Implications of Some New Excavations at Qumran.

It has been my assumption, and the assumption of the scholarly world a majority of the time, that the group at Qumran, the resting place of the Dead Sea Scrolls, were Essenes. That may not be the case.

Haaretz just published a story last month that archaeologists ending a 10 year dig found lots of evidence that Qumran was not in fact inhabited by Essenes. Until their actual findings are actually published we cannot really examine them, but if what is said in the article is true, it appears the Essene theory will be sitting on very shallow evidence.

But who cares, right? Big deal. Actually, it is. One other theory of the scroll’s origins is that many of the scrolls held in Jerusalem were taken there to be hidden before Jerusalem was destroyed in AD 70 by the Romans. If that is the case, which is more likely if Qumran was not Essenic, then the pseudopigraphical works there need to be taken more seriously. One of my seminary profs referred to some of the pseudopigraphical material as "Jewish tabloids," used only by the few and by the unfluential. First, I think that is almost certainly wrong anyway. Second, if these were scrolls hidden by the Jewish leaders before Jerusalem was sacked, then these works were probably used not only by a sectarian group called the Essenes, but by the major Jewish sects of the day. This is something I think seems likely anyway, but this just adds to the importance of that kind of literature for understanding Second Temple Judaism.