Qumran and ignoring evidence
- In my experience of online enthusiasm for Golb's imagined,
scenario, I read people--often with multiple pseudonym--bracketing off and
ignoring evidence, when they are aware of the texts and archaeology. For
instance, that some mss are sectarian is ineluctable. Only one who wishes them
away ignores that.
In my BASOR review (have you read it? do you read BASOR?) of the Brown Qumran
Archaeology Conference volume, I note that the Magen and Peleg dig, largely in
dumps (less important than the areas de Vaux dug--de Vaux should have
undisturbed area for later researchers, but didn't), reported quite unlikely
conclusions. See the reasons given there, and in other reviews, and in this
My amazon review of Golb, Who Wrote the Dead Sea Scrolls?:
Wher's the evidence?
On page 10 Golb wrote, "Since no coins of the reign of Herod the Great
were found in the excavation..." But De Vaux did find coins of Herod
and reported this plainly, for instance on pages 22-23 of Archaeology and the
Dead Sea Scrolls. (Later digs found Herod coins, also.) This is one example of
inaccurate presentation of the facts. The book is not reliable factually, nor
in its interpretations. Let's take a more complicated example, the text known
as 4Q448. Golb's long section on this starts on page 256. Ada Yardeni
discovered what had been overlooked by previous readers: this fragment
mentioned King Jonathan, otherwise known as Alexander Jannaeus. So, most would
agree, it has potential to tell us something about history. Golb wrote
belittling the skills of Yardeni and her publication colleagues. Golb
give the right reading of the beginning of the poetry in which the king's name
appears. I think a scholar or 2 or 3 accepted his reading for a while years
ago, but I can't think of any scholar today who uses Golb's reading.
Furthermore, 4Q448 is increasingly seen, not as Golb thought, as a hymn of
praise of King Jonathan, but a condemnation of him. Then, not long after, Golb
found that he agreed with Yardeni on the reading of an ostracon found at
Qumran. He changed his tune, and had high praise of Yardeni as a skilled
paleographer (as she is). So his interpretation of 4Q448 is unreliable.
Golb claimed the sequence of Qumran discoveries misled historians--but that is
merely a non-falsifiable claim. Golb claims Qumran was a fort, but the walls
are not fortified. Aside from a small skirmish in c. 68 CE between Romans and
(probably) zealots who came after the Essenes fled east, there's no
Hellenistic/Roman battle evidence. In fact, in most periods of history, Qumran
was uninhabited, because it is not strategically located. Golb downplayed or
ignored sectarianism. But the initiation described in the scrolls involves
giving all one owns to the yahad--a big step--and this is also described of
Essenes in Josephus War Book 2. Sadducees, according to Josephus, persuaded
"few," and were an aristocratic group, smallest of the three probably.
Sadducees are not known for writing books, except perhaps for a "Book of
Decrees," which is not found at Qumran. Sadducees were Torah-only
conservatives; they did not believe in named angels nor
present at Qumran, and matching Essene teachings. Just as there are no
texts among the circa 900 Qumran texts, similarly, there are no Pharisee texts
there: rather, the Qumran texts apparently belittle Pharisee oral tradition.
Qumran texts disapprove of the temple administration (on purity and calendar
practice, for example). The pro-Maccabee book 1 Maccabees, though likely
available then in Hebrew, is totally absent at Qumran. Neither, in all the
Qumran calendar texts, is there a single mention of the pro-Hasmonean festival
of Hanukkah. Few follow Hirschfeld in locating Pliny's Essenes uphill of Ein
Gedi. The best reading of Pliny locates Essenes on the "north-west shore" of
the Dead Sea, as C.D. Ginsburg wrote in 1870, and as did several others before
the scrolls came to light in 1948. Of course not all the scrolls were
Qumran--though Qumran now has more inkwells than any other published
site in the
area and era--but who ever claimed that they were? Sure, some were
outside, likely including Jerusalem, but not all Jerusalem only, nor all at
once. Golb's book never provides real evidence that the scrolls came at once
from Jerusalem. It appears to be just a story of what he imagined or
happened. The book offers more about his sense of grievance than about history
backed with evidence. Where's the evidence for his proposal?
As is also increasingly being realized, the Hebrew origin of the name
in the scrolls as a self-designation. That is, the many Greek spellings (e.g.
Ossaioi) of what in English we call "Essenes" come from Hebrew, osey hatorah,
observers of torah. Of course, the Pharisees and Sadducees would not call them
that. But scholars through the centuries knew that this was the Hebrew origin;
for example. Ph. Melanchthon, writing in 1532: Chronica...Wittenberg, 1532
f68v. "Essei / das ist / Operarii /vom wort Assa / das ist wircken." A 1550
English version: The Thre Bokes of Cronicles...London. "The thirde were Essey,
the whiche when they perceived that both the Phariseyes and Sadduceyes folowed
their appetites under the coloure of honest titles, nether did ought in
that were worthy their profession: therfore semed it them good, to declare the
straitnesse and severitie of lyfe with the dede, and would be called Essey,
that is workers or doers, for Assa, whence the name Essey commeth, sygnifieth
to worke..." The real opportunity for historians is to learn more about Qumran
and Essenes, subjects which ineluctably overlap. Though there once was a
problem getting access to the scroll texts, they are now all available.
ancient text that (some of it as interpreted pre-1948) placed Essenes in the
Qumran/Feshkha area; we have no ancient text that tells Golb's story that all
the scrolls came from Jerusalem--(implausibly) during the siege--to
texts that contradict that story (scrolls salvaged by Josephus in Jerusalem,
others up in flames; hiding in Jerusalem, not outside; and items looted to
Rome). The theories excluding Essenes contradict one another; none is a viable
alternative. Who Wrote these scrolls? Some of these scrolls, Essenes.
(The online paper linked below included more relevant evidence.)
"Jannaeus, His Brother Absalom, and Judah the Essene"
- The material culture in ancient Judaism was not group-specific !!!
Herein I have to agree with Zangenberg et al. In so far Joe has an
inspired dream, but that's already all.
Whether or not a KhQ skeleton once belonged to an ancient terrorist
(and that is what is actually behind the idealizing "Essene" legend)
or not, we cannot extract simply from the bones, neither by means of
logic nor with all my heart.
NB to reach primary school, myself had to cross the local WW-I
cemetery first, though this doesn't make me Wilheminic, isn't
Dierk v/d Berg
--- In ANEemail@example.com, Joe Zias <joezias@...> wrote:
> Paul Smith asks the following :
> What do the Qumran cemetery facts
tell us about the origin and the
> provenance of the scrolls?
> The answer is very little but the cemetery tells us an enormous amt
of info about the people living there who were IMHO , Essenes, who
fished ,herded, potted ...and in order to get to three scroll caves
on the plateau one had to cross into their site whether one liked it
> Joe Zias
> Joe Zias www.joezias.com
> Science and Antiquity Group - Jerusalem
> Jerusalem, Israel
> [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]