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orion-list Gandhara scrolls; Grossman PhD; 390 again
Ancient Buddhist Scrolls from Gandhara; The British Library
Kharosthi Fragments, by Richard Salomon (Seattle: U. of Washington, 1999)
is a book of some interest, among other things, for comparing with the
(non-Buddhist) Qumran Essene finds. The writings are on birch bark, from
Gandhara (now part of Afghanistan and Pakistan), written mostly in Gandhari
language (a venacular "derived from Sanskrit"), in Kharosthi script (which,
incidently, scholars say was derived from Aramaic script), dating from
first century CE/AD ff, found in and with clay jars, and probably the
earliest extant Buddhist texts. For a brief report of this recent find,
see: Salomon in J. Amer. Oriental Soc. 117 (1997) 353-8. I claim no
expertise about this find, but suggest some comparisons and contrasts with
DSS may be of interest to some on this list. For example, on the history of
canon formation. On the other hand, the book's analogy with DSS as genizah
may be mistaken.
Here's an interesting PhD dissertation: Maxine L. Grossman, Reading
the History of the Righteous Remnant: Ideology and Constructions of
Identity in the Damascus Document (UPenn, 2000). This offers many
interpretative possibilities and uses some theories in current fashion.
Given the theories it draws upon, the dissertation (not the most beloved
literary genre) is remarkably clearly written, unlike many jargon-filled
theory presentations. (The bibliography could use some additions, such as
Fred Astren's diss. and publications on Karaites ironically developing a
history of their tradition.) On the other hand, from my "embedded"
viewpoint, the book "privileges" theorical option seeking relatively too
much, at the expense of that historian's task, namely, to convey some
particular understanding of the past. Perhaps that will come in a later
volume or revision for publication. Applying theory to DSS certainly, IMO,
can be done well (e.g., some Carol Newsom articles) or poorly (e.g., some
attempts to apply to DSS a Thomas Kuhn scientific revolution). What
specific assumptions about the past misled, for instance, some pre-1948
readers of CD? What, I would suggest, mistaken assumptions engender some
refusal to recognize some Qumran Essene texts?
390 years in CD, and partly attested in Cave 4, has been much
discussed, and I haven't read all the publications. Suppose I ask: How long
has it been since World War II? Would you count from the war's start ot the
war's end? If I may try again a specific question:
Is anyone aware of a publication which interprets the 390 years as from
the *end* of the period of the giving of the Jews into Nebuchadnezzar's
hand (i.e., from 538 BC)?
Of course, I am aware of other theories, and the issue whether that
(addition?) writer knew chronology well, etc. (Maxine, p. 148, wrote about
the possible reading "390 literal years after the Exile," which, true to
prediction, can be read amphibolously, even though elsewhere she has it
[intentionally, presumably] as 390 after the beginning.) An important
article (not in MG bibl.), HH Rowley, "The 390 Years of the Zadokite Work,"
Melanges bibliques rediges en l'honneur de Andre Robert (1957) 341-7
adequately analyses the odd grammar as "in relation to His giving them,"
and addresses the before/after question but not the beginning/end question.
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