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On the Time Magazine Essene Story

5 September 2009

This is a response to this essay in Time Magazine.

Here are some sober reflections on this story.

(1) It is absolutely not the case that Elior’s views have “shaken the bedrock of biblical scholarship.” This (i.e, “shaken the bedrock…”) is, however, a fine illustration of the sorts of lines that are used in the popular media to generate some interest for sensationalistic and tenuous (at best) “scholarship.” Rule #1: Caveat Eruditus.

Further Background:

(2) Normal Golb of the University of Chicago has long claimed the Qumran Scrolls had nothing to do with Khirbet Qumran, but rather, he argues, they just happened to be deposited (prior to the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 CE) in 11 caves that just happened to be near the Khirbet. Although Golb is certainly a serious scholar, for reasons often enumerated, Golb has found few followers. See Vanderkam’s intro (Eerdmans) for discussion.

(3) Lawrence Schiffman has argued that, at least some of the scrolls (e.g., 4QMMT) have “beliefs” that are most readily understood as Sadducean (Zadokite). For brief analysis of Schiffman’s very important contributions to the field, see again Vanderkam’s intro.

(4) My sense is that Elior has, to some degree, misused some of Golb’s and some of Schiffman’s data…and *she* has gone in very different, and very tenuous, directions….even arguing that there never were Essenes and so the scrolls definitely were not produced by them. This is a very problematic position and she will absolutely not find serious scrolls scholars following her in her positions.

(5) Finally, I should state that for the connections between the Essenes and the Scrolls (including various statements within multiple authors from the turn of the era…about everything from geographic location and distribution of Essenes, to the beliefs of the Essenes, ect.), see the still-valuable monograph on the scrolls by Frank Moore Cross.

(6) In short, there is nothing earth shattering about Elior’s views…and there is, alas, nothing of real substance in them. This too will pass (and I believe it will do so very rapidly).

This is my link


One Comments to “On the Time Magazine Essene Story”

  1. Hear! Hear!

    If only you could de-sensationalize most all of the b.s. Time and other “media” produce.

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