Steve Mason (B.A., M.A. McMaster, Ph.D. St. Michael’s) is Professor of History and Canada Research Chair in Greco-Roman Cultural Interaction at York University in Toronto. He edits the twelve-volume Flavius Josephus: Translation and Commentary (Brill, 2000-), and has contributed two of its volumes: Life of Josephus and Judean War 2. His other books include Flavius Josephus on the Pharisees (1991), Josephus and the New Testament (second edn. 2003), and Josephus, Judea, and Christian Origins: Methods and Categories (2009). He is currently writing a book for Cambridge University Press on the Judaean-Roman War of 66 to 74.
Bible & Archaeology Fest XII, November 20 – 22, 2009
The Historical Problem of the Essenes
Before the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, there was considerable interest in the group described by Greek and Latin authors as Essenes. Since the discovery of the Scrolls, interest in the Essenes has all but reduced to a single question (and strangely intense debate): whether they were the people settled at Qumran and the authors and preservers of the scrolls found near that site. Because that question has usually been answered in the affirmative, understanding of the Essenes has shifted accordingly, privileging the Scrolls as “primary evidence” for the group. Without trying to answer the usual question about Essenes at Qumran, in this talk I put it to one side and invite the audience to think again about the Essenes described by Philo, Pliny, and Josephus, and possibly mentioned favorably by Dio of Prusa, in the light of recent research on these authors.