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

Reposted because it bounced! Apologies to Avital.


Pardon my interruption at this stage in the discussion ...

George Brooks wrote:
> 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.

Isn't this a little simplistic? If I remember rightly even Schiffman,
the chief proponent of the Sadduceean identity of the community, said
that they were a breakaway group not the Sadducees themselves. In any
case this argument relies on the fact that there were only three groups
in Judaism, which is hardly proven.

> 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
> Essene-
> supported revolution.
Essene-supported? As in the fact that one Essene is mentioned among the
rebels, two if you count Josephus himself? This is like saying
Manchester United support the Essene hypothesis because X, a supporter
of Man Utd, supports the Essene hypothesis. Okay that's a little strong
but you get the point ... Regardless of the fact that one Essene is
mentioned among the rebels, even in an apparently important role, this
nothing about the Essenes as a whole.

> 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?
I thought these figures were thought to be overblown? In any case is it
so unreasonable that we could have lost "this THIRD group"? After all,
we have no direct evidence for the Sadducees, merely reports from the
New Testament, Josephus and Rabbinic, where they are opposed. Nothing
actually composed by the Sadducees themselves.

> 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.

How do we know there are no other contenders? 50 years ago the existence
of a sect/group at Qumran was also unknown. Who knows what a Bedouin
shepherd-boy will uncover tomorrow?


My point is not that the sect at Qumran are not Essene, but that many of
the pieces of evidence, allegedly damning, raised in this post, actually
rest on very flimsy evidence. And I haven't even mentioned the
importance which is placed on Josephus's account, already known for
being somewhat 'hazy' with the truth, concentrated as he is on his own

Marcus Wood
Department of Theology
University of Durham
For private reply, e-mail to Marcus Wood <M.E.M.Wood@durham.ac.uk>
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