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Re: orion-list Pacifism of Essenes deconstructed


I think even the most AMBITIOUS curmudgeons on this list must get the
that we are drifting a "little" far afield.

Discussion was started by commenting on the ALLEGEDLY pacifist nature of
Essenes and/or the DSS community.  We have read some good material about
implicit conflicts in what Philo reports for his Jews and his Therapeuts
in Egypt.

And we have read some interesting speculation about the breadth of
that Palestinian Jews may or may not have had in the mindset of their
regarding resistance . . . with NO indication of whether it is Essene or
in nature (as a subset or as a leadership role in this resistance).

I think it is time to return to the documents at hand:

1) Josephus, Hippolytus and Philo describe communities that, so far, are
MATCHES for what we read in the significant works of the Dead Sea
Scrolls.  Those
who nitpik about a 2 year initiation versus a 3 year initiation, are
fixating too much
on a UNITARY scheme of Essenes.  If our fellow correspondent who brought
issue up were to go face-to-face with Josephus and insist that a group
wasn't REALLY
Essene (despite common property, highly ritualized meals, and encouraging
.... because the group only used a TWO  YEAR initiation process.... Well,
I'm not sure
how long Josephus would laugh.... but it would probably be for quite a

The documents found in the cave represent SNAPSHOTS of the DSS community.
from our ancient writers like Josephus and Philo, represent a compression
of various snapshots
(popular ideas conceptions about the Essenes that had persisted for
decades, even if they
weren't CURRENTLY the truth..... or that WERE the truth now, based on
NEWER documents
that did NOT survive in the Caves.... or have not yet been found).

If we read the DSS texts, we see a community that is supposed to LOVE
their brethren within
the YAHAD.  And we also read they are supposed to HATE those of "the
pit."  We also read
significant parts about VERY GRIM PENALTIES for not conforming to rules,
or violating ideals,
or switching sides.  If we read the Maccabees texts, we read about a very
early group or groups
that performed FORCIBLE circumcision and what could only be described as
of wayward Jews.

And if we read Hippolytus, we find him implicitly drawing a straight line
events on to Josephus's descriptions of the Sicarii and the Zealots at
Masada, by talking about the
factionalism of the Essenes, where one faction performed forced
circumcisions and even KILLED
those who refused the honor.

Even fans of the New Testament can trouble themselves over a VERY odd,
but perhaps very
Essene/DSS event in Acts.  A married couple LIE about the sale of their
property that they are
delivering to the Jesus Yahad.  Peter (a tough guy named Rocky),
discovers they are lying and
in two consecutive confrontations, they DIE.  It is not mentioned HOW
they die.  It is merely assumed
that God killed them.  I find that a quaint idea.  It seems unlikely that
God would kill two "green"
converts, over lying (which is NOT a capital offense even in
Christianity), in support of the principle
of common property which is not even admittedly in practice by the time
the writer of Acts is writing.

It seems MUCH more likely that Peter, and his associates, had to make an
example of these two.
And, as Acts concludes:  the Christians everywhere were afraid.  And they
probably were well
justified in this fear.

The point of all these ramblings is that the DSS texts, and reading
between the lines of the
texts of the ancient writers like Josephus, Philo, Hippolytus and even
the writer of the Book of
Acts, describes Yahads that were quite capable of violence.  To say that
the DSS community
COULDN"T be ESSENE because they were lovey-dovey is just too odd for me
to grasp.

George Brooks
Tampa, FL

On Thu, 16 Dec 1999 14:03:55 -0800 "Suter, David" <dsuter@stmartin.edu>
> > -----Original Message-----
> > From: RGmyrken@aol.com [mailto:RGmyrken@aol.com]
> > Sent: Thursday, December 16, 1999 11:54 AM
> > To: orion@mscc.huji.ac.il
> > Subject: Re: orion-list Pacifism of Essenes deconstructed
> > 
>     It is possible in these incidents that Josephus exaggerates the 
> > peacefulness of protests against Pilate and Caligula -- there 
> > may have been 
> > other Jewish elements prepared to act more violently, which 
> > Josephus neglects 
> > to report -- but we lack sufficient evidence to draw such a 
> > conclusion.  (It 
> > does however seem to me that Petronius was worried about the 
> > possibility of a 
> > general violent uprising of the Jews, despite the peacefulness of 
> the 
> > delegation that came to him with an appeal.)  
> I believe that Josephus represents Petronius in his correspondence 
> with
> Gaius as concerned about an agricultural strike, or possibly about 
> the
> impact that armed resistance activity would have on the planting.  
> The
> point, as far as I am concerned, is not to support the idea of the 
> Essenes
> as pacifists, but to suggest that there is a sufficiently complex 
> set of
> ideas available in the society concerned with forms that resistance 
> might
> take that some care needs to be taken in the interpretation of the 
> texts.
> David Suter
> Saint Martin's College
> > 
> For private reply, e-mail to "Suter, David" <dsuter@stmartin.edu>
For private reply, e-mail to George Brooks <george.x.brooks@juno.com>
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