Dead Sea Scrolls — All Well Before Christ and the First Jewish War

Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

by Neil Godfrey

A paper presented last the Caves of Qumran 2014 conference at Lugano, Switzerland, by Gregory L. Doudna argues that

the traditional dating of the scroll deposits of the caves of Qumran to as late as the time of the First Revolt [66-70 CE] is supported by neither evidence nor plausibility. (Doudna 2017, p.238)

Doudna’s paper makes its case through the following steps:

  1. All historical references within the Dead Sea Scrolls pertain to the second and first centuries BCE; there are no allusions to any persons or events after Herod’s taking of Jerusalem in 38 BCE.
  2. The common view that on the basis of palaeography that the scrolls date up to the time of the first Jewish revolt against Rome has been based on circularity and flawed assumptions.
  3. Flawed assumptions about the contemporaneity of two classes of phenomena: “scroll jars and scroll deposits on the one hand, and first-century CE refugees or fugitives’ fleeting use of caves on the other.”
  4. Jars of the type that contained scrolls and palaeographic dates “provide no basis for confidence that those texts were first century CE.”
  5. Biblical texts found at sites other than Qumran, between Herod and the Jewish revolt, all contain carefully copied exact-Masoretic text type (i.e. were carefully and exactly copied in agreement with the basis of our Old Testament books) yet the Qumran biblical texts are varied in their copying (i.e. they followed no standard text). The simplest explanation is that the Qumran texts represent a pre-Herodian time when the text was not standardized.
Matthew 5:18 For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. (NIV)

That last (fifth) point surprised this amateur. I had not been aware of the evidence that the Masoretic (Hebrew) text of the “Old Testament” was stabilised so early. As Doudna remarks, on the assumption that the Gospel of Matthew was composed in the first century,

Once this is realised, no longer will the saying of Matt. 5:18 referring to iotas and keraias in the writing of scribes scrupulously copying the books of Moses with letter-perfect accuracy, and, alluding to the decorative keraias of the most developed formal hands, be regarded as anachronistic. Matt. 5:18 may become recognised as a realistic allusion to scribal practice and ideology before the destruction of the temple, yet postdating the latest texts of Qumran. (Doudna, p. 246)

Doudna suggests that the I would like to revisit some of my recent thoughts and posts arising from Eva Mroczek’s The Literary Imagination in Jewish Antiquity to consider whether this data has implications for some aspects of just how loose were the concepts of “sacred scriptures” and “canon” in the Second Temple era.

In this post I would like to take time to grasp Doudna’s first point about the historical references and allusions in the scrolls all pertaining to the pre-Christian era. With new ideas I’m a slow and painstaking learner so to help me grasp the point I followed up the following in Doudna’s paper:

A 2003 study of Michael Wise remains the most comprehensive attempt to inventory the historical allusions in the Qumran texts. Wise counted what he defined as “first-order” allusions, and not “second order” allusions (allusions that depend on the correctness of a prior allusion identification), which Wise suggested would have increased — perhaps doubled — the numbers if that were done. Wise counted 6 allusions in the second century BCE, rising dramatically to 25 in the first century BCE ending at 37 BCE. Then, 0 for the first century CE, 0 for second century CE, etc. Other studies have found this same pattern of distribution. (Doudna, p. 239)

Off to JSTOR to locate Wise’s article, then: “Dating the Teacher of Righteousness and the Floruit of his Movement,” JBL 122 (2003): 53-87.

Wise demonstrates the history of uncertain and contradictory results from paleographic dating and writes:

Paleographic dating is imprecise because it is inherently subjective. (Wise, p. 57)

There’s an entire post there just to draw out the substance of that claim. Wise further points out the evidence against the once popular idea that there was a single community of scribes responsible for the copying of all of the scrolls.

The presence of hundreds of different hands seems inexplicable unless the majority of the scrolls originated elsewhere than at Qumran. (Wise, p. 59)

The following table is a précis of Wise’s more detailed data:dead

 # Historical References Date Manuscript Translation Notes


The high priesthood of Onias III

174 B.C.E.

Pseudo-Daniel (4Q245) i 9, in an apparent list of high priests

“and Onias”

Onias IV is also possible


he taking of Jerusalem by Antiochus IV Epiphanes

170/169 B.C.E.

Pesher on Nahum (4QpNah; 4Q169) 3-4 i 3

“and God did not give Jerusalem] into the power of the kings of Greece from (the time of) Antiochus until the rulers of the Kittim arose.


The high priesthood of Jonathan Maccabee

161-143/2 B.C.E

4Q245 i 10, in the same list of high priests noted above (no. 1)



The high priesthood of Simon Maccabee

143/2-135/4 B.C.E.

4Q245 i 10, in the list of high priests (no. 1)



One or more events involving John Hyrcanus I

135/4-104 B.C.E. 

4QpapHistorical Text C (4Q331) 1 i 7

“Yohanan to bring to [”

Also possibly referring to John Hycanus II


John Hyrcanus I as a false prophet

135/4-104 B.C.E.

4QList of False Prophets (4Q339) frg. 1 line 9

“[Yohanan son of Sim]on”


The reign of Alexander Jannaeus

103-76 B.C.E.

4QApocryphal Psalm and Prayer (4Q448) ii 2 and iii 842

“over Jonathan the king” and “for Jonathan the king”

Two distinct allusions here.


One or more events of the reign of Alexander Jannaeus

103-76 B.C.E.

4QJonathan (4Q523) frgs. 1-2 line 2 (

translation very uncertain

This manuscript is so fragmentary that any ideas about it are perforce extremely tentative.”


The coming of Demetrius III Eucaerus to invade Jerusalem at Pharisee invitation

88 B.C.E.

Pesher on Nahum (4QpNah; 4Q169) 3-4 i 2

the true interpretation concerns Deme]trius, king of Greece, who sought to enter Jerusalem on the counsel of the Seekers of Accommodation”


The crucifixion of Pharisee supporters of Demetrius III by Alexander Jannaeus

88 B.C.E. (

Pesher on Nahum (4QpNah; 4Q169) 3-4 i 7-8

“ven]geance against the Seekers of Accommodation; for he used to hang men [from a tree while] (still) alive, [as it was done] in Israel of old.”


The crucifixion of Pharisee supporters of Demetrius III by Alexander Jannaeus

88 B.C.E.

Pesher on Hosea (4QpHosb; 4Q167) frg. 2 lines 1-7

the true interpretation con]cerns the final priest, who will stretch out his hand to smite Ephraim”

Ephraim is elsewhere a cipher for the Pharisees.”


An unidentifiable event involving the Hasmonean queen, Alexandra (Hebrew name Shelamzion)

Presumably during her reign, 76-67 B.C.E.

4QHistorical Text D (4Q332) ii 4

foundation/secret counsel (?), Shelamzion came … “


A second unidentifiable event involving Alexandra

Presumably 76-67 B.C.E.

4QpapHistorical Text C (4Q331) 1 ii 7



Shift of control of temple ritual activities from Jannaeus’s faction to the Pharisees

During the reign of Alexandra, 76-67 B.C.E.

Pesher on Nahum (4QpNah; 4Q169) 3-4 ii 4-6

The true interpretation concerns the rule of the Seekers of Accommodation; never absent from their company will be the sword of the Gentiles, captivity, looting, internal strife, exile for fear of enemies. A mass of criminal carcasses will fall in their days, with no limit to the total of their slain-indeed, because of their criminal purpose they will stumble on the flesh of their corpses!”

That these lines describe Pharisaic dominion in Jerusalem in the days of Alexandra is generally acknowledged by scholars. Dominance in the political realm equated with control over the temple rituals. The Phar-isees were now able to begin enforcing their interpretations of dis-puted passages of biblical law.”


Hyrcanus II flees to the Nabateans for asylum and to seek support for a planned rebellion against Aristobulus II

67 B.C.E.

4QHistorical Text D (4Q332) frg. 2 line 1

to] give him honor among the Arab[s”

Hyrcanus II rebels against Aristobulus II

67 B.C.E.

4QHistorical Text D (4Q332) frg. 2 line 6

“…. Hyrcanus rebelled [against Aristobulus”

The reading of [-rnr] is uncertain, but even if it is mistaken, the line rep-resents an allusion to the time of a “Hyrcanus,” presumably Hyrca-nus II, since the related 4Q331 elsewhere refers to Hyrcanus I as “Yohanan” (see on no. 5 above).”


Civil war breaks out between Aristobulus II and Hyrcanus II

67 B.C.E.

4Q183 i 2 1-3

“their enemies, and they defiled their sanctuary [. . .] from them, and they advanced to battles, each man [against his brother . .. those who were faithful] to his covenant, God delivered and [they] escaped [to the land of the north.”

The war arose as a result of certain practices in the Jerusalem temple; the text’s description might easily apply to the situation in 67 B.C.E., or, as Kister believes, that of Jannaeus’s time, 94-88 B.C.E.”


An action-presumably of a hostile sort-taken against Aristobulus II

67-63 B.C.E.

Olim 4Q323 frg. 3 line 6

“and against Ari[stobulus”


The coming of the Romans to Palestine under Pompey the Great

63 B.C.E.

CD 8:11-12

“‘The poison of vipers’ is the head of the kings of Greece, who came to wreak vengeance on them.”

Since arguably it can be deduced that the cipher “kings of Greece” was used by the pesharists as a broad rubric that might embrace the Romans (see no. 20 below), the allusion is reasonably understood as a reference to Pompey. He marched on Jerusalem in 63 B.C.E. with auxiliary troops furnished by, among others, the Seleucid “Greeks” (Josephus, Ant. 14.48). He was thus a “king of the Greeks.” The pesharist saw Pompey’s attack as God’s vengeance upon the powers in Jerusalem for their treatment of the Teacher and his followers in the preceding years.”


The fall of Jerusalem to Pompey’s Roman army

63 B.C.E.

Pesher on Nahum (4QpNah; 4Q169) 3-4 i 3

“but God did not give Jerusalem] into the power of the kings of Greece from (the time) of Antiochus until the rulers of the Kittim arose”

. . . . the correlative grammatical construction […], which makes the Romans “kings of the Greeks” just as much as Anti-ochus was one.”


The defeat of Aristobulus II and his faction at the hands of Hyrcanus II, his faction (including the Pharisees), and his Roman allies

63 B.C.E.

Pesher on Nahum (4QpNah; 4Q169) 3-4 iv 3

“The true inter-pretation concerns Manasseh in the final era, for his kingdom shall be brought low in Is[rael.”

“Manasseh” in the pesharim is often understood to refer to the Sad-ducees, but this construction is too narrow. The reference is rather to the entire faction of Aristobulus II, as no. 22 makes clear. This faction doubtless included some Sadducees, but other groups as well.”


The exile of Aristobulus II, his family, and selected followers to Rome, and the execution of many of the leaders of his faction by the Romans

63 B.C.E.

Pesher on Nahum (4QpNah; 4Q169) 3-4 iv 4

his women [sc. Manasseh], his infants, and his children shall go into captivity; his war-riors and his nobles [shall perish] by the sword.”


A massacre of Jews involving a Roman general who served under Pompey, M. Aemilius Scaurus

63-61 B.C.E.

4QHistorical Text E (4Q333) frg. 1 lines 3-4

“[On the first (or, the second; or, the third) day of (the service of the priestly course of) J]ehezkel, which is [the twenty-ninth (or, the thirtieth; or, the thirty-first) day of the sixth month, the Day] of the Massacre of Aemilius.”


A second murder or massacre involving Scaurus

63-61 B.C.E

4QHistorical Text E (4Q333) frg. 1 lines 7-8

“the fourth day of (the service of the priestly course of) Gamul, whi]ch is [the fifteenth day of the seventh month, is the Festival of Booths; on that day,] Aemilius murdered …”


Exaction of tribute by the Romans beginning in the period after the war

63 B.C.E. onward

Pesher on Habakkuk (1QpHab) 6:6-7

“the true interpretation is that they impose the yoke of their taxes-this is ‘their food’-on all the peoples yearly”


The establishment of Roman soldiers in Jerusalem after the war

63-57 B.C.E.

Pesher on Nahum (4QpNah; 4Q169) 3-4 i 1

the true interpretation concerns Jerusalem, which has become] a dwelling place for the wicked of the Gentiles”


The rule of the Jews by a succession of rapacious Roman governors

63-40 B.C.E.

Pesher on Habakkuk (1QpHab) 4:10-13

“the true interpretation [con]cerns the rulers of the Kittim, who pass-by the counsel of a guil[ty] faction-one after the other; [their] rulers come, [ea]ch in his turn, to destroy the la[nd”


A massacre or battle involving Peitholaus

55-51 B.C.E.

4QHistorical Text F (4Q468e) 2-3

to kill the multitude of me[n] … Peitholaus”

This tiny fragment of three lines seems to allude to violent actions taken by Peitholaus, a Jewish general who was a party to warfare and massacres in the mid-first century B.C.E. Peitholaus at first allied him-self with the Romans and helped punish Jewish rebels who supported Aristobulus’s wing of the Hasmoneans (Josephus, Ant. 14.84-85; J. W 1.162-63). Later, he switched sides and became an ally of those same partisans. In this role he was involved in a battle with the Romans wherein, again, many Jews lost their lives (Ant. 14.93-95; J.W 1.172). Shortly thereafter he himself suffered execution at Roman hands (Ant. 14.120; J.W 1.180). “


Hyrcanus II taken prisoner by the Parthians

40 B.C.E.

Pesher on Habakkuk (1QpHab 9:9-12)

the true interpretation refers to the Wicked Priest. Because of the crime he committed against the Teacher of Righteousness and the members of his party, God handed him over to his enemies, humiliating him with a consuming affliction with despair, because he had done wrong to his chosen.”

The identity of the “Wicked Priest” has long been a vexed issue in Dead Sea Scrolls research, but as Andrd Dupont-Sommer first observed, Hyrcanus II is certainly one of the viable candidates.72 Indeed, given the first-century time frame evident elsewhere in the pesharim, he seems the best candidate. When the Parthians invaded Judea in 40 B.C.E. and supported Antigonus as king, Hyrcanus was put at their disposal as one of the backers of the failed Herod. His ears were cropped to render him permanently unfit to serve as high priest (a possible interpretation of the “consuming affliction”), and he was taken back to Parthia as a prisoner. When he was released several years later, Herod, by now installed as Roman client king, arranged his murder.”


Hyrcanus II taken prisoner by the Parthians

40 B.C.E.

Pesher on Psalms (4QpPsa; 4Q171) 1-10 iv 9-10

but as for [him (sc. the Wicked Priest), God will] recompense him by giving him into the power of violent Gentiles, to work [vengeance] upon him.”


The plunder of Jerusalem by the Roman army under Sosius

37 B.C.E.

Pesher on Habakkuk (1QpHab) 9:4-7

the true interpretation con-cerns the later priests of Jerusalem, who will gather ill-gotten riches from the plunder of the peoples, but in the Last Days their riches and plunder alike will be handed over to the army of the Kittim”

After the city of Jerusalem fell to Herod and his Roman allies in 37 B.C.E., the Roman army was unusually violent and unrestrained in their plundering of the city. Josephus attributes this attitude to their anger at the five-month length of the siege.”

Wise’s conclusion from the above data is worth quoting at length:

But what can one say of the period after 30 B.C.E.? The writers of the Dead Sea Scrolls, whether sectarian or nonsectarian, seem to have nothing to say about the years 30 B.C.E.-70 C.E. Surely this puzzle requires explanation.

From a modem standpoint these years represent perhaps the most tumultuous and significant century in ancient Jewish history — all passed over in silence. The scrolls contain no recognizable reference to any of the signal events of Herod the Great’s reign, although Josephus portrayed that period as a watershed in his people’s history.

  • Herod’s building of a Greek theater and amphitheater in Jerusalem finds no mention anywhere.
  • Neither is there any allusion to Herod’s rebuilding of Samaria.
  • Nor do the scrolls concern themselves, even by a passing reference, with Herod’s dismantling of the Hasmonean temple in Jerusalem in order to replace it with his own.

Indeed, consider a few of the other matters of the years 30 B.C.E. to 70 C.E. that go unmentioned:

  • the War of Varus;
  • appointment and dismissal of high priests at will;
  • planned installation of the image of Caligula in the temple at Jerusalem;
  • the reign of Herod Agrippa I, a follower of the Pharisees;
  • various freedom fighters, prophets, and millenarian leaders who appear in Josephus, including John the Baptist;
  • high priestly families battling in the streets of Jerusalem in the years 62-64 C.E.;
  • the outbreak and events of the First Revolt itself.

These are the same kinds of events — involving temple purity and political leadership, war and foreign invasion — about which the writers of the scrolls were downright voluble for the first century B.C.E. . . . . 

. . . .

One possible explanation is that the apparent absence of new writings is merely that-apparent, fortuitous. On this view, the Teacher’s movement did continue to produce literature, but by sheer bad luck no identifiable portion of those later writings survived. This is a kind of argument from silence, useful to potential advocates to counter what they would, no doubt, brand as itself an argument from silence. Although conceivably correct, the problem with their approach is that it amounts to saying that the best argument is no argument. In fact, historians dealing with antiquity always face the problem that only a small percentage of the evidence has survived. The usual practice-and few would dispute that it is the best practice-is to draw provisional conclusions on the basis of what has survived.

In any case, we are in a better situation here than such advocates would have one believe. To draw an inference from the total absence of allusions to the first century C.E. in the Dead Sea Scrolls is really not an argument from silence. The situation is rather akin to that of the hound in the Sherlock Holmes story “Silver Blaze”: this is a dog that should have barked. The most natural conclusion from the silence is that the dog could not bark: it was either sick, or it was dead. By the beginning of the common era, it seems, the Teacher’s movement had lost vitality, perhaps even ceased to exist. No more than a rivulet survived to flow into the first century C.E.8

(Wise, pp. 85-6, my bolding and formatting)

Hope to post more as opportunity permits.

Doudna, G.L. 2017. “Dating the Scroll Deposits of the Qumran Caves: A Question of Evidence.” In The Caves of Qumran: Proceedings of the International Conference, Lugano 2014, edited by Marcello Fidanzio, 238-246. Leiden, Boston: Brill.

Wise, M.O. 2003. “Dating the Teacher of Righteousness and the Floruit of his Movement,” JBL 122 (2003): 53-87.


  • R Pence
    2017-02-12 16:15:43 UTC - 16:15 | Permalink

    So much for Eisenman.

    • Neil Godfrey
      2017-02-13 07:23:23 UTC - 07:23 | Permalink

      Eisenman’s reconstruction came across to me as very clever but very tenuous — making links that were tenuous at best and building an ever higher house of cards, to mix metaphors.

      • R Pence
        2017-02-13 07:58:45 UTC - 07:58 | Permalink

        I’ve always felt the same way. His scenario of Paul as ambitious Herodian and traitor, James the Just as teacher of righteousness, etc., in and around his ascribing a jihad-like mentality and zealotry to the period, etc., etc., all seems politically very plausible – more so than the sort of strangely anemic vision of the period and place one usually gets from New Testament scholars. But it’s all very tenuous, to use your word. Moreover, I could never quite get the talking point of Eisenman that to understand Jesus you have to understand James, the brother of Jesus. Because after he deals with Paul, James, etc., there’s no real place for any Jesus. That is, adding Jesus to his scenario is like adding zero to a sum.

    • Matt Cavanaugh
      2017-02-13 18:27:08 UTC - 18:27 | Permalink

      If output at Qumran can be shown to have desisted prior to the 1st Century AD, then Eisenman’s hypothesis must fall. Otherwise, he puts forth numerous propositions that are highly plausible, are consilient with other hypotheses, and offer explanations for several perplexing questions.

  • John Roth
    2017-02-13 04:41:02 UTC - 04:41 | Permalink

    So a plausible hypothesis for the origin of the Dead Sea Scrolls is that they were hidden away to prevent destruction by the winners in a religious power struggle, and then the winners won for long enough that nobody came back to rescue them? Nothing to do with the Essenes?

    I wonder if those fragments from between Herod (37 BCE) and the first revolt contain the same t’amin that the Masoretic Text contains, which Suzanne Haïk-Vantoura claims are musical notation for which the verses were supposed to be sung, and which Bob McDonald is assiduously translating into English that can be sung to that melody. If so, that might be a quite interesting discovery.

    • Neil Godfrey
      2017-02-13 07:21:56 UTC - 07:21 | Permalink

      I will be posting more on this topic with the same theme. Most of the literature I am reading is clear that the evidence is against the scrolls being the responsibility of a single sectarian group such as the Essenes. I know nothing about musical notation in this connection or Bob McDonald’s work, sorry.

  • Booker
    2017-02-13 17:49:39 UTC - 17:49 | Permalink

    When I was a freshman in college (around 25 years ago) one of my assigned history texts was a collection of papers and included one on the Dead Sea Scrolls, making an argument against the mainstream view that attributed authorship of the scrolls to the Essenes and linked them both to the ruins at Qumran. I remember the article pointed out a number of findings among the archaeological evidence from the ruins and the scrolls that were inconsistent with what was known of the Essenes. I don’t recall the author attempting to attribute the scrolls to any group or another, only that the ruins appeared to be more of a fort than a monastery and that the proximity of the ruins and the scrolls was probably just coincidental.

    Over the years, whenever I would come across something discussing the scrolls, I’ve remained curious as to whether authorship was still authoritatively attributed to the Essenes, so I find it very interesting to see evidence such as this, suggesting that the scrolls are a century older than previously believed, that would seem to further that argument against that theory.

  • Pingback: Vridar » Qumran was Not a Sectarian Community (Essene or Otherwise): Argument from Archaeology – #1

  • Pingback: Vridar » How Dating the Dead Sea Scrolls Went Awry — #1

  • Greg Doudna
    2017-02-15 22:32:43 UTC - 22:32 | Permalink

    I appreciate the clear, incisive summary of the key points at issue. The quotation from Michael Wise’s article is particularly powerful. Ironically I had the same lengthy quotation from the Wise article you independently homed in on, in my original article submission to the Fidanzio conference volume, but I had to cut it due to word-length limits.

    Wise brought out brilliantly and eloquently that the absence of first-century CE allusions in any Qumran text–the dog that is not barking–calls for explanation. But Wise assumed, in keeping with virtually all existing Qumran text-scholarly discourse, that the First Revolt endpoint is a fact, a starting-point for further analysis. Wise therefore sought an explanation for the absence of post-37 BCE allusions (Wise’s latest dated allusion) while not challenging the premise of a First Revolt endpoint for the scroll copies and deposits in the caves. Wise concluded that the only reasonable explanation was that the sect must have ceased to exist at about the time the text compositions ended–otherwise, Wise reasoned, there would have been later texts represented in the scrolls assumed to have continued until 68 CE.

    But while that is one possible explanation, it is not the only conceivable one, in explanation of the absence of post-late-1st BCE allusions. Another possibility would be that the sect continued and it continued to produce texts but the sect no longer used the site of Qumran for permanent disposals of scrolls after a certain point for whatever reason.

    I think the earlier dating of the endpoint of the scrolls deposits is correct but I do not think it follows from that in itself that either (a) the Essene connection is thereby falsified, or (b) the core of Eisenman’s first-century CE argument and names-analysis is necessarily falsified. Both propositions just named may or may not be ultimately correct or incorrect but the earlier dating of the scrolls deposits does not in my opinion decisively answer those questions one way or the other.

    As for Essenes, there is not simply a binary choice between the sect of the Qumran texts was or was not the Essenes. A third alternative is there was a relationship but not necessarily in the way assumed, i.e. a deconstructed and then reconstructed interpretation of a relationship, real but perhaps in a different way than has been assumed. For example, Eyal Regev has argued that the Essenes do not match the Qumran texts directly but the Essenes are a later development from the Qumran texts–a development which in Regev’s opinion accounts for both the similarities and differences in the two classes of phenomena. Whether that is correct or not is not for me to say, but cited only to illustrate that there are more than just two narrowly-defined binary explanatory options. I myself suspect some form of a “third alternative”, in which there is a differently-understood, not necessarily obvious, relationship between the Qumran texts and the Essenes, still to be explained and understood. These questions are distinct from the issue of dating the Qumran scroll deposits.

    On impact on Eisenman’s theory, the earlier scroll deposits dating removes the Liar/Teacher identifications of Paul and James in particular, and the larger thesis that the Qumran texts constitute primary first-century CE texts giving firsthand the other side of the story to the letters of Paul and the Paul-influenced Gospels. That is a dent in Eisenman’s argument in the form he has presented it but is it a fatal blow? First-century CE phenomena still have to have come from somewhere and have had antecedents. The Eisenman arguments of Josephus/New Testament/early patristic texts’ names and themes’ connections remain up for discussion, just as a number of current books and studies pursue various related lines of inquiry not dependent on a particular dating of the Qumran texts.

    • Matt Cavanaugh
      2017-02-16 02:00:20 UTC - 02:00 | Permalink

      IIRC, Eisenman identifies marriage to nieces as a concern of the DSS writers that can only refer to the Herodians of the 1st Century AD. Do you see that concern as unique to that period?

    • Neil Godfrey
      2017-02-16 02:51:44 UTC - 02:51 | Permalink

      Thanks for adding that point about Wise’s view. And I am very sorry for leaving your name misspelled in the post — darn spellcheck was driving me crazy by always turning it into something else!

    • Greg Doudna
      2017-02-16 04:04:22 UTC - 04:04 | Permalink

      No worries on the misspelling Neil–one (apocryphal) family legend was that “Doudna” was an original misspelling of our original ancestor John Doudna’s arrival to the US and being asked his name and answering “Don’t Know”!

      Matt C., I have wondered based on the polemic against niece marriage in the Damascus Document (D) if that text could be as late as the end of the reign of Herod the Great and indeed allude to the niece marriages and polygamy of Herod and his extended family, and if: the figure of the Liar is none other than Herod himself; and the destruction of the congregation of the Liar, and of the Men of War who betrayed the Teacher and followed the Liar in D, and Pesher Nahum with its crucifixions, date as late as Varus of ca. 4 BCE. The “head of Greek kings” of D who exercises wrath upon the congregation of the Liar would become Roman emperor Augustus Caesar, ruler of the world, via his agent Varus who would become the Lion of Wrath of Pesher Nahum. The fact that first century CE Herodians continued to practice niece marriage would be true but irrelevant. In this reconstruction the final composition of the Damascus Document and the latest pesharim would postdate the death of the Teacher by a little, which on independent grounds I believe was Hyrcanus II, executed by Herod in 30 BCE. Earlier halakhic texts among the Qumran finds have strictures against niece marriage such that the stricture itself appears ancient, but the Damascus Document applying that stricture in such a prominent and polemical manner may be directed against its polemical target, the Liar figure and regime, a regime situated contemporary with the end of the Qumran texts.

    • R Pence
      2017-02-16 08:09:02 UTC - 08:09 | Permalink

      I can’t say at this early hour – barely one cup of coffee in – that I can summon up a complete and detailed picture of Eisenman’s work. But I find it rather hard to believe that this kind of wholesale reconstruction of what Qumran was wouldn’t prove ‘fatal’ to his effort. Sure, it wouldn’t negate every single association or assertion made in his work. But there is nonetheless a core argument in ‘James the Brother of Jesus’ that hinges on the Herodian Paul as Liar, James the Brother of Jesus as Teacher of Righteousness, and so on. Perhaps a distinction should be made: I’m not saying that a Qumran reconstruction such as the one under discussion would necessarily render Eisenman’s core scenario false; but it seems like it would certainly take away his primary evidence.

      • Matt Cavanaugh
        2017-02-20 11:58:37 UTC - 11:58 | Permalink

        Considering Eisenman devotes 3,000-odd pages to the subject, with much repetition and endless digressions, it can be hard to distill his points.

        He does connect certain ‘zealous’ concerns in the DSS to the Herodian period, and so identifies:
        Spouter of Lies = Paul
        Wicked Priest = Ananus
        Teacher of Righteousness = James.

        He also considers ‘Damascus’ code for the Qumran community*. This would go far to explain an otherwise impossible scenario of Paul’s punitive mission the city of that name. (Though Eisenman’s “cup of blood” deciphering seems a stretch.)

        If the relevant DSS were produced prior to the Herodian era, then Eisenman’s character identifications cannot be correct. Still possible, however, is for that sect – or an offshoot – to still be in existence, for those concerns to still be current, and for Paul, James, and the Herodian high priests to be running over the same ground. But as you, point out, without the hard evidence Eisenman sees in the DSS.

        * Given the proposition put forth in this series of posts, it might be more useful to treat this as whatever sect, located wherever, active whenever, which produced the scrolls that were deposited at Qumran.

        • R Pence
          2017-02-21 08:01:28 UTC - 08:01 | Permalink

          I think you get my point. If the picture of Qumran is starkly different than what Eisenman, for example, assumes, then there’s no basis – other than maybe a keen sense of reluctance – for holding out that his presentation might still be correct even in the absence of evidence.

  • Pingback: Vridar » Dating the Dead Sea Scrolls — #2

  • Stuart
    2017-02-19 21:06:25 UTC - 21:06 | Permalink

    I have no issues with the analysis, except the dating of Matthew in the 1st century CE. Some of the same types of assumptions that dated DSS in the 1st century are at play with dating Matthew and the NT in general (in this case taking the narratives are historically in close proximity to authorship). However Matthew’s direct refutation of several Marcionite positions point to a mid-2nd century origin. Verse 5:18 works just as well in 150 CE as 70 CE. The point of standardization of the text Masoretic remains valid. However on a similar note, in the LXX, κυρίου as tetragrammaton has no 1st century foundation, appearing in copies only from the 2nd century onward. (One wonders if this is related to some of the Aquila of Pontus mythology Eusubius gossips concerning translation of the Hebrew to Greek in the 2nd century, as a basis for Christian scripture source.)

    This is simply an aside. Just pointing out that Christian writers used a form LXX that is from even later than the standardized Hebrew text. And Matthew’s commentary in verse 5:18 is probably better seen in the context of the antinomian controversies of the mid-2nd century. The effect is merely to weaken Matthew as evidence of 1st century demarcation.

    • Greg Doudna
      2017-02-20 14:02:55 UTC - 14:02 | Permalink

      Thank you for the informative comment Stuart. Just to clarify, I have no problem with your analysis of the dating of Matthew. I am not a New Testament scholar, but as I understand it the saying of Jesus of Matt. 5:18/Luke 16:17 is considered part of “Q”. The context in which I brought this in at the conclusion of my article was an interesting additional observation after the argument had been made on other grounds. I was suggesting that that saying is historically realistic for pre-70, not that the Gospel is 1st century CE. It is analogous to rabbinic traditions also speak of scrupulous copying of biblical texts in the time of the pre-destruction standing temple. Pre-70 CE Hebrew biblical texts from Dead Sea sites other than Qumran confirm that tradition, but the rabbinic writings themselves are dated much later. Here is from the conclusion of my article to see the context [p. 246]:

      “When all is said and done, these two signals [absence of 1st CE text compositions; absence of carefully-copied exact-MT biblical texts] are the argument and the evidence for the earlier dating. The principal reason these signals have not registered in common scholarly consciousness seems to be the palaeographic dates which are assumed to establish the existence of first-century CE dates of text copies found in the caves. But the absolute dates of the ‘late Herodian formal’ and ‘post-Herodian formal’ scribal hands defined by Cross 1961 are derivative from the flawed 1951 archaeological redating of the scroll deposits discussed earlier. The flawed archaeological redating of 1951 provided the framework or template within which Cross labored to accurately reconstruct the development of the scribal hands. The absolute datings of the ‘Herodian formal’ hands reconstructed by Cross no doubt are close to correct but for this question which devolves to issues of small numbers of decades that is not good enough. It is no disrespect to Cross’s formidable study of 1961 if today there is some critical engagement or nuancing or departure from what sometimes seems to have become a scholarly doctrine of inerrancy concerning the absolute datings of Cross 1961. The scribal hands must be reassessed free of presupposition that the Qumran cave texts continued to the time of the First Revolt.

      “A shift in understanding in which the dates of the latest formal hands in the Qumran caves are situated perhaps in the time of Herod will not create a gap in typological development in the first century CE. The gap is filled by ‘late Herodian formal’ developing in the time of Herod and ‘post-Herodian formal’ developing in the first half of the first century CE. Once this is realized, no longer will the saying of Matt. 5:18 referring to iotas and kereias in the writing of scribes scrupulously copying the books of Moses with letter-perfect accuracy, and alluding to the decorative kereias of the most developed formal hands, be regarded as anachronistic. Matt. 5:18 may become recognized as a realistic allusion to scribal practice and ideology before the destruction of the temple, yet postdating the latest texts of Qumran.

      “In this picture the various waves of people who were at Qumran in the first century CE disturbed, opened, looted, and possibly read the scrolls they encountered in the caves by accident, thus accounting for the anciently disturbed conditions in the caves closest to the site, with remains of anciently-opened scrolls such as the torn-off leather tabs and strings left on the floors of Caves 4Q and 8Q. There has as yet been no positive evidence set forth that first-century CE people at Qumran added any new literary texts to the ones they encountered in the caves–texts which may have seemed to them, as to us, as if they were from another world and time.”

  • 2017-03-02 06:27:05 UTC - 06:27 | Permalink

    I find this fascinating, in particular the suggestion of G. Doudna that John Hyrcanus II was the teacher of righteousness of the scrolls. This makes it very likely that Hyrcanus II was the same as John the Baptist. When I told Prof. Eisenman about my view he was greatly upset and called me a ‘complete fool’. He is a learned scholar but all his observations cannot be taken seriously. I have written that the Gospel duo of Jesus and John is a flashback of the Jesus-John HyrcanusII duo of 30 BC

  • 2017-03-04 01:02:06 UTC - 01:02 | Permalink

    The main problem in the history of Jesus is chronology. The eminent historian R. Lane Fox writes, ‘Early Christian tradition did not remember, or perhaps ever know, exactly where and when Jesus had been born.’ R. Eisenman also suspects the present chronology and points to the multiplicity of people sharing the same names. The source of confusion is the reference to Pontius Pilate which drags Jesus’ birth to ~6BC. The great historian A. T. Olmstead placed Jesus’ birth at 20 BC ; R. Lane Fox also suggests 14 BC and G. R. S. Mead went further back.

    1:06 am GMT

    The Baptism of Jesus, the death of John and Crucifixion by Pontius Pilate, are the key events in Jesus’ life, but false chronology has blurred the historical outlines; E. P. Sanders warns ; “Even if we accept the general view that Jesus was born late in Herod’s lifetime, we still do not know the precise year.” Indeed it is absurd to hold that all the Gospel citations to Herod (~45) pertain to Antipas, who is named only once. It is judicious to hold that the citations are to Herod, not Antipas.

    1:09 am GMT

    E. P. Sanders writes; “It is best to think that the story of Antipas, Herodias and the execution of John is a ‘flashback’, out of its historical sequence. The story of John’s execution, in fact, is quite obviously a flashback. Josephus refers to it after the event that it is said to have caused. … Consequently, we do not know when Antipas met Herodias, when his former wife fled to her father, and when John was executed.”

    1:51 am GMT

    In the Herodian era, names such as Polemo of Pontus are heard which may be more relevant to the history of Jesus Christ.

    1:54 am GMT

    A. T. Olmstead, one of the greatest historians, placed Jesus’ birth at 20 BC. In this era one encounters Asinius Pollio who calls himself a Herodian and strongly resembles St. Paul of the Gospels.

    1:55 am GMT

    Pomponia Graecina, thought to be the earliest known Christian, was a close relative of Asinius Pollio.

    2:06 am GMT

    I am sorry. Paul calls himself a Herodian, not Asinius Pollio.

    2:07 am GMT

    When in Rome, Herod’s sons stayed at the house of Asinius Pollio.

    2:46 am GMT

    The Dead Sea Scrolls were not all before Jesus ben Fabus/Phiabi. Peter Richardson says that Jesus ben Phiabi may have inspired the design of Herod’s temple at Jerusalem.

  • Greg Doudna
    2017-03-04 04:06:33 UTC - 04:06 | Permalink

    Very surprising comment at 3/2 6:27, Ranajit Pal. For nothing has consumed me in the past two months more than an exploration of the very hypothesis you name: that Hyrcanus II was John the Baptist. Until seeing this comment from you I thought I surely must be the only person on earth to be considering such a possibility, which first occurred to me in January of this year. I was not aware of your name or work until this Vridar comment and so this was independently arrived at on both of our parts. I could not find discussion from you of the Hyrcanus II/JB proposal on your website (unless I missed it) but I do see it on your Facebook several times going back at least as early as Feb. 23, 2015. I think your insight on this point is correct, and thank you for the kind words concerning my work.

    With appeal for forbearance on the part of the site administrators concerning the length, I will take this occasion to post excerpts from my part of recent correspondences to friends on this subject, in a series of comments following this one. I will mark the end of the final one “[END]”. I put up these excerpts because the subject has been raised, partly for general interest’s sake but also, in the event that the idea does prove significant, to give insight into its earliest stages of formation. It is on-topic: if the line of argument set forth here is valid there could be a relationship to the ending of the Qumran texts at about the same time.

    • Greg Doudna
      2017-03-04 04:08:52 UTC - 04:08 | Permalink

      1/9/17 gld to Joan Taylor

      “Sure did get the Lugano volume Joan. Good to see both your and my articles in it. You know how I have been focused on Hyrcanus II as Teacher of Righteousness for quite some time? The other day the thought occurred to me: I wonder if Hyrcanus II, whose name was likely ‘John’ based on papponymy, was in some way behind the ‘John the Baptist’ traditions.

      “Josephus says Hyrcanus II after he was ousted and exiled was regarded as legitimate high priest and king in the diaspora, by all Jews east of the Euphrates as Josephus puts it. After Hyrcanus II returns to Judea at Herod’s invitation he does not share power with Herod (promises by Herod not kept, per Josephus). Where is Hyrcanus II and what is he doing in the years 36-30 BCE? Well, he might be at Jericho, where Herod and the Hasmoneans had palaces. And at least at first during the ‘honeymoon’ phase of Hyrcanus’s relationship with Herod, he might have been involved with organizing the Essenes under Herod’s patronage.

      “So… Teacher of Righteousness (per my thinking anyway)… time of Essene flourishing and Herod’s patronage… washings… Jericho/Dead Sea area… extensive support in the diaspora for this figure … ‘John’ … killed by Herod… ‘disciples of John’ in Asia Minor show up in the Book of Acts… ‘the baptism of John’… all the gnostics such as Simon and Dositheus and even Christianity itself go back to John in the legends… John’s message is straight out of 1QS: ‘make straight the way of the Lord’…

      “I realize Hyrcanus II’s death at the order of his Herod is earlier than that of the New Testament figure John the Baptist. But as the author of a book on John, you know as well as anyone that the figure and tradition of John is an oddity in the Gospels. So odd that people like Robert Price argue that John and Jesus were the same figure just remembered different ways (dual tradition). How did ‘the baptism of John’ and ‘disciples of John’ attain such widespread following and support all the way to Asia Minor so quickly, from an otherwise unknown (at the beginning) prophet in Judea?

      “And I notice that the Josephus passage on John the Baptist at Ant. 18.116-119, apart from the opening line in which Josephus connects the death to a different Herod (Antipas)… and calls him by a different name (John)… almost reads like it could read as a displaced enconium to Hyrcanus II (cp Ant 15.181-182). Could the different name ‘John’ (Hyrcanus II’s name) reflect an independent tradition of Hyrcanus II, not recognized as Hyrcanus II?

      “But I don’t know what to make of it, since the specifics of the Gospels’ John the Baptist are a story of a figure at a later time interacting with Antipas, a different Herod. If there were two Johns under two Herods, which John is the referent of the ‘disciples of John’ and ‘baptism of John’ in Asia Minor, of the book of Acts? Obviously, in the New Testament it is understood to be John the Baptist. But the earlier John, Hyrcanus II, is the one already known and testified by Josephus to have been famous in the diaspora as a legitimate alternative high priest in exile.

      “I have been convinced that Hyrcanus II was the Teacher of Righteousness for ca. 17-18 years now (since ca. 1999), and it was not until about one week ago that it first ever even occurred to me to wonder if there was a Hyrcanus II/John the Baptist connection. Just some musings.”

    • Greg Doudna
      2017-03-04 04:11:13 UTC - 04:11 | Permalink

      1/28/17 gld to Rene Salm

      “As you know, I have believed since ca. 1999 that the Teacher of Righteousness of the Qumran texts is Hyrcanus II. However it was not until January 2017, earlier this month, that the following first occurred to me: that there are unusual parallels between the final (post-36 BCE) phase of Hyrcanus II (the Qumran TR) and the story of John the Baptist (JB).

       –both named ‘John’
       –both last active in Jericho/Dead Sea region
       –both widespread support (Hyrc II: all the diaspora east of the Euphrates considered HyrcII the legitimate high priest in opposition to Jerusalem’s, per Josephus; JB had ‘all Judea’ supporting him per the Gospels; the ‘baptism of John’ was known all the way to Asia Minor per NT book of Acts).
       –both outside of power in the Temple in Jerusalem
       –both executed by ‘Herod’
       –both Qumran TR and JB critical of divorce and remarriage
       –both high priests (JB per extra-canonical tradition)
       –both TR (Hyrc II) and JB were baptizers or bathers (Qumran texts)
       –JB long suspected of being Essene-like or TR-like; I have Hyrc II as TR and as the key figure organizing Essenes in the time of Herod the Great…

      “All along up to this point I have thought that there is no serious DSS/Christian(NT) connection that I could see (apart from some thematic and language continuities of course). I know the “Christian connection” of the DSS is the public interest and question but I just thought, in agreement with mainstream Qumran scholarship, that it just wasn’t there in any direct sense. So this takes me by surprise, as the possible DSS/Christian ‘missing link’, a connection which perhaps is there after all that has gone heretofore unnoticed.

      “This would go nowhere if I published it directly now, for the simple prior reason that the general perception is that Hyrcanus II as TR is absurd. Literally, it is considered so unthinkable in mainstream scholarship that although I have argued it in print, there is no published rebuttal giving any reasons against, because it is so unthinkable that reasons are not considered necessary. The two published responses I know of are:

      “(a) Goranson, in his amazon review of my pNah, calls Hyrcanus II ‘astonishingly unqualified’ to be TR, no reason given. Assertion without reasons. Considered self-evident, without necessity to give reasons.

      “(b) John Collins in his major 2010 book on Qumran and the yachad community, in which he supports a 1st BCE dating of the TR to the same time as Hyrcanus II, has a footnote in which he notes accurately that I say Hyrcanus II was the Teacher of Righteousness, following which Collins gives the shortest possible comment: an exclamation point. That is his full comment, the exclamation point. Again, Collins, like Goranson, believes it is so self-evidently absurd that no reason or explanation is necessary. The exclamation point refers to something being so self-evidently absurd that there is no need to give reasons.

      “OK, that is the published response in the world of scholarship. I have not yet written or published the full argument for Hyrcanus II as TR that I am capable of doing, which would likely require a book rather than a single article (a book that I intend to produce). But the gist of my argument is in my 2013 “Sect of the Qumran Texts” article in Stacey and Doudna, Qumran Revisited. (An earlier form of the argument in my 2002 Pesher Nahum book is obsolete and superceded by the 2013.)

      “So I do have a published argument—much of it, anyway—out there. But as described, it is simply considered self-evidently absurd in the wider world of scholarship, so much so that it is either not addressed at all or in the two cases known to me in which it does receive negative comment it is considered unnecessary to cite a single reason. Even though it is widely acknowledged in mainstream scholarship that the TR was an ex-high priest in exile—just like Hyrc II—and that it is held by some scholars today that the TR existed at the exact same time as Hyrcanus II. So Hyrcanus II fits the chief characteristics in the texts of the TR (high priest, deposed, in exile, etc.), right time, right place, etc. … but is considered simply self-evidently not a candidate. Without even any necessity to cite reasons for that negative conclusion! Such that if I were to attempt to refute the objections raised to my argument, I have to guess at what the objections are in scholarly minds, since it has not been considered necessary to reveal in print what those objections are.

      “[That is] where this stands at the moment. The point being: for the HyrcII/John the Baptist connection … to make any sense to anyone, they first have to consider the HyrcII/TR argument as at least credible, and as just noted, that is not on the map of consideration at present, at least in the world of published scholarship.”

    • Greg Doudna
      2017-03-04 04:15:23 UTC - 04:15 | Permalink

      2/16/17 gld to Russell Gmirkin

      “I tried to analyze what about John the Baptist in the Gospels is distinctive from Jesus and therefore seems to be a layer of a tradition or legend or figure ‘prior’ to Jesus. I came up with these features:

      –geographical location. Jordan River, Salim … ‘in the wilderness’

      –taught communism, sharing. ‘two coats, give one to him who has none’

      –ethics/justice. tax collectors don’t collect more than due. soldiers don’t extort from civilians. sermon on the mount ethics (?)

      –Lord’s Prayer. may be from JB (?)

      –anti-Herod Antipas/anti-Herod marriage(s)

      –greatest figure, beyond any other human in Israel’s history. culmination of the prophets. the righteous man of righteous men

      –baptism. identified with the practice. …

      –killed by Antipas.

      –name: John.

      –idiosyncratic features of ‘living in the wilderness’ … legendary holy man in the wilderness mythos

      –eschatological. ‘who has warned you to flee from the wrath to come?’ …

      –denied he was ‘the Christ’/ no miracle. no miracle associated with this greatest prophet ever …

      –some confusions or overlaps between JB and Jesus (despite the significant differences of the points above): Antipas thinks Jesus is JB, people think Jesus is JB, people think JB is the Christ…

      “OK, that is the data. The dilemma is that in some ways this shadowy figure ‘behind’ or ‘prior to’ Jesus, JB, seems even more significant than Jesus. But who was this masked figure? The standard view is that this figure so odd and curious is, like the Qumran TR, someone whose biography is that constructed by the texts. ‘He is what the legend says’ and a parallel history running parallel to external history is created in accord with legendary tradition. …

      “The ‘denial of being Christ’ tradition of JB could be compared with other scenes of figures being on trial for their lives and denying or answering cryptically rather than proclaiming themselves. And compare Jesus tells people not to say that he (Jesus) is the Christ. In sum, it is not actually clear that JB’s and Jesus’s views toward their own Christ-identity [are] actually different as opposed to apparently different via Christian telling.

      “A radical proposition [cp. Robert Price] is to ask whether [the Gospels’] JB represents the stage of Jesus ‘in the wilderness’, and JB seeing a vision of a ‘Lamb of Go'” etc. is Jesus foretelling himself, analogous to Jesus foretelling a ‘Comforter’ in Jn 15 which is another person. … Were the Essenes organized based on a ‘baptism in the name of John’?

      “Somehow the Christian Gospels have to deal with JB and get rid of him, explain that he both endorsed Jesus and is not Jesus. Is it significant that Jesus goes to where John was baptizing, with Jesus’s disciples, and spends time there and is active, prior to Jesus coming to Bethany to raise Lazarus, in Fourth Gospel?

      “It is almost as if by the time the Gospels are written there are surviving pockets of people in Judea, some saying ‘we are from Jesus Christ’ and ‘we are from the baptism of John,’ with some confusion or competing claims, which the Gospels explain as two distinct individuals, yet which curiously overlap and are intertwined … what does it mean to say people were ‘baptized in the name of John?”

    • Greg Doudna
      2017-03-04 04:17:39 UTC - 04:17 | Permalink

      2/17/17 gld to Russell Gmirkin

      “Slavonic Josephus I now think a strong mainstream view is correct that it is worthless as a source. … I read some of the early discussions from JSTOR on this. … Even the stunning chronological coincidence in the Herod/priests discussion passage that I saw linked to CD/Hyrcanus II chronology appears (sadly) to be a dud. … Very difficult to argue that there is original material in Slavonic Josephus from Josephus. … So I am excluding Slavonic Josephus from further consideration as to argument.

      “On Mandeans, I believe practically all scholarship on the Mandeans [says that] the John the Baptist legendary material is secondarily adapted into Mandean legend. … The name ‘Artban’ as Artabanus is a relic of real history. But the pro-John and anti-Jesus sounds like later responses to Christians and Islam making use of Gospel stories and embellishing. … So I am excluding Mandean JB tradition as shedding any non-Gospels’ light on the history of JB. ….

      “On the dating of JB, you cite four traditions, which I think are reduced to two: Josephus and the Gospels. (Mandeans and Slavonic Josephus being excluded.)

      “What I noticed is that the passage of JB in Josephus would work as a description of the death of Hyrcanus II (if known by the name baptizing John), word for word. Therefore, was this an accidental displacement by Josephus? Sounds like a wild idea, and its hard to argue it based on (a) magnitude of the chronological mistake which must be assumed on Josephus’s part, and (b) the Gospels have JB contemporary with Jesus, in agreement with where Josephus has his JB chronologically. To make the case for Josephus’s JB being Hyrcanus II requires explanation of why the Gospels also got the dating wrong. … [T]he speculation would have to presume:

      a) that there was some activity of Hyrcanus II in the Jericho region as an aged holy man in the 30s BCE which was legend remembered in that region in terms of John the Baptizer. Bear in mind that Hyrcanus II most likely lived in the Jericho region courtesy of housing provided in the Palaces complex at Jericho provided by Herod, as at least reasonable. The speculation would be that as the aged holy man baptizing ‘John’, this was an independent legend of the activity of Hyrcanus II, stemming from the people affected and of that region and time.

      b) the baptism, instead of being initiation into an army, etc., would be linked to enrollment into the Essenes, on the further speculation that Hyrcanus II with Herod’s blessing was playing a role, perhaps iconic and symbolic (e.g. others under him doing the actual baptizing in his name), or perhaps partly real. The reason Hyrcanus II’s role in Essene formation is not made note of in the Essene descriptions would not be too significant, and after Herod’s execution would be politically inexpedient not to name very much. The weak point in this is it is all reconstruction, with nothing directly linking Hyrcanus II to baptism and/or Essene formation.

      c) The legend of the figure ‘John the baptizer’ by the Jordan, a legend of activity of Hyrcanus II at the last stage of his life, then was written, parallel to the story of the earlier Honi the Circle Drawer, in a source (still to be proposed or identified). Then there was a speculated mistake in which Josephus or a source of Josephus misplaced it attaching it to the wrong Herod and the wrong Herod defeat by an Arabian army.

      So that is the speculative hypothesis to which is added

      d) … fictional elaboration in the Jesus stories (not too controversial) and the JB stories are part of that fictional elaboration …

      “The reference to ‘baptism of John’ in Asia Minor/Apollos of Acts, would need to be understood as a survival or continuity of the same ‘John baptizer’ legend of Hyrcanus II.

      “A weak supporting argument to this speculative reconstruction might be that neither rabbinic writings nor Paul’s letters make any mention of JB although both rabbinic writings and Paul make a lot of mention of Jesus.

      “Josephus has [JB] as influential and Herod fears him and preemptively executes, which is exactly the historical picture of Hyrcanus II and his execution by Herod, apart from the explicit popular activity said of [JB] but that would be plausible due to Hyrcanus II’s status. Remember that Josephus actually has quite a bit of ferment surrounding Hyrcanus II and Herod, which Josephus attributes to scheming and machinations of Alexandra Hyrcanus II’s daughter, [and] there was the allegation of treason of Hyrcanus II that ended his life and may have been a true charge despite Josephus saying it was not. Of course there is no information on what Hyrcanus II was doing for the last six years of his life … I come to it indirectly via the TR argument and then the Essene activity involvement …

      “The basic speculation is that Josephus gives political history of Hyrcanus II but the JB legend [of the Gospels] is independent from the people affected in the Jordan River area where the late-stage Hyrcanus II may actually have been active toward the end of his life. Such that while the JB legend and the political history of Hyrcanus II of Josephus are actually of the same figure, it was not obvious to people seeing the two written accounts since they came from very different origins and sources. Remember by the time Hyrcanus II was in Jericho in the 30s [BCE] he was no longer functioning as high priest. Yet he was revered as a holy man, yet not active as high priest. How would he turn up in the world of legend by the people in that region’s memory? Of course one possibility is Hyrcanus II lived the life of luxury in the Jericho Palaces and never was involved in anything at all. But another possibility is he did turn up in a local tradition as ‘John the Baptizer’ of memory. …

      “Is there stronger reason to date JB post-Herod than confidence in the understanding of Josephus as to the Herod-identity of the Herod of his JB story? Because that may in the end be the whole basis of the issue. …

      “[Y]ou ask: why call John (Hyrcanus II) “the Baptist” instead of Hyrcanus or high priest, etc. Don’t know, other than analogy of Honi the Circle-Drawer. Hyrcanus II would be known by fellow Jews and intimates by his Jewish name “John”, whereas Hyrcanus was the more official or public name to the world. But “John” is a common name so “the Baptizer” gets added, based on his being associated with baptizing. Not attested for Hyrcanus II as you say, but also is speculatively reasonable and possible.”

    • Greg Doudna
      2017-03-04 04:18:53 UTC - 04:18 | Permalink

      2/22/17 gld to James Pasto

      “Thanks Jimbo. Yes I have seen the Rivka Nir paper and it has good information, thanks. She shows that there was definite sectarian baptist activity happening but argues that Josephus would not have described such because it was not mainstream Jewish. She sort of had me with the analysis leading up to the conclusion but lost me at the conclusion. For discussion of Nir and the case for authenticity, here: http://peterkirby.com/john-the-baptist-authentic.htm

      “Also I have been reading some history of Josephus from Daniel Schwartz. I just received two books of his ordered from amazon. He seems very good to me in his historical analyses (I just read his section on the John the Baptist passage last night and he argues it is Josephan). I am still thinking it over but I suspect the possibility of a chronologically misplaced Hyrcanus II death tradition as strange as it sounds may have an argument. All one has to do is take the Gospels’ portrayals of a contemporary [distinct] John the Baptist figure, as distinguished from contemporary [John the Baptist] movement and ideology, as fiction?”

    • Greg Doudna
      2017-03-04 04:20:28 UTC - 04:20 | Permalink

      2/24/17, gld to James Pasto

      “You ask where I originally thought the Josephus passage was placed in Josephus. I don’t think it was ever anywhere in Josephus than where it is now. I don’t think there was an earlier Josephus form of the passage which was modified or moved in its location. My idea is that the passage is from a source used by Josephus. Josephus either copied the passage directly or possibly Josephus himself modified it. Josephus was mistaken as to which Herod/dating the passage referred to, and Josephus situated it in the time of Herod Antipas. After that there was no later Christian editing or Christian change to anything.

      “I would be interested in your alternative scenario [of post-Josephus tampering of the JB passage] if it could be convincing. The main problem I see is there seem to be no other parallel known examples of anyone else taking a passage of Josephus located somewhere else and moving it chronologically as well as editing it for inter-Christian (or any other) purposes. The passage as it stands seems to be very Josephan (per arguments cited by Kirby).

      “Hard for me to see inter-Christian motive as a convincing explanation for later interpolation of Josephus on this. But Josephus himself seems to take odd oblique potshots at contemporary Christian ideas (e.g. the Paulina Rome story … his account of find the three crucified and trying to save the life of one by medical treatment … that is just too obviously Josephus making oblique comment on a Christian story it seems to me). So Josephus, who himself had spent time with a baptist named Bannus, may have made the pointed comment about baptism not taking away sin as an oblique criticism of the way Christians were (now) doing baptism at Josephus’s time of writing…. I am thinking that [Josephus’s JB passage] never was situated by Josephus other than where it is now and that it has not been altered, and that Josephus made a mistake from a source in misunderstanding where the story belonged, not recognizing that it was a story of Hyrcanus II.”

    • Greg Doudna
      2017-03-04 04:21:43 UTC - 04:21 | Permalink

      2/26/17 gld to James Pasto

      “My line of thinking is that the source [used by Josephus] read ‘John the Baptist’ and neither the source story itself nor Josephus identified it as a story of Hyrcanus II even though it was. It is the same phenomenon of doublets in the Bible or Gospels, in which two sources obviously versions of the same thing get written twice…because the later author does not make the identification between the two and actually believes it is distinct events/persons.

      “So Josephus took his source’s story as is and did not alter it, apart from only minor functional tweaking to make it read smoothly within the place he inserted it. But the story itself would be copied word for word, copied and pasted into his Herod Antipas narrative.

      “But you make a good point on Josephus’s JB passage sounding like it reflects Christian baptism. Yes the one-time Christian baptism is different from the daily washings of the Jewish baptist sects such as Bannus and Qumran texts. I have read some scholarly discussions on this and it is a puzzle. The Mandeans of Iraq have both daily washings, intermittent washings as needed for purification, and very serious baptisms once in a while as needed as ritual to take away very serious sin. … So that is an example where Mandeans apparently do not get the ‘serious baptism’ involving a priest, from Christian origins. Yet it is a kind of baptism which differs from the daily washings, yet may come from ancient Jewish origins. And the John the Baptist movement of the Gospels certainly is considered to be Jewish and had one-time baptism and I do not think most scholars assume that is all Christian anachronism.

      “One theory is that rabbinic Jews later had proselyte baptism and maybe that is what was going on with the JB baptism. Some form of that theory seems to me likely to make the best sense, even though it requires explanation why some Jews would be baptizing other Jews with proselyte baptism. Perhaps an alternative sense of changing from non-observant to observant?”

    • Greg Doudna
      2017-03-04 04:22:56 UTC - 04:22 | Permalink

      2/26/17 gld to James Pasto

      “Jorunn Buckley is the go-to author on Mandeans. Ironically she was the first scholar I talked with and she was very nice to me and hung out a lot during my first SBL—in Boston!—in 1987, before I reentered school. She talked to me a lot about Mandeans. I think she has a major book on Mandeans out not long ago but I have not seen it. ….

      “Your recurring point seems to be that baptism sounds Christian to you and not Jewish, such that Josephus’s John the Baptist sounds un-Jewish in practice. I understand the point. There are basically three options:

      a) baptism was Christian and that is what Josephus’s JB baptism is consciously alluding to and/or critiquing.

      b) baptism is some heterodox sectarian Jewish practice from pagan religious practices.

      c) baptism is some internal Jewish development which is distorted in understanding by later Christian meaning and associations.

      “I am sort of provisionally thinking ‘c’ whereas you seem to keep returning to ‘a’.

      “Stephan Huller proposed that the John the Baptist stories were of John Hyrcanus ONE forcibly converting all his conquered territories, and in forcible conversion to being Jews of whole territories there would be mass baptisms of new converts per Jewish custom for proselytes, q.e.d. ‘John the Baptist’. But he was talking John Hyrcanus I. My idea is Hyrcanus II, primarily based on Josephus’s JB passage as a story of Hyrcanus II. Still, [Huller’s idea] kind of interesting? …

      “Yes, for sure, I still remember the first talk in that classics recreational room with the statues in the Classics department at Cornell, and you drawing diagrams on paper of Herod, the various ethnic groups, the rallying about native traditions, and the different way of thinking than ‘Christian universalism’ and ‘Jewish particularism’. Your critique on that was so powerful and remains with me to the present day. I only wish you had a greater platform or means to research and develop and speak further on such analyses.”

    • Greg Doudna
      2017-03-04 04:25:45 UTC - 04:25 | Permalink

      2/26/17 gld to James Tabor

      “All well here, quiet life with Caroline. I am at the moment researching a possible relationship between Hyrcanus II and John the Baptist legends, which began when I noticed that the Josephus John the Baptist passage can read well as a chronologically dislocated story of the death of Hyrcanus II. The hypothesis would be that the Josephus JB passage is genuine; it is from Josephus and has not been later altered; but it was interpolated by Josephus chronologically mistakenly into his Herod Antipas narrative instead of correctly situated in the time of Herod the Great in Josephus’s composition process. I assume Josephus’s source for the JB passage would be whatever Jewish source had the story of the death of Honi. The ‘John the Baptizer’ story in Josephus’s ‘Jewish legends’ source in this hypothesis was actually a story of Hyrcanus II and Herod the Great but was not recognized as such by Josephus. Hyrcanus II was named John and historically likely lived in Jericho in palace quarters provided by Herod. On independent grounds I believe Hyrcanus II is identifiable as T of R. I am considering the possibility that the ‘John the Baptist’ part-legend/part-fiction echoed in the Gospels possibly stems from local legends of Hyrcanus II.

      “Wild idea I know, but I am investigating it.”


  • 2017-03-04 13:41:38 UTC - 13:41 | Permalink

    Thanks Greg Doudna.

    I have maintained that the main villain in the history of Jesus Christ is Josephus. He says that Herod killed Hyrcanus II before meeting Augustus at Rhodes. Now Peter Richardson quotes from the so-called “Acheivements of King Herod” which correspond to the Res Gestae of Augustus. In it he says;

    “I served Hyrcanus, the last of the Hasmonean kings, faithfully with forces that I raised and paid for myself, and I fought vigourously against his brother Antigonous, who tried to usurp his throne. When Antigonous allied himself with Parthia, Rome’s enemy, I fought their forces though my army was badly outnumbered. I also fought the armies of Chalcis, Ituraea and Nabatea in various campaigns, inflicting severe defeats on them.”

    Defendinf Ptolemy, Arrian wrote that kings cannot lie in their statements but this has to be taken with a pinch of salt. But can a man who had killed Hyrcanus II write this in inscriptions which were public? I think not. In my opinion Hyrcanus was not killed but may have been driven out or allowed to flee. The villain may have been Augustus. Josephus was a diabolical liar.

    • Greg Doudna
      2017-03-04 16:36:46 UTC - 16:36 | Permalink

      Hi Ranajit Pal. Hyrcanus II not killed by Herod? Hmmm. Herod killed other family members and competitors, his kingship was a usurpation of sorts from Hyrcanus II, and he had the motive in keeping with the well-known practice of rulers killing off rival dynasties… Didn’t Josephus get Herod’s execution of Hyrcanus II from his source, presumably Nicolaus of Damascus? On the Richardson citation do you have the ref/page number? I cannot find it in my Richardson (1996). By “Achievements of Herod” do you mean Herod’s “Memoirs” of Nicolaus of Damascus used by Josephus? Also I do not understand why Antigonus is called “brother” of Hyrcanus II in the quotation, since Antigonus was not Hyrcanus’s brother but nephew.

      I am intrigued however by your making the case for Augustus as villain, and argument for rehabilitation (so to speak) of negative portrayals of Cleopatra VII and Mark Antony no doubt going all the way back to Octavian/Augustan propaganda anciently. I have been reading Rolf Strootman arguing that Mark Antony was restoring a unified Ptolemaic Dynasty under him in the interests of Roman hegemony in the East, as the background to the Donations of Alexandria of 34 BCE and Donations of Antioch 37 BCE. Which puts the allusion to the “head over Greek kings”, the conquering figure of the Damascus Document, which functions in the Damascus Document parallel in function to Pesher Habakkuk’s and Pesher Nahum’s conquering Kittim, in a new light.

  • 2017-03-04 23:23:28 UTC - 23:23 | Permalink

    I think it is in page 315 of Peter Richardson’s book.
    Herod came to power through Hyrcanus II. Yes, he was tried by Hyrcanus II at one stage yet I find it difficult to accept that Herod invited Hyrcanus II to Jerusalem (36 BC) and then killed him. My idea is that Augustus, Herod and Jesus (ben Fabus) were contemporaries and cannot be understood in exclusion. I accept Ronald Syme’s evaluation of Augustus. Syme follows Tacitus who informs that the dearest wish of Augustus was to be remembered as a living god. He styled himself as a ‘son of god’ and Amyntas of Galatia, one of his client kings was the son of B(r)ogitarus, the chief priest of the great Pessinus temple. I am assuming that Amyntas son of Bogitarus is the same as Jesus ben Fabus (bagus). In practice Adobogiona, the wife of B(r)ogitarus may have been the chief priestess of Cybele. Amyntas’ reign came to an end in ~25/26 BC when Jesus ben Fabus was also removed. What Josephus says about Herod and Boethus’ daughter appears to be rubbish. Here again I see the shadow of Augustus. After the fall of Amyntas, Augustus annexed his territory, destroyed his temple at Antioch (Pisidian) and celebrated by keeping the gates of the Janus temple open. The last days of both Herod and Augustus were painful and my guess is that it was due to Jesus ben Fabus. Herod killed and Augustus banished. The sexual misdemeanors of His daughter Julia and granddaughter may have been fabrications. The father of Pomponia Graecina was a friend of Ovid and may have been a very early Christian supporter. Herod’s killing of his wife and sons may be due to religion.

    • Greg Doudna
      2017-03-05 01:52:18 UTC - 01:52 | Permalink

      Thanks Ranajit I see it in Richardson now, but alas, although it reads and is labeled in the chapter heading as the text of an ancient inscription and concludes a straight historical study, it is the author’s (Richardson’s) fiction. Richardson opens the book with fictional ancient newspaper obituaries of Herod and closes with this equally fictional finale; see the fine print at the bottom of p. 315 which explains its imaginary genre. Don’t feel too badly, it had me baffled too until I realized.

      I am in awe of your knowledge and erudition re Alexander the Great in India on your website. You are way out of my league on that. But my friend, I have a bit of problem seeing Jesus ben Phabi, a Jewish high priest in Jerusalem, as being simultaneously a ruler far away in Galatia son of a high priest of Cybele whose strongest point of contact appears to be the coincidence of both figures having the consonant sound “b” in their father’s name. (Not sure where you get Jesus ben Fabus’s father’s name as Bagus.) As the saying goes, extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.

  • 2017-03-05 02:59:21 UTC - 02:59 | Permalink

    Thanks for listening to me and pointing out that it is a fiction by Richardson. I have ordered for a copy of his book but have not got it yet. I was reading from Google Books. I still think Herod could not have killed Hyrcanus II. It was not necessary.

    You can certainly doubt what I have said about Jesus ben Fabus. The problem is that Josephus is deliberately silent on him and one cannot move forward without resorting to conjectures. Jesus and John the Baptist were extraordinary persons who were men of many worlds but were probably blood relations. I am very uncertain about the Apostle John. You are better informed about Hyrcanus. He had estates in Syria and elsewhere. Was he related to Ephesus in any way?

    The transition ‘Fabus’ to ‘Bagus’ is not a very unnatural one. Bagus in Persian means a priest. ‘Boga’ in Persian is god and the name Adobogiona is a holy god-related name. There were many persons having that name but one Adobogiona was greatly respected and her unfinished statue has been found.

    B(r)ogitarus was slandered by Cicero but that is expected because Clodius was his bitter enemy. Clodius was a champion of the poor as was Julius Caesar and Jesus.The fact is that Herod chose many High Priests from the Jewish Diaspora. Herod, Amyntas and Polemo of Pontus were co-kings under Augustus. There may have been a stage when Herod was a friend of Amyntas. Even Augustus may have patronized Amyntas before he (or his wife) decided to finish him.

  • 2017-03-05 03:34:38 UTC - 03:34 | Permalink

    >simultaneously a ruler far away in Galatia son of a high priest of Cybele whose strongest point of contact appears to be the coincidence of both figures having the consonant sound “b” in their father’s name.<

    There is, I think, more than that. Amen was a name of Jesus (Rev. iii.14)

    • Greg Doudna
      2017-03-05 05:45:54 UTC - 05:45 | Permalink

      You are right Ranajit and I apologize, you do have more to your argument than that. Less than convincing to me but that does not matter, one should try to represent someone else’s argument in the best and most respectful way.

      Yes I too would like to know more about Jesus ben Fabus. According to Josephus, Hyrcanus II was executed 30 BCE after a trial by a sanhedrin which condemned Hyrcanus II to death for treason. What was high priest Jesus ben Fabus’s role in that trial and condemnation?

      Yet if it is correct that Hyrcanus II was John the Baptist, I think Jesus the Nazorean remains a 1st CE phenomenon and that the name Jesus of the last high priest contemporary with Hyrcanus II is coincidence (Jesus being a rather common name and no good reason to identify). The synoptic Gospels have Jesus meeting JB, being baptized by JB, and JB executed by Herod Antipas. But a hint that those stories could be fictional may be suggested by the Fourth Gospel, which some think is both simultaneously the latest of the four Gospels yet paradoxically preserving in some cases the earliest traditional material, conceivably even representing a sort of ancient attempt at fact-checking the earlier synoptic gospels on points (that is one reading of Papias). The Fourth Gospel notably has (a) no baptism of Jesus by JB; (b) no personal meeting of JB and Jesus (JB is said to see Jesus at a distance but not meet him in person); (c) no JB criticism of Herod Antipas’s marriage practices; (d) no execution of JB by Herod Antipas. All of these things in the synoptic gospels which, if true, show contemporaneity, are missing in the Fourth Gospel. In the Fourth Gospel only one identified witness contemporary to Jesus is even claimed in that Gospel to have seen John the Baptist (the disciple Andrew). All of this in Gospels generally believed to have been written ca. 2-4 generations after the supposed facts. If the tradition associated with the disciple Andrew is garbled or in error or fictitious there is effectively nothing substantial in the Fourth Gospel upon which to hang an argument for contemporaneity of JB/Jesus.

  • 2017-03-05 05:50:54 UTC - 05:50 | Permalink

    The present picture of Herod is a disfigured one mainly due to Josephus. Apart from Augustus he was a friend of Asinius Pollo/Paul. There are two Pauls – one before the magical revelation at Damascus and the one after that. Echoes of this transformation must also be sought in Herod’s life. Like Augustus, Tiberius and Jesus he was also a tragic hero. There is more to his killing of his dear wife and sons.

    • Greg Doudna
      2017-03-05 06:22:23 UTC - 06:22 | Permalink

      I think the depressing, corrupted, hopeless portrayal of the Judean-based state in the Damascus Document and the polemical blaming of the “Liar” figure for all that has gone so horribly wrong, is an independent, non-Josephan, real-time portrayal of Herod from the point of view of circles around Hyrcanus II after his death. That portrayal of Herod also is disfigured (to put it mildly).

    • Greg Doudna
      2017-03-05 17:12:41 UTC - 17:12 | Permalink

      Also Ranajit, on whether Herod killed Hyrcanus II, Josephus in Antiquities relies heavily on Herod’s biographer Nicolaus of Damascus which included the story of the Hyrcanus execution. Nicolaus was anciently attested apart from Josephus. Neither pro-Herod nor anti-Herod sources disputed that Herod executed Hyrcanus. The dispute was instead over whether Herod was justified in doing so. The pro-Herod version was that Hyrcanus had conspired treasonably with the king of Arabia against Herod, a capital offense, and besides, it was a sanhedrin, not Herod personally, that had adjudicated the matter. The anti-Herod (pro-Hyrcanus) version was that Herod had framed Hyrcanus and Hyrcanus’s actions were completely innocent (or if naive Hyrcanus had inadvertently gotten himself mixed up in something a little dicey, it was all his scheming daughter Alexandra’s fault). The defense–this was the DEFENSE argument–was that Hyrcanus was so incompetent and unambitious throughout his entire life that he was incapable of undertaking treasonous conspiracy (argument from character and past personal history, as counter to incriminating documents found on Hyrcanus’s person, which the defenders of Hyrcanus also claimed had been forged). This defense argument–from Hyrcanus’s friends–is then the way Hyrcanus II is portrayed by Josephus and has shaped historians’ perceptions of Hyrcanus II. Those portrayals are at least as valid and objective historically as any defense attorney’s closing argument to a jury fighting for the life of a client accused of a capital offense. But all sides agreed that Hyrcanus II had been executed by Herod.

  • 2017-03-06 02:51:18 UTC - 02:51 | Permalink

    >Josephus in Antiquities relies heavily on Herod’s biographer Nicolaus of Damascus which included the story of the Hyrcanus execution.<

    I know that Josephus used Nocolaus' history, but I do not know whether we have Nicolaus' account on the execution of Hyrcanus II. Nicolaus pleaded for Herod in Rome and cannot be taken to be an objective source. He may have given the official version. His views on Hyrcanus II being incompetent and indolent are well known but worthless. I can give examples from history.The fact that Bagoas the elder died after being forced to drink his own cup of poison by Darius III is accepted by all but seems to be incorrect. Another example is Darius-I's claim of killing Gaumata and Bardiya. A. T. Olmstead wrote that Darius-I must have killed Bardiya who was an heir but probably spared Gaumata (whom I have identified as Gautama Buddha). Olmstead was a great historian who first wrote that Darius-I had lied in the Behistun inscription. He suggested that Jesus may have been born ~20 BC. He has been criticized by people who have no proper sense of history.

    • Greg Doudna
      2017-03-06 18:18:04 UTC - 18:18 | Permalink

      Interesting comments Ranajit, thanks.

  • 2017-03-06 03:06:05 UTC - 03:06 | Permalink

    Greg Doudna, if Pontius Pilate is not taken out of the crucifixion saga Jesus Christ cannot be depicted as a historical figure. Schweitzer and Bultmann were great scholars but gave up. The same was more or less the position Th. Mommsen. A. N. Wilson writes;

    “And this is partly because of the extraordinary power of the Gospel narratives concerning the arrest, and suffering and death by crucifixion of Jesus. … Historians can read the stories and sift through which parts could conceivably be true and which must, without any question, be inventions. “

    Surprisingly, Philo, a contemporary, mentions the wrongdoings of Pontius Pilate but does not mention crucifixion. The Koran shows great respect for Jesus and his mother but is also silent on crucifixion. However, it appears almost certain that Jesus was grievously injured by his opponents and came very close to death.

  • 2017-03-06 03:24:44 UTC - 03:24 | Permalink

    Who made Jesus ben Fabus the high priest? Was it Herod or Hyrcanus II who officiated as the High Priest for many decades and was a very respected figure? If Jesus ben Fabus had been installed as the High Priest by Hyrcanus II we get echoes from the Gospels. In fact this may be the reason why Hyrcanus was ‘killed’. The villain may have been Augustus who was the master of Herod. The issues in question may have been ‘son of god’ and ‘King of the Jews’.

    • Greg Doudna
      2017-03-06 18:34:41 UTC - 18:34 | Permalink

      I don’t know Ranajit… according to Josephus Herod sought to wipe out all heirs of the Hasmonean dynasty of which Hyrcanus II was the surviving head, and all the accounts and legends and comparative parallels support that. There are also the accounts in Josephus of Hyrcanus II’s daughter Alexandra attempting to save the family by appealing to Cleopatra who sought to save them, and Cleopatra and Herod were deathly opponents with Herod recommending to Mark Antony that he kill Cleopatra, whereas Cleopatra wanted Herod’s territories. Herod may have been friendly toward his father-in-law Hyrcanus II at first but things like that can change. I know of no reason to suppose a hidden hand of Augustus behind the execution of Hyrcanus II but if there were an argument or evidence for that that would be of interest. One detail remains puzzling to me though: where was Hyrcanus buried? Thanks for your thinking.

  • Greg Doudna
    2017-03-06 03:30:17 UTC - 03:30 | Permalink

    For anyone interested here are several additional comments re Hyrcanus II as the Teacher of Righteousness (TR).

    I noted above that 0 DSS scholars have endorsed this view in print, and I cited two categorical published rejections which did not see fit to disclose reasons. However the vast majority of DSS scholars regard the TR identity issue as unresolved and my sense is that a significant number of those are open to reasonable argument, including mine, and are more accurately described as neither rejecting or accepting. A favorable review of my 2002 study of 4QpNahum by Michael Wechsler (JNES 65 [2006]: 150-53) described my Hyrcanus II/TR argument and then referred to “his overall thesis (which I indeed find compelling)” which sounds like but is not quite explicit in whether that includes the Hyrcanus II/TR identification. There are occasional footnotes and mentions of my argument as neutral description without positive or negative assessment.

    So it is not accurate to say that a majority of DSS scholars necessarily categorically exclude the idea, although that would certainly be accurate characterization of a significant minority. Fairer would be to say that the largest number of DSS scholars regard the issue as unresolved and do not consider the Hyrcanus II argument I have published as sufficiently convincing. My sense is that the greatest number of DSS scholars regard the Teacher figure to have been a real person who is unknown, and many would add, unknowable, in identity. Next most common is a significant number of scholars who are partial to a certain identification, most commonly the hypothesized and unnamed high priest of the so-called “interregnum” of 159-152 BCE (I think Jonathan Maccabaeus likely functioned as high priest during that entire time and there is no need for major mystery over the matter), less commonly one or another from among a handful of other proposed specific figures. Third most common is what might be called TR-mythicism, a suspicion or sense that there is no historical figure at all underneath the literary story-portrayal in the world of texts. As a generalization, most careful scholars are slow to jump on unfamiliar ideas, particularly outside their areas of speciality or expertise. Nevertheless, it remains that in the 15 years since I have published the Hyrcanus II/TR identification proposal no other scholar known to me has taken up the idea in print. There have been a number of scholars who think Hyrcanus II is the Wicked Priest, going back to the influential Andre Dupont-Sommer of the first generation of Qumran scholars, and the influence of Dupont-Sommer persists today. I believe the Dupont-Sommer legacy is what underlied the exclamation point reaction of Collins (who incidentally I like personally).

    Here is the short form argument for Hyrcanus II. It is not because Josephus or Roman historians describe Hyrcanus II as righteous, or living at Qumran. Nor is there any Qumran text or inscription which identifies Hyrcanus II as the Teacher. It is rather on different grounds. First, dating: (a) the Damascus Document (CD) draws its internal chronology from 4Q390 and 4Q390 has an internal chronology in which the Antiochene crisis is dated in the 7th Jubilee of its 10-Jubilee Daniel-like 490-year scheme. In fact the chronology section of CD 1 was directly rewritten from 4Q390 as earlier noted in studies of Martin Abegg and Kipp Davis without either of those scholars realizing the implications for CD’s internal chronology. What it means is the internal chronology of the Damascus Document in which the Teacher is said to have arisen in Year 410 following the destruction of Nebuchadnezzar is situated in the 1st century BCE (on the basis of counting forward from the absolute chronological peg in the scheme of the source text, 4Q390). The assumption here is that the authors of CD are unreliable in historical chronology prior to 2nd century BCE but are reliable (within say +/- 10 yrs) post-Antiochene crisis. This argument solidly dates the TR of the Damascus Document to 1st BCE, not earlier and not later. (b) the Qumran pesharim are dated both in generally understood palaeographic datings and dates of composition to ca. mid- or second half of 1st BCE, and the portrayal of the Teacher within the world of these texts is contemporary to the era of those texts’ authors, again suggesting 1st BCE as the era of the TR. (c) there is no evidence or sound argument calling for the Teacher to be dated earlier than the portrayal of the texts which situate the Teacher and related sobriquet-bearing figures contemporary to the time of the authors. (d) the Teacher passages in Pesher Habakkuk are interspersed among Kittim passages widely recognized to allude to Roman presence and conquest of post-63 BCE yet still at a time when Hasmonean high priests still ruled, again suggesting 1st BCE, neither earlier nor later.

    Second, the Teacher’s priestly character and supreme status in the world of the texts is most economically accounted for by his being a high priest, and this agrees with the internal portrayal of the Teacher explicitly called “The Priest”, who is authoritative, halakhah-deciding, has mystical contact with God, ascends to heaven and so on, as well as the literate and priestly focus of the Qumran texts all suggesting an aura surrounding a figure regarded as a high priest. However, the Teacher is portrayed as not currently a high priest. Currently he is out of power and not high priest in Jerusalem, in the world of the texts. The Teacher also is contemporary to and in an adversarial relationship with either one or two other major sobriquet-bearing figures, depending on whether the “Liar” and “Wicked Priest” figures are considered distinct or identical. I now understand these figures, in agreement with a majority of scholars, to be distinct figures, but there are arguments both ways on this. If they are distinct, the Liar figure appears as a leader or ruler or warrior commander but is not identified as priestly. However the Wicked Priest is a high priest, both in the pun in the name and also because in 1QpHab this figure is said to have ruled over Israel evocative of the Hasmonean priest-kings. Since the Wicked Priest is contemporary to the Teacher and since the Teacher is 1st BCE for reasons argued, this means the Wicked Priest will be 1st BCE too. According to a prominent theme alluded to in the texts, the Wicked Priest is tortured and killed by gentiles. This is an important clue, since high priests were not.

    The next question to consider is whether it is reasonable that the Teacher, of such importance and centrality in a core cluster of Qumran texts, would be some figure unknown or extremely marginal to known history. An assumption of anonymity or marginality is what many, perhaps most, scholars assume. But does that really make sense. Does it not intrinsically make more sense that both Teacher and Wicked Priest are familiar figures in known history, such that the Qumran texts are alluding to existing known history and not to a doppelganger parallel history constructed entirely from the texts for the purpose of explaining the figures in the texts. All of this leads us to suspect these two sobriquet-bearing figures should be identifiable with not one but two high priests in the 1st century BCE: an earlier figure who is or becomes the Teacher, and a later one who follows who is the Wicked Priest, with the Teacher being in exile at the time the Wicked Priest in high priest, and the Wicked Priest dies violently. The list of high priests in the 1st century BCE is not long and there are not too many options to consider if the logic of the problem has been correctly framed up to this point.

    Hyrcanus II fits the schematic criteria: he is a 1st century BCE high priest who was deposed and driven into exile by a usurper successor, Antigonus Mattathias, a usurper-successor who died violently at the hands of gentiles. Furthermore, according to Josephus the entire Jewish diaspora east of the Euphrates continued to regard the aged Hyrcanus II, now in exile in Babylon, as their legitimate high priest despite a different Hasmonean high priest in power in Jerusalem. As portrayed by Josephus, it is essentially a sort or two-popes situation like in the Middle Ages. But this is the picture of the Teacher implied in the world of the Qumran texts.

    So Hyrcanus II at minimum is a figure of interest. The next question is do there exist good sound negative reasons to exclude Hyrcanus II as TR. In my article in Stacey and Doudna, _Qumran Revisited_ (available on my page at academia.edu) I go down a list of several reasons, many going back to Dupont-Sommer, which may be mental “blocks” obstructing consideration of Hyrcanus II. I argue that there are no known negative arguments ruling out Hyrcanus II as TR which are substantial and not illusory.

    Finally there are miscellaneous interesting additional points. For example, the Teacher is called simply stand-alone HKWHN, “The Priest”, in 1QpHab. It has been debated whether that is a terminus technicus for “high priest” or whether that means simply “a priest”. But why, in the latter case, a stand-alone sobriquet “the” priest? It may be coincidence, but I am tempted to see in this a “signature” of Hyrcanus II by alliteration or wordplay on the name “Hyrcanus” (HRKN).

    The possibly deepest source of resistance to the notion of Hyrcanus II as Teacher may be subtle and unexpressed, going beyond the boundaries of strict reason: our common desire to see a truly inspiring towering inspirational figure. It is easy to “go native” in the world of the Qumran texts and want to find their revered figure in external history from our idealized perspective, even though this is a world of texts far removed in time and space from us. I came to see that the historical identification question is not to be answered in terms of what we want to see in the Teacher figure. The issue is not what we wish to see, but what did a certain number of ancient Jews see in such a figure. I realized that this is an etic versus emic issue, outsider versus insider perspective issue, and the mystique and office of high priest–whoever the person fulfilling that office–from an emic point of view satisfies and accounts for every image of the Teacher in the texts. I admit I too am not entirely free from a wish to see noble figures in past history. In this light I have looked at the figure of Hyrcanus II. How much is really known of this figure? In stark contrast to his father Alexander Jannaeus, so notorious for having inflicted mass crucifixions and mass executions on his opponents … in start contrast, Hyrcanus II is not recorded as having inflicted atrocities or having sought vengeance on enemies. Of course it could be argued he did not need to; he could have had that outsourced. Still, there is nothing of that nature recorded in known history. A true character study of Hyrcanus II has not been written.

    If there is a modern figure to whom I imagine a possible partial analogy to Hyrcanus II it might be the spiritual leader of Iraqi Shia Muslims, Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the most influential religious leader in Iraq. Both Hyrcanus II and Sistani, highly revered domestically and in their respective diasporas and long holding their position, have dealt pragmatically with the respective occupying Western power in their lands. But although Sistani is considered a moderate and is generally regarded as reasonable from the US point of view, I have never read a credible allegation that Sistani is beholden to US interests as opposed to those of his own people. I like to imagine that Hyrcanus II, high priest of the Jewish people for over three decades in what must be regarded as often nearly impossible circumstances, might possibly be seen with greater understanding by looking at the example of Sistani.

    • Matt Cavanaugh
      2017-03-06 04:15:45 UTC - 04:15 | Permalink

      Hyrcanus’ faction stoned to death Honi the Circle Drawer, who Eisenman identifies as a Zaddik, linking him to James the Just — also a ‘righteous one’ and involved with what Eisenman calls “eschatological rainmaking” — and so to the Qumran Community. Accepting Honi as part of the Zaddik tradition, would the DSS authors view his murderer in a favorable light, much less as himself a Zaddik?

    • Greg Doudna
      2017-03-06 05:59:07 UTC - 05:59 | Permalink

      Matt, good point, but let’s look at this. Honi the Circle Drawer is killed in the Jews’ camp for refusing to curse Aristobulus II, but is it clear that Hyrcanus II was party to that?

      There are deserters from Aristobulus’s army who desert to Hyrcanus (Ant 14.19) and there are “citizens, joining Hyrcanus’ side”, apparently from inside the city’s walls, joining in the siege (Ant 14.20). The Arabian king Aretas has his army and with him, Hyrcanus II (without a Jewish army), when Aretas first arrives. Then Aretas settles (a) the deserters from Aristobulus’s army, and (b) “the citizens” (from Jerusalem) in a “camp of the Jews” next to the camp of the Arabs. Aretas is running this war with intent to install Hyrcanus as king if successful, but is Hyrcanus an active commander or playing any role except with Aretas? The image seems to be that the Jews’ camp is under the command of Aretas, basically functioning as auxiliaries or being allowed to camp as refugees. There is no clear information that Hyrcanus II is present in the Jews’ camp, as distinguished from being with Aretas in Aretas’s quarters. In this context the Honi story is introduced, spliced into the narrative at this point by Josephus from a source. Josephus says Honi “was taken to the camp of the Jews” and the mob there kills him. The mob hates Aristobulus and has therefore joined Hyrcanus’s side. We assume the mob likes Hyrcanus which is reasonable but not actually certain; maybe the mob just dislikes Aristobulus more and is like the “Jewish nation” who shortly later appears before before Pompey in Damascus opposed to either Hasmonean brother being king. In any case it is not clear that Hyrcanus II is justly regarded as responsible for the death of Honi.

      Josephus (or the source Josephus is using) calls the murderers “villains” and what they did “savagery” and then a strong wind destroys all the Jews’ crops as punishment (Ant. 14.25-28). The blame and punishment in this story seems to be on the entire Jewish people based on this mob killing of Honi. To say Hyrcanus was responsible for the mob killing or complicit in it, while possible, is unverified, both as an historical judgment and in terms of the intent of the story. I agree it could be read that way but it just is not clear.

      At Ant 14.41 Pompey in Damascus “heard the case of the Jews and their leaders, Hyrcanus and Aristobulus, who were quarrelling with one another, while the nation was against them both…” Is this the same nation which killed Honi and was punished for it with the crop destruction? Now they are against Hyrcanus. In fact the way this description is worded Josephus or his source may be summarizing the previous history including the siege of Aristobulus. I think Josephus blames “the nation” or evil ones representing the nation for Honi’s death, not Hyrcanus. Did anyone blame Hyrcanus II for Honi’s death? Could be but there is no record of it.

  • Matt Cavanaugh
    2017-03-06 17:43:47 UTC - 17:43 | Permalink


    Thank you for taking the time here to respond in such detail to questions from lay enthusiasts like myself. I hope you recognize the sentiment behind my probing questions as curiosity not antagonism. I must admit that I approach this topic far more versed in Eisenman’s views than your own, though I am not unaware of your history with him or your point of divergence.

    I find much of Eisenman’s critiques of the c14 tests special pleading to rescue his TR identification, but am a bit surprised to find you of all people relying on paleography when it happens to support yours. In any case, IMO neither of those methodologies are conclusive, rather only corroborative at best, and for the time being I prefer to weigh the merits of the rival interpretations of internal evidence. (Which seem to be: a) James; b) Hyrcanus II; c) who knows?; d) who cares? LOL)

    Enough of meandering and on to a specific question: IIRC, you detect in CD a despondency over the death of the TR, with no hope of a successor. Are we to infer that the TR was a sort of post or honorific or mantle within this community? And if so, had TRs existed prior to your candidate, Hyrcanus, and may have a subsequent TR or TRs been recognized, despite the pessimism of CD?

    • Greg Doudna
      2017-03-09 16:04:41 UTC - 16:04 | Permalink

      Hi Matt, although there are a range of possibilities, I perceive the sobriquets are best understood in terms of “nicknames” anthropologically understood, not conferrable or inherited titles. My wife is a habitual nicknamer of persons at work when discussing with me. To this day I have vivid colorful stories of persons I have never met, do not know their names, and would not recognize if I met them, called (true nicknames coined by my wife): “the evil organ-player” [he delighted in verbal putdowns]; “John the scratcher” [he liked to scratch his crotch]; “the gravedigger” [occupation]; and “Mr. Texas” [loved his guns]. These are not inheritable honorifics or mantles. I see no real reason to suppose the TR, Liar, and WP sobriquets function differently in principle in the world of those texts than my wife’s nicknamings. I recognize some uncertainty but that is my default assumption for those terms. I realize this does not apply to all terms, e.g. Prince of the Congregation does seem to be a title or mantle, and Branch of David could have originated as the name for an eschatological notion which then would be amenable to more than one anciently-perceived fulfillment. And the reason why identification of the sobriquet-bearing figures, if possible, is of interest and why it matters (against those who hold your option “d”) is for the light it may shed on Tendenz or political partisanship of the circles who authored and possessed these texts, even if the modern interpretation of these allusions is roughly analogous to dream interpretation.

    • Greg Doudna
      2017-03-09 22:25:02 UTC - 22:25 | Permalink

      Eisenman probably more than about anyone has publicized the–for lack of a better term–Fourth Philosophy = Christ-movement argument in 1st CE. There have been other strong independent arguments as well, e.g. the little-known work of George Wesley Buchanan, The King and His Kingdom (1984), and Eric Laupot, “Tacitus’ Fragment 2: The Anti-Roman Movement of the Christiani and the Nazoreans,” Vigiliae Christianae, vol. 54, no. 3 (2000), pp. 233–47 (which remains substantial despite criticism from Carrier).

      Here is how this theory can be seen as compatible with the earlier deposit date of all of the literary texts in the caves of Qumran. The whole linchpin to everything is the dating and interpretation of the Damascus Document. Critical here is the article of Annette Steudel, “The Damascus Document (D) as a Rewriting of the Community Rule (S)” Revue de Qumrân 25/4 (2012): 605-620. Inverting traditional and prevailing views in Qumran scholarship, Steudel, along with Reinhard Kratz and a few others, convincingly show D is later than and rewrites from S, not vice versa. D is a late-composed text in the form in which it is known in the Qumran texts and Cairo Genizah, not early. I came to realize that the final composition of D is contemporary with the era of composition of the pesharim, and that this is all at the tail end of the Qumran texts, the final generation, the era of the Teacher vs. Liar conflict so central to the world of these texts, late 1st BCE.

      The whole key is the Teacher is Hyrcanus II, and the Liar is Herod, and the Qumran texts end–the entire deposits of all of the literary texts in the caves of Qumran–on that note. The texts, deposited at a former Hyrcanus II site (Qumran being essentially an outpost of and controlled from the Palaces at Jericho), now with the entire Hasmonean dynasty nearly exterminated by Herod according to Josephus, end in that context and on that note, with D holding out only a forlorn hope that “in forty years” (i.e. not imminent) a Messiah of Aaron and Israel will arise.

      But what happened after that? Hyrcanus II, or the 1st BCE Teacher revered high-priestly figure at the close of the texts whoever he may be, was not violent in the sicarii-terrorist sense that Josephus calls the Fourth Philosophy and attributes in origin to Judah of Galilee. And yet the world of D, the world of the Teacher’s circles of the Qumran texts, is a world in which the high-priestly figure, the Teacher, is explicitly not the Davidic violent warrior messiah which is foreseen to arise–an emphasis and ideological development which it is fairly mainstream scholarship reflected in a number of studies to reconstruct as having arisen and taken root starting ca. the second half of 1st BCE or ca. the time of Herod, very plausibly in response to and in opposition to Herod as its originating context.

      Compare: D opposed to Herod, with the hope in the world of D and the pesharim for a distinct Davidic warrior messiah to come, as the closing note of the Qumran texts as those texts end ca. end of the 1st century BCE. Militant Davidic messianism, which is arguably what Jewish-, as distinguished from Pauline, Christianity may have been other language for, in this way could represent development from and be in continuity from the end of the Qumran texts in the time of Herod. It would be post-Qumran texts’ development of Davidic messianism into–so to speak–radical al-Christiani terrorism in Judea, as the then-civilized Western world would have viewed it, and did if the Tacitus passage is genuine. This is the Eisenman and Laupot argument cut to essentials, though argued in different ways. In this line of argument the Fourth Philosophy, militant davidic messianism, 1st CE Jewish liberation movement activity in its various forms, the Nazorean movement, the Dagger-Men and other names by which such activity became known, could be the rest of the story, the postscript, the “what happened after that”, after the lights went out in the Qumran texts according to a long-overdue correction in the dating of the Qumran text deposits.

      • Matt Cavanaugh
        2017-03-10 02:57:54 UTC - 02:57 | Permalink

        Thanks again for providing copious points of reference, which I will pursue. Spurred by this lively and fascinating discussion on Vridar, I went back to review Eiseman’s theories, as well as revisiting 1QpHab, CD, the Epistle of James, etc. I remain persuaded that the community which produced the DSS is in some way linked to the first jewish-christians. This is not belied by a 1st c. BC dating of the three personalities, as Eisenman himself places the origins of the movement in the Hasmonean period.

        Sorting out questions like this is so often a matter of gradually circling around the target in ever-narrowing passes. Often, someone can be ‘right through being wrong’ — getting the gist correct while erring on specifics. (Perhaps Eisenman, or you, are incorrect on such details, but I feel both of you are in the ballpark.) We can see this, for example, with Einhorn’s ‘time-shift’ hypothesis, where she correctly and valuably identifies said time-shift, but IMO errs on the reason behind it. Similarly, in a different field, Lamarck was correct in deducing that evolution proceeded via the inheritance of traits, but can’t really be maligned for proposing a mechanism that turned out to be incorrect.

        It’s all a work in progress, and various & sundry solutions should be entertained. But we can take heart that we are, despited the occasional turns onto dead-ends, on the right trail.

      • Greg Doudna
        2017-03-10 05:19:24 UTC - 05:19 | Permalink

        I completely agree Matt, so well put. I think of Eisenman as like Babe Ruth, who was home-run king but also strikeout king–he made the records both ways. Today people remember Babe Ruth for the home runs not the strikeouts. Here are at least two homeruns of Eisenman in my opinion, both significant: Philip the Evangelist of Acts identified with Philip ben Jacimus of Josephus. And the argument in his original 1983 book that the Qumran sectarian texts speak of contexts and figures of interest of their authors’ own time, not two centuries earlier.

        My M.A. thesis advisor at Cornell, Martin Bernal, used to talk to me about “the sociology of scholarship”. I have often marveled that fundamental progress often is made not by adding +1 new fact to 10 existing facts to get 11, but rather by identifying and subtracting -1 non-fact from the 10 leaving 9 which now allows insights or solutions not previously considered possible, i.e. progress through subtraction instead of addition to knowledge.

  • 2017-03-07 01:23:17 UTC - 01:23 | Permalink

    Greg Doudna, I want your opinion on Norman Golb’s theory that the DSS manuscripts originated in a Jerusalem library or libraries. I tend to think that the manuscripts did originate elsewhere and were brought to Qumran probably to prevent destruction. I want to suggest that some of it may have belonged to the Leontopolis temple. Peter Richardson traces Jesus ben fabus to Leontopolis which is very important. There may have been a Leontopolis school of thinking which may be close to the Judaism of Jesus and Paul.

    • Greg Doudna
      2017-03-07 05:42:13 UTC - 05:42 | Permalink

      In my opinion all of the Qumran texts most likely came from Jericho, however some or many could have come to Jericho from Jerusalem or elsewhere while others were produced or copied in Jericho, not clear. I do not think the idea of refugees from Jerusalem bringing scrolls is right. I think those who deposited the scrolls in the caves did not intend to return to retrieve them prior to the end of the age (no more than anyone intended to return to retrieve human remains from the cemetery). However there are many ideas on this and it is difficult to know for sure, but this is my view.

      • Matt Cavanaugh
        2017-03-10 02:34:56 UTC - 02:34 | Permalink

        When do you suspect the DSS were ensconced at Qumran?

      • Greg Doudna
        2017-03-10 06:04:38 UTC - 06:04 | Permalink

        I am thinking somewhere ca. 25-1 BCE. The “Qumran lamps” in Cave 1Q appear associated with the scroll deposits in Cave 1Q and date narrowly in their manufacture and floruit specifically to the time of Herod (independently at Jericho and Masada, and after correct revision of de Vaux by Bar-Nathan and Magness, now also at Qumran); therefore the deposits in Cave 1Q are not earlier. But the deposits are not as late as the dates of copies of the biblical texts found at other Dead Sea sites which are all extremely-accurately-copied MT differing from Qumran’s biblical texts, none of which are. These exact-MT biblical texts at the other sites are 1st CE, such as at Masada. The “Qumran lamps” of Cave 1Q seem also to date the Cave 1Q scroll deposits, and by reasonable extension the other Qumran cave deposits, likely not later or not much later than the time of Herod.

        There is also the valuable hoard of Tyrian silver tetradrachmas found at Qumran Locus 120 of latest coins dated 9/8 BCE, most likely hidden at Locus 120 ca. 9-4 BCE yet for some reason never recovered. Why was that hoard not recovered? Does that hoard date an end of activity at Qumran associated with the end of the scroll deposits in the caves? The “Qumran lamps” did cease being manufactured at Qumran at about that very time. Unfortunately, certainty on some of these things seems lost in the mists of time, but this is my thinking.

  • Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *