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Re: orion-list replies

Al Baumgarten writes:

> This is the heart of my communication. I agree that Pliny's
>  account of the Essene city refers to Qumran, but it is so full of
>  misinformation and in need of special pleading to sustain that
>  conclusion that I cannot follow Pliny in concluding that Qumran was
>  Essene.

    What I find disingenuous about the use of Pliny in arguing that the 
scrolls were Essene is the huge disparity in the dates of the sources.  The 
latest historical references in the scrolls are to Gabinius and Peitholas, c. 
55 BCE.  So one would hope to find evidence of Essenes at Qumran by mid-first 
century BCE, hopefully considerably earlier.  But Pliny writes in the late 
first century CE about Essenes west of the Dead Sea, probably drawing on 
Nicolas of Damascus' work "Collection of Remarkable Customs", which brings us 
only as far back as late as c. 20 BCE.  It is well known that Herod the Great 
had agricultural interests (palms, aromatics) in Jericho, En Gedi, and 
thereabouts.  The ostracon inscription supports a connection of Qumran with 
agricultural holdings in Jericho, and one may note that the name Josephus 
[Joseph] on a seal-ring at Qumran was a name common among Herod's relatives 
and officials.  It is also known that Herod patronized the Essenes.  I think 
it quite likely that Herod brought Essenes to the area to work the royal 
agricultural estates.  But what evidence is there of Essenes near the Dead 
Sea prior to the date of Nicolas and Herod the Great?  It is special 
pleading, in my opinion, to use Pliny to project an Essene presence near the 
Dead Sea to the time the scrolls were written (certainly there is none, 
including the Copper Scroll, which can be demonstrated to be of the Herodian 
period or later; I think we can agree Cross' paleographical dating doesn't 
constitute proof).  
    Again, it is special pleading to interpret e.g. the miqvot built during 
Qumran 1b as specifically Essene.  Why not e.g. Sadducee, given the apparent 
Sadducee halakhot in 4QMMT, 11QT, and the halachic (not the later serekh) 
legal materials in CD?  Ex-partisans of Alexander Jannaeus, probably 
predominantly Sadducee, were exiled to various fortified wilderness locations 
in c. 76 BCE by their Pharisee opponents, and there is a contemporary Hymn to 
King Jonathan that surely argues the Qumran residents to have been Jannaeus 
supporters.  My own opinion is that Sadducee supporters of Jannaeus and 
Aristobulus occupied Qumran from 76 to c. 55 BCE, when Gabinius finally 
cracked down on Aristobulus in a series of actions near the Dead Sea (one 
against Peitholaus, note).  I think the Pliny reference to Essenes by the 
Dead Sea has been anachronistically imposed on earlier periods, and that 
sectarian indications of earlier periods have been assumed to indicate 
"Essene" when no such inference is possible from strictly archaeological 
evidence.  We should be open to other interpretations of the site, paying due 
attention to such anomalies as pointed out by Al.

    Best regards,
    Russell Gmirkin

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