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Qumran and ignoring evidence

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  • goranson@duke.edu
    In my experience of online enthusiasm for Golb s imagined, evidence-less Qumran scenario, I read people--often with multiple pseudonym--bracketing off and
    Message 1 of 42 , Dec 31, 2007
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      In my experience of online enthusiasm for Golb's imagined,
      evidence-less Qumran
      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
      left more
      undisturbed area for later researchers, but didn't), reported quite unlikely
      conclusions. See the reasons given there, and in other reviews, and in this
      list archive.

      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
      (40-4 BC)
      were found in the excavation..." But De Vaux did find coins of Herod
      the Great,
      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
      claims to
      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
      penned at
      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
      brought from
      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
      wished had
      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
      Essenes is
      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
      a maner
      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.
      We have
      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
      Qumran, but
      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.)

      Stephen Goranson
      "Jannaeus, His Brother Absalom, and Judah the Essene"
    • Dierk van den Berg
      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
      Message 42 of 42 , Jan 14, 2008
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        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
        Nijmegen, Holland

        --- In ANE-2@yahoogroups.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
        or not.
        > Joe Zias
        > Joe Zias www.joezias.com
        > Anthropology/Paleopathology
        > Science and Antiquity Group - Jerusalem
        > Jerusalem, Israel
        > [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
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