Monday, October 22, 2018

MOTB Press Release on Fake Dead Sea Scrolls

I cite here the following excerpt from a Museum of the the Bible press release.
 WASHINGTON, Oct. 22, 2018—Today Museum of the Bible announced the results of third-party analysis of five of its 16 Dead Sea Scrolls (DSS) fragments. Utilizing leading-edge technology, the German-based Bundesanstalt für Materialforschung und -prüfung (BAM) has performed a battery of tests and concluded that the five fragments show characteristics inconsistent with ancient origin and therefore will no longer be displayed at the museum...


  1. As we noted more than two years ago when the collection was published, at least one of the editors of the Brill volume already thought they were fakes.

    An odd feature of this press release is the decision to withdraw the five tested fragments from display in the Museum and substitute with other fragments - which we should now presume are fakes as well. The purchasing history of the pieces should also be published in some form.

    1. Happily, "The museum has said the removed fragments will be replaced by three other fragments – but first, these will have to undergo their own testing to prove their legitimacy."

  2. What a pity for those students who worked so hard on these tiny fragments.

  3. Whatever the views of museum owners or of scientists (who, generally, cannot verify but can indeed falsify some claimed-ancient mss)--and whatever Providence may be--some of those who wrapped some mss in linen, put them in jars, capped and tied or sealed them with bitumen, and placed them in caves, were apparently hoping, not for permanent genizah burial, nor merely for hurried avoidance of Roman intrusion, but hoping for a time when temple and kingdom would be purified, and text could be reread.
    Some speculation. Philo famously mentioned Essenes, but not Sadducees or Pharisees, at least not explicitly. Philo's Every God Man is Free 89-91 was surely written before the first revolt. Colson in Loeb assumed it was a youthful work, but Maren Niehoff now (in her Philo biography) declares that it was written after his stay in Rome. In any case, there, after noting that Essenes esteem deeds (cf. ma'asim) more than words, in sections 89-91 two sorts of troublesome rulers have existed during the time of Essenes. (Joan Taylor, in The Essenes, the Scrolls, and the Dead Sea, pp. 36-39, proposed this as meaning Hasmoneans, since Herod favored Essenes.) Some were ferocious like wild beasts; others used soft-worded hypocrisy. In "Jannaeus, His Brother Absalom, and Judah the Essene" addendum on pages 34-36, I suggest the possibility that the former may include (according to Philo's source, maybe Posidonius or Strabo?) Sadducee-influenced rulers such as the Lion of Wrath, Jannaeus [Strabo, Geography 16.2.34-46, explicitly disapproved of him, Alexander, as superstitious and tyrannical, as departing from the good example of Moses]). And the other rulers, those influenced by Pharisees, in some Qumran-view, were flattering seekers of smooth things.

  4. The unprovenanced and odd "Hazon Gabriel" text on stone could use more scrutiny as a possible fake, imo.