QUMRAN AND THE DEAD SEA SCROLLS
Contemporary Jewish historians, Philo and Flavius Josephus provide us with rich data that agrees with what the Scrolls tell about their owners. Flavius, who is amazingly knowledgeable about Essenes when he describes the three major movements, devotes to the Essenes disproportionately 42 out of 47 paragraphs (War II, 119-161 on the Essenes and 162-166 on the other two movements). The data runs the gamut, from the sublime (e.g. the belief in predestination) to the utter trivial (in a gathering, the prohibition on spitting into the circle). The latter appears also in the Community Rule (1QS 7.3): ‘the man who spits into the midst of the assembly of the Many shall be punished thirty days’ (i.e. cutting the rations). Both Philo and Josephus tell us about Essenes leading celibate lives, though Josephus knows also of
the north-west coast of the Dead Sea (this is the interpretation shared by almost all scholars) and that the ‘solitary tribe of the Essenes . . . has no women and has renounced all sexual desire, has no money and has only palm trees for company’ (Naturalis Historia V, 73). As Qumran was the ﬁrst monastery in the Western World the term monastery was not available to Pliny, otherwise he might have used it.