Friday, December 14, 2007

John Strugnell, 1930 - 2007
Dead Sea Scrolls project editor lost post after anti-Semitic remarks

By Mary Rourke, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
December 14, 2007
John Strugnell, a prominent biblical scholar who was the editor in chief of the Dead Sea Scrolls project for six years but was dismissed from his position for anti-Semitic remarks he made during an interview with an Israeli newspaper, has died. He was 77.


He was replaced by Emanuel Tov, an Israeli scholar who had been a part of the team. With Tov's encouragement, Strugnell continued working on the scrolls.

In his close to 40 years on the project he translated and deciphered several liturgical and biblical texts, including, in the 1990s, a work of previously unknown Jewish wisdom literature that he completed with Father Daniel J. Harrington.

"John Strugnell was one of the first and most brilliant decipherers of the Dead Sea Scrolls," said Harrington, a former student of Strugnell who is on the faculty of Weston Jesuit School of Theology in Cambridge, Mass. "He had a genius for reading them and piecing them together."

Strugnell also trained several generations of scholars in the painstaking work of deciphering the scrolls and was generous with his time and expertise both toward students and colleagues, Harrington said.

UPDATE: There is also a brief and unhelpful mention of Strugnell's death in the Seattle Times (scroll down to "Passages"). I think it is unconscionable for them to highlight his dismissal for anti-Semitic remarks without mentioning his illness at all.

UPDATE: A short but excellent Strugnell obituary by Sidnie White Crawford has been posted at the Biblical Archaeology Society website.