BAR is frequently asked why the scholars who control access to the unpublished Dead Sea Scrolls won’t release them. To those unfamiliar with the arcane of scholarly conventions—and that’s most of us—it’s a natural question, but one that we at BAR have difficulty in answering. To us, there seems no sensible answer. So we usually direct the questioner to the scroll editors themselves: “You’ll have to ask them.”

The most candid answer we have heard comes from Harvard’s Frank Moore Cross, one of the original scroll editors, speaking on the Australian Broadcasting network:

Q: Why don’t the scholars on the [publication] team want to give other scholars access?

Cross: It is material that people [on the publication team] have put 10 to 20 years of their lives into and hence simply don’t want to give it away to other scholars to publish and take the credit for. They’re somewhat jealous of their work. There’s a comparable jealousy of scholars for their work that you find in many fields.

On the one hand, I would say that the team has been slow. On the other hand, I think one must understand the human desire to have some credit for work done, and that is the situation here.

Q: What would you say to those scholars who are outside the team?

Cross: Be patient. It will come in good time. Meanwhile, work on the volumes that have been published.

It is our view that the scholars who now control the unpublished texts would get far more credit—indeed, public acclaim—if they would immediately release photographs and transcriptions of all the texts. Indeed, they would be heroes. Everyone will recognize their pioneering work in editing, transcribing and reconstructing the texts. They also have a 30-year head start on anyone else who wants to write a commentary on the unpublished texts. The scroll editors are brilliant people who need have no fear of competition. Their names will be forever associated with these precious documents.

Instead, by their intransigence, they bring upon themselves the world’s condemnation.