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Essenes and lurking spartans in Josephus’ judean war: From story to history

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Chapter Summary

Once the site of Qumran had been identified as an Essene installation and the Dead Sea Scrolls declared Essene productions, this nexus imposed constraints upon interpreters of both the DSS and the Greek and Latin texts that describe Essenes. This chapter focuses on understanding the Essenes of Josephus' Judean War. Josephus concedes that the Spartans have long since abandoned their noble traditions and therefore lost their sheen, as Plutarch also allows, so that the Judeans have a much longer and more impressive record of rigorous training discipline, endurance, and courage as witnessed by the recent war. The people of the Scrolls were about as far as one could get from Josephus' view of the world. It seems no less improbable that Flavius Josephus promoted the sect(s) behind the DSS and remade them as ideal Essene philosophers than that President Clinton should have promoted the Branch Davidians as model Americans.

Keywords: Dead Sea Scrolls; Essenes; Josephus; Judean War; Plutarch; site of Qumran; Spartans



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