Dead Sea Scroll Bombshell: Scholar Says Essenes Authors Never Existed

March 18, 2009

(ChattahBox)–A controversial story from Time this week reports on claims made by prominent Israeli scholar, Rachel Elior that the ancient sect of Essenes never existed; long believed by many historians as the authors of the Dead Sea Scrolls. Elior makes the case that instead, the Sadducees, a community formed by Zadokite priests, were the actual authors of the scrolls. Elior’s claims set off a bombshell of biblical proportions in scholastic circles. Scroll historians have long theorized the Sadducees contributed to the authorship of the 900 scrolls, found by a Bedouin shepherd in 1947 in the caves of Qumran. However, Elior is the first prominent academic to claim the community of Essenes never existed. She claims the Essenes are a made-up literary invention.

The Dead Sea Scrolls, consisting of nearly 900 manuscripts and thousands of aged and brittle fragments of parchment, are considered the most historically important religious texts existing before the birth of Christ. The scrolls are carbon dated, ranging from the 2nd century BC to the 1st century AD and shed light on early Judaism and Christianity.

Elior, as Hebrew University’s head of the Department of Jewish Thought, claims a careful study of all 39 volumes of the Scrolls, especially the “Miqsat Ma’ase haTorah,” proves that the Sadducees are indeed the legitimate authors of the scrolls. Elior theorizes that renegade sons of Jewish Priest, Zadok fled to Qumran with the precious scrolls and secreted them in caves.

Elior argues if the Essenes did indeed exist, then they would be mentioned by name in the Scrolls. Critics of her theory contend Essenes referred to themselves as “Sons of light,” or “Men of holiness” and were not known at that time as Essenes. Scores of prominent biblical scholars believe there is proof that Essenes’ groups lived in Qumran. It is believed they fled from the Romans and hid the Scrolls in caves, before they were massacred

This controversy is sure to be debated among historians for quite some time. Elior’s reputation as a respected Jewish scholar certainly gives her theories more weight then a previous theory that the Scrolls were planted by extra-terrestrials.


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