Sunday, 4 August 2013

Shifting Sands beside the Dead Sea

Greg Doudna
Once upon a time there were a whole bunch of Essene monks, sort of proto-Augustinians, happily living an ascetic existence on the shores of the Dead Sea at a place called Qumran. They were very unhappy with the temple functionaries in Jerusalem, and had moved to their current location as a kind of self-enforced exile.

Or so the story goes. Dissenting voices have been heard from time to time, but the consensus has long held its ground. Then along come David Stacey and Greg Doudna with a renewed and determined effort to upset the applecart.

Greg, is a Dead Sea Scrolls (DSS) scholar and author of 4Q Pesher Nahum: A Critical Edition (and yes, he's also the author of Showdown at Big Sandy). He has recently collaborated with David Stacey (the British archaeologist, not the host of the TV series GearZ on Speed TV) on the soon to be released Qumran Revisited: A Reassessment of the Archaeology of the Site and its Texts [BAR International Series 2520; Oxford: Archaeopress, 2013].

Here is a brief excerpt from the introduction (available in full on the Scrollery blog).
My essay challenges the reasons claimed for supposing that the Qumran texts were opposed to the Hasmonean high priests... I show that traditional arguments for supposing an adversarial relationship between the sect of the Qumran texts and the Hasmonean high priests evaporate upon examination: there is no sign in the texts of calendar conflict between the sect and the Hasmonean high priests; no criticism for combining king and high priest; no notion of rival priestly ancestries; no opposition to Alexander Jannaeus, or to John Hyrcanus I before him. Contrary to common conceptions, none of these notions are in the Qumran texts in any way. Instead of the sect of the Qumran texts being opposed to the Hasmonean high priests, the sect of the texts was the sect of the Hasmonean high priests.
This is obviously an academic rather than a popular text, but it promises to ignite some lively debate. It also once again proves, if further demonstration was needed, that in this field of studies the consensus may well be built on shifting sands.


  1. Sounds very interesting! Do us a favour and post an update once the book is out.

  2. Actually the book is out and available now for sale from European sites such as Hadrian Books, waters, and, though not yet on What is still too early is reactions from within the scholarly world--that remains to be seen, and could be interesting. Greg D.