monastery (1st. century)

Stephen Goranson goranson at DUKE.EDU
Sun Aug 22 12:43:42 UTC 2004

The OED etymology for "monastery" includes "...Byzantine Greek, _monasthrion_
[h=eta] monastery (4th cent.)...." But the Greek monasterion appears much
earlier than that, in Philo of Alexandria, De Vita Contemplativa, 25 and 30.
Philo lived
from about 20 BC to about 50 AD.

I was reminded of this when I read recent misleading newspaper articles with
claims that Essenes have nothing to do with the Dead Sea Scrolls nor with
where they were found. Actually, evidence is increasing that Essenes lived at
Qumran and wrote some of the scrolls (others, of course, were imported).  J.-B.
Humbert and J. Gunneweg, Khirbet Qumran et Ain Feshkha vol 2 (2003), for
reports on yet another Qumran inkwell--no other site in Israel has reported as
many inkwells--as well as a Psalm-related inscription in that same locus.

In the 19th century some claimed that De Vita Contemplative was not by Philo
but by a 4th century Christian. (Eusebius added confusion by presenting DVC's
Therapeutae [servants or worshippers, not healers] as if they were Christians.)
But the book is certainly by Philo as shown in F. C. Conybeare, Philo, About
the Contemplative Life...Critically Edited with a Defence of its Genuineness
(Oxford 1895), with a fascinating excursus on the history of scholarship.

And the Hebrew source of the many Greek spellings of Essene (including Ossaioi)
is in the Dead Sea Scrolls as a self-designation in the pesharim texts, 'osey
hatorah, observers of torah. (Details in VanderKam and Goranson chapters in The
Dead Sea Scrolls After Fifty Years: A Comprehensive Assessment v. 2, 1999;
Modern Hebrew Issiim is merely a modern guess.)  The Qumran Essene
Hebrew Pesharim texts oppose the
Pharisees and Sadducees. In 1994 the Qumran text Miqsat Ma'ase ha-Torah was
finally officially publised. (This was the text subject of a lawsuit over a
prepublication.) This includes the collocation of the title, some of the works
[or observances, not precepts] of the torah.

 Previously  some scholars wondered whom Paul [formerly a Pharisee {specifier
and/or separatist, A. Baumgarten JBL 1983}] was addressing about ergon nomou,
works of the law. The Epistle of James (epistle of straw to Luther): be a doer
of the law, not a hearer only. But in Hebrew--according to the Historical
Dictionary of the Hebrew Language (1980 microfiche ed.) 'osey hatorah is unique
to Qumran mss.

Stephen Goranson

More information about the Ads-l mailing list