Biblical Archaeology Review 15:5, September/October 1989

What Should Be Done About the Unpublished Dead Sea Scrolls?

By Hershel Shanks

BAR’s article on the Dead Sea Scrolls scandal in the July/August issue (“Dead Sea Scrolls Scandal—Israel’s Department of Antiquities Joins Conspiracy to Keep Scrolls Secret,” BAR 15:04) focused worldwide attention on the fact that, more than 40 years after the discovery of the first scroll in a cave near the Dead Sea, scholars are still denied access to more than 400 unpublished texts.

Articles based on BAR’s story appeared in the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Jerusalem Post, the Los Angeles Times, the Washington Times and in hundreds of other newspapers all over the world via an Associated Press wire story. The New York Times considered its report so important that it listed it on the front-page as one of the significant articles to be found inside.

The theme was the same in all the articles: A small group of scholars who control the scrolls, with the sanction of the Israeli government, decides who gets to see what and who gets to study what. The public and other scholars are excluded.

Reading these articles, one is struck with how very little the public has been told about the unpublished texts or the process by which they are supposedly published.

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