Museum admits some of its Dead Sea Scrolls are fake

The Museum of the Bible in Washington D.C.                        CBS News

The Museum of the Bible in Washington D.C. CBS News

The Dead Sea Scrolls are the oldest version of the Hebrew Bible and offer insight into what the sacred text looked like at the turn of the era, said Joel Baden, a professor of the Hebrew Bible at Yale Divinity School, and a critic of the museum.

The Dead Sea Scrolls are ancient Jewish religious manuscripts and were found in the Qumran Caves in the West Bank of the Dead Sea in what is now Israel.

Now the museum has been forced to admit a painful truth: technical analysis by a team of German scholars has revealed that at least five of the museum's 16 scroll fragments are apparent forgeries.

The museum hired German researchers in April 2017, to perform a series of tests on the Dead Sea Scroll fragments.

Media captionWhy is there a new Bible museum in Washington DC?

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".

The museum said it had sent the five fragments in question to Germany's Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing (BAM) after independent researchers had questioned their authenticity.

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Curators typically seek to authenticate materials by analyzing the archaeological excavations that uncovered them, but Kloha said this type of analysis was frequently impossible for the Dead Sea Scrolls fragments.

Their report, which the Bible Museum said they recently received, "further raises suspicions about the authenticity of all five fragments". They also agreed to pay a $3 million forfeiture for similarly imported goods no longer in their possession.

Forgers typically write on top of ancient scraps of parchment or leather, making fragments appear authentic until their ink is tested.

Some scholars accused the Greens of buying too many artifacts too quickly, without being sure exactly where they came from, or who had owned them in the past.

"There's enough people with a little bit of training in Hebrew, some expertise through a graduate program or something of the sort that they could possibly pull off some of these things", said Davis. Hobby Lobby said it was "new to the world of antiquities" and did not "understand the correct way to document and ship them".

The Museum of the Bible was opened in November 2017 by Evangelical Christian and billionaire Steve Green. The fragments will no longer be displayed at the museum. The Museum's opening was shrouded in controversy in part because of its association with the Green family, the owners of Hobby Lobby, Incorporated. They were donated for exhibition at the museum, along with thousands of other biblical artifacts. The family agreed a year ago to return those artifacts and pay a $US3 million fine.

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