The San Diego Natural History Museum's upcoming Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit has now also come under attack. At least two blogs have now published a letter from Dr. Risa Levitt Kohn, a professor of religious studies who is curating the exhibit. For details and links, see http://pacific-science-scrolls-scandal.blogspot.com/. In her letter, Dr. Kohn denies allegations that the exhibit is "biased" and "unbalanced". As Dr. Mariottini explains, Scrolls scholarship is currently polarized into two opposing groups, one holding that they were written by a sect living at Qumran, the other holding that no sect lived at Qumran and that the Scrolls are the remnants of the libraries of Jerusalem. This polarization is confirmed by the Cambridge History of Judaism, which features two separate articles presenting each of these two theories. In her letter defending the planned exhibit, Dr. Kohn admits that not a single opponent of the Qumran-Essene theory -- not even the leader of the official Israel Antiquities Authority archaeological team that has concluded, after ten years of excavations, that Qumran was a pottery factory and that the Scrolls came from Jerusalem -- has been invited to participate in the Museum's lecture series (featuring 22 speakers), but she attempts to justify this decision by referring to the "scholarly consensus" on Scroll origins. It is difficult to square this assertion of "consensus" with the picture presented in multiple news accounts and the Cambridge History of Judaism. If Dr. Kohn has set out to defend the old Essene theory in the face of growing scholarly disenchantment with it, why doesn't she just admit that the exhibit is indeed biased and unbalanced, instead of arguing herself into an impossible situation?
In a response to a comment posted to one of the entries, the author (or authors) of the blog defines the main issue of the controversy:
"The nature of the settlement at Qumran is the subject of a lively academic debate. The TRADITIONAL VIEW... is that the settlement was inhabited by Essene monks who observed strict rules of ritual purity and celibacy and who wrote many of the Dead Sea Scrolls. The SECOND SCHOOL says the people living at Qumran were farmers, potters or soldiers, and had nothing to do with the Essenes. The scrolls, according to this view, were WRITTEN IN JERUSALEM and stashed in caves at Qumran by Jewish refugees fleeing the Roman conquest of the city in the first century."
For those interested in the Dead Sea Scrolls and the controversy whether the Scrolls are related to the Essenes or to a secular group, visit The Dead Sea Scrolls in Seattle and San Diego
This blog makes an attempt at proving that the exhibit of the Dead Sea Scrolls at the Pacific Science Center in Seattle, Washington, was biased because it ignored new developments in Scroll research made in recent years. In addition, this blog claims that the exhibit at the San Diego Natural History Museum is also biased because it is a version of the exhibit shown in Seattle.
Professor of Old Testament
Northern Baptist Seminary
Tag: Dead Sea Scrolls, Qumran, Essenes