The following is an excerpt taken from the article:
Six decades after their discovery, the Dead Sea Scrolls are still being treated in many quarters as merely the writings of a small sect that once inhabited an austere desert location near the area where they were discovered. Nowhere is this effort being more ardently pursued than in the present series of Scroll exhibitions taking place here in the States.
This series, while rooted in showings of previous decades, was developed and formulated only during the past few years, beginning with the exhibit that took place in Charlotte (N.C.) in the spring of 2006. This one was passed on to Seattle’s Pacific Science Center (Autumn 2006). From there it traveled to Kansas City’s Discovery Place (Winter and Spring 2007), and it is now moving to San Diego’s Natural History Museum, with an opening planned for the end of June
It must be noted that the wording of the descriptions in the exhibit plaques has been formulated in consultation with and subject to the approval of the responsible curators at the Israel Antiquities Authority in Jerusalem.
While variations in wording can be found in each of the exhibitions, the basic idiom and associated message remain the same: they have in common an effort to convince the public of the truth of the old theory, created in the infancy of Scroll scholarship, that these manuscripts were written in whole or at least in large part by a Jewish sect of Essenes supposedly living at a site — Khirbet Qumran — located in the Judaean Wilderness near the Dead Sea shore.
These claims contradict the presently known accumulation of evidence, adduced by growing numbers of text scholars and archaeologists, demonstrating that the Scrolls are of Jerusalem origin, that Khirbet Qumran was a secular site with no connection to a religious sect, and that the Scrolls lack any organic relation to that site.
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The debate about the nature of the Qumran community continues. This article raises important issues that needs to be evaluated by those who are interested in the Dead Sea Scrolls.
Professor of Old Testament
Northern Baptist Seminary