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Josephus's Essenes and the Qumran Community
Journal of Biblical Literature (2010)
  • Kenneth Atkinson
  • Jodi Magness
Since the discovery of the first scrolls in caves near Qumran (the "Dead Sea Scrolls"), scholars have noted many similarities between these texts and the accounts of the Essenes in the works of Josephus, Philo, Pliny, and others. From the beginning of Qumran studies until the present, most researchers have agreed with the proposal first put forth by Eleazar L. Sukenik that the Qumran community was a branch of the larger Essene movement, a theory often referred to as the Qumran-Essene hypothesis.1 Increasingly, however, this thesis has been challenged by a number of scholars who argue that the supposed parallels between the scrolls and the classical sources have been exaggerated or misunderstood, and that the archaeological remains at Khirbet Qumran do not match the lifestyle described in any of these texts. In recent years these critics have claimed that Josephus-arguably the most important source of information for proponents of the Qumran-Essene hypothesis-should be read on his own terms, without any reference to the Qumran scrolls, to understand how he creatively shaped his source material regarding the Essenes to fashion a distinctive narrative of the past. This view, while recognizing Josephus's creativity, suffers from the same criticism that it levels against the thesis that it seeks to overturn: it fails to read the Qumran scrolls on their own terms apart from other ancient accounts of the Essenes.
Publication Date
July 1, 2010
Citation Information
Kenneth Atkinson and Jodi Magness. "Josephus's Essenes and the Qumran Community" Journal of Biblical Literature Vol. 129 Iss. 2 (2010) p. 317
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