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RE: orion-list A Theory of Qumran Theories...

David Suter wrote:

>>What George [Brooks] is proposing is the writing of historical
fiction -- a quite genuine enterprise, which would produce a good novel,
but not what most scholars are about in determining what can really be
said about the scrolls.<<

Your use of the phrase "historical fiction" caught my attention, as it
reminded me of some statements by Arnold Toynbee in _A Study of History_
(Vols I-VII abridged by D. C. Somervell, New York: Oxford U.P., 1947, pp.

In the cited passages, Toynbee essentially says that there are three
different methods of viewing and presenting the objects of our thought,
and among them, the phenomena of human life.

The first (1) is the ascertainment and recording of 'facts,' and that it
is generally assumed that the ascertainment and recording of facts is
[nominally] the technique of history. The phenomena in the province of
this technique are the social phenomena of civilizations [in our case
represented by historical accounts, monuments and sectarian documents].

The second (2) is the elucidation, through a comparative study of the
facts ascertained, of general 'laws' [which in our case should be restated
as "relationships"]. The elucidation and formulation of general laws [our
relationships] is [nominally] the technique of science. The phenomena in
the province of the scientific technique, as it relates to the study of
human life (i.e., the science of anthropology) are the social phenomena of
primitive societies [which, in our case, could be restated as the accounts
about, and texts left behind by, persons and social groups]. All sciences
[must necessarily] pass through a stage in which the ascertainment and
recording of facts is the only activity open to them [and this is the
stage that most DSS researchers are at presently, it seems].

The third (3) is the artistic re-creation of the facts in the form of
'fiction.' Fiction is [nominally] the technique of the drama and the
novel. The phenomena in the province of this technique are the personal
relations of human beings. The drama and the novel do not present
fictions, complete fictions and nothing but fictions about personal
relationships [but also contain elements of history and cannot be divorced
from it].

Toynbee notes that each of these disciplines (history, science and
fiction) must make use of the techniques of the others in some way or
another. I would suggest that these three methods represent a progression
that must be made in the application of any of these disciplines, only
with the emphasis being concentrated on one or the other method in each

In the world of Qumran studies, it seems to me that some researchers were
willing to jump to method three early in the process of comparative study
(that is, step 2 above). Yet it is really impossible to conduct method two
without tentative (or "working") hypotheses to guide you, and so some stab
at method three is necessary even early in the process of comparative

Even so, it appears to me that other researchers are not comfortable
making use of the third method. Some of the very sharp reactions to early
re-creations proposed by Allegro, etc, demonstrated a degree of discomfort
that, to me, seemed to far exceed the level of caution required for
developing working hypotheses. Even the consensus model that would
normally be associated with the third method, based on an identification
of the groups that produced the Qumran finds as Essene, is relatively

What is more, it allows researchers who are so disposed to conveniently
neutralize or summarily dismiss any relationship between the groups
depositing literature at Qumran, and contemporary Judaism (including their
effect on the conditions that ultimately generated Christianity), by
attributing it to a group with a fairly benign influence on contemporary
Judaism if classical accounts are to be taken at face value. I am somewhat
mystified as to the motivations which must be at work to generate such
resistance to the consideration of historical re-creations beyond the
"Essene" scenario and it's permutations.

The pool of historical accounts about, or fragments of the literature
originating from, or archeological evidence relating to, Palestinian
religious and social groups (and their practices) is not so large that
hypothetical re-creations cannot be freely made, even without the benefit
of complete publication of critical research on every fragment or

While I do not wish to generalize this tendency as some sort of conspiracy
(as did Baigent & Leigh), I think that we can all lighten up a little when
new scenarios are suggested (and I am not saying this as a critique of
your position on these matters, David, but rather as a general
observation). Still, many posts on this list (and in the secondary
literature as well) seem excessively emotional, and that raises warning
flags with me.


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