Stephen Goranson wrote:

> Prof. Kraft wrote that "infra" meant "downhill" here. That, I think,
> doesn't match the context. Just two brief notes for now. If you were to
> describe one of the following as notably high, which would you pick: Essene
> place, Ein Gedi, or Masada? Second, Bob wrote:
> >Thus I would say that Pliny's account is basically irrelevant for
> >arguments about Qumran's possible Essene connections.
> But, even if one were quite agnostic about "infra" in this case, it remains
> that Pliny's words on Essenes are not limited to "infra"! He describes them
> in ways that match Kh. Qumran and Qumran mss. And he still also locates
> them west of the Dead Sea, where Qumran still is.

Frequently Stephen (quite rightly) calls for discussion of the evidence in
these electronic threads, but in this case he apparently has not read
carefully the recent spate of postings on the Pliny passage and the
evidence and arguments offered there. I will not repeat what should be
there in the archives, but will simply list some of the observations that
seem to me to be pertinent (for those who did not wade through the
relevant postings):

1. Pliny locates his "Esseni gens" in a general area "from the west"
of the Dead Sea, having already noted places or areas from the east and to
the south. 

2. This Esseni area (real or imagined) avoids the undesirable aspects of
the coastline (Solinus describes the area as inland/interior; note also
possible connections with traditions on the location of Sodom).

3. The area is part of Pliny's Judaea, itself thought of in general as
"elevated" (super) in relation to Samaria and Idumea (both of which are 
placed along the Mediterranean coast by Pliny).

4. Thus "from the west" (Esseni land) one goes "infra" (down in elevation)
to the ruins of Engedi, and thence to the rock-fortress Masada, also near 
the Dead Sea.

5. Pliny's information seems to be at second hand or worse in this entire
section, with the Essene vignette probably coming from a "Believe it or
Not" (paradoxigraphical?) sort of composition relating to that part of the
world (especially the general "Judaea" area). 

Thus I would say that Pliny's account is basically irrelevant for
arguments about Qumran's possible Essene connections.


Robert A. Kraft, Religious Studies, University of Pennsylvania
227 Logan Hall (Philadelphia PA 19104-6304); tel. 215 898-5827

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