23 DECEMBER 1972, Page 8

A Spectator's Notebook

"We do know more, and we do know better than our students" wrote the new Chairman of the Governors of the BBC, Sir Michael Swann, in a contribution in the Black Paper on education. Well, yes. But I hope he will not take quite the same attitude at the BBC. Reith, that dreadful man, would certainly have said, "We do know more, and we do know better than our listeners (and viewers) "; and this remains the trouble with the BBC. Of course it knows more, and better, than its audience — as does any popular institution. Sir Michael went on to say that his comment was "a blinding glimpse of the obvious "; but what matters is that this apologetic reflection did not prevent him from publishing the blindingly obvious utterance. What the BBC most requires is an attitude of respect towards, rather than of contempt for, its audience. The appropriate attitude of a Vice-chancellor towards his students is one thing; that of the BBC towards the public is another thing altogether. I hope that Mr Heath's new man at the BBC realises this. I also hope that Sir Michael does not copy the Prime Minister's attitude in this regard.

Dead Sea discovery

Professor Yadin — he prefers to be addressed as Professor rather than as General — the former great chief of staff of Israel's army and most distinguished archaeologist, was in London for a couple of days last week. He spoke to a small gathering in the RAF. Club in Piccadilly, and it was difficult to determine whether what he had to say on his present archaeological thinking was of greater or lesser consequence than his observations on the future of Middle East peace.

For the past years he has been working on what is perhaps the most important of all the Dead Sea scrolls, which he calls the Temple scroll. The Israeli authorities acquired this scroll during the Six Days War: it was being held, illegally, by a Jordanian dealer. "It is the most amazing of the scrolls " said Professor Yadin, " it is nine metres long, contains sixty-six columns." The scrolls already discovered and published have turned New Testament studies and work on the origins of Christianity upside down. The Temple scroll will excite vast interest.

The law of the Essenes

"What this scroll is," says Yadin, " is the Law, the Torah of the Essenes, neither more nor less. The writers of the scroll quote at length the Pentateuch, but they add to this the laws about the Temple and the Temple cult. It is generally accepted that many of the teachings contained in the already discovered Dead Sea scrolls influenced early Christian thought, especially the Apostle John, and Paul, much of whose writings were seen to be directly borrowed from the Essene teachings. Now, suddenly, this Temple scroll makes it appear that the Essenes were the most extreme, the most legalistic of all, in the matter of the strict observation of the Temple cult, even more so than the Pharisees, who were criticised by the Christians."

Exiled from Jerusalem

There is an apparent paradox here, as Professor Yadin immediately realised: for if the Essenes, the Hebrew community exiled from Jerusalem and living in the wilderness, were so powerful an influence on Christianity, as is apparently the case, and since primitive Christianity was itself a powerful reaction against the strict Pharisaical observances and interpretation of the pentateuchal laws of Moses, it has' been widely concluded that the Essenes themselves also took an anti-Pharisaical, liberal, 'Christian 'view and had been exiled, or had exiled themselves, for this reason. The opposite now appears to be the case. "How come?" Professor Yadin rhetorically asked himself and us.

" These people, these Essenes," he said, "are very extreme. From this scroll, it is clear they think the Temple in Jerusalem is not the right Temple but that there is a more holy temple that has been lost, that in this lost temple the sacrifices were more pure. I believe they couldn't live in Jerusalem. They therefore went into the wilderness and there they developed what was for them a deliberately ersatz cult, a cult for the Wilderness, that is, a Temple cult for those necessarily without a temple. John the Baptist, almost certainly

an Essene, and Paul lived in this time of the ad hoc theory and practice of the Essenes. I am sure that when the scroll is published, those who claim that the Essenes influenced Christianity will be in for a shock, when they discover what the Essenes really were.

Yadin as a politician

Professor Yadin also spoke persuasively of the present political situation. He greatly admires Moshe Dayan's administration of the occuped West Bank. He believes it would be foolish for Israel to declare what it would settle for in advance of negotiations with the Arab states. He recognises the grievance of the Palestinians, but "with whom do we talk?" I think he envisages a Palestinian state, on both sides of the Jordan, much as proposed by King Hussein — but without Hussein. I got the impression he'd settle for Yasser Arafat, if Arafat could demonstrate his control of the Palestinians. He was speaking as a private individual, but when he was asked whether he thought he might have a third career, after his military and his academic careers, as a politician, he smiled and replied "He said it. The -man said it. I don't want it. I am an archaeologist. But I take an interest in what is going on."

The education lobby

We had about a dozen education correspondents around for the presentation of the £500 first prize in our £1,000 Schools Writing Competition, and talking with them — some of whom I knew, but had never met collectively and profes• sionally — I discovered that there were almost fifty of them in their own education correspondents group; or lobby. It is fairly new, and I think dangerous, development for specialist journalists to group themselves together. Years ago, when I was Labour correspondent on the then Manchester Guardian (in what I like to think of as its intellectuallY respectable days), an Industrial Corre' spondents Group was formed, but along with several others I refused to join. Nowadays, I imagine that it is in practice almost obligatory to join, if the group will have you. Talking with the members of the education correspondents group, I disce ered that all but one of the forty-eight members were left-wing, some extremelY so. This struck me as pretty astounding: lt means that the treatment of education id the news and feature columns of oar newspapers and magazines is a virtual monopoly of the left. I asked some of theta why, and they seemed to think it was on natural — "because we are concerned with major social matters" was one explanation, vouchsafed as if it self' evidently sufficed. I then said "Aren't Yoll

also concerned about standards?" The

did not understand me, so I explained; "educational standards. Standards 0'

literacy and so forth. Standards upheld hY, most of the old grammar schools and threatened by some of the new cola'

prehensive schools. Standards tested 11 examinations, which some of you lot wad to do away with." They looked at Ire pityingly, thinking she barmy.