Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Schiffman – Golb (9) – Phylacteries - Who Were They Deposited By?

Schiffman (Qumran and Jerusalem, 2010, p223) writes:
“numerous phylacteries (tefillin) have been found at Qumran. The phylacteries are associated with liturgical practice in the rabinnic tradition. At Qumran, these ritual objects also bear witness to variations of custom, especially as regards the order and content of the biblical passages in them.”

Thus Schiffman believes that the phylacteries found at Qumran were worn by the supposed members of the supposed Qumran sect. In his note 19 (also on page 223), Schiffman, references only those authors who are not in opposition to this idea. We will see that he omitted to make reference to the doctoral dissertation of Dr David Rothstein of UCLA which was specifically on the phylacteries of Qumran.  In a paper Small Texts, Big Questions (revised in 2007) here https://oi.uchicago.edu/research/pubs/nn/spr00_scr_stbq.html Norman Golb writes: “While editors of the phylactery texts in the 1950s and 1960s generally shied away from dealing with this problem of non-uniformity … a scholar writing … in the 1990s, Dr David Rothstein, undertook an exhaustive analysis of all the published phylactery texts, concluding in his 1992 dissertation on the subject that ‘it appears probable that [the groups responsible for the phylacteries] … constituted a broad spectrum of Palestinian (and diaspora) Jewry’ (p. 181)” Rothstein's thesis would have been uncomfortable reading for Schiffman.

The second page of the document Small Texts, Big Questions shows a map of the Dead Sea with Jerusalem marked. On it there are three arrows showing the route which Golb says was taken by refugees fleeing Jerusalem. One arrow is very close to Qumran and continues across the Dead Sea to Machaerus. A second arrow is around the north of the Dead Sea (probably fairly close to the caves just north of Qumran) which then turns south towards Machaerus. The third arrow is to Masada. We know that Masada was easily occupied by Jewish fighters in 66 CE. (War 2.17.8). There seems to be a general pattern – thus it suggests to me that Machaerus and Qumran was occupied at the same time. The routes were not taken by fleeing refugees but by militants going to prepare for war. This was why some of them left their phylacteries in a safe place where they could pick them up later (thus avoiding the desecration of holy writing). According to Rothstein some were from the diaspora, and thus joining in with the locals. And why did they have no fear. Was it because they believed God was going to fight for them? Why not? Why were the fortresses so easily occupied by Jewish fighters with a common hatred for Romans? I would suggest that it was because they had just killed Agrippa (the Great), and his Idumean soldiery had fled.

Golb (Who wrote the Dead Sea Scrolls, 1995, p103) writes:
“it was already obvious by 1970 that those phylacteries discovered in the caves could not have belonged to the individuals of any single Jewish group… For the texts of most of the phylacteries …. showed no consistency with one another….The distribution of the various passages is, in Milik’s words, ‘most capricious’. Milik himself tried to retain the integrity of the Qumran-Essene hypothesis by claiming that these great variations among the texts showed only that the practice remained essentially, ‘if one might say so, private and semi- sacred’. It defies logic, however, to believe that a small and radical sect … who were according to the standard theory highly restrictive and formal in their religious legislation and practice, would have allowed their members to be so inconsistent.”

In the Summary of their paper the Qumran Excavations 1993 – 2004, Magen and Peleg state: “We now turn to a completely different issue, one that has unfortunately been disregarded almost entirely by Second Temple-period scholarship: the flight of the people from Judea and the land of Benjamin during the Great Revolt in an attempt to escape the Roman army. Despite our knowledge of the siege of Masada and of the areas where the Bar Kokhba Revolt broke out, thus far no one has asked how Jews came to be in places WHERE NO JEWS HAD RESIDED BEFORE. … Broshi and Eshel excavated a number of natural caves formed by floodwater in the riverbeds around Qumran, which they thought, MISTAKENLY, had sheltered members of the Essene sect for whom there was no room at the site. Most of the finds discovered in the caves belonged to refugees who stayed at Qumran before continuing on their way. No-one could have resided in these caves … for an extended period of time. … Another find, from En Gedi, was discovered by Hirschfeld and, in our opinion, ALSO MISINTERPRETED. During excavations, some temporary dwellings were found… Hirschfeld argues that a group of Essenes lived in them. We, however, believe that they were built by refugees who had fled from the Romans. Many more finds, which are to be ascribed to these refugees, have been found in the many surveys carried out along the riverbeds of the Judean Desert.” I submit that these places were archaeological evidence for the temporary dwellings of guerilla fighters, not refugees fleeing from the Romans. This was in 66 to early 67 CE, just a few months. I have been saying for a long time that there was a short invasion by Nero’s troops to destroy the priests, the owners of the phylacteries, and depositors of the scrolls. Thus the fighters were spread over the whole of the Judean Desert. Some occupied the fortresses. The Romans knew exactly where to come to meet the enemy. The Judean Desert was the place where most of the war began.