Dead Sea Scrolls Research Council: Fragments
Letters on the Qimron Lawsuit Against BAS
Ben Gurion University and Elisha Qimron Respond
I am attaching herewith the response from Professor Elisha Qimron to an article which appeared in the last edition of BAR (
Ami Oluska, Acting Vice-President
Development and International Affairs
Ben-Gurion University of the Negev
In the March/April BAR, an anonymous article appeared (
The anonymous author has presented my legal claim as if it were against “intellectual freedom” and the freedom to publish. This is completely false. My legal claim has nothing whatsoever to do with the issue of publishing the unpublished Qumran texts. It has to do only with the issue of authors’ rights. The three individuals whom I am suing are involved in the publication of my decipherment of MMT without having received prior permission from me. I must inform the reader that by “decipherment” I am referring to the joining together of diverse (sometimes minute) fragments and the further restoration of MMT which became possible only after many years of study. MMT is composed of about 70 pieces whose relative location was hard to establish (even now there still remain some unsolved problems). Those who published my work do not deny what they have done. They prefer to mislead the public by connecting my claim to matters which are completely irrelevant to it.
The restraining order issued by an Israeli court at my behest does not “ban BAR from selling their book of Dead Sea Scroll photos.” It bans BAR from selling their book so long as it includes my decipherment of MMT. BAR is certainly permitted to continue the sale of this book if it removes the single page containing my decipherment. Therefore, the appeal to the public to “contribute to the BAS Legal Defense Fund” and thus “join us in this fight for intellectual freedom” is at the very least deceiving. The public is in fact being requested to provide financial aid and moral support to three individuals who have been sued for a serious infringement that is both illegal and unethical. This infringement has caused me and my family a great deal of suffering. A major achievement of my professional career has been stolen from me.
Professor Elisha Qimron
As the many items in this section reflect, this a time for cooperation and conciliation as scholars all over the world are now working together in an open atmosphere to further Dead Sea Scroll research. Professor Qimron’s lawsuit is an exception. He apparently wants revenge—or perhaps simply cash. He is suing us for over $200,000, which he claims are his damages from our publishing on a single page of a 900-page volume a photocopy of a transcript of MMT in Hebrew that was previously published in a Polish journal.
Professor Qimron is suing not only the Biblical Archaeology Society and BAR editor Hershel Shanks, but also Professor Robert H. Eisenman, chair of the Religious Studies Department of California State University, Long Beach, and Professor James M. Robinson, one of the most distinguished scholars in the world. Robinson is director of the Institute of Antiquity and Christianity, chair of the religion faculty of Claremont Graduate School and one of the world’s leading experts on the Nag Hammadi codices and on the document known as Q, which forms a substrate of the Gospels of Luke and Matthew. The offending text that forms the basis of Professor Qimron’s lawsuit was attached to the Publisher’s Foreword to A Facsimile Edition of the Dead Sea Scrolls written by Shanks. Eisenman and Robinson had nothing to do with the fact that the transcript of MMT appeared as part of Shanks’ foreword. Yet they have been named as codefendants and are threatened with a judgment, if Professor Qimron is successful, of over $200,000. This lawsuit has caused them anguish and pain. As to Eisenman and Robinson, Qimron’s suit is grossly unfair.
This in fact is how Professor Qimron is fighting this lawsuit The lawsuit was filed without ever contacting any of the prospective defendants to see if the matter could be settled amicably. Without telling any of the defendants, Professor Qimron’s lawyers went into court to ask for an injunction against the distribution of the book anywhere in the world. That Professor Qimron’s lawyers could easily have notified the defendants that they were applying to the court for an injunction is clear: After they got the injunction without telling the defendants of their application, they faxed the injunction to the Biblical Archaeology Society and Shanks.
In an American court, Professor Qimron would have been required to show that he would be irreparably injured if the injunction were not issued. He made no such showing but the Israeli court nevertheless issued the injunction. In an American court, he would also have been required to show that he was likely to prevail on the merits, that he in fact suffered a legal wrong by the publication of the transcription of MMT. No such showing was made or required.
The fact is that almost every Dead Sea Scroll scholar has a copy of this transcript. Professor Qimron and his senior colleague in the publication of MMT, Professor John Strugnell (who has not joined in the suit) gave copies of this transcript to several colleagues. From there it has been faxed around the world. Courses are being taught on the basis of this transcript. Moreover, Qimron and Strugnell (who apparently gets no credit for his work on the transcript) have authorized a number of scholars to write articles about MMT after they were supplied with copies. One of these scholars is Professor Lawrence Schiffman of New York University, who wrote an article for our sister publication, Bible Review (“The Significance of the Scrolls,” BR 06:05). Lastly, this transcript has been previously published in a Polish journal The Qumran Chronicle.
Several people have attempted to serve as mediators to settle this lawsuit. The word we have gotten back is that “Qimron wants money.”
Ironically, the second printing of this two-volume set of the unpublished Dead Sea Scroll fragments does not contain the transcript of MMT. The second printing contains an entirely new Publisher’s Foreword appropriate to the new era in Dead Sea Scroll research. The new foreword does not contain any of the 22 documents attached to the foreword of the first printing. The text of the Publisher’s Foreword is entirely different.
Yet the lawsuit grinds on.
And it grinds on at enormous expense. If it goes on this way, we may even offer to give BAR to Professor Qimron in settlement.
To the many supporters of and contributors 077to our legal defense fund, we are deeply grateful.
We have offered to give public exposure to Professor Qimron’s important work. We would be honored to publish an article by Professor Qimron in BAR or in our sister publication Bible Review. He is a fine scholar. We would also report on his work. We will, of course, review the publication of MMT when it comes out in an official edition. We are informed that the publication will include notes and commentary of nearly 300 printed pages. We would then wish for Professor Qimron that he would be in such demand on the lecture circuit that he would be well on his way to becoming a millionaire and would not need any additional supplement from the Biblical Archaeology Society.—Ed.
Help Requested from Senator Robert Packwood
The following letter was sent to Senator Robert Packwood (Oregon), with a copy to BAR:
I enclose some material relating to a lawsuit in Israel against the Biblical Archaeology Society. Believing in the principles of free speech and free press as I do, I am hereby requesting that you use your influence in support of their position. Such a public-spirited American publisher should not be harassed in a foreign court halfway around the world like this.
David B. Lowry
Attorney at Law
Letters with Checks
I am enclosing my check for the Legal Defense Fund of the Biblical Archaeology Society in order to help you fight the ban on the sale of the Facsimile Edition. I am shocked to hear that a court would issue such an injunction without granting the defendants a hearing. I fully endorse your statement with respect to the suit brought by Professor Qimron. Please feel free to quote my endorsement.
The Divinity School
The writer is the immediate past president of the Society of Biblical Literature, the major organization of American Bible Scholars.—Ed.
I guess this last issue of BAR was a kind of “good news-bad news” situation, the good news being your recovery from the intracranial hemorrhage, the bad news being Professor Elisha Qimron’s lawsuit.
My wife and I have very little money. I have been working through temporary employment agencies since our return from China last October, but the work has not been well paying. My wife has failed to find any work at all. Still we have been able to support our church, stay off unemployment and keep our subscriptions to magazines like BAR paid up.
I have found BAR to be interesting and exciting, and it has opened up a whole new world to me since I subscribed several years ago. My one regret is that you don’t come out monthly.
I would like you to accept the enclosed gift for your legal defense fund. You say you are counting on your loyal subscribers to join you in this fight. You can count on me. I haven’t got much but if you need more, just let me know and I’ll do what I can.
Again congratulations on your recovery.
Ben Gurion University and Elisha Qimron Respond