Category Archives: Dead Sea Scrolls

Peter Flint Memorial Volume

It was just one year ago that Peter Flint died.  There’s to be a memorial volume presentation up at Trinity Western in Canada and if you’re in the territory you should attend:

Forgeries Amongst the Schøyen Dead Sea Scrolls Collection

Michael Langlois writes

Our team has just published a paper in which we explain why we believe that there are forgeries among the Dead Sea scrolls in the Schøyen collection.

As soon as 2013, I came to suspect the presence of forgeries after I examined the material and scribal features of these fragments which revived doubts I had expressed privately in 2006 and in a publication in 2008. After a second examination in 2014, I told my colleagues about it; some of them were skeptical at first but agreed to investigate this matter and, after we conducted additional testing, joined my conclusions. Nine fragments were removed from the edition that was in preparation, although I disagreed with that decision, as I believed more fragments were forgeries.

We were asked to remain quiet about it, and in 2015 I even offered to design a trap in order to identify the forger(s). Alas, I did not find the necessary support; worse, I saw on the Internet pictures of fragments with the same suspicious features in other private collections. When I was contacted by Newsweek journalist Nine Burleigh, I could no longer keep quiet and told her about those forgeries.

I told other journalists and colleagues about it and, as the interest of the scholarly community grew, a session on the issue of forgeries was organized at the Society of Biblical Literature (SBL) international meeting in Berlin last August.

Meanwhile, we wrote a paper as a team to explain how and why we believe those fragments to be forgeries. This paper is now out, and I invite you to read it below:

Kipp Davis et alii, “Nine Dubious ‘Dead Sea Scrolls’ Fragments from the Twenty-First Century,” Dead Sea Discoveries 24/2 (2017), p. 189-228.

As I said in our book and in Berlin, I believe that more fragments from the Schøyen collection are forgeries and that all fragments in the Museum of the Bible (MOTB) collection published in the volume edited by Emanuel Tov, Kipp Davis et alii are forgeries. This might be the case of other collections as well, although so far only the Schøyen collection and the Museum of the Bible collection have provided me with (at least) high resolution color and infrared pictures of their fragments.

Stay tuned! More news in the coming months… 😉

Dead Sea Scroll Sessions From SBL International

Livestreaming the Dead Sea Scrolls Session At SBL International

This is cool (though take note, the time listed is Berlin local time- 6 hours ahead of US Eastern Time) –

For those unable to join us at International SBL in Berlin, the Qumran session chairs (Jutta Jokiranta, Matthew Goff, Shani Tzoref, and Sidnie White Crawford) have organized for a livestream of the special sessions on “Tracing & Facing Possible Forgeries: Methodology, Ethics, Policies” (August 8, 2017; 9:00am-12:30pm). The live stream will be hosted here on the TWU Dead Sea Scrolls Institute page and facilitated by members of the CSTT Team from the University of Helsinki. Thanks to all who expressed interest in the work and discussion of this meeting from afar. For full program details, see

Charlotte Hempel’s Inaugural Lecture – The Dead Sea Scrolls: Isolationism, Elites, and Austerity

Why Are We Still Discussing the Dead Sea Scrolls?

Here’s why.

Many people have heard of the Dead Sea Scrolls, but few know what they are or the significance they have for people today. This year marks the 70th anniversary of the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, and it gives us an opportunity to ask what are these scrolls and why they should matter to anyone.

The Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered in 1947 and consist of 900 plus copies of Jewish manuscripts of biblical books, sectarian compositions, and other writings. Several of these scrolls are thought to belong to a Jewish sect or school of philosophy called the “Essenes” who lived two thousand years ago. Some of these Essenes once resided at the site now called the ruins of (khirbet) Qumran, close to the location of the eleven caves where scrolls were found. Recently, there was an announcement of the discovery of the “12th Dead Sea Scrolls cave”, but the evidence of an uninscribed scroll fragment, linen wrappings, and pottery shards found in the cave is insufficient to support the claim.

And more.

A Lecture on the Aramaic Dead Sea Scrolls

Watch this-

They’ve Found More ‘Dead Sea Scrolls’

But they can’t even tell what language they’re in or what they contain.  So, they’ve found bits of scrap.  Yay.  It’s only news because it’s Christmas and the ‘Bible has been proven to be right, again, by archaeology’ crowd eats this sort of thing up, book tours to Israel, and boosts the tourism economy.

New fragments of the Dead Sea Scrolls have been found in the Cave of the Skulls by the Dead Sea in Israel, in a salvation excavation by Israeli authorities. The pieces are small and the writing on them is too faded to make out without advanced analysis. At this stage the archaeologists aren’t even sure if they’re written in ancient Hebrew, Aramaic or another language.

Oh boy!  This discovery changes absolutely nothing at all even remotely so it had to be announced!!!  But wait, there’s more!

“The most important thing that can come out of these fragments is if we can connect them with other documents that were looted from the Judean Desert, and that have no known provenance,” says Dr. Uri Davidovich of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, among the scientists investigating the caves.

Ah yes, if even the most tenuous connection can be found it will prove…  something important I’m sure…  But wait, there’s more!!!!

The latest finds, two papyri fragments about two by two centimeters with writing and several fragments without discernible letters, were made during a three-week salvage excavation in the Cave of the Skulls this May and June by a joint expedition of the Israel Antiquities Authority and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. The excavations were led by Uri Davidovich and Roi Porat of the Hebrew University, together with Amir Ganor and Eitan Klein from the IAA.

That’s right campers, they’ve had them since May and June and still can’t read them but since it’s Christmas they have to be announced!  Glory!  But wait, there’s still more!!!!

The renewed excavations in the Cave of the Skulls is just the first step in a new project of the IAA and the Hebrew University to continue exploring the Judean Desert caves, to salvage hidden treasures that might still lay in the caves, at least before robbers get there first. “We have all the reasons to believe that there are still scrolls hidden,” Davidovich says. “Several documents from the Roman times and even from the Iron Age have surfaced in recent years in the antiquities market. They must have originated in the Judean Desert caves.”

Yes, there must still be scrolls there and we have to loot them from the Palestinians first (since Qumran is in Palestinian Authority land) before other looters get their Arab hands on them!  The looters have to beat the looters to the loot…

Conference Announcement: The Qumran Texts and the History of the Biblical Text

Details here.


Those ‘New’ Scroll Fragments? Yeah, Fakes.

Nina Burleigh writes

The origin of the newest Dead Sea Scroll fragments, some of which are being sold in batches for tens of millions of dollars, is unclear. Many emerged from a private collection of the descendants of an Arab collector in Bethlehem who acquired and sold the first set of scrolls. But even the private collectors in Europe and the United States who have bought them are uncertain of their provenance.

American Steve Green, the evangelical Christian heir to the Hobby Lobby craft chain fortune and the force behind the Museum of the Bible, an endeavor Newsweekcovered earlier this year, has spent millions on the new finds. One fragment sold to the Southwestern  Baptist Theological Seminary conveniently refers to the biblical prohibition against homosexuality in the Book of Leviticus.

The problem is, experts suspect many of these sensational and pricy new fragments are expertly crafted fakes. For example, the fragment references passages in Leviticus 18 and 20 that contain the two strongest condemnations of homosexuality in the Bible. Such a strong coincidence is a flag of fakery.

“It is extremely unlikely that a small Dead Sea Scroll fragment would preserve text from both chapters” of Leviticus, says religion scholar Arstein Justnes, at University of Agder in Norway, who called the new fragments “amateurish” imitations that seem to have been copied from modern textbooks about the scrolls. “I think this fragment was produced for American evangelicals.”

Justnes  is creating an international multidisciplinary research project called the Lying Pen of Scribes to bring together scientists and scholars to systematically analyze the flood of new fragments for authenticity. “There is a real danger that an increasing number of forgeries is accepted into the datasets on which we base our knowledge of the ancient world,” Justnes says. “There is an urgent need for the development of strategies and methods with which to counter this threat.”

In recent years, scholars have exposed many high-profile fakes in Biblical archaeology, including pieces in the Israel Museum, the James Ossuary (touted as the first archaeological evidence of Jesus Christ and covered in a book I wrote) and recently, the “Jesus wife” fragment, which an investigation traced to a Florida-dwelling German émigré.

While the newfound  fragments contain references to the Old Testament’s books of Leviticus and Nehemiah, none so far refer to a possibly pertinent passage in Job, specifically 13:4 which states: “But ye are forgers of lies, ye are all physicians of no value.”

That little trinket you think is ancient and invaluable?  Without provenance, deem it what it is- useless.

More Unprovenanced, and Probably Fake ‘Dead Sea Scrolls’ Heading to the ‘Museum of the Bible’

The 25 newly published scroll fragments were purchased by two separate collectors.

Between 2009 and 2014, Steve Green, the owner of Hobby Lobby, a chain of arts and crafts stores, purchased 13 of the fragments, which he has donated, along with thousands of other artifacts, to the Museum of the Bible. Green is helping to fund construction of the museum, scheduled to open in Washington, D.C., next fall. (A fly-through of the museum can be seen on YouTube).

A team of scholars has published details of these donated fragments in the book volume “Dead Sea Scrolls Fragments in the Museum Collection” (Brill, 2016).

The provenance of this batch of scrolls is not certain.

“Some of these fragments must have come from Qumran, probably Cave 4, while the others may have derived from other sites in the Judean Desert,” wrote Emanuel Tov, a professor at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, in the book volume. “Unfortunately, little is known about the provenance of these fragments because most sellers did not provide such information at the time of the sale.”

Antiquities dealer William Kando told Live Science that he doesn’t know where the donated fragments originated.

Scientists are conducting tests on the donated fragments to help determine if any are forgeries, said Michael Holmes, executive director of the Museum of the Bible Scholars Initiative, in a statement sent to Live Science.

The results will be combined with an analysis of the writing to help determine what the chances are of the different fragments being forgeries.

“The results will be incorporated in our future museum exhibits, inviting visitors to grasp and engage with issues involved with assessing authenticity,” Holmes said.

And more.  With thanks to the wondrous Roberta Mazza for the HT.  Some day… one day… unprovenanced stuff will be treated with the suspicion it deserves.  Right Karen King?

Dispersed Dead Sea Artifacts

The Department of Theology and Religious Studies of King’s College London, together with the Institute di Culture e Archeologic dell Terre Biblische of Faculty of Theology of Lugano and the University of Malta, are delighted to announce the recent success of a Leverhulme Trust International Network Grant application, for the Study of Dispersed Qumran Caves Artefacts and Archival Sources, obtained by Professor Joan Taylor (KCL’s Principal Investigator), together with Professor Marcello Fidanzio (ISCAB, Lugano) and Dr Dennis Mizzi (University of Malta).

In the Qumran caves that yielded the Dead Sea Scrolls many jars, lids and other artefacts were discovered by local Bedouin and also in joint Jordanian, French and American excavations (1949-56). Some of these material artefacts were sent to collections worldwide very early on, either gifted or sold.  Recently the École Biblique et Archéologique Française  of Jerusalem and the ISCAB Lugano started a program for the final report on the Caves of the Qumran Area, dealing mainly with the materials kept in Jerusalem and Amman. The program is directed by Pere Jean-Baptiste Humbert  (EBAF) and Marcello Fidanzio (ISCAB).  The network for the Dispersed Qumran Caves Artefacts and Archival Sources would engage with this publication project, by facilitating the study of all the dispersed artefacts enabling more comprehensive new reports.  This will provide more information about the Qumran cave artefacts, and contribute to reconstructing a material profile of each cave’s contents. Alongside the analysis of ceramic jars, lids, textiles, leathers and wooden remains, the network will additionally explore the written and photographic dossiers of archaeologists and visitors.

Anyone with photographs from the 1950s or relevant information is invited to get in touch by contacting the Network Facilitator, Dr. Sandra Jacobs, at  Further details of the award are available at:


Dead Sea Scrolls Non Biblical Texts in Electronic Format

From Brill

For the first time in history the texts and images of all the Dead Sea Scrolls are available in their totality on the Internet.

The publication of the scrolls has been completed in 2009, and research is being conducted in the whole world on the basis of the official paper editions. However, at the same time there is an ever growing need to make these editions available on the internet, and Brill has now succeeded in making these available online.

Based on the Dead Sea Scrolls Electronic Library CD-ROM, published by Brill and Brigham Young University, Brill proudly announces an internet edition whereby the biblical texts have been made available in 2015 and the non-biblical texts are available as of mid June 2016.

Both databases present a complete Hebrew transcription and English translation of the Biblical text and the Non-Biblical text, together with high-resolution images and can now be used side by side covering all the DSS texts ever published before.

Tell your librarian.  You can’t afford private access.  Unless you make a lot of money selling ridiculous books like Spong or Warren.  But those sorts of people don’t read the DSS.  They can’t.  Hebrew is a foreign language to them.

A New Edition of the Dead Sea Scrolls…

Because the world can never have too many ongoing decades long in the making not yet completed editions of the Dead Sea Scrolls…

Penn State scholar Daniel Falk has been named one of three editors on an international project to produce new critical editions of the Dead Sea Scrolls, the ancient documents that contain some of the earliest known versions of Biblical texts.  The 15-volume series, known as Dead Sea Scrolls Editions, will feature improved reconstructions of previously published texts and some texts that have not been published before. It will be published by the Dutch firm Brill Publishers.

Start saving up now.

Weston Fields on the Scrolls and the ‘Lead Codex’

A Provisional List of Unprovenanced, Twenty-First Century, Dead Sea Scrolls-like Fragments

Read the article here.

Public Lecture on the Scrolls at TWU

From their facebook page:

Dr. Kipp Davis, Scholar in Residence in TWU’s Religious Studies Department and Dead Sea Scrolls Institute will be delivering an open lecture as part of his class on Tuesday, March 29 at 11:40 in RNT 221. He will be presenting his most recent published article, “Zombies in America and at Qumran: AMC’s The Walking Dead, the Dead Sea Scrolls, and Apocalyptic Redux,” Journal of Religion and Popular Culture 27/2 (2015): 148–63.

ABSTRACT:  The surging popularity of zombies in modern American fiction, film, and television is rooted in a form of “a-religious” apocalypticism: a fatalistic view of the world and the future without any hope for deliverance. This worldview contains a handful of intriguing similarities with the ancient Jewish eschatological expectations that appear in the Dead Sea Scrolls. This study surveys four prominent themes that are shared between the scrolls and the American hit television series, The Walking Dead: (1) expectations for the “last days”; (2) a persecution complex that produces doctrines of a “remnant”; (3) need for social preservation through “ritual” purity; and (4) “insider / outsider” polemics. This comparative exercise attempts to show how zombies in popular culture are one reflection of our own existential, socio-economic angst that finds expression in a post-modern, post-Christian context.

Dead Sea Scrolls Interactive Map

Visit it here.

At TWU This Summer


Two Conferences For the French, in France, in French

Michael Langlois (a delightful person), writes

Après une fructueuse mission épigraphique en Israël, où j’ai travaillé sur des inscriptions araméennes inédites découvertes lors de fouilles archéologiques à Marésha, me voici de retour en France ! J’ai repris mes cours à Strasbourg (vous pouvez regarder ma traversée de la Bible sur YouTube) et finalise la publication de fragments inédits de la mer Morte.

J’ai également été invité à donner deux conférences qui auront lieu les 16 et 22 mars prochains :

  • Une conférence sur “La Bible à l’épreuve de l’archéologie” en région parisienne, plus précisément à Saint-Maur-des-Fossés (Temple protestant, 42 avenue Joffre). Si vous avez aimé ma conférence à Créteil le 8 février dernier, vous ne serez pas déçus ! Et si vous avez manqué cette conférence, ne ratez pas celle-là ! 😉 Rendez-vous le mercredi 16 mars à 20h30. Renseignements et réservations :,
  • Une conférence sur “Qumrân, le secret des manuscrits de la mer Morte” en région strasbourgeoise, plus précisément à Illkirch-Graffenstaden (Foyer protestant, 1a sous les Platanes). Si ces manuscrits vous fascinent, si vous avez des questions, c’est l’occasion ! Rendez-vous le mardi 22 mars à 20h. Renseignements : ou

J’espère avoir le plaisir de vous retrouver à l’une ou l’autre de ces conférences. N’hésitez pas à faire suivre ce message à tous ceux qui pourraient être intéressés. Et d’ici là, jetez un coup d’œil au nouvel épisode de la Saga semitica ! 😉

If you’re in the territory of either, you should definitely go.