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by Yizhar Hirschfeld

What if the Dead Sea Scrolls were not a product of an Essene Community at Qumran?

In this bold reassessment of the archaeological evidence of Qumran and other nearby first-century sites on the western shore of the Dead Sea, Professor Hirschfeld argues persuasively that Qumran is not the site of an Essene community hitherto thought to be responsible for the Dead Sea Scrolls.

Reassessing and marshalling the evidence (some of which was overlooked in earlier explanations of the site) with the skill of a detective reconstructing the scene of a crime, Hirschfeld reveals that Qumran was not the communal site of an impoverished and ascetic religious group, but the prosperous estate of an influential member of society. Bringing a new understanding to the textual evidence of the archaeology of the site during the Roman period as well as evidence from neighboring archaeological sites, Hirschfeld dramatically illustrates his arguments with more than 135 maps, archaeological drawings and reconstructions, as well as vivid photographs of the archaeological and geographic sites. A masterpiece of argument with lasting impact on our understanding of the origins of the Dead Sea Scrolls, this work will be discussed in academic circles for years to come and will be appreciated by all who are intrigued by the mysteries surrounding the ancient texts associated with Qumran. The implications of this new perspective for the scholarly understanding of the Dead Sea Scrolls are earth-shifting.

"Qumran is a complex and puzzling archaeological site that is generally associated with the Essenes and the Dead Sea Scrolls. Yizhar Hirschfeld, one of Israels finest archaeologists, questions many assumptions that would make such an association necessary. By placing Qumran in a regional context Hirschfeld opens up other types of interpretative possibilities, and focuses in particular on the local economy and industries around the Dead Sea. This challenging study impresses by its clarity and methodological soundness. Hirschfeld proves himself adept at providing innovative answers to old questions. He uses his wide knowledge to show interesting parallels, provoking his readers to think about the site as the centre of an estate, as a complex of residential wings and industrial installations that he calls a manor house, comparable to others in the region. This finely-illustrated and well-argued text will undoubtedly cause much debate and is a welcome addition to Qumran research." Joan E. Taylor, History Department, University College London.

"Hirschfeld's description of the archeology of Qumran is so different from the influential accounts of de Vaux and Magness that it is sure to be controversial. Even those who are not persuaded by his assertions will appreciate his knowledge of the Judean context and the fine collection of photographs included in this book." John J. Collins, Holmes Professor of Old Testament, Yale University

Download Qumran In Context: Reassessing The Archaeological Evidence epub
ISBN: 1565636120
ISBN13: 978-1565636125
Category: History
Subcategory: World
Author: Yizhar Hirschfeld
Language: English
Publisher: Hendrickson Pub; First Edition edition (November 30, 2004)
Pages: 270 pages
ePUB size: 1219 kb
FB2 size: 1684 kb
Rating: 4.2
Votes: 840
Other Formats: lrf lrf azw lit

On the cover of the book we see two wooden combs; they are also inside the book in a full-color full-page plate (Figure 102), presented as if they had been found in the ruins of Qumran. In fact, they were not. These two combs were found far away in a cave in Wadi Murabba'at and long published in P. Benoit, J.T. Milik, and R. de Vaux (eds.). Les grottes de Murabba'at (DJD 2; Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1961), part 2, Planches, pl. XIV.8 and XIV.9.

The book, early on, declares it wishes to remove the "burden" of religion from Qumran, and seeks to move religious Essenes out. But in the end it--contradicting itself--seeks to move religious Sadducees in.

But second temple period Sadducees were a small aristocratic conservative group, that Josephus tells us persuaded "few," a group preferring Torah-only, not books with named angels, predestination, resurrection, apocalyptic, messianism--the very things found at Qumran. Sadducees, though they may have agreed with Essenes on this or that legal question, did not own or approve of such books. Retrojecting later, broader and looser definitions of Sadducees helps little.

For further information about the factual errors in this book, see the online paper [if interested, google the title] "Jannaeus, His Brother Absalom, and Judah the Essene."
In this well-written study Hirschfeld challenges the widely-accepted view that the buildings located at Qumran were occupied by Essenes and that the Dead Sea Scrolls found in the caves nearby were used and ultimately hidden there by members of that sect. After a careful analysis of the architectural remains and the artifacts found in association with them, Hirschfeld concludes that the earliest stage of construction may have been during the Hasmonean period (130-37 BCE), perhaps incorporating Iron Age structures about which little can be known. The buildings are understood to be a small fort and associated road station intended to control the important road leading from Jerusalem to the southeastern regions of the kingdom. In the Herodian period (37 BCE-68 CE) the earlier buildings became the core of a large manor house occupied by inhabitants engaged in extensive agricultural production. The remains at nearby ‛Ein Feshkha are seen as a part of this elaborate estate. The estate was destroyed in the First Jewish Revolt (66-70 CE) and a small Roman fortress, perhaps later used by rebels in the Bar Kochba rebellion, was erected at this site. After 135 CE Qumran seems to have been abandoned. In keeping with this assessment of the evidence, Hirschfeld suggests that the Dead Sea Scrolls were not Essene documents but rather part of an extensive library, maintained by the Sadducean community in Jerusalem and preserved by hiding the scrolls, on the eve of the First Jewish Revolt, in caves located near the manor house at Qumran. This book is well-written, well-documented and superbly illustrated with more than 135 maps, drawings and photographs. Anyone seriously interested in the Dead Sea Scrolls or in Jewish/Roman history in the Hellenistic and Roman periods should read this book.