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orion-list Tantlevskij on "Essenes"
Igor R. Tantlevskij has published a proposal that the name
"Essenes" comes from a self-designation originating with the name of
David's father, Jesse (Yishai). "Etymology of 'Essenes' in the Light of
Qumran Messianic Expectation," Qumran Chronicle 8 no.3 (1999) 195-212. The
author, whose other Qumran-related works some libraries catalog as
Tantlevsky or Tantlevskii, has made some interesting and learned comments.
For instance, he supplies instances of spellings with one and two sigmas,
in case that is still of interest.
The treatment here of Epiphanius, in my opinion, could be quibbled
with, as that writer made a somewhat messy attempt to incorporate what
Eusebius wrote about Therapeutae. Also, though Epiphanius to an extent
associated the "heresies" Essenes and Ossenes, this was only in post-Second
Temple times, after some had fled Judaea, and he did not notice that the
names were etymologically linked. (As an aside, it may be useful similarly
to recall that, based on information thus far available, the Qazone burials
are later than Qumran burials.)
The article has many observations on messianism, as the author sees
it. But the article omits some relevant pre-1947 literature on the name. By
now, there are sixty or so published proposals for the etymology, and most
of these were first published before 1947, including the "Jesse" idea. And
not only the father of David was proposed as a source, but also Jesse, a
disciple of R. Joshua ben Perachia. (Leopold Loew, Ben Chananja.
Wochenblatt fuer juedische Theologie 1  352.)
So these pre-1947 proposals were, in effect, put to the test by the
Qumran discoveries. Tantlevskij--like most scholars--recognizes that a
significant portion of the Qumran mss are Essene. But there is no special
emphasis on Jesse in Qumran Essene texts to support such a
self-designation. Also, one might expect reference somewhere to "sons of
Jesse", or the like.
On the other hand, those pre-1947 scholars who, in effect,
predicted the Hebrew root 'asah would appear in Essene writings as a
characteristic self-designation have had their understanding of Essenes
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