The so-called post-2002 fragments are all non-provenanced, but they bear impressive stories, often crafted and told by scholars, and used as a means to authenticate them. In this piece, I recount some of these stories and discuss their hidden message. Let me, however, start with two snapshots from the time when our story was just about to begin, in 2002 ...Professor Justnes offers a revision of the narrative. There is good reason to think that at least some of the new fragments are forgeries, so the narrative bears re-examination.
Background on the dubious post-2002 Dead Sea Scrolls-like fragments is here and links.
UPDATE: I had finished this post when I discovered that the article by Justness is just one in Marginalia Forum on Origin Stories: A Forum on the “Discovery” and Interpretation of First-Millennium Manuscripts. So far, there is an introduction and two other articles. More is promised.
Introduction – Jennifer Barry (University of Mary Washington) and Eva Mroczek (UC Davis)
This forum is sponsored by the First Millennium Network in connection with The Lying Pen of Scribes: Manuscript Forgeries and Counterfeiting Scripture in the Twenty-First Century, the Norwegian project on forgery and provenance. Throughout the course of the forum, contributors will address the scholarship and the politics behind the discovery, interpretation, and diffusion of such “new” texts. Panelists, experts in a range of fields within manuscript studies, will seek to answer questions such as: How can scholars actually tell if a manuscript is authentically ancient or forged in the new age of greater scientific possibilities? What are the ethical issues surrounding collecting, owning, and publishing items that hold religious/cultural value for a wider, non-academic audience? How much do these new finds really challenge our understanding of our own origin stories?Kipp Davis (Trinity Western University) – Gleaning from the Cave of Wonders? Fragments, Forgeries and “Biblicism” in the Dead Sea Scrolls
There are undoubtedly authentic artefacts of extremely high importance in both The Schøyen Collection, the MOTB, and in other private collections, which have a tremendous role to play in achieving this objective. But my own experience should sound a cautionary alarm: we would be naive to imagine that biblical datasets are free from pollution. Scholars would be remiss in their failure to exercise due diligence and ensure that they remain in service of the common good, and not as a repository for the wares of profiteers hoping to capitalize on the misplaced zeal of well-meaning Evangelical biblicists.Eva Mroczek (UC Davis) – Batshit Stories: New Tales of Discovering Ancient Texts
More deeply, I want to highlight that whether these stories are factual, fictional, or somewhere in between, it is sometimes their very telling, rather than the actual manuscript finds themselves, that capture our imagination. Find stories reveal our own patterns of thinking about how a long-lost past might come into view and what might stand in the way of its recovery.
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