Prof. Elior proves her mettle once again by responding online to online discussion of her proposals. On this blog, she comments (retouched for ease of comprehension):
Let’s assume for a moment that there are some similarities between the Essenes and the Rule of the Community – [though they are] very insignificant in comparison to the content of the Rule of the Community speaking on Covenant; on priestly leadership; on righteous and pious ways relating to keeping the ancient priestly calendar and the commandments, on angels and priests; on blessings to the priests of the house of Zadok and on blessing to the High Priest[.] [W]hat about the other 999 scrolls that do not reflect any similarity to any of the  descriptions [of the Essenes]?
[Yet the scrolls] manifest great textual and contextual similarity to the priestly sources of the Bible and to the priestly laws of 'the priests of the house of Zadok' (known in English as Sadducees and in rabbinic Hebrew as Zedokim) as described in rabbinic sources[.]
Rachel (if I may),
Thanks first of all for the link to your homepage. Secondly, thank you for wading into a field that is not your own, and shaking things up a bit.
There are four lines of evidence and argumentation which cause trouble, perhaps irreparable trouble, for the way in which you frame the debate:
(1) A "consensus" scholar of the caliber of Emanuel Tov notes that "many of the biblical scrolls were apparently brought from other places in ancient Israel . . . it appears that Qumran was inhabited by Essenes (possibly identical with the Boethusians mentioned in rabbinic literature) whose halakhic practice may have derived from the that of the Sadducees, as suggested by an analysis of 4QMMT (see Sussmann*). . . It is . . . very important to clarify the place of origin of the texts found in Qumran. Some were apparently written in Qumran, while others were brought there from the outside. (Emanuel Tov, Textual Criticism of the Hebrew Bible, 2nd ed., Minneapolis: Fortress, 2001) 102).
In a series of articles, Tov has proposed "criteria for distinguishing between these two groups [Qumranic as opposed to extra-Qumranic provenance] referring to orthography, morphology, and scribal practice" (103; for details, see 107-111, op.cit.).
In short, your "1 vs 999" comment is way off base.
(2) Jodi Magness is the most eloquent defender of the consensus view from an archaeological point of view. She argues her case in a number of places. Here are Magness's conclusions, in the hot-off-the-press article on “Qumran” in the New Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible (Nashville: Abingdon, 2009) 4:705-709:
Recently proposed theories that interpret Qumran not as a sectarian settlement but as something else (e.g., villa, manor hours, commercial entrepot, fort, potter manufacturing center) divorce the scrolls from the site of Qumran; in other words, advocates of these theories argue that the inhabitants of Qumran did not use and deposit the scrolls in the nearby caves. This argument is disproved by archaeology, as the same types of pottery, some of which are distinctive to Qumran, are found in both the scroll caves and in the settlement. Furthermore, all of the alternative theories create more problems than they solve in terms of understanding the archaeological evidence. (709)
With respect to the largest room in the Period 1b settlement (L77), that it functioned as a communal dining room and assembly hall seems certain, given the adjacent pantry (L86) which contained over 1,000 dishes. Claims to the contrary notwithstanding, it is not the case that De Vaux’s hypothesis that the large room in the center of the main building in Period II is a “scriptorium” has been disproven. The hypothesis has been called into question, which is well and good, but not disproven. As Magness notes, “The debris of the second-story level yielded long, narrow, mud brick tables and a bench covered with plaster, as well as a plastered platform and inkwells (article cited, 707-708).
(3) The rabbinic sources, unlike Philo, Josephus, and Pliny, are not coeval to the period in question, and do not, at least in their current edited form, present us with univocal data (to put it mildly) in terms of Sadducees, Pharisees, Boethusians, minim, etc., of the Second Temple period. The kind of problems noted by Eckhard Schnabel in his article on the “Pharisees” in the New Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible (Nashville: Abingdon, 2009) 4: 485-496 are encountered in any attempt to uncover information about the historical "Sadducees" through references to Zedokim in rabbinic sources.
(4) Other conscientious attempts at identifying a set of sectarian documents among those found in the caves of Qumran need to be addressed and refuted before your "1 vs. 999" comment will be taken seriously. For example, Carol A. Newsom, "‘Sectually Explicit’ Literature from Qumran." The Hebrew Bible and Its Interpreters (William Propp, Baruch Halpern and David Noel Freedman, eds.; Winona Lake: Eisenbrauns, 1990) 167-187.