Saturday, June 23, 2018

The Museum of the Bible, Operation Scroll, etc.

AN UNHELPFUL HEADLINE: An Illegal Archeological Dig in the West Bank Raises Questions About the Museum of the Bible The Museum of the Bible has been funding a number of scholarly projects, including an illegal excavation in the West Bank that will certainly influence how the public understands the Bible and the ancient world (Michael Press, Hyperallegic). This article raises some genuine issues, notably the questions still surrounding the handling of the the formerly-first-century Mark fragment from Oxyrhynchus. More on that here and links.

It also flags a financial connection between the Museum of the Bible and the study of unprovenanced Aramaic incantation bowls. But there are plenty of scholars unconnected with the Museum of the Bible who are working on this material. Indeed, the funded project is based at Exeter University, so it is mainstream scholarship. It is a real problem how to handle such unprovenanced artifacts. I don't pretend to have a fully satisfying solution. I have discussed such concerns and given you my own view here.

But the bulk of the article concerns the Dead Sea Scrolls. The "illegal dig in the West Bank" is Operation Scroll, the recent attempt by the Israeli Goverment to explore the caves in the Judean Desert more fully. The objective is (so far with very little success) to recover any remaining Dead Sea Scrolls. The project was also sponsored by the Hebrew University and the IAA. Past posts on Operation Scroll are here and links.

Beyond that, the author has concerns about the international legality of the handling of the Dead Sea Scrolls from at least the 1967 war on. These do not bear very directly on anything to do with the Museum of the Bible. And in general the author seems to have serious reservations about funding of archaeological projects by Evangelical Christian organizations.

The author has his views. Readers may agree or disagree. None of the issues are new, with the possible exception of the specifics about the Mark fragment. We're still waiting for full information on that.

I do criticize Hyperalleric for the headline of this piece. One can debates the issues surrounding the Dead Sea Scrolls and international law, but to call — without qualification — a project co-sponsored by the Hebrew University and the Israel Antiquities Authority "an illegal archaeological dig in the West Bank" is misleading clickbait.

For other past posts on the Museum of the Bible, start here and follow the links. (Dead link now fixed!)

UPDATE (24 June): Over at the Variant Readings Blog, Brent Nongbri has comments on this article.

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