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Hirschfeld, "Qumran in Context" pt. 2

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  • Stephen Goranson
    Prof. Hirschfeld might want to consider asking the publisher to hold up his book, so he can fix it and issue a much revised edition. The book does include some
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 21, 2004
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      Prof. Hirschfeld might want to consider asking the publisher to hold up his
      book, so he can fix it and issue a much revised edition.

      The book does include some well-printed illustrations. Unfortunately, many are
      misleading. And not only the Murabba'at combs mislabled (Fig. 101) as "Wooden
      combs found at Qumran." At times the book reads as if Yizhar recorded his
      wishes for revisionist history and had an assistant tack on some footnotes.

      Here's one of those misleading notes (p. 232 n. 83), "Before the discovery of
      the scrolls there were no doubts among scholars that the Essene settlement
      should be located in the En-Gedi area...." But Strack in German translated
      Pliny as locating En Gedi South of the Essenes. One might think Y.H. would
      know this, as this is explicitly cited by de Vaux in Archaeology and the Dead
      Sea Scrolls, a book one would have thought or hoped Y.H. had carefully read.
      (He does list it in his bibliography.) And that bibliography includes Puech in
      BASOR on the cemetery; had Y.H read Puech he would have read that de Saulcy
      located the land of Essenes considerably North of Ein Gedi. Had Y.H. read Dead
      Sea Discoveries, he would have read of C. D. Ginsburg explicitly locating
      Pliny's Essenes on the Northwest shore of the Dead Sea. A few days ago,
      looking for something else I found another (1893) locating of Essenes similar
      to these three. Readers of "Qumran in Context" will be misled, here and on
      many other pages. Mary Beagon describes Pliny's views on describing water, in
      Roman Nature: The Thought of Pliny the Elder (Oxford, 1992), p,196. We find in
      Pliny personified good Jordan water assisting all as it meanders, reluctantly
      moving downstream to the Dead bad water. Then Essenes; then Ein Gedi; then
      Masada; then Judaea's boundary--five in a row.

      Y. H. presents Essenes as a "small sect" (p. 231), borrowing a straw man from
      a source, Norman Golb. Y.H. tells us (p.5) he seeks to "liberate Qumran from
      the burden of religious significance...." But by the end of the book a switch
      has happened. After dismissing Essenes as too small for the mss; though they
      include Essene texts, surely, and though Essenes were not small nor short-
      lived ("myriads" of Essenes, Philo wrote), and after falsely supposing
      that Sadducees were larger (false: Josephus: these aristocrats
      persuaded "few"), and after supposing, falsely, that the texts suit Sadducees
      (e.g. despite resurrection; with named angels; with torah interpretations
      criticising Sadducee temple administration--what, besides Torah, are Sadducee
      texts anyway [one Book of Decrees, maybe?--absent at Qumran, in any case]),
      having imagined moving Essenes out of Qumran, Y.H. moves Sadducees (and
      religion?) in.

      This book is a mess, which is a shame, as the author is an experienced
      archaeologist, who could offer better, and, on other occasions, has.

      Stephen Goranson
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