Editor of Dead Sea Scrolls Fired After Attacking Judaism and Israel
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Editor of Dead Sea Scrolls Fired After Attacking Judaism and Israel

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After attacking Jews, Judaism and Israel in a newspaper article, the chief editor of the Dead Sea Scrolls has been dismissed from his post.

Dr. John Strugnell of the Harvard Divinity School had also been accused of delaying publication of the ancient manuscripts and restricting access to them.

He was dismissed earlier this month by a team of the manuscripts’ editors after being quoted in the Israeli daily Ha’aretz as saying “Judaism is originally racist” and that “the correct answer of Jews to Christianity is to become Christian.”

Strugnell, a Roman Catholic, said in the article that Judaism “is a horrible religion. It’s a Christian heresy.” He also said that “the occupation of Jerusalem — and maybe of the whole State ( of Israel) — is founded on a lie.”

A member of the editorial team that dismissed Strugnell said he was removed because of his “declining general health, especially for the last month or so.” But other editors, quoted in The New York Times, said Strugnell had a “drinking problem” and “mental condition.”

Strugnell is in a New England hospital and could not be reached for comment.

The Ha’aretz article, by Avi Katzman, was published Nov. 9. It will be reprinted in the January issue of Biblical Archaeology Review.

Hershel Shanks, editor of that journal and of Moment magazine, introduces the article with the comment that “Strugnell’s views, as expressed in this interview, are consistent with the stories that have been circulating for years.”

“For the man, we have compassion,” Shanks said, “but for his views, contempt.”


Dr. Eugene Ulrich, a senior member of the Dead Sea Scrolls research team and professor of Hebrew scriptures at Notre Dame University, acknowledged that Strugnell had long had a reputation for making inappropriate remarks.

“The slurs are tied to the removal, but are not the main cause,” he said.

Strugnell’s remarks in the Ha’aretz article, Ulrich said, “are totally repugnant and are to be repudiated.”

Strugnell is to remain an editor of the scrolls, one of about 15 scholars working on deciphering the ancient texts. But his administrative duties will be taken over by Dr. Emanuel Tov of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.

The first Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered in 1947, in caves high above the Dead Sea, at the ancient site of Kumran. Recorded between 200 B.C.E. and 50 C.E., they contain the earliest-known written versions of the Hebrew Bible.

Strugnell has been castigated for denying scholars access to the unpublished scrolls, and for delaying publication of the 35 to 45 percent of the texts that remain in the hands of the editors.

At a Princeton University symposium last year, Shanks called for Strugnell’s resignation because of the delays.

Ulrich admitted that “there has been too tight a grip on the scrolls.” and said he would “push for greater access.” He said “a lot of material” is now being “reviewed by the various editors and shoved into the publication pipeline.”

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