In what may seem like BAR’s unrelieved criticism of the Israel Antiquities Authority, its scroll advisory committee and the international team of Dead Sea Scroll editors, we may have neglected to emphasize what they have done right and done well. It is time to correct this omission.
In so doing, however, it is important to be very precise about what we have criticized them for and what we have not criticized them for. We have called them monopolists, a moniker they surely dislike, but which is not only convenient, but precisely identifies what they have been guilty of—and, by exclusion, what they have not been guilty of.
Our sole complaint has been that they would not allow free and unencumbered access to the texts. We wanted all scholars—or nonscholars, for that matter—to be able to look at photographs of the unpublished texts and do whatever they pleased with them—transcribe them, translate them, print them, reprint them, publish them or take them (the photographs, that is) into the bathtub to play with. That is what we mean by free access. That access has now been provided with the publication of the facsimile volumes (see “The Dead Sea Scrolls Are Now Available to All!” in this issue).
The monopolists—if they will forgive me for continuing to use that pejorative term—long ago conceded that the failure to publish the scrolls for nearly 40 years was a scandal that should never have occurred. They recognized that the long delay in publishing these texts was unjustified. While they thus agreed with us to this extent, they proposed a different solution.