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orion-list Leo's Objections - Essenes, Zias article, etc.

Dear Leo,

I have heard frequently these objections that you list about the
Qumran manuscripts.

Your objections seem to follow these lines:

1) The Qumran manuscripts do not SAY they are Essene;
2) The Essenes Josephus describes are PEACEFUL;
3) The Zealots of Masada were not "peaceful Essenes";
4) The evidence of female skeletons contradicts the picture
of celibate Essenes. 

I don't want to sound insensitive, but these are not very
thoughful objections considering all the other things we
know about Essenes.

For example....
1) The Qumran manuscripts do not SAY they are Essene?;

Do they really have to say anything so specific?  If we go on a document-
-by-document basis (ignoring the fragments for now), we know
that the significant documents are NOT Sadduccean, because
they OPPOSE the Temple.  And Josephus emphasizes things
like "common property" and "oathes" (swearing an oath
NOT to make oathes) and special eating practices - - all of which
are not linked to the Pharisees.  So, by exclusion, we are left with
a VERY clear idea that the significant works of Qumran are 
Essene in nature.

If it walks like a duck and it quacks like a 
duck ... it IS a duck.  What's the point of saying they could be
documents from some FRINGE Pharisaic group that is SO
extreme that they act/look JUST LIKE ESSENES?  The point of
claims that the Qumran documents are Essene is that they
tell us what Josephus FORGOT to tell us, or COULDN'T tell
us about the Essenes.  Josephus says there were THREE
major groupings "amongst the Jews."  Hippolytus does the same.
Obviously the key Qumran documents fit the Essene grouping
better than they fit any other grouping.  And none of the other
"sects" described by other ancient writers sound close enough
to the Qumran documents to matter to the modern reader.

2) The Essenes Josephus describes are PEACEFUL?;

One of the Qumran documents say that any "member" that causes
another Jew to suffer at the hands of gentiles shall be brought
to death.  As you will recall, Josephus admitted to becoming an
Essene.  If he took any Essene oathes during his THREE years with
Bannus, I doubt if these oathes lapse just because he decides to let
his "dues" lapse.  In fact, he even served as a military leader in an
supported revolution.

Do you really think Josephus was going to
go out of his way to "blow the cover" of the Essene/DSS community?
The only thing that PROTECTED the Essene camps was their
"story"of being peaceful and loving.  If the Qumran documents do
NOT qualify as Josephus's Essene groups, then somehow we
have COMPLETELY LOST this THIRD group of ancient Judaism (!)....
.... and they Josephus says they numbered 4000 to the Pharisees
6000.  Where ARE these Essenes if there are so many?

If the Qumran communities do not sufficiently qualify as Essene,
there are no other contenders.  The closest other group are Philo's
Therapeutae in Egypt, which Philo did NOT call Essene, and about
whom no one else writes.

3) The Zealots of Masada were not "peaceful Essenes"?;
And yet Hippolytus, who presumably was NEVER an Essene, comes
right out and says that the Essenes divided into several factions, one
or two of which were VERY strident . . . to the point of assasination
and forced circumcision.  Even the equivocation of Josephus does
not completely hide the "dark" side of the Essenes when it comes to
the Zealots of Masada.  The long speech just before the "Zealots"
take their lives describes a "world view" of spirituality and the
which does NOT fit with the Saduccees or with the Pharisees.... but
fits well with what we read at Qumran.

4) The evidence of female skeletons contradicts the picture
of celibate Essenes?

In the New Testament we get a very convincing account of spiritual
celibate males living in close association with their "sisters" and
"mothers."  And both Hippolytus and Josephus mention Essenes
that DO get married.  So who CARES whether there are more or
less female skeletons than we expected in the graves?

I look forward to any FURTHER objections you may have about
the Qumran documents.  It is NOT important whether ANY Essenes
ever LIVED at Qumran.  I've always maintained that if they didn't live
there, they probably lived in a tent community a half a mile down the
road.  The point is the Qumran documents fit no other group better
than the Essenes.

George Brooks
Tampa, FL

On Wed, 8 Dec 1999 20:35:48 -0700 leorose@Juno.Com writes:
> To Stephen,
> You keep insisting on the fact that the Qumran manuscripts belonged 
> to the Essenian community and you are determined  to bring any proof 
> to justify your hypothesis.  
> Father Rolland de Vaux  and his followers have been trying to do 
> just that for the past fifty years and I don't think they have 
> convinced every one. They were willing to ignore certain documents, 
> like the Copper scrolls and others, in order to make a stronger 
> point for their Essenian theory. 
> We are now learning that the good Father was even willing to 
> minimize certain facts (skeletons of women, etc.) or deny others to 
> defend his theory.
> What about the fact that some of the manuscripts were found at 
> Massadah, stronghold of the Zealots, who were certainly not peaceful 
> Essenians?
> It appears to me that these scholars had made up their mind before 
> they had concluded their investigation.  We must be cautious about 
> this kind of research.
> Nothing proves that all the documents were from one source. 
> Prof. Golb has a point when he aserts that the diversity of the 
> documents points to the fact that they came from different sources, 
> which might include Sadducean writings (Prof. Schiffman) or even 
> maginal Pharisaic sources or some apocalyptic group. These documents 
> may very well have belonged to the main library of Jerusalem!
> Leo Abrami For private reply, e-mail to leorose@juno.com 
For private reply, e-mail to George Brooks <george.x.brooks@juno.com>
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