Ever since the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls in caves near the site of Qumran in 1947, this mysterious cache of manuscripts has been associated with the Essenes, a 'sect' configured as marginal and isolated. Scholarly consensus has held that an Essene library was hidden ahead of the Roman advance in 68 CE, when Qumran was partly destroyed. With much doubt now expressed about aspects of this view, the Essenes, the Scrolls and the Dead Sea systematically reviews the surviving historical sources, and supports an understanding of the Essenes as an influential legal society, at the centre of Judaean religious life, held in much esteem by many and protected by the Herodian dynasty, thus appearing as 'Herodians' in the Gospels. Opposed to the Hasmoneans, the Essenes combined sophisticated legal expertise and autonomy with an austere regimen of practical work, including a specialisation in medicine and pharmacology. Their presence along the north-western Dead Sea is strongly indicated by two independent sources, Dio Chrysostom and Pliny the Elder, and coheres with the archaeology. The Dead Sea Scrolls represent not an isolated library, quickly hidden, but burials of manuscripts from numerous Essene collections, placed in jars in caves for long-term preservation. The historical context of the Dead Sea area itself, and its extraordinary natural resources, as well as the archaeology of Qumran, confirm the Essenes' patronage by Herod, and indicate that they harnessed the medicinal material the Dead Sea zone provides to this day.
I: THE ESSENES IN ANCIENT LITERATURE ; 1. A Peculiar Problem : A Short History of Scholarship on the Essenes ; 2. Philo of Alexandria ; 3. Josephus ; 4. The Herodians of the Gospel of Mark ; 5. Pliny ; 6. Dio Chrysostom, Synesius, and Julius Solinus ; 7. Jewish and Christian Literature of the 2nd to 4th Centuries ; 8. Conclusions: the Essential Essenes ; II: THE DEAD SEA, THE ESSENES AND THE SCROLLS ; 9. The History of the Dead Sea ; 10. Essenes beside the Dead Sea: Qumran ; 11. The Dead Sea Scrolls ; 12. Roots, Remedies and Properties of Stones : Dead Sea Healing ; Conclusions
Joan E. Taylor is a historian of early Christianity and Second Temple Judaism. She is also known for her work in other areas of history, literature, archaeology, and biblical studies. A New Zealander, she currently lives in England, and works in the department of Theology and Religious Studies, King's College London.
Reviews for The Essenes, the Scrolls, and the Dead Sea
This is an excellent book, beautifully and lightly written, and clearly organized. It is packed with a wealth of fresh perspectives on many issues and it is full of helpful information, not least concerning the history of scholarship on all aspects of Essenism. George Brooke, Rylands Professor of Biblical Criticism and Exegesis, University of Manchester This is an erudite book, full of rare information and bold suggestions. John J. Collins, Journal of Jewish Studies Vol. LXIV No. 1