Josephus's Essenes and the Qumran Community (Report‪)‬

Journal of Biblical Literature 2010, Summer, 129, 2

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Descripción editorial

Since the discovery of the first scrolls in caves near Qumran (the "Dead Sea Scrolls"), scholars have noted many similarities between these texts and the accounts of the Essenes in the works of Josephus, Philo, Pliny, and others. From the beginning of Qumran studies until the present, most researchers have agreed with the proposal first put forth by Eleazar L. Sukenik that the Qumran community was a branch of the larger Essene movement, a theory often referred to as the Qumran-Essene hypothesis. (1) Increasingly, however, this thesis has been challenged by a number of scholars who argue that the supposed parallels between the scrolls and the classical sources have been exaggerated or misunderstood, and that the archaeological remains at Khirbet Qumran do not match the lifestyle described in any of these texts. In recent years these critics have claimed that Josephus--arguably the most important source of information for proponents of the Qumran-Essene hypothesis--should be read on his own terms, without any reference to the Qumran scrolls, to understand how he creatively shaped his source material regarding the Essenes to fashion a distinctive narrative of the past. This view, while recognizing Josephus's creativity, suffers from the same criticism that it levels against the thesis that it seeks to overturn: it fails to read the Qumran scrolls on their own terms apart from other ancient accounts of the Essenes. This article focuses on three issues in the current debate, the interconnectedness of which is often overlooked: the relationship between the dates of the Qumran scrolls, the archaeological remains at Khirbet Qumran, and Josephus's accounts of the Essenes. The first section highlights some basic methodological issues relevant to the present discussion, particularly the nature of the sources and their interpretation. The second section focuses on the relationship between the Community Rule and other works found among the Qumran scrolls to show that a distinctive sectarian community produced and collected these documents. (2) The third section establishes the connection between the scrolls and Khirbet Qumran. The fourth section examines aspects of Josephus's testimony about the Essenes to show that his account of this sect closely matches the lifestyle described in the Community Rule and other sectarian scrolls and reflected in the archaeological remains at Khirbet Qumran. It also suggests that Josephus described a later phase of this movement that was close to but not identical with the sectarian community depicted in the majority of scrolls, which date to the first century B.C.E. We conclude that Josephus's testimony is a valuable source of information for understanding the sectarian community at Qumran, whose members were part of the wider Essene movement.

Técnicos y profesionales
22 de junio
Society of Biblical Literature

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