest date at which
> the deposits could have taken place?
Yes.  I think every single person on this list is in agreement that the 
terminus cannot be any earlier than c. 63 BCE.  It is a separate matter 
to make the argument that, in this case, the a quo is also the date 
itself.  Separate issue, separate argument.
> Note that a variety of hypotheses
> could be adduced for the ending of the allusions at that point, including
> the possibility that the caves serves as genizoth (under which
> circumstances
> the point at which scrolls were withdrawn from use would not be identical
> to
> the dates of historical allusions in their contents).  
This is correct.  The circumstances of the deposits (a hiding? permanent
disposals?), the duration of the deposit process (a single event? a floruit
a few years or decades? a century or two?), and the total span of time and
the distribution of the dates of the scrolls copies (produced in a
a century? three centuries?) are very much at issue and very difficult to
resolve with certainty, except through the most indirect means.  I see no
way forward than through the means of competitive hypotheses, vigorously
argued and evaluated and, where possible, tested.  

> I recognize that your
> argument goes further than this, but it seems to me that the argument that
> these must be the historical circumstances under which the deposit took
> place is of a different rhetorical character than the argument that this
> is
> the earliest point at which the deposits could have taken place.
The argument indeed is distinct from simply noting the a quo.  The 
"water spigot" effect of a rise of historical allusions up to 63 BCE
and then a sudden, immediate drop to zero post-63 BCE--not a decline
but as if the lights go out completely in one moment--is what makes me 
propose, along with Ian, that in this case the terminus a quo also looks
like the date itself.  However, please note that I do not regard this as 
certain or proved, or that this must be the case.  This is simply what 
looks to me like the best present hypothesis.  The fundamental fact is
that there is completely internal to the Qumran texts a significant and 
multiply-attested focus centering on a 63 BCE watershed, whereas not 
one scrap of Qumran cave text has been demonstrated to have anything 
to do with c. 68 CE.  Minimally, this does raise the question: maybe 
de Vaux simply got the Scrolls deposits dated one Roman invasion too 

> The observation about allusions ending at 63 BCE strikes me a an
> important observation, although I am hesitant to move directly from that
> observation to a conclusion about a date of deposit.  
Yes, I understand.  We've got glimpses of some things and are guessing
in the dark on other things.  

Greg Doudna

For private reply, e-mail to Greg Doudna <gd@teol.ku.dk>
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