I am old enough to remember when you had to ask the reservation clerk at the hotel if the room had a private bath. Sometimes it didn’t. Sometimes it had no telephone, either. I don’t ask those questions anymore. So I failed to ask the clerk at the Radisson Suite Hotel in Kansas City if their rooms had thermostats to regulate the heat. After all, the Annual Meetinga takes place at the end of November. It could be—and it was—freezing in Kansas City. I asked about a thermostat only after the first night—spent pushing a button to get heat only to end up roasting, then pushing the “off” button and waiting until the room turned freezing cold again. The next morning I asked the question and was told that the hotel’s room heaters lacked thermostats.
Alas, that incident became for me a symbol of the accommodations in Kansas City. But I was lucky. Many of the thousands of Annual Meeting attendees were housed in hotels miles from the convention center where most of the sessions were held. Long lines for too-few mediocre restaurants made eating a chore. Even the cafeteria lines at the convention center could not handle the crowds—a few more cashiers would have eased the congestion. The Annual Meeting simply proved too big for Kansas City. Everyone I talked to agreed.
If there was a dominant theme to the meeting, it was the liberation of the Dead Sea Scrolls. We rode in from the airport with Charles U. Harris, former treasurer of ASOR, and we immediately began discussing the scrolls. At one point, to correct our seeming ignorance, the taxi driver interrupted to say that a two-volume edition of the previously secret scrolls had just been published.b Charles told the taxi driver of my relation to the project, and we all had a good laugh.
More importantly, recent events concerning the Dead Sea Scrolls led both SBL and ASOR to consider changes in the rules and conventions that have hitherto governed access to unpublished ancient manuscripts. This could be the major significant fallout of the recent scrolls controversy: Scholars themselves are, for the first time, considering as a profession how to handle access to, and publication of, ancient inscriptional remains. This, in turn, is opening up related questions concerning access to, and publication of, noninscriptional archaeological remains (another sometimes scandalous situation) and the preservation and conservation of both inscriptional and noninscriptional remains.
At least six groups in SBL and ASOR have been considering these questions. The most decisive action was taken by SBL. Harvard’s Helmut Koester, who was the 1991 SBL president, announced the adoption of a strong resolution “to encourage prompt publication of ancient written materials and ready access to unpublished textual materials.” Even though an official editio princeps may be authorized, according to the resolution, “such authorization should neither preclude access to the written materials by other scholars nor hinder other scholars from publishing their own studies, translations, or editions of the written materials.” Moreover, the authorized edition should be completed in no more than five years.
The text was adopted by SBL’s Research and Publications Committee after having been drafted and approved by an ad hoc subcommittee headed by James C. VanderKam of the University of Notre Dame. Also on the subcommittee were Harold Attridge of Notre Dame and Steven Emmel of Yale. VanderKam read the resolution to a special SBL session on the scrolls attended by over 500 scholars.
At the special session, Koester also announced that this resolution was not simply going to be filed away. The Research and Publications Committee directed that the resolution be circulated to funding agencies, publishers and other learned societies to encourage their participation in this policy development.
Koester stated that both the official Dead Sea Scroll editing team and the Israel Antiquities Authority had agreed to cooperate with the new policy embodied in the SBL resolution.
At the special SBL session, Hebrew University professor Emanuel Tov, editor-in-chief of the official scroll editing team, conceded that “the rules of the game have changed.” He admitted that he had “mixed feelings” about the changes. “Only the future will tell if the result will be good or bad scholarship,” he said. Notre Dame Professor Eugene Ulrich, head of the official scroll editing team in the United States, also expressed reservations. “I have always been in favor of openness,” he said, “but openness with responsibility, within the system.” “Systems,” he added, “are better than anarchy.” Ulrich called for “trust, harmony and cooperation.” However, he refused to shake hands with BAR’s editor, a reminder that amidst the good feeling some bitterness remains.
Professor James A. Sanders of the Ancient Biblical Manuscript Center at Claremont, California, a depositary of Dead Sea Scrolls photographs that until recently had been bound by the Israel Antiquities Authority regulations permitting only restricted access, announced that “We are very happy we don’t have to be part of a cloak-and-dagger operation anymore. We are very happy at recent developments.”
At one point in the special session, reference was made to Hebrew Union College professor Ben Zion Wacholder, who, with graduate student Martin Abegg, is preparing computer-generated transcripts of the unpublished scrolls. The first fascicle of these transcripts was recently published by the Biblical Archaeology Society and was a key element in the events of last fall that led to the breakdown of the official cartel 055that controlled the scrolls. At the mention of Wacholder’s name, the audience burst into spontaneous applause. Wacholder was in the audience. White-haired and nearly blind, he stood to acknowledge the gratitude of the audience, and waves and waves of applause continued to envelop and then wash over the short, stooped scholar as he stood silent and serene.
The director of the Huntington Library, William A. Mofett, spoke of the Huntington’s role in breaking down the controls that had for four decades limited access to the scrolls. In September 1991, the Huntington announced that it would make available its set of photographs to all scholars, regardless of objections by the official editing team and Israel’s Antiquities Authority.
No direct reference was made at the session to the two-volume photographic edition of the scrolls prepared by Professor Robert H. Eisenman of California State University, Long Beach, and Professor James M. Robinson of Claremont Graduate School and the director of its Institute of Antiquity and Christianity. (The Biblical Archaeology Society, publisher of this photographic edition, announced its publication just days before the Kansas City meeting.) However, Tov stated that neither the Wacholder-Abegg publication of transcripts nor the Eisenman-Robinson publication of photographs made any difference to the activities of the official editing team.
In contrast to SBL, ASOR proceeded more tentatively.
VanderKam also heads ASOR’s Ancient Manuscript Committee, and it was hoped that ASOR and SBL would adopt the same resolution. But this was not to be. ASOR’s Ancient Manuscript Committee modified the resolution proposed by VanderKam. But even this did not survive ASOR’s trustees meeting. Another ASOR committee, the Committee on Archaeological Policy (CAP), had been considering the issue of access not only to inscriptional materials, but also to other archaeological remains (as well as their prompt publication). Professor Walter Rast of Valparaiso University, the chairman of CAP, told the ASOR trustees that his committee had “extreme reservations about the resolution passed by the Ancient Manuscript Committee and therefore opposed its adoption.”
Why should a scholar work on an inscription if someone can then come and steal his work, asked one ASOR trustee. Another ASOR trustee talked of the unfairness if one scholar had raised funds for an excavation and another scholar, with access to the inscription under the new rules, were able to publish it at no financial cost.
Johns Hopkins professor Jerrold Cooper, another ASOR trustee, stated that “We are on the threshold of a new age.” Clearly, he said, this results from the situation with the Dead Sea Scrolls. But the issue regarding the Dead Sea Scrolls has now been resolved: “We should not take over-hasty action born of a need to take a stand on an issue that is over and done with.”
The ASOR trustees voted to receive the resolution of the Ancient Manuscript Committee and remand it for joint reconsideration by that committee and by CAP.
CAP is aware that it is sitting on a volcano. The failure to publish the results of excavations is the whispered scandal discussed by every archaeologist working in the Near East—but not publicly. Yet the profession as a whole has never addressed the problem. As in the case of ancient manuscripts, access to unpublished archaeological finds is controlled by the excavator. In the case of finds uncovered in an excavation, other scholars would not in the ordinary course of events even be aware of the find. The situation is further complicated by the fact that only the excavator has all the information necessary to publish the find properly as part of the entire excavation. Thus, not only is the situation complicated, but there is no easy solution, despite its extreme importance. As ASOR president Eric Meyers told the ASOR trustees, publication of the results of excavations is “at the core of what we are about.
After the ASOR trustees remanded the matter jointly to the two ASOR committees, James Sanders, also an ASOR trustee, proposed “that an open symposium sponsored by ASOR and SBL be held during the Annual Meeting in San Francisco in 1992, to air all proposals openly before the entire membership, with the aim of formulating a ‘Bill of Rights’ for the salvaging, preservation of, situating, and access to all manuscript discoveries as a common heritage of all civilization.” The motion was adopted.
Whatever the result, we can only welcome the determination of archaeologists as a profession to address the “silent scandal”—not only the lack of access, but equally important, the failure to publish the results of excavations. On the periphery of this subject is the failure to preserve and conserve sites and finds. No greater contribution could be made to the profession than to address and resolve these problems.
Unfortunately, ASOR has other 056problems. It is struggling for its existence amid dangerous financial stringencies. Ably led by Meyers and his team, it is addressing its financial problems responsibly and with a spirit of optimism, yet it is clearly being shunted aside at the Annual Meeting by SBL and AAR, both of which are healthier and much larger than ASOR. For years, ASOR has been the junior partner at the Annual Meeting. The cover of the telephone-book size program has featured SBL and AAR, with a small recognition that the meeting is also with ASOR. This year there was no reference whatever to ASOR on the cover. The ASOR presentations were not even listed chronologically with the SBL and AAR presentations, as was the case in the past. Instead, the ASOR program was listed separately at the end.
This isolation only emphasized the feebleness of the ASOR program. The listing of scholarly talks took up 84 pages in the program. Of these 84 pages, three were enough to list the ASOR offerings. It was the smallest ASOR program in memory, approximately half the size of recent years. And even some of these were joint offerings with SBL and AAR, so ASOR would not have to pay for the cost of the meeting room.
But financial problems do not really account for the paucity—and unimaginative quality of these offerings. The presentations were simply responses to the call for papers. The program committee made no effort to organize a broadly based program.
It is easy to sympathize with ASOR because of its severe financial problems. But it lacks not only money; it lacks vision. ASOR has the potential to be as strong and vigorous an organization as SBL or AAR. Archaeology has a fascination and interest often greater than the Biblical text itself. Archaeology grabs people. Imagine an ASOR program that had sessions on Hittite archaeology, Egyptian archaeology, Mesopotamian archaeology, a consultation on Philistine origins, a plenary program on the archaeology of the Israelite United Monarchy. Another on new finds from the Israel Antiquities Authority, a session on women in ancient art, another on synagogues, churches and monasteries. How about programs devoted to a comparison of antiquities laws, the problems of site looting, illegal excavations and site preservation? How about Hellenism in the Holy Land or archaeology and classical prophecy? None of this is covered by ASOR in any systematic way. It is a startling fact that SBL offers programs on the archaeology of the New Testament, but ASOR does not. Amnon Ben-Tor, the Israeli director of the new excavations at Hazor, is in the United States this year—at Yale. Ben-Tor found a cuneiform tablet that may lead him to an entire archive. But he was not invited to give a paper on the ASOR program. Indeed, almost none of the ASOR leaders who attended the Annual Meeting gave substantive papers.
As usual, the University of Arizona’s Bill Dever stood out on the ASOR program. The former director of the William F. Albright School of Archaeological Research in Jerusalem not only gave a major paper exploring Israelite ethnicity in the archaeological record, he organized a heartwarming program in honor of the centenary of the birth of the great American Biblical archaeologist, William Foxwell Albright, who died in 1971. The Albright program opened with charming reminiscences by three men who knew and worked with Albright intimately—Avraham Biran, director of Hebrew Union College’s Nelson Glueck School of Biblical Archaeology; Sam Iwry of Johns Hopkins and Baltimore Hebrew Universities; and Yosef Aviram, who for 52 years has directed the work of the Israel Exploration Society. Four other papers analyzing Albright’s work followed. The last, by Dever himself, concluded, in typical Deverian fashion, that almost nothing is left of the “house that Albright built.” It has all been demolished by later scholarship. Some would have put it differently: We all stand on Albright’s shoulders.
The 1992 Annual Meeting will be in San Francisco on November 21–24.
I am old enough to remember when you had to ask the reservation clerk at the hotel if the room had a private bath. Sometimes it didn’t. Sometimes it had no telephone, either. I don’t ask those questions anymore. So I failed to ask the clerk at the Radisson Suite Hotel in Kansas City if their rooms had thermostats to regulate the heat. After all, the Annual Meetinga takes place at the end of November. It could be—and it was—freezing in Kansas City. I asked about a thermostat only after the first night—spent pushing a button to get heat […]