Thursday, March 19, 2009

Josephus made up the Essenes

So says Israeli scholar Rachel Elior, who teaches Jewish mysticism at Hebrew University.

Then, who wrote the Dead Sea Scrolls?

The Zadokites, after a rupture in the priesthood, whether before or after the Maccabean revolt.

The Zadokite idea isn’t that revolutionary; a lot of modern scholars of that era postulate some rupture, with a set of “puritan” priests separating themselves from temple worship. And, many of those scholars agree that most scrolls probably weren’t written at Qumran, contra James Charlesworth’s mention of “inkpots” in the story.

That said, Elior’s claim that the Zadokite split was while the Seleucids still controlled Palestine IS less of a consensus view; other scholars who postulate such a rupture put it after the Maccabees’ success, and some of their later priests became more corrupt. And, yet others say the DSS relate to an early Christian split, with followers of Jesus’ brother James writing about Paul as the “man of lies.”

But, I’ve not seen Elior’s main point pushed forward before, that Josephus invented the Essenes as a counterweight to anti-Semitism.

Read the full story for details of her theory, including how she explains references to Essenes by Pliny, Philo, etc.

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