Tuesday, 23 April, 2019

Bible Museum Admits Dead Sea Scrolls Are Fakes

The Museum of the Bible in Washington D.C.                        CBS News The Museum of the Bible in Washington D.C. CBS News
Deanna Wagner | 23 October, 2018, 13:40

CNN first broke the story on Monday, saying that a German institute made the determination after finding the fragments "show characteristics inconsistent with ancient origin and therefore will no longer be displayed at the museum".

"Though we had hoped the testing would render different results, this is an opportunity to educate the public on the importance of verifying the authenticity of rare biblical artifacts, the elaborate testing process undertaken and our commitment to transparency", explained Jeffrey Kloha, chief curatorial officer for the museum, in a press release.

Much of the criticism centred around the museum's evangelical backers - particularly its principal donor, the conservative Green family, whose company Hobby Lobby was fined $3 million previous year for smuggling thousands of "looted antiquities" out of Iraq.

In April a year ago the museum sent five of its 16 Dead Sea Scroll pieces to Germany's Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing (BAM) for testing after previous studies questioned their authenticity.

Just months before the museum opened the company was forced to pay a $3 million settlement and give up 5,500 artifacts - including ancient clay cuneiform tablets from Iraq - that the US Justice Department said were illegally imported.

When Washington DC's $US500 million Museum of the Bible held its grand opening in November 2017, attended by Vice-President Mike Pence, there were questions even then about the authenticity of its centrepiece collection of Dead Sea Scrolls.

Kipp Davis, an expert on the Dead Sea Scrolls at Trinity Western University in Canada, was one of several academics who has tried to warn Christians, including the Green family, about the forgeries. "The museum continues to support and encourage research on these objects and others in its collection both to inform the public about leading-edge research methods and ensure our exhibits are presenting the most accurate and updated information".

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In April 2017, the museum sent the five fragments to BAM for multiple authenticity tests, including 3D digital microscopy and various X-ray scans to test the material analysis of the ink as well as the layers and chemical nature of the sediment.

Most fragments of the Dead Sea Scrolls are thumbnail-sized, charred scraps of parchment that are almost illegible, Baden said.

Between 2009 and 2014, Steve Green, the owner of Hobby Lobby, purchased up to 16 fragments in the name of the company.

Kloha said the three fragments now on display don't have the kinds of "telltale signs" of inauthenticity included in the five fragments that were removed. The hundreds of original scrolls were found in the mid-20th century in the Qumran caves in the West Bank of Israel. Ninety percent of those are fake, said Arstein Justnes, a professor of biblical studies at the University of Agder in Norway, including the Museum of the Bible's. In total, 1,000 ancient religious manuscripts were discovered.

The Green family has collected about 40,000 artifacts worth more than $205 million over the past eight years.

The Museum of the Bible says it had the independent testing done on 16 Dead Sea Scrolls in its collection.