The Bible Lands Museum in Yerushalayim reports that five of the famous Dead Sea scrolls are fake and as such, they will be removed from display.
The scrolls, presumably 2,000 years old, were discovered in caves in the Judean Desert in the 1940s and 1950s. The Bible Lands Museum has conducted independent tests on the 16 Dead Sea Scrolls in its collection and learned that the 5 were not legitimate.
Now the museum has been forced to admit a painful truth: Technical analysis by a team of German scholars has revealed that at least five of the museum’s 16 scroll fragments are apparent forgeries.
The museum’s chief curator, Jeffrey Kloha released a statement on Tuesday: “Though we had hoped the testing would render different results, this is an opportunity to educate the public on the importance of verifying the authenticity of rare biblical artifacts, the elaborate testing process undertaken and our commitment to transparency.”
The announcement has serious implications not only for the Bible Museum but for other evangelical Christian individuals and institutions who paid top dollar for what now seems to be a massive case of archaeological fraud.
The scrolls are a collection of ancient Jewish religious texts first discovered in the mid-1940s in caves on the western shore of the Dead Sea. With more than 9,000 documents and 50,000 fragments, the entire collection took decades to fully excavate.
Most of the scrolls and fragments are tightly controlled by the Israeli Antiquities Authority. But around 2002, a wave of new fragments began mysteriously appearing on the market, despite skepticism from Biblical scholars.
These fragments, they warned, were specifically designed to target American evangelical Christians, who prize the scrolls. That appears to be exactly what happened; a Baptist seminary in Texas and an evangelical college in California reportedly paid millions to purchase alleged pieces of the scrolls.
Also eagerly buying up fragments was the Green family — evangelical Oklahoma billionaires who run the Hobby Lobby chain of craft stores and who famously sued the Obama administration on religious grounds, saying they didn’t want to pay to provide their employees access to the morning-after pill or intrauterine devices.
The Greens are the primary backers of the Museum of the Bible and went on an archaeological acquisition spree in the years leading up to the museum’s opening. In addition to the alleged Dead Sea Scrolls fragments, the Greens ran afoul of the Justice Department, which said they had acquired thousands of smuggled artifacts looted from Iraq and elsewhere. The family agreed last year to return those artifacts and pay a $3 million fine.
(YWN Israel Desk – Jerusalem / AP)