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orion-list A Theory of Qumran Theories...
Greg Doudna made me laugh. I did not want him to feel
under attack. But I will accept "gentle chastisement" as his
reaction. That's pretty much what I was trying to achieve.
Maybe one of the advantages of having a non-Professorial
participant like me is that I can skirt around the "I don't know"
aspect without having it affect my career.
Obviously none of us really "know" what happened 2000 years
ago. Even when someone like Josephus says something happened,
it is not that easy to say this is "proof".
I've had considerable experience in dealing with a seminary graduate on
issues of Jewish and Christian history. And every time I tried to
advance to some new "ground" for exploration, he would stop
me cold. Though he now works in the corporate world, his seminary
training would quickly manifest itself and he would constantly repeat:
1) "You can't prove that...."
2) "We don't have enough evidence for that..."
3) "I don't know what really happened, so I can't tell you my own
It made for some pretty short emails. Finally I had to tell him
the reason I was corresponding with him was to put his intelligence
and academic exposure to good use .... to tell me which of two ideas
were more reasonable, to identify obvious or seeming contradictions
to primary sources when they occurred, and to help me "paint a mural"
of what "could have been." The mural painting did not have to be the
absolute truth. It just had to be a truthful representation of what
have happened. Otherwise there just wasn't any point to arguing about
a bunch of disconnected details.
The terrible weakness in the area of Qumran studies is that there is
virtually no effort to tie all the little "facts and factoids" together
We argue about interpreting facts and use vague references to
to support them or tear them down. This is a very tempting practice.
Just last night I found myself fixating on whether or not someone's
belief that Judah the Maccabee had ever served as High Priest was
sufficiently supported by the textual evidence the person brought out
as proof. But as I "processed" this issue in the email, it struck me
even as elaborate as my own scenario is for "what happened" (the
details of my "mural painting") I realized that my painting could just
as easily have Judah wearing the mitre of High Priest as not wearing
one. While it is true I have my preference for which way I would
depict it, the issue of Judah's Priestly functions would not have an
effect on my theories/scenario/"mural painting".
If you will permit me to digress one more bit about a "theory of
Qumran theories" - - someone else might have a scenario about
the DSS community or about the Essenes in which it was absolutely
crucial that Judah was (or was not) a High Priest. I can't imagine
what this might be, but let's just suppose there is a theory like this.
My point is not that all facts can be ignored, no matter which theory
is pursued. My point is that some theories are rather robust in terms
of this or that fact, while for other theories, the fact becomes a life
or death matter.
And what I see is that some academics will fight to death over facts
**without benefit** of having any particular theory to inform their
viewpoints. In fact, it becomes arguing for argument's sake. This
does not advance the work of Qumran research, in my opinion.
So last night, on Orion, I threw down a major chunk of my "wall painting"
of what happened. Yes.... there is no proof for these ideas (or my
collections of brush strokes). The question now becomes how badly are
these ideas contradicted by our primary sources? Or how attractive are
these brush strokes compared to those of another Orion
If the primary sources do not "speak" to some parts of this or someone
mural, the question then becomes who can develop the more comprehensive
and compelling "painting" without violating some other parts of our
I suppose "painting" is not for all Orion participants. But for those
who have a feel for it, offering up "competing" paintings (or parts
of paintings) has one more advantage: it makes the dry and dusty
thrusts and counter-thrusts of academic conversation more alive and
interesting to all those around. Because "facts" and "factoids" now have
a context and a relevance they did not have before.
Everyone ***knows*** that there is "no proof" for most of what we say.
But aren't we all just a little tired of letting this universal aspect of
our "work" leave our little points of contention disconnected from
the greater fabric of history and what "probably" happened or what
"could" have happened?
Reactions and attacks welcomed and encouraged....
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