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orion-list Investigates the 3 Sects, Invests 3 Years, Joins the Pharisees
Reviewing today's postings I see quite a whirlwind of ideas, suppositions
and speculations. I would say that I was in the minority, but from
what I can see, the other Orion posters all seem to have their own
unique angles to "defend" and that it appears that we are all "in the
But there are some common threads.....
Some want to reject Bannus as an Essene (or no longer a current
Essene) because vegetarianism isn't mentioned by Josephus as a criteria
for being an Essene. But being celibate **IS** one of the criteria
mentioned by Josephus (and others). No other Jewish sect is
mentioned as practicing long term celibacy. And yet the posters
insist that Bannus had to be something **other** than an Essene.
There is no support for this.
Just because Josephus provides
"extra" information about Bannus is not sufficient reason to
reject Bannus as someone who most closely matches other
criteria specifically used by Josephus -- all while in context that
Josephus clearly means to bring the reader to a simple conclusion
(not a **mysterious** one).
Some want to reject Josephus's text because how can he
investigate the sects when he only spends 3 years in the desert? And
there are many more than 3 sects. But this is not what Josephus
says. He says that he is interested in investigating the top 3.
is highly connected with the High Priestly families and so he is probably
genetically and economically fit to be a Sadducee, and only
has to perform a perfunctory investigation, and perhaps only a
decision as to whether he will or will not fulfill his destiny as a
I suspect that Josephus is a man very much attracted to the spirituality
of Resurrection, End Times, and so forth. And that while there are
certain benefits to being a Sadducee, he must learn about the other
sects before he can ever hope to go against his conscience and
become a "blue chip" Hebrew.
A very useful clip form Saldarini's book, PHARISEES,
SCRIBES AND SADUCEES seems to put everything in perspective.
There are many things about Saldarini's book that cause me concern,
but he does a thorough job of collecting views that he agrees with
and those he disagrees with:
Saldarini: Pharisees, Scribes and Sadducees.
Page 118: [Regarding what Josephus does not say....] "Nor does he say
where he was trained by the Pharisees, Sadducees and Essenes, nor how
he spent with each, except that he covered all three in a year.
Rajak. Josephus, 34-36, suggests that Josephus spent about three months
each with the Pharisees, Sadducees and Essenes to learn the basics of
way of life and refers to this practice as a common Greek practice.]"
"Doubt has frequently been cast on Josephus' account of his
training. [Note 24: Attridge, "Josephus," 188.] If he spent only a
time with the three sects, what could he have learned and what effect
they have had on him? Though he says he was three years in the
and was a devoted disciple of Bannus, he returned and chose the
Even if this is so, Josephus' [later] writings, actions and
interpretations of Scripture
do not manifest any connection with what we know of the Pharisees.....
Josephus habitually identifies himself as a priest and community leader
but not as a Pharisee [or as often a Pharisee? GB].
" In speaking of his choice of the Pharisees, he does not say that he
joined the Pharisees as a group, but that he began to govern his life by
the rules of the Pharisees.....[which is something he points out the
Sadducees also had to
do GB]....Rajak speculates that Bannus, living in the wilderness, may
have led a
politically radical group [or just a religiously zealous one! GB],
similar to others
mentioned in Josephus. If so, Josephus' choice of Pharisees would have
a rejection of revolution and acceptance of accommodation to the empire."
= = = = = =
End of Clip
Finally, Orion posters clamor to suggest Josephus as
a liar, exaggerator or cryptic story teller who is really trying to
tell us something different from what he actually seems to tell us.
And through all of this, not a soul offers a compelling reason why
we ***need*** to overturn Josephus's intent in this very small
A) He is interested in the largest sects of Judaism;
B) He investigates these sects enough to decide with whom he
will make his initial investment;
C) He decides that he should "persist" with the 3 year initiation
period of someone who Josephus obviously wants us to interpret
as an Essene teacher;
D) If the Essene teacher does not conform to certain elements of
the DSS scrolls, there is really no way of knowing how monolithic
Essene adherence to a single constitution is, whether there may have
been several "parties" of Essenes with their own unique constitution
(for which I think there are good reasons to believe - - not even
the fact Josephus himself said there were different factions of Essenes),
or if the Essenes had become more eccentric or various since the
parts of the DSS material were written.
In any case, Josephus makes **no** effort to suggest that Bannus is
not one of the 3 sects that he specifically limits his interest in, and
for us to reject Bannus as such after 2000 years would require a strong
No poster has offered a justification. They have only offered
and "rationalisations" for why counter-intuitive or non-linear scenarios
be true. What historical assumptions or trajectories will be damaged by
that an unusual Essene taught Josephus for 3 years? We all wait for an
answer to this.... and we will probably be waiting for quite a long time.
E) As per Prof. Kraft's diligent quotation work with 2 different
translations, Josephus completes his time in the wilderness:
[Wh:] So when I had accomplished my desires (!)....
[Thack:] and, having accomplished my purpose (!)....
Josephus finally discovers the ancient mysteries of being an
Essene. And either because he discovers with the final initiation
that being an Essene not as interesting as he had hoped, or because
it was just a cynical plan of a young man to "network" with the spiritual
leaders of all the sects, he moves on to work alongside the Pharisees....
perhaps the best combination of ambition, spirituality, and
a comfortable-but-disciplined way of life.
>From this small part of Josephus we see everything about
Josephus and about the local situation of Judaism coming together
into a coherent whole. Until someone can produce an important
reason to overturn the whole thing, I don't see how so many
have a clear conscience in attempting to do so.
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