Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Final Post

Classes are now over and we are all gearing up for final exams, so this is the last post on Qumranica and henceforth it is on indefinite hiatus. I will leave the archive up for now and I may (or may not) restart the blog sometime in the future.

I want to thank the students of DI4712, DI4713, and DI5212 for sharing their research with us. I am also grateful to the readers of Qumranica. Thanks for your comments and feedback and I hope you enjoyed the course. This was an interesting experiment on which I will need to reflect. I imagine I will have some comments on it in my paper on blogging which is to be presented in a CARG session in November's SBL meetings in Philadelphia.

Meanwhile, matters pertaining to the Dead Sea Scrolls and Qumran will continue to be covered, along with other aspects of ancient Judaism, over on PaleoJudaica. I hope you will continue to visit there.

Penultimate Post

A week ago, we of St. Mary's College had our annual School dinner and I have just about recovered from it. There are always entertaining speeches and songs, and this time Matthew Ford, one of the students in the Dead Sea Scrolls course, sang us a work of his own composition about the School. As has been my custom with such things, apart from the first verse I will quote (with his permission) only the verse that pertains to me:
There is a college called St. Mary's Quad,
there studies divines, where great men have trod.
They do lots of talking, and coffee they drink,
You'll pass your exams, with a nod and a wink.

St. Mary's Quad, St. Mary's Quad,
It looks like we've had a few;
We're funny peculiar, and all very bright,
The wonderfully odd St. Mary's Quad.

There was a young scholar of ancient Hebrew,
his name is Doc. Davila, bad grammar won't do.
He studies the Yahad, there no much he misses.
He likes to pronounce 'the Groningen Hypothesis.'

St. Mary's Quad, St. Mary's Quad,
It looks like we've had a few;
We're funny, peculiar, and all very bright,
The wonderfully odd St. Mary's Quad!

Saturday, May 07, 2005

Revised Driver Essay

Daniel Driver has posted the final revision (for the course, that is) of his paper on scriptural interpretation in the Damascus Document. Once again, it's in PDF format.

Friday, May 06, 2005

Summary of Jerusalem Archives Seminar

Although as far as I know, Golb has not actually persuaded anyone of his theory, it seems fair to say that his work has made a significant contribution to the field of Qumran studies. He seems to have gotten it wrong in two places in particular:
  • That the Qumran library is not a sectarian collection

    The sectarian nature of the library is hard to get around: there are multiple copies of many sectarian texts and their terminology and content show a web of interconnections that argue strongly at least for a broadly cohesive sectarian movement.

  • That the site of Qumran was a military fortress up to its destruction around 68 C.E.

    I can't comment authoritatively on this, but I can say that no archaeologist has been convinced by his arguments and everyone seems to agree that a fortress would not have left its water supply unsecured in the way we find at Qumran. It's true, however, that archaeologist David Stacey has indicated in an informal Internet essay that he thinks that the site was a military garrison into the early first century B.C.E., although before what he would accept as sectarian occupation. But I have yet to see even this argued in a scholarly monograph or peer-review journal.

That said, we also noted quite a few places where he seems to have gotten it right on some important points that have now become mainstream:
  • The number of scribal hands in the Qumran manuscripts is too many to be explained by local production

    Many, perhaps most of the manuscripts must have been imported from outside the group who were living at Qumran (assuming they were sectarians).

  • There is a surprising lack of autograph copies and "documentary" (i.e., administrative) texts in the Qumran library

    Aside from the Copper Scroll, the only administrative text I can think of is 4Q477, in which some named individual are being rebuked, evident in a context associated with the Rabbim, the Many, a term associated with the Yahad. Perhaps also the "List of Netinim" in 4Q340. At one time the collection of administrative texts in DJD 27 was thought to have come from the Qumran library, but it now seems that they are texts from the Bar Kokhba era. Where are all the sectarian administrative texts?

  • The Copper Scroll is probably a real treasure.

    I think pretty much everyone accepts this nowadays.

There are other, more controversial points on which I think he's made a contribution, even though his view remains against the consensus. For example, I rather like his reading of the Community Rule (1QS) as the rule book of a kind of sectarian association made up of men with families and I think it makes marginally more sense than the usual reading of it as a constitution for a celibate Essene quasi-monastic group living at Qumran.

A couple of other interesting points came up. One student raised the possibility that the Qumran watchtower was garrisoned to keep an eye on the area but the water supply was unprotected because the plan was for the garrison to abandon the site if approaching enemies were sighted. The analogy was with ancient garrisons on the British coastline (often surviving now as churches), which were set up with that purpose. We wondered how close an analogy this was, but since none of us controlled either archaeological discipline, we couldn't get very far with the idea.

Finally, and this seems a fitting question with which to close, we asked why nobody ever came back to get the scrolls. Did everyone who knew about the scrolls deposits really die? Even granting the carnage of the Great Revolt, that seems unlikely. Could the scrolls deposits have been genizot, caches of worn manuscripts that were not intended to be used again? Are other explanations possible? As with so many other questions about the Dead Sea Scrolls, we just don't know.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Summary of Enochic-Essene Theory Seminar

We spent a good deal of this seminar reviewing the basics of Boccaccini's reconstruction of the rise of Essenism and the place of the Dead Sea Scrolls in the Essene movement. I will not go through the details here, but you can see an abstract in my online piece "Enochians, Essenes, and Qumran Essenes", which also summarizes some criticisms of Boccaccini's position. And for some theological differences between "Zadokite" and "Enochic" Judaism, see my online paper "Jewish Pseudepigrapha and Christian Apocrypha: (How) Can We Tell Them Apart?". (Scroll down to the section on "The Problem of 'Common Judaism.'")

We also reviewed briefly the basic elements of the "Groningen hypothesis," which are also summarized in my earlier online lecture on the Pesharim.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Abstract of Jerusalem Archives essay

Here is the abstract for the essay on Norman Golb's theory that the Dead Sea Scrolls are not Essene or sectarian, but rather consist of literary archives from Jerusalem:
This paper focuses on an alternative theory to that of the Qumran - Essene hypothesis of the origin of the Dead Sea Scrolls. Instead it looks to the 'radical' theory of Norman Golb, who does not believe there was any connection between the Essenes and the scrolls. Rather Golb argues the scrolls originated in libraries of Jerusalem and were later hidden in the caves at Qumran for safekeeping during the first revolt. Golb fundamentally uses the archaeological evidence from the site of Qumran to refute the Essene theory, and poses instead a view that Khirbet Qumran was at this time a military fortress. In order to prove his own Jerusalem archives theory, Golb looks to the contents of the manuscripts found, number of scribal hands used, the absence of documentary records and autographs, and the location of where the scrolls were hidden. He concludes that the Essene theory is in part based on the order of the manuscripts' discovery, and thus had they been discovered in the reverse order then other scholars would have inevitably reached the same conclusion as him, of the scrolls originating in Jerusalem libraries. There is then a brief overview of other scholars' responses to and critiques of Golb's argument.

Laura Gibb

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Abstract of Boccaccini Essay

Here is the abstract for the essay on Boccaccini's Enochic-Essene hypothesis:
Gabriele Boccaccini's book Beyond the Essene Hypothesis: The Parting of the Ways Between Qumran and Enochic Judaism is a re-examination of the Essene hypothesis and its validity in accounting for the Dead Sea Scrolls. Considering the Essene hypothesis to be broadly accurate, and fundamental disagreement fruitless, Boccaccini instead addresses the inadequacies of certain aspects. While he accepts the relationship between the scrolls and the ruins, the presence of a Qumran sectarian community and the correspondence between Essene beliefs and the scrolls, Boccaccini argues that ideas about the sect's origins and their religious context must be refined. This paper engages with Boccaccini's theory in order to outline the historical context of the Qumran community and to situate the group known as the "Essenes" in second temple Judaism. The evidence for a movement of "Enochians" will be examined and Boccaccini's proposed schism between Enochic factions will be considered as an explanation for the origins of the Qumran group. Finally, potential problems will be addressed in the light of scholarly objections to Boccaccini's Enochic/Essene hypothesis.

Kathleen Burt

Apologies for Qumranica's blogging hiatus. A cold kept me home and relatively unproductive over the long weekend.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Summary of Essenes Seminar

Some of the points we discussed in the seminar on the Essene hypothesis included the following.

What does it tell us if we decide that the Qumran sectarians were indeed Essenes? Does it change how we read the Qumran texts? To what degree does it allow us to use the Essene material as background to the Scrolls and to what degree should we avoid harmonizing the classical sources with the Scroll? For an analogy, suppose that 2000 years in our future some history textbooks that tell about the British Labour Party during the 1940s happen to have survived, but not much else about this party. Then suppose a CD or hard drive is recovered that suddenly makes available numerous primary sources for Labor between 1997 and 2005. Would it be obvious that they even came from the same party? There would be some continuities but very many differences. And even if it were granted that they came from the same group, how legitimate (or even useful) would it be to try to harmonize the information about the Labour Party from either end of a half-century span? Likewise, even if we grant that the classical sources and the Scrolls deal with the Essenes (and we are willing to grant this), how much use is it to compare the Scrolls with material about the Essenes written by nonmembers who lived outside Palestine and one of whom was not even Jewish and to try to build up a comprehensive picture of the Essenes by combining and harmonizing our sources?

Although we did find the cumulative case for the Qumran sectarians being Essenes convincing, we also recognized that many of the alleged "parallels" between the two groups were poorly formulated or even vacuous. Parallels, like manuscripts, are weighed, not counted. What second temple Jewish group did not share mutual affection among its members, engage in purificatory ablutions, consider themselves temperate and faithful, practice piety, cherish justice and love and truth, and refrain from stealing? Is it really significant that both the Essenes and the Qumran sectarians forbade spitting in the group? Has anyone checked to see how other Jewish groups treated spitting? Are the British and Americans Essenes because they frown on spitting in public? Both rabbinic Havurot and Hellenistic voluntary societies engaged in common meals. And so on.

The overall reliability of the classical writers also must be evaluated, and here not all the indicators are encouraging. Consider Josephus' account of his experiences with the major Jewish sects, on the basis of which he advances himself as a reliable informant about all of them:
And when I was about sixteen years old, I had a mind to make trim of the several sects that were among us. These sects are three: - The first is that of the Pharisees, the second that Sadducees, and the third that of the Essens, as we have frequently told you; for I thought that by this means I might choose the best, if I were once acquainted with them all; so I contented myself with hard fare, and underwent great difficulties, and went through them all. Nor did I content myself with these trials only; but when I was informed that one, whose name was Banus, lived in the desert, and used no other clothing than grew upon trees, and had no other food than what grew of its own accord, and bathed himself in cold water frequently, both by night and by day, in order to preserve his chastity, I imitated him in those things, and continued with him three years. So when I had accomplished my desires, I returned back to the city, being now nineteen years old, and began to conduct myself according to the rules of the sect of the Pharisees, which is of kin to the sect of the Stoics, as the Greeks call them.

Life 2

It is difficult to escape the impression that Josephus is presenting us with a certain amount of, shall we say, Bullgeschichte. He tells us that between the ages of 16 and 19 he went through the initiation processes of the Pharisees, the Sadducees, and the Essenes (and recall that the Essene initiation alone took a couple of years), plus he spent three years in the wilderness with Banus. Something does not add up, and we must be cautious about taking his claims to firsthand knowledge of these groups at face value.

Note also that it is widely agreed that Josephus and Philo both independently drew upon a third written source. One problem is that, if Josephus had detailed first-hand knowledge of the Essenes, it is not very clear why he used a considerably older source for a good bit of his information. The other problem is that we know nothing about this common source and therefore have no idea how reliable it might have been.

The testimony of Pliny the Elder in Natural History 5.15.73 also presents us with some difficulties. He tells us that the Essenes had been at their site near the Dead Sea for "thousands of ages," which certainly does not apply to the Qumran sectarians, who probably were not there much before the beginning of the first century B.C.E. He also implies that they were still there when he wrote, but later comments show that he was writing after the destruction of Jerusalem. The site of Qumran had been destroyed by that time. Also, incidentally, he neglects ever to say that the Essenes were Jews. The problems are generally explained by supposing that Pliny was using a written source and that he himself was not acquainted with the Essenes and did not know what had happened to them after the time of his source. (He may have been indulging in a little gee-whiz exaggeration about a cool foreign cult as well.) But the point is that if he was writing about Qumran and the sectarians who lived there, we can show that his very short account contains mistakes. How many mistakes does it contain that we can't establish at this distance from the events?

Again, we found the case that Hayley made for an Essene connection with the Dead Sea Scrolls persuasive, but the above observations show us that we must be cautious about how we approach this connection.