Initial reaction to the interview with chief Dead Sea Scroll editor John Strugnell printed here can only be shock and disbelief. A distinguished theologian at Harvard Divinity School, a professor of Christian Origins, a man who has spent his life studying the Dead Sea Scrolls, harboring thoughts like these? Impossible!
Unfortunately, it is possible. The stories, the rumors, the gossip we had heard, but refused to print, have turned out to be true. This indeed is what the man thinks.
Now that it is all out—in all its vile details—what can be said?
Some of his students and colleagues have attributed Strugnell’s statements to his disturbed mental condition. But at most this accounts for his willingness to disclose these thoughts; it does not account for the fact that he holds these views. Moreover, Strugnell’s views as expressed in this interview are consistent with the stories that have been circulating for years.
His students and colleagues have urged that we be compassionate. For the man, we have compassion; but for his views, contempt.
It is clear that Strugnell cannot be permitted to function any longer as chief editor of the Dead Sea Scrolls. When a person with John Strugnell’s views handles these documents, he can only stain them. We say this despite his brilliance and competence as a scholar. These scrolls are, after all, a Jewish cultural treasure.
It is extraordinary that the Israelis have suffered Strugnell for so long. In the words of the distinguished Columbia University Professor Morton Smith, the Israelis should “stop shaking in their shoes over what people might think of them at Harvard.”
Once Strugnell is relieved of his position, the next question will be whether the Israelis will allow completely open access to the unpublished texts or whether they will continue Strugnell’s monopolistic policies. We urge that they end this scandal and throw the doors open.