Resolution Calls for Release of Dead Sea Scrolls
For the first time, the community of Dead Sea Scrolls scholars has, as a profession, confronted the unusual delay in publication of so many of the texts from Qumran.a
Ironically, this occurred not in the U.S. or Israel but in Poland, under the auspices of the Polish Academy of Sciences.
The cry for freedom for the still-secret Dead Sea Scroll texts—scholars are not even permitted to see photographs of the unpublished texts—comes from Mogilany, a little village outside Krakow, where prominent scholars from the United States, England, Israel, Germany, France, Australia, as well as from Poland and Russia, gathered each day for five days last September in the manor house of the village to deliver papers and talk to one another in an effort to understand the Dead Sea Scrolls and the people who wrote them.
One evening was devoted to the fact that so many Qumran texts are still unavailable to the scholars—more than 30 years after their discovery. At the end of the session, the colloquium of scholars adopted a resolution, known as the Mogilany Resolution of 1989, which stated:
“This Colloquium of Qumran scholars finds the present and continuing delay in publication of Qumran scrolls material wholly unacceptable, damaging to the continued health of the subject and depriving yet a third generation of Qumran scholars, linguists, philologists and historians of material which in point of fact could have been long since available. Such delay cannot possibly have been foreseen or intended by the grantors of the rights to preparation of such material for publication.”
The resolution called for “plates of all as yet unpublished material [to be published] as soon as possible as separate volumes and in advance of the accompanying definitive critical editions of that material.”
The resolution further called on “the relevant authorities in Israel [to] release these plates to the Clarendon Press [Oxford University Press] for such immediate publication.”
Interest in the Dead Sea Scrolls is surprisingly intense in Poland. Nearly 400 scholarly articles have been written on the scrolls in Polish. (One scholar at the conference, Professor Fred E. Young, of the Kansas Qumran Project, Kansas City, Kansas, has assembled in his computer over 10,000 articles worldwide on the Dead Sea Scrolls.) Arrangements are being made for the Sheffield Academic Press at the University of Sheffield in England to publish translations of East European works on the Dead Sea Scrolls.
What effect the Mogilany Resolution will have is of course unknown at this time. As it passed unanimously, one Israeli scholar in attendance remarked knowingly, “It will mean nothing.”
Other attempts at organized efforts to obtain release of the unpublished texts have reportedly foundered for fear of offending powerful scholars who presently control access to the texts.
At another Dead Sea Scrolls conference held last summer at Groningen, Belgium, Eugene Ulrich of the University of Notre Dame, a member of the scrolls publication team, distributed a list of the still-unpublished Biblical texts. It contains 127 different Biblical texts on 203 plates from every book of the Pentateuch, Joshua, Judges, Samuel, Kings, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, the 12 minor prophets, Psalms, Proverbs, Job, Ruth, the Song of Songs, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, Daniel, Ezra and Chronicles. These are to be published in four volumes (Volumes 9–12) in the series Discoveries in the Judean Desert (Oxford University Press). One volume (Volume 9) is completed and is ready for publication. Volume 10 will be completed in 1990. Volume 12 will be completed in 1992. Volume 11 will consist principally of texts of Samuel assigned to Professor Frank Cross of Harvard. Professor Cross estimates that he will have these texts ready for publication by 1991.
No One at Tel Aviv University Qualified to Edit Dead Sea Scrolls
Asked to explain why no one from Tel Aviv University, Israel’s largest university, was included in the small coterie of scholars permitted to edit the hundreds of still-unpublished Dead Sea Scrolls, found in the caves of Wadi Qumran 35 to 40 years ago, chief scroll editor John Strugnell replied, “We are looking for quality in Qumran studies; and you don’t get it there [at Tel Aviv University].”
Strugnell spoke on November 13 on a panel at Princeton University, sponsored jointly by Princeton’s religion department and by the Institute of Semitic Studies, also located in Princeton, New Jersey.
When challenged, Strugnell declined to give a blanket authorization to other scholars to see photographs of the unpublished Qumran texts assigned to him and which he alone controls. He also declined to make available Xerox copies of an important text of 121 lines known as MMT, which is a letter containing a series of laws, written perhaps by the leader of the Dead Sea sect. The existence of MMT has been known for only about five years since Strugnell announced it at several scholarly conferences. MMT was discovered in one of the Qumran caves in the 1950s. Strugnell, in collaboration with Israeli scholar Elisha Qimron, has written a 500-page commentary on MMT, reflecting the importance of the document. Strugnell has permitted several select scholars to see MMT, and they have even written scholarly articles about it. But no one else is permitted to see it. Strugnell says he hopes MMT will be published very soon. He acknowledged that what he called a “pirated text” of MMT has 066been circulating, but he refused to make available a Xerox of his own transcription. “If they want it [in advance of publication], they’ll have to make do with the pirated text,” he said.
Strugnell also revealed for the first time that he is the author of the “Suggested Timetable” released last year under the imprimatur of Israel’s Department of Antiquities. Strugnell wrote it and the Department of Antiquities “accepted” it, he said. Previously, the Department of Antiquities had refused to divulge this information. The “Suggested Timetable” represents, Strugnell said, a “reasonable guess” of when, “give or take a few years,” the scholars’ work would be completed. He made the guesses after “talking” to the scholars.
Strugnell explained the difference between the 1996 deadline in the “Suggested Timetable” and other dates as late as 2004 that he has given to the press, stating that the additional time was needed to get the volumes into print after the scholars complete their work. Oxford University Press, the publisher, “grinds very slowly,” Strugnell said.
Also on the panel with Strugnell were Eugene Ulrich of Notre Dame University; Norman Golb of the University of Chicago and the Oriental Institute; and Hershel Shanks, editor of BAR. The sessions were chaired by James H. Charlesworth of Princeton Theological Seminary and John G. Gager of Princeton University. Ephraim Isaac, director of the Institute of Semitic Studies, introduced the sessions.
“Chalcolithic Cyprus,” featuring sculpture, pottery and a large idol, some dating to 3500 B.C., will be on view at the J. Paul Getty Museum, in Malibu, California, from February 22 until April 11. Included in the exhibit are new finds from the excavations at Kissonerga. Vassos Karageorghis, adviser to the president of Cyprus on cultural property, will deliver a lecture on the evening of the exhibit’s opening. The lecture is free, but reservations are required. The museum is at 17985 Pacific Coast Highway, Malibu, CA, 90265; (213) 459–7611.
Two other exhibits, described in previous issues of BAR, will move to new venues in February. “Carthage: A Mosaic of Ancient Tunisia” (see Museum Guide, BAR 15:06), opens at the Cincinnati Art Museum on February 7 and runs through April 8. The museum is at Eden Park, Cincinnati, OH 45202; (513) 721–5204. “Holy Image, Holy 067Space: Icons and Frescoes from Greece” (see Museum Guide, BAR 15:05), moves to the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, 2800 Grove Avenue, Richmond, VA 23221; (804) 367–0852. The show will be there from February 27 until April 29.
Yigal Shiloh City of David Exhibit Opens in Jerusalem
Marking the second anniversary of his death, an exhibit of Yigal Shiloh’s discoveries from eight years of excavations in the earliest Jerusalem, the City of David, is now open to the public. A fitting memorial to this giant of Israeli archaeology, the exhibit at the Hebrew University Institute of Archaeology on Mt. Scopus displays figurines, arrowheads, pottery and seals, with explanatory texts and photos.
BAR readers over the years have followed the progress of the City of David dig in the pages of the magazine, from our first report (“Digging in the City of David,” BAR 05:04) to “The City of David After Five Years of Digging,” BAR 11:06, up to the two-part interview with the scholar, just before his death, published in the March/April and May/June 1988 issues (
If you will be in Jerusalem before June of 1990, plan to combine a visit to the archaeological remains and reconstructions in the City of David, such as the stepped-stone structure, Warren’s shaft, the “bullae house” and “Ahiel’s house,” with a trip to the exhibit honoring Yigal Shiloh—the man whose energy and scholarship gave us an enlarged vision of Jerusalem’s ancient past.
Photographs of Unpublished Dead Sea Scrolls at Ancient Biblical Manuscript Center
In “New Hope for the Unpublished Dead Sea Scrolls,” BAR 15:06, we reported that a set of photographs of the Dead Sea Scrolls—both published and unpublished was at the Institute for Antiquity and Christianity at Claremont, California. James M. Robinson, the director of the Institute, advises us that they are actually at the Ancient Biblical Manuscript Center, of which James A. Sanders is president. While the two institutions are on adjacent campuses and have “good fraternal relations,” they are not formally connected. As to the Dead Sea Scrolls, Professor Robinson says he is as much an outsider as anyone. Were the Dead Sea texts under his jurisdiction, he would feel “morally obligated” to see that they were made available, as he did with the Nag Hammadi codices of which he was chief editor.