March 16, 2009

Scholar Claims Dead Sea Scrolls 'Authors' Never Existed

I thought that this article was interesting and that it might not be so far fetched.

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 Flavius Josephus and that his faulty reporting was passed on as fact throughout 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 being held 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."

Click here and read the whole thing.

1 comment:

Chaviva said...

It's an interesting idea, and I applaud her for being so bold as to buck the trend. But I think her view of scholars is narrow -- you'll find FEW scholars who think that Josephus is all historical fact, it's historiography with a subjective bent, obviously.

And James Charlesworth is right. In the Ancient Near East labels were as foreign as computers. People rarely labeled themselves or cited themselves in such texts. The only places you really find these are in steles where kings are proclaiming their victory over a certain people, but even the labels used in those cases can be foreign to the conquered people and only native to the king who has labeled them as such.

Thanks for an interesting read, though :) I'll have to keep tabs on this.