Hirschfeld, "Qumran in Context" pt. 2
- 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
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.