Monday, March 16, 2009

Dead Sea Scroll Challenge

For decades now, it's been thought that the Dead Sea Scrolls, ancient scriptures found in the caves of Qumran in 1947, were written by a celibate Jewish sect called the Essenes. But Rachel Elior, who teaches Jewish mysticism at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, calls bullshit. According to her, there's no mention of the Essenes in the entirety of the scrolls, which is evidence that they were invented. She believes the Jewish historian Josephus Flavius created the Essenes as an example of pious, Spartan-like Jews that ran counter to the antisemitic stereotypes rampant throughout ancient Rome. The scrolls, she says, were likely taken to Qumran by a group of renegade priests called the sons of Zadok, who were banished from the Temple of Jerusalem in the second century A.D. But Elior hasn't convinced most biblical historians yet. Amongst many other criticisms of her hypothesis, the name "Essenes" is of foreign origin, so there's no reason why it would be included in the Dead Sea Scrolls. The real Essenes referred to themselves as "men of holiness" or "sons of light". Because in addition to being celibate, they were also incredibly self-absorbed douchebags. More details here.

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