Top positive review
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At last something new and meaningful about the Essene
on December 19, 2001
This is the *best* book I ever read about the Essene and Qumran to date. Dry, no-nonsensical, factual, sound... A bit "boring" here and there, but the matter is dry in itself, and the author is always essential and up-to-the-point, so the "boring" parts are always *very* short (never more than two pages).
The author begins by reviewing all we know about the Essene from ancient sources.
Then he thoroughly examines the literature that most resembles these features, the "Enochic" Jewish literature. He highlights a set of shared ideas in all of these texts, as well an important evolution in them along two centuries.
Next, he examines the ideology displayed by the Qumran literature, and compares it with the "Enochic" one. Boccaccini makes his point with great elegance and very convincingly: Qumran people were not "the Essene" at large, but just a schismatic (somehow fanatical) group that had parted from the Enochic tradition from which it derived, developing unique features and ideas. It is therefore an error using the Qumran texts to understand who "the Essene" were and what did they think.
Boccaccini proposes to rather identify "The Essene" with the "Enochich" tradition at large: if the Enochic party was not the "Essene" party, then it was its twin, he prudently suggests.
Most important is Boccaccini's memento about the fact that Enochic/Essene literature continued after "the parting of the ways" with the Qumran community. From this more recent tradition also Christianity stems, he hints.
And here is the most deceiving point in this book. The huge interest in Qumran was first caused, among other things, from the suspect it was sort of a "parent" community for Christianity. Christianity, Qumran texts seemed to suggest, might have had Qumranic, i.e. allegedly "Essene", roots.
What Boccaccini does, undercover, is showing that these roots were *not* planted in the Qumran tradition... but rather in the larger "Enochic" (Essene) tradition!
The lack of a chapter about Christian roots in Essenism is the weakest point in this book, at least to me (this was the first reason why I bought it). But by reading the title one realizes Boccaccini never promised to deliver such a chapter in the first place, hence my 5 stars.
However, prudence in an exceedingly "hot" issue, not lack of relevance of the issue, is the real reason why Boccaccini did not write such a chapter: all of the documents, and the reasoning, necessary to allow the reader to draw by himself this conclusion, are in this book. Simply, the author refrains from drawing this conclusion by himself, although he explicitly hints at it two or three times along the book.
I strongly recommend this work, but I warn about the need to complement it with other works if the Essene/Christian question is what you are interested in.