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Dead Sea Scrolls: A "legend on a legend..."

 
3c?
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03/16/2009 01:17 PM
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Dead Sea Scrolls: A "legend on a legend..."
Biblical scholars have long argued that the Dead Sea Scrolls were the work of an ascetic and celibate Jewish community known as the Essenes, which flourished in the 1st century A.D. in the scorching desert canyons near the Dead Sea. Now, a prominent Israeli scholar, Rachel Elior, disputes that the Essenes ever existed at all a claim that has shaken the bedrock of Biblical scholarship.

Elior, who teaches Jewish mysticism at Jerusalem's Hebrew University, claims that the Essenes were a fabrication by the 1st century A.D. Jewish-Roman historian, Josephus Flavius, and that his faulty reporting was passed on as fact through the centuries. As Elior explains, the Essenes make no mention of themselves in the 900 scrolls found by a Bedouin shepherd in 1947 in the caves of Qumran, near the Dead Sea. "Sixty years of research have been wasted trying to find the Essenes in the scrolls," Elior tells TIME. "But they didn't exist. This is legend on a legend."

Elior contends that Josephus, a former Jewish priest who wrote his history while a captive in Rome, "wanted to explain to the Romans that the Jews weren't all losers and traitors, that there were many exceptional Jews of religious devotion and heroism. You might say it was the first rebuttal to anti-Semitic literature." She adds: "He was probably inspired by the Spartans. For the Romans, the Spartans were the highest ideal of human behavior, and Josephus wanted to portray Jews who were like the Spartans, in their ideals and high virtue."

Early descriptions of the Essenes, by Greek and Roman historians, has them as numbering in the thousands, living communally ("The first kibbutz," jokes Elior) and forsaking sex which goes against the Judaic exhortation to "go forth and multiply." Says Elior: "It doesn't make sense that you have thousands of people living against the Jewish law, and there's no mention of them in any of the Jewish texts and sources of that period."

So who were the real authors of the Dead Sea Scrolls? Elior theorizes that the Essenes were really the renegade sons of Zadok, a priestly caste banished from the Temple of Jerusalem by intriguing Greek rulers in 2nd century B.C. When they left, they took the source of their wisdom their scrolls with them. "In Qumran, the remnants of a huge library were found," she says, with some of the early Hebrew texts dating back to the 2nd century B.C. Until the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, the earliest known version of the Old Testament dated to the 9th century A.D. "The scrolls attest to a Biblical priestly heritage," claims Elior, who speculates that the scrolls were hidden in Qumran for safekeeping.

Elior's theory landed like a bombshell in the cloistered world of Biblical scholarship. James Charlesworth, director of the Dead Sea Scrolls project at Princeton Theological Seminary and an expert on Josephus, says that it is not unusual that the word "Essenes" does not appear in the scrolls. "It's a foreign label," he tells TIME. "When they refer to themselves, it's as 'men of holiness' or 'sons of light.'" Charlesworth contends that at least eight scholars in antiquity refer to the Essenes. One proof of Essene authorship of the Dead Sea Scrolls, he says, was the large number of inkpots found by archeologists at Qumran.

But Elior claims that these ancient historians, namely Philo and Pliny the Elder, either borrowed from each other or retailed secondhand stories as fact. "Pliny the Elder describes the Essenes as 'choosing the company of date palms' beside the Dead Sea. We know Pliny was a great reader, but he probably never visited Israel," Elior says.

Elior is braced for more criticism of her theory. "Usually my opponents have only read Josephus and the other classical references to the Essenes," she says. "They should read the Dead Sea Scrolls all 39 volumes the proof is there."
the meek are ready...


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WomanInBlack

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03/16/2009 01:19 PM
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Re: Dead Sea Scrolls: A "legend on a legend..."
The DSS are coming here next month. Should be interesting.
We forfeit three-fourths of ourselves in order to be like other people.

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3c?  (OP)

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03/16/2009 01:27 PM
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Re: Dead Sea Scrolls: A "legend on a legend..."
I nominate Aesop's Fables as the new Word Of God...
the meek are ready...


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mathetes

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03/16/2009 01:33 PM
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Re: Dead Sea Scrolls: A "legend on a legend..."


Elior, who teaches Jewish mysticism

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Explains it all
For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in.
Sara-Ka-El

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03/16/2009 01:35 PM
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Re: Dead Sea Scrolls: A "legend on a legend..."
gaah
From Cooperate Law to Public Defense

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Sara-Ka-El

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03/16/2009 01:45 PM
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Re: Dead Sea Scrolls: A "legend on a legend..."
According to a view commonly held until the 1990s, the documents were written and hidden by a community of Essenes who lived in the Qumran area. Another theory, which has been gaining acceptance, is that the community was led by Zadokite priests (Sadducees), who were ousted from the Temple by the Maccabeans (Hasmoneans).

A Spanish Jesuit, José O'Callaghan, has argued that the fragment 7Q5 from Cave 7 is a New Testament text from the Gospel of Mark, Chapter 6, verses 52-53. In recent years this controversial assertion has been taked up again by German scholar Carsten Peter Thiede. A successful identification of this fragment as a passage from Mark would make it the earliest extant New Testament document, dating somewhere between 30 and 60 CE.

In 1963 Karl Heinrich Rengstorf of the University of Münster put forth the theory that the Dead Sea scrolls originated at the library of the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem. This theory was rejected by most scholars during the 1960s, who maintained that the scrolls were written at Qumran rather than transported from another location. However, the theory was revived by Norman Golb and other scholars during the 1990s, who added that the scrolls probably also originated from several other libraries in addition to the Temple library.

Allegations that the Vatican suppressed the publication of the scrolls were published in the 1990s, notably by Michael Baigent and Richard Leigh, whose book The Dead Sea Scrolls Deception contains a popularized version of speculations by Robert Eisenman that some scrolls actually describe the early Christian community, characterized as more fundamentalist and rigid than the one portrayed by the New Testament, and that the life of Jesus was deliberately mythicized by Paul, possibly a Roman agent who faked his "conversion" from Saul in order to undermine the influence of anti-Roman messianic cults in the region.

Eisenman's own theories, themselves not always convincing, merely attempt to relate the career of James the Just and Paul to some of these documents. Baigent and Leigh allege that several key scrolls were deliberately kept under wraps for decades to prevent alternative theories to the prevailing "consensus" that the scrolls had nothing to do with Christianity from arising.

Because they are frequently described as important to the history of the Bible, the scrolls are surrounded by a wide range of conspiracy theories.
From Cooperate Law to Public Defense

Truth is a Stranger to Fiction

Learn to Swim

In the Instancy of Atomic Love, the Footloose are Dead





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