Soli Deo Gloria? The Scholars, the Market, and the Dubious Post-2002 Dead Sea Scrolls-like Fragments

Meanwhile, however, since the early 1990s, researchers in fields like archaeology and heritage studies have expressed growing concern about the role of academics as facilitators of illicit trading in ancient texts and objects from countries suffering from extensive looting and unlawful removal of prehistoric material. Despite this widespread awareness, reflected in a growing number of laws, regulations and international policies to prevent looting, smuggling and illegal trade in cultural objects, many scholars in the field of biblical studies continue to receive unprovenanced material with enthusiasm.

By Årstein Justnes
Professor, Department of Religion
University of Agder, Norway
Leader of the Lying Pen of Scribes Project

Josephine Munch Rasmussen
Ph.D., lecturer
University of Oslo
November 2017

Click here for article.

Comments (3)

Do you consider that anyone who studies valuable objects acquires an interest - an objective interest, that is, whatever the subjective commitment to honesty and impartiality - to validating rather than discrediting objects purporting to be valuable? It’s presumably the same whether you’re a palaeographer or a stockbroker - if you spot good stuff you get a share of the money pursuing that stuff and you get a reputation for being an interesting and exciting person. The reason for this is the general craving for sensation and excitement rather than for tedium and more of the same, which I suppose we cannot change.

#1 - Martin Hughes - 11/17/2017 - 14:48

The direct personal involvement by a handful of well known DSS in this brokering of scrolls, some of which are forged, looted has been going on for decades. The DSS scholars themselves and the universities by their silence are enablers, the former by those whom have placed their career before the profession and the latter protecting the 'good name' of the university and the theological school. Its good to see that these two authors have the courage to speak up while others remain silent, ye shall reap what ye shall sow. Same way with the James ossuary, biblical scholars, were aware of what was going on, five or more saw the ossuary before it hit the press, but had a vested interested in keeping silent.

#2 - joe zias - 11/25/2017 - 18:20

Thanks for this article.

The rather vaguely-described collection of manuscripts (as to contents and provenance), according to a video--at Bruce H. Porter, is intended to become, after purchase, an "American collection" and a "national treasure." The video states that the manuscripts "have not ever been translated" in any scholarly venue and that the "few" scholars who have seen them have only "had a preliminary look," yet "what's in them is new." The Ancient Discovery Investment Group, which presents the documents as "priceless" or "astronomical" ("if the description is true and authenticated"), as cited in the article, claims that the "authenticator" (who, according to the video, unless out of date, or poorly-informed, would have had only a "preliminary look") stated the documents will "revolutionize our thinking about traditional Christianity."

I'm interested in ancient manuscripts, though this description, so far, does not inspire confidence.

#3 - Stephen Goranson - 11/27/2017 - 12:09

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