Saturday 22 September 2018

The MOB's Dead Sea Scrolls Duds?

On the 'Lying Pen of Scribes [Manuscript Forgeries and Counterfeiting Scripture in the Twenty-First Century]' blog, Årstein Justnes has made an absolutely devastating collection of quotes from a recent catalogue of the Museum of the Bible's Dead Sea Scrolls fragments, raising the very real possibility that not just some, but all of them - every single one - are faked (“Troubling anomalies”, and elements that raise “questions”, “suspicions”, and “concerns” in Dead Sea Scrolls Fragments in the Museum Collection (Brill, 2016) Sept 20th 2018)
In particular, bearing in mind this catalogue was compiled by scholars working on material held in a recently-created private collection:
I was surprised that there is no thorough discussion of issues like provenance and forgery (see my review). The volume as a whole shows a fascinating lack of interest in the these issues, and the authors seem to avoid an explicit discussion of them. Especially noting that some of the authors (esp. Kipp Davis) present some fairly sharp and fine observations that cast serious doubts on a majority of the fragments’ “authenticity”, it is all the more strange to see that there is no discussion that leads to(wards) a conclusion of the essential questions: Are these fragments (or some of them) forgeries or most likely forgeries, or should they (or some of them) be regarded as possible “authentic” Dead Sea Scroll fragments – despite being unprovenanced? Instead of a thorough discussion of these issues, it is tacitly assumed that all the fragments are Dead Sea Scroll fragments (cf. for instance the title of the book) and worthy of being part of the dataset.
What I do not understand is why (if I read these quotes correctly) a forger would take small fragments  of ancient papyri and try to fit an inscription on them, rather than finding bigger pieces, writing on them and then ripping the edges off to stop the problem of letters fitted onto the margins appearing (this is what we see on the fake 'Jesus Wife' papyrus). 

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