Friday, November 12, 2010

Schiffman - Golb (8) - The Scientific Proof That There Was No Qumran Sect

Schiffman (Qumran and Jerusalem, 2010, p.415) “Already in the debate over Christian origins we can see the inversion of reality in which the real scholars (Schiffman sees himself a “real” scholar) have to defend themselves and their work against unlikely, illogical, or unfounded theories. … This inversion is the case with the theories of Barbara Thiering and Robert Eisenman, who see Christian figures as having lived or visited Qumran, and Norman Golb, who claims that the scrolls are the remnants of the Jerusalem library of the temple, brought to Qumran for safekeeping during the revolt of 66-73 CE, and not the library of a sectarian group who lived at Qumran. These theories are actually impossible, from an objective, that is scientific, point of view.”

Golb –
1. He has emphasized in his writings that no evidence has been found that Hebrew literary scrolls were either kept or written at Qumran.
2. Nor has he ever suggested that they were “brought to Qumran” for safe keeping. But rather scrolls were removed from Jerusalem before or during the siege and taken into the Judean wilderness to be hidden away in a number of places including the caves around Qumran. (see his statement in Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society 124, 1980, p.11).
3. And Golb has never stated in his writings that the scrolls were limited to remnants of the temple library. He has said (way back in 1980) that the scrolls showed a wide variety of practices, beliefs and opinions. I have to agree with this part of his theory, having read the archaeological report, The Qumran Excavations, 1993 – 2004, Yizhak Magen and Yuval Peleg of the Israel Antiquities Authority.
 - Just read the summary.

With its evidence, this Report affirms Golb’s theory and damns Schiffman’s Qumran sectarian theory. Schiffman makes a vicious demeaning attack on the theories of three scholars and says all of them, including Golb’s, is impossible, not objective and unscientific. Schiffman does not acknowledge anywhere in his 2010 book the increasing receptivity of scholars to the Jerusalem origin of the Scrolls. Nor does he acknowledge in his book the decade-long archaeological investigation of the Qumran site under the direction of Dr Yizhak Magen and Yuval Peleg. This investigation ended several years ago with an affirmation of Dr Golb’s views on the origin of the scrolls.
So Dr Golb’s theory is very possible, objective and scientific, isn’t it Dr Schiffman!  And it is your theory that is "impossible, from an objective, that is scientific point of view.”  (See below)

Extracts of Magen’s and Peleg’s Summary of their decade-long archaeological investigations:
1. The claim that the location was chosen because of its isolation, for the purpose of establishing a first Jewish monastery or a community center for the Judean Desert sect, is groundless.
2. Qumran was part of the Hasmonean military presence along the Jordan Valley and the Dead Sea. The volume and quality of construction is not consistent with a private building project of the Judean Desert sect, …
3. Neither (Qumran or Ein Feshkha) was inhabited by members of the Judean Desert sect.
4. After the Roman conquest, the site was no longer used for military purposes and the building deteriorated.
5. During the first century CE, the site suffered from considerable neglect and was turned into a pottery production center,….
6. Upon reexamination, the hypothesis that every one of the pools was a ritual bath has been an unfortunate error, bereft of any scientific or halakhic validity. According to Jewish law, most of the pools were unfit for use as ritual baths because the water in them would have been considered “drawn water”. The entire site contained perhaps two ritual baths, and even this is not certain. The purpose of the pools was to collect rainwater and potter’s clay for the pottery industry.
7. One more baseless hypothesis concerns the number of sect members who lived at the site. This number ran, depending on the calculations of each scholar, from 200 to 250. In fact, at Qumran there is room for 20 to 30 people at the most. Certainly no evidence has been found, like ovens and cooking utensils, to indicate that 250 people had been fed twice a day for 170 years.
8. The main activity at the site was the production of pottery, a fact that we find is hardly consistent with the identification of Qumran as a communal center for the Judean Desert sect.

The scrolls deposited at Qumran, while disordered compared to a library, were not disordered compared to what one might expect from people fleeing for their lives. This was more in keeping with the hiding of a hoard stolen by robbers. The goods were valuable to them and they had to be kept hidden somewhere out of sight. There was no general panic about the deposits. To transport what must have been tons of parchment (and we must not forget tons of treasure, other valuables and manuscripts deposited elsewhere) would have taken considerable time of the order of weeks. This was alot of patient hard work. My conclusion is that the Romans were not on the scene yet, and these deposits were made well in advance of any Roman arrival.

On page 47 of Qumran in Context, Hirschfeld writes: “In terms of both extent and content, the Dead Sea Scrolls reflect the vigorous and varied literary activity that characterized Jerusalem in the second Temple period. One of the centers of this activity was the royal palace in the Upper City. Herod’s palace, like those of other Hellenistic kings, contained a large library. There was even a library in Herod’s palace at remote Masada.” The king’s library would surely contain books that represented the whole culture of his people. It seems to me that the books found at Qumran could well have been from the king’s library in Jerusalem. Thus we have an alternative explanation of where the scrolls came from, and why they represented a broad cross-section of the society. If the king’s library was invaded, then whoever raided it would have had a storage problem, especially if they had set fire to the library. Secondly, treasure could have been stolen from the king’s vaults, which was no doubt the place where the library was also. This would have been the accumulated wealth of the king. Some of it would no doubt have been tax money owed to the Roman government.

Were the Jews fleeing from the Romans in a panic when they deposited the scrolls.  (I don't believe they were).  This was depicted as occurring during the siege of Jerusalem (or near the time of the siege) in a recent documentary: Writing the Dead Sea Scrolls made by National Geographic. The National Geographic article has Robert Cargill (an archaeologist who appears in the documentary) saying "Jews wrote the Scrolls, but it may not have been just one specific group. It could have been groups of different Jews." The writer of the of the article Ker Than describes this as a “new view”. Cargill knew better. The view was put forward by Norman Golb in his 1980 paper, Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society No. 124, and has been upheld by him ever since. Cargill gave no credit to Golb in the National Geographic article, and made no subsequent attempt to correct his error.