«Edited by Mladen Popović LEIDEN • BOSTON © 2012 Koninklijke Brill NV CONTENTS List of Figures and Tables Preface List of Contributors The Jewish ...»
“This [reading] is based on the common assumption that the Pharisees ran everything.
Becoming a Pharisee in order to seek public office, however, would have made Josephus unique.” But I had made no such assumptions, for to do so would have vitiated my entire project of understanding Josephus’ accounts contextually before using them to settle problems concerning the real Pharisees.
K. Atkinson and J. Magness, “Josephus’s Essenes and the Qumran Community,” JBL 129 (2010): 317–42 (318). Emphasis added.
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(No kidding!) This is “the nature of the debate” in which they believe we are engaged.
But this is all upside-down and backward. It is upside-down because the studies of mine that they cite were emphatically not about sorting out the Qumran-Essene (or any other Qumran-X or Y-Essene) hypothesis. It should be clear by now that I consider devotion or opposition to any particular reconstruction a religious kind of activity and antithetical to historical thinking, which must always remain open-minded about conclusions. In ancient history, conclusive cases will be extremely rare. The real inhabitants of firstcentury Qumran either were or were not Essenes. I do not know whether they were and doubt that anyone else knows, and for the time being I prefer to talk about the nature of our evidence. Since larger tasks such as the Josephus commentary have required me to deal with the Essene passage of B.J. 2, that is the piece of evidence about which I have had the most to say, as I have striven for a better historical-contextual understanding of it. I have pointed out the difficulties it poses for the Qumran-Essene hypothesis, but only because (a) those particular difficulties arise from a kind of contextual study that has not been undertaken before and so (b) these particular problems have not been addressed before. But I have always invited scholars to address those problems and left entirely open (as far as my work goes) the larger problems of Essenes, Qumran, and the Scrolls.
Their analysis is backward, then, because they mistake the direction of my concern. I do not mention differences between Josephus’ account of the Essenes and the Scrolls in order to undermine the Qumran-Essene hypothesis.
Any such hypothesis (like one identifying CD with Pharisees or Qumranites with John the Baptist) could only come later on, after we have first interpreted each kind of evidence, including Josephus. Since the establishment of the hypothesis, the study of Josephus’ Essene passage in B.J. 2 has nearly always depended on the Scrolls (especially 1QS 6–7) as its interpretative key.102 As E.g., O. Michel and O. Bauernfeind, Flavius Josephus, De bello judaico: Der jüdische Krieg, Griechisch und Deutsch (3 vols.; Munich: Kösel, 1962–1969), 1:430–39 nn. 30–85; F. M. Cross, The Ancient Library of Qumran and Modern Biblical Studies (New York: Doubleday, 1961), 70–106; M.
Black, The Scrolls and Christian Origins:
Studies in the Jewish Background of the New Testament (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1961), 25–47; A. Adam, Antike Berichte über die Essener (2d ed.; ed. C. Burchard;
Berlin: De Gruyter, 1972); T. S. Beall, Josephus’ Description of the Essenes Illustrated by the Dead Sea Scrolls (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988); G. Vermes and M. D. Goodman, The Essenes According to the Classical Sources (Sheffield: JSOT, 1989); Sanders, Judaism: Practice and Belief, 342–79; Grabbe, Judaism from Cyrus to Hadrian, 494–95; R. Bergmeier, Die Essener-Berichte des Flavius Josephus: Quellenstudien zu den Essenertexten im Werk des jüdischen Historiographen (Kampen: Kok Pharos, 1993); R. Gray, Prophetic Figures in Late Second Temple Jewish Palestine: The Evidence from Josephus (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1993), 82–110; T. Rajak, “Ciò che Flavio Giuseppe vide: Josephus and the Essenes,” in Josephus and the History of the Greco-Roman Period: Essays in Memory of Morton Smith (ed. F. Parente and
J. Sievers; Leiden: Brill, 1994), 141–60; J. C. VanderKam, The Dead Sea Scrolls Today:
Second Edition (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 2010), 116.
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a historian and commentator on Josephus, I was not permitted to make that grand assumption but was obligated instead to pursue a contextual reading.
There was no possibility of giving myself a weekend pass for the Essene passage of B.J. 2—to read it alone by the light of a lamp borrowed from Qumran.
Did Josephus expect to be understood in such a light?
I seem not to have been clear in these essays,103 so let me try again. (a) My general position is that Josephus’ evidence for anything, including Essenes, should be understood first in its own literary and historical contexts—according to his language, themes, and structures, in view of his plausible audiences and their shared literary world (the “discourse” of his texts)—before we attempt to exploit it for whatever inquiries we may conduct into the real events behind the stories. (b) I have written both about Josephus’ works in general, in their historical/historiographical contexts (e.g., models and influences, manner of publication, audiences, ongoing themes and resonances), and about specific sections in word-by-word detail (mostly B.J. 1–2 and the Vita published). On all of this I welcome critical responses. I can only imagine that the misunderstandings mentioned above arise from approaches to history that have no place for the separate interpretation of evidence, aside from commitments to conclusions about the real past.
I.2.v. Running Scenarios, Testing Hypotheses Once we have tried to understand each piece of evidence we move to testing hypotheses concerning the main problems of our inquiry. This means imagining as many possibilities as we can about that lost X and weighing each reconstruction according to its explanatory power.
In ancient history, again, we shall rarely be able to reach certainty or See also J. S. McLaren, “The Coinage of the First Year as a Point of Reference for the First Jewish Revolt (66–70 CE),” Scripta Classica Israelica 22 (2003): 135–52 (150–51). He includes me with scholars who consider Josephus’ account of the war essentially reliable on the basis of my introduction to Josephus’ Life in the commentary volume Flavius Josephus: Translation and Commentary, Volume 9: Life of Josephus (Leiden: Brill, 2001), xliii–xlvi. But that essay aims “to provide the reader with a context (or set of contexts) for approaching Josephus’ Life” (xiii). It was an effort at contextual interpretation. In a section subtitled “Advice to the Public Figure”— after “Rhetoric” and “Autobiography” under the main heading “Historical and Literary Contexts”—I compare Josephus’ Life to Plutarch’s Precepts for the Statesman and show that his statements about the strains, contradictions, and games of political life were well known to men of his class. Many other scholars had thought that the tensions in Josephus’ writings (e.g., that he claimed not to desire war and yet ended up commanding fighters in Galilee) exposed his clumsy lies: if he led the fighting he must have been a convinced rebel. Without deciding anything about Josephus’ real state of mind, I argued that he was not that clumsy as a writer, and that the real tensions he portrays in public life made plausible sense in his ancient context. But this has nothing to do with the reliability of his accounts. That entire volume, from the detailed notes to the overview in Appendix C, insisted time and again on Josephus’ freedom as a writer and the consequent difficulty of reconstructing anything from his writings alone.
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great confidence about the vanished past. Even with several lines of evidence the problem lies in the large number of possible explanations for any single piece, and the consequent difficulty of explaining all of it together in a compelling way. More often, especially in connection with specific events or individual actions, we have only one literary account: that of Josephus. In principle, but especially because it is such a carefully wrought story, a wide range of possible underlying events might have happened that would still allow us to understand how Josephus produced his story. To narrow the range of possibilities we need independent evidence. We simply do not know the limitations of the writer’s knowledge, the sources of that knowledge, the unconscious biases that necessarily limited perception, or the conscious choices that shaped the literary product.
Since I have been misunderstood as a historical sceptic, I want to emphasize the other side of the picture. Where we do have independent evidence of the same event or conditions, we have promising starting points for thinking about the real past. Where two or more truly independent authors agree that something was said or done at a certain time, it is difficult to explain their agreement without positing that things happened as they both perceived or at least in a way that would explain their divergent perspectives. Even this principle must be qualified by the recognition that multiple witnesses may share distorted impressions in certain circumstances.104 Nevertheless, independent evidence is a bedrock principle of both historical and forensic investigation. Strangely enough, in the rare cases where we have it in our field it is sometimes marginalized—as in the seemingly independent portraits of the Essenes in Philo and Josephus.
To remind ourselves of the kind of overlap that would be necessary to truly limit variables and produce a controlled account, we might turn to modern history. In exploring events of the Second World War, or even the First, we can still find such abundant evidence. For example, There has been a good deal of psychological study of the flaws in eyewitness evidence, for example G. L. Wells and E. F. Loftus, Eyewitness Evidence: Psychological Perspectives (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1984); C. Chabris and D. Simons, The Invisible Gorilla, and Other Ways Our Intuition Deceives Us (New York: Crown, 2010). The crucial points about “observation” and its limitations were made long ago by Bloch, The Historian’s Craft, 40–50.
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investigating the battles between advancing Allied Forces and defending Germans in Italy, in the first half of 1944, historians could draw on a wealth of independent and overlapping information. In addition to their personal participation in many cases—which, they realized, gave them very limited insight into what was going on—plentiful material was available for their research. In the 1950s through 1980s they could easily interview hundreds of soldiers who had fought on both sides.
They had access to valuable accounts by non-combatants caught up in the conflict. They could revisit the site to retrace their wartime movements and supplement this by reading the records of each nation’s armed forces, both the real-time war diaries and the official histories composed afterward. Then there were the personal memoirs of commanders, both German and Allied.105 Crucially, historians could consult a plethora of precisely dated documents: memoranda, telephone logs, official and private correspondence, press reports, propaganda leaflets, and other testimony to specific moments on particular days.106 Finally, they could use the diaries and letters taken from the enemy’s dead or prisoners of war, which might give uniquely personal insight into the ordinary soldier’s psychology at each point. Some letters intended for home viewing revealed young German soldiers at their breaking point from exhaustion and stress, even as they seemed indomitable to the frustrated Allies living the same events.
Only such an array of evidence makes possible the detailed histories of the Cassino campaign that we now possess. Historians can slow their accounts to a day-by-day, even hour-by-hour reconstruction, moving from one vantage-point to another, showing tactical changes dictated by improbably poor weather, unexpected enemy actions or reactions, large casualty tolls, suddenly isolated units, missing or disobeyed orders, failed supply lines, unintended consequences (e.g., a smokescreen for one’s own troops works to enemy advantage), or the The latter exist for such important voices as Field Marshall Albert Kesselring (Supreme Commander, Italy) and General Frido von Senger und Etterlin (Commander, Fifteen Panzer Division) on the German side, American Generals Mark W.
Clark (Commander, U.S. Fifth Army) and Lucian K. Truscott (Commander, U.S. Third Infantry Division, then VI Corps at Anzio beachhead), French General Alphonse Juin (Commander, French Expeditionary Corps), and the New Zealand Generals Bernard C. Freyberg (Commander, II NZ Corps) and Howard C. Kippenberger (Commander, Second NZ Division) from the Allies. Predictably each author, while tending to justify his own actions, includes revealing criticisms of the others.
Cf. the fifteen pages of sources listed in John Ellis’ exemplary Cassino, the Hollow Victory: The Battle for Rome, January–June 1944 (London: Aurum, 1984), 515–29.
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unexpected collapse of morale in a given unit. Even with this massive amount of evidence, however, controversies remain about individual generals’ motives, ambitions, and plans (see below on Titus and the temple). And even here the evidence does not speak for itself. Each investigator comes with a unique set of questions and their various reconstructions look very different in focus, scope, and interest.