Post Reply
Switch to Forum Live View Israeli scholar says Essennes never existed
6 years ago  ::  Mar 16, 2009 - 4:57PM #1
RJMcElwain
Posts: 2,955

The following was posted on another Board. I thought it might be of interest here as well.

Dead Sea Scrolls were the work of an ascetic and celibate Jewish community known as the Essenes, which flourished in the 1st century A.D. in the scorching desert canyons near the Dead Sea. Now a prominent Israeli scholar, Rachel Elior, disputes that the Essenes ever existed at all - a claim that has shaken the bedrock of biblical scholarship.

 




Elior, who teaches Jewish mysticism at Jerusalem's Hebrew University, claims that the Essenes were a fabrication by the 1st century A.D. Jewish-Roman historian Flavius Josephus and that his faulty reporting was passed on as fact throughout the centuries. As Elior explains, the Essenes make no mention of themselves in the 900 scrolls found by a Bedouin shepherd in 1947 in the caves of Qumran, near the Dead Sea. "Sixty years of research have been wasted trying to find the Essenes in the scrolls," Elior tells TIME. "But they didn't exist. This is legend on a legend."




Elior contends that Josephus, a former Jewish priest who wrote his history while being held captive in Rome, "wanted to explain to the Romans that the Jews weren't all losers and traitors, that there were many exceptional Jews of religious devotion and heroism. You might say it was the first rebuttal to anti-Semitic literature." She adds, "He was probably inspired by the Spartans. For the Romans, the Spartans were the highest ideal of human behavior, and Josephus wanted to portray Jews who were like the Spartans in their ideals and high virtue."




Early descriptions of the Essenes by Greek and Roman historians has them numbering in the thousands, living communally ("The first kibbutz," jokes Elior) and forsaking sex - which goes against the Judaic exhortation to "go forth and multiply." Says Elior: "It doesn't make sense that you have thousands of people living against the Jewish law and there's no mention of them in any of the Jewish texts and sources of that period."




So who were the real authors of the Dead Sea Scrolls? Elior theorizes that the Essenes were really the renegade sons of Zadok, a priestly caste banished from the Temple of Jerusalem by intriguing Greek rulers in 2nd century B.C. When they left, they took the source of their wisdom - their scrolls - with them. "In Qumran, the remnants of a huge library were found," Elior says, with some of the early Hebrew texts dating back to the 2nd century B.C. Until the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, the earliest known version of the Old Testament dated back to the 9th century A.D. "The scrolls attest to a biblical priestly heritage," says Elior, who speculates that the scrolls were hidden in Qumran for safekeeping.




Elior's theory has landed like a bombshell in the cloistered world of biblical scholarship. James Charlesworth, director of the Dead Sea Scrolls project at Princeton Theological Seminary and an expert on Josephus, says it is not unusual that the word Essenes does not appear in the scrolls. "It's a foreign label," he tells TIME. "When they refer to themselves, it's as 'men of holiness' or 'sons of light.' " Charlesworth contends that at least eight scholars in antiquity refer to the Essenes. One proof of Essene authorship of the Dead Sea Scrolls, he says, is the large number of inkpots found by archaeologists at Qumran.




But Elior claims says these ancient historians, namely Philo and Pliny the Elder, either borrowed from each other or retailed second-hand stories as fact. "Pliny the Elder describes the Essenes as 'choosing the company of date palms' beside the Dead Sea. We know Pliny was a great reader, but he probably never visited Israel," she says.




Elior is braced for more criticism of her theory. "Usually my opponents have only read Josephus and the other classical references to the Essenes," she says. "They should read the Dead Sea Scrolls - all 39 volumes. The proof is there."




http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1885421,00.html?iid=tsmodule

Robert J. McElwain

"The strongest reason for people to retain the right to keep and bear arms is, as a last resort, to protect themselves against tyranny in government." (Supposedly)Thomas Jefferson

"He who is not angry when there is just cause for anger is immoral."
St. Thomas Aquinas

One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors. Plato
Quick Reply
Cancel
6 years ago  ::  Mar 16, 2009 - 5:15PM #2
MisterC
Posts: 1,865

Joe gets credit for a lot of stuff, doesn't he? The non-scholar author of Caesar's Messiah (can't remember his name) gives Joe the credit of creating Jesus! (It was to subdue messianic expectations of the Zealots, according to him... Wait. His first name is also Joe. May be a conspiracy.)


Elior doesn't seem to be taken seriously from the scholars I've been reading.


Dennis

Quick Reply
Cancel
6 years ago  ::  Mar 17, 2009 - 2:53PM #3
teilhard
Posts: 51,072

The ( supposed ) Relationship


between "The Dead Sea Scrolls"


and "Qumran"


ALSO remains an open Question ,...


 


So what ... ???

Quick Reply
Cancel
6 years ago  ::  Mar 17, 2009 - 6:27PM #4
MisterC
Posts: 1,865

The ( supposed ) Relationship between "The Dead Sea Scrolls"and "Qumran" ALSO remains an open Question ,... So what ... ???


 


There's the Golb theory... which could be proven wrong or right or neither with analysis of the ink used to create the scrolls.


Then there is most everyone else, with a paradigm that a bunch of fellers out in the desert scribed a bunch of books. Now there is Elior who says they weren't Essenes.


And you dare ask "So what????"


Biblical scholarship is solving puzzles. It's a game with no particular consequences, because very few listen to the results. The religious don't care because they are in their miniscule world of fantasy and those who are not religious generally don't know enough or care enough about any results to comment. 


There are people enjoy watching adults paid millions for playing childrens' games (football, baseball, basketball, etc). Some people enjoy getting drunk. Yet others thrill to the mundane "life" of reality TV. "So what???" you ask. For me, these puzzles are fun to watch people try to solve and try to solve myself. It's just another game!


 


 


 

Quick Reply
Cancel
6 years ago  ::  Mar 17, 2009 - 7:38PM #5
PeterKane
Posts: 63

Dennis:  So how does one keep score?


Peter

Quick Reply
Cancel
6 years ago  ::  Mar 18, 2009 - 2:16PM #6
MisterC
Posts: 1,865

Mar 17, 2009 -- 7:38PM, PeterKane wrote:


Dennis:  So how does one keep score?


Peter




I've never heard of keeping score for solving puzzles, Peter, but I would assume you are talking about my slightly aggressive mode of arguing. In reality it is less aggressive than many scholars with whom I've had personal and online communication. (One scholar said I wrote with "verve.") In the ultra-timid (church mouse?) world of moderate Christianity, where the worst thing one can do is show any vigor or life, I guess I would be an anomaly.


Dennis

Quick Reply
Cancel
6 years ago  ::  Mar 18, 2009 - 3:00PM #7
teilhard
Posts: 51,072

Mar 17, 2009 -- 6:27PM, MisterC wrote:


The ( supposed ) Relationship between "The Dead Sea Scrolls"and "Qumran" ALSO remains an open Question ...


So what ... ???


 


There's the Golb theory... which could be proven wrong or right or neither with analysis of the ink used to create the scrolls.


Then there is most everyone else, with a paradigm that a bunch of fellers out in the desert scribed a bunch of books. Now there is Elior who says they weren't Essenes.


And you dare ask "So what????"


Biblical scholarship is solving puzzles. It's a game with no particular consequences, because very few listen to the results. The religious don't care because they are in their miniscule world of fantasy and those who are not religious generally don't know enough or care enough about any results to comment. 


There are people enjoy watching adults paid millions for playing childrens' games (football, baseball, basketball, etc). Some people enjoy getting drunk. Yet others thrill to the mundane "life" of reality TV. "So what???" you ask. For me, these puzzles are fun to watch people try to solve and try to solve myself. It's just another game!


 



 


Yup ...


 


Various People


come to ( or "at" ) Biblical Studies


from a whole Variety of Backgrounds, Experiences,


Upbringing, Traditions, Prejudices,


etc., etc. ...

Quick Reply
Cancel
6 years ago  ::  Mar 18, 2009 - 3:58PM #8
LAMII
Posts: 123

Biblical scholarship often tends to oversimplify that which is very complex. Authorship of the scrolls is an excellent example of that, especially given the foray of writings out there for the popular culture.


Elior is not the only scholar to question either the existence of the Essenes or whether the sect, if it existed, is actually the Qumran group.


Professor Lawrence Schiffman of New York University, for one, in a course for the Modern Scholar series, points out that there are about 20 theories about what the work "Essene" means. He also suggests that the Qumran group could have been the Saddusees, or even a collection of sectarian groups and that relying of Josephus or Pliny and their descriptions of the Essenes should be done with some caution.


However, even Philo, and somewhat later, Hippolytus (ca. 225CE) wrote about the Essenes. Maybe there was a little more of the Greek in the Essenes than realized, because Hippolytus points out that even though the Essenes did not admit women, "they take in the boys of others." (ANF 5.134) So whether the Essenes were actually the Qumran group seems more a point of contention that whether they actually existed as a sect within Judaism.


Sometimes I envy those who that do not question any of these matters-wouldn't it be comfy (sometimes) to just kick back and consider the TaNaK and the NT to be history books without conflict?


Lloyd

Quick Reply
Cancel
 
    Viewing this thread :: 0 registered and 1 guest
    No registered users viewing
    Advertisement

    Beliefnet On Facebook