New Qumran theory denies the existence of the Essenes

Qumran cave interior There's a hub-bub in the world of academia regarding a new book by Rachel Elior, professor of Jewish Philosophy at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, which questions the existence of the Essences and their presumed authorship of the Dead Sea Scrolls of Qumran. Elior believes the existence of the Essences to be fictional, based on utopian tales which were misread by later authors such as Josephus and Pliny. According to the book, the Dead Sea Scrolls were penned by Jerusalem priests of the Sadducean branch.

Elior's book suggests that the past 60 years of scholarship and the overwhelming majority of scholars which view the Essences as an historical community are simply "mistaken". Needless to say, this hurt more than a couple egos.

Some New Testament scholars believe that John the Baptist may have encountered the Essene community while dwelling in the desert and may have gleaned some aspects of his messianic expectations from them. Calling the Essenes' existence into question thus also reverberates through New Testament Studies and our understanding of the influences available at that time.

You can read more about this academic cat-fight and the fate of the Essenes here. I'm sure we haven't heard the last of it.

3 Comments

I suspect it's only a hub-bub to the media. Nothing new to anyone else.

From what I've read, it sounds like a pretty heated exchange, with one young lad getting arrested over what he felt were swipes at his archaeologist father from dissenting colleagues. Nothing like a couple archaeologists going at it with picks and shovels!

There have been some hot words flying, and even one guy brought up on charges for "defending" his father. But that's not that unusual in the soap opera of Israeli archeology. I think it's new that she's denying the very existence of the Essenes, but there are more radical proposals floating around than that. And the press jumps on stuff that isn't really a big deal.

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  • Larry said:
      There have been some hot words flying, and even one guy brought up on ...
  • Scott David Foutz said:
      From what I've read, it sounds like a pretty heated exchange, with one...
  • Larry said:
      I suspect it's only a hub-bub to the media. Nothing new to anyone else...

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