Tuesday, June 26, 2007

THE DEAD SEA SCROLLS EXHIBITION IN SAN DIEGO, which opens on Friday, is covered once again, this time in the LA Times. It notes that Norman Golb and Robert Eisenman are unhappy with the coverage of their theories about the origins of the Scrolls.
A lively debate over the Dead Sea Scrolls
As the ancient documents are readied for a San Diego exhibition, scholars clash over just who wrote them and what they represent.
By Mike Boehm, Times Staff Writer
June 26, 2007

SAN DIEGO — The first commandment for showing the Dead Sea Scrolls is: "Let there not be too much light."

It has been handed down by the Israel Antiquities Authority, custodian of most of the 2,000-year-old parchments and papyri. The scrolls, many of them pieced together like puzzles from fragments and tatters, contain the oldest known biblical writings — among them a text of the Ten Commandments that will be part of the six-month Dead Sea Scrolls exhibition that opens Friday at the San Diego Natural History Museum. It's billed as the largest and most comprehensive ever.

Museum-goers accustomed to prolonged gazing will have to adjust their expectations when they reach the show's darkened climactic room. There, each of the 15 scroll fragments lies in its own case, with separate climate controls and a fiber-optic lighting system that's set to turn off five seconds out of every 20 to avoid overexposure.

The scrolls' appeal shows no signs of fading. Since the Israeli government began making them regularly available for exhibition a few years ago, they've been a hot attraction in international museums — not bad for an assortment of documents so visually mundane that in 2003 a Montreal museum director said that "they look like little pieces of burned paper."

A little controversy never hurts at the box office, either. Most scholars consider the scrolls to be the articles of faith of a small Jewish sect that lived an ascetic life near the Dead Sea, avoiding what it saw as the corrupt religious establishment while waiting for the Messiah. But dissidents have kept up a literary crossfire disputing the majority's thinking — and some complain that the public has gotten a slanted view of the scrolls.

For more on Norman Golb, see here. Robert Eisenman's work is more controversial than Golb's and I don't know of any specialists in the Dead Sea Scrolls who find convincing his attempts to connect the Scrolls with early Christianity. I can't find a useful recent discussion of his theories (here's a Time article from 1992), but this is his most recent book.