Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Bible Museum Dead Sea Scrolls are Fakes

The Museum of the Bible, owned and operated by Hobby Lobby president Steve Green, recently found that five fragments of the Dead Sea Scrolls that it had on display were fakes. Given the events of the Hobby Lobby smuggling scandal not that long ago, it seems to me that it pretty much serves them right. Wealthy evangelical Christians scouring the world for Biblical artifacts has created a whole market for counterfeit items, and it sounds like the Museum of the Bible was one of the latest groups taken in.

Five fragments of the Dead Sea Scrolls, some of the Museum of the Bible’s most prized artifacts, were exposed as fakes on Monday and pulled from displays. The museum, the brainchild of evangelical Christian businessman Steve Green, opened last year in Washington near the National Mall. The pieces, subjected to scientific tests in Germany, were deemed to have “characteristics inconsistent with ancient origin,” the museum said in a statement.

“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,” chief museum curatorial officer Jeffrey Kloha said. The Dead Sea Scrolls are a series of fragments from approximately 930 manuscripts discovered near the Dead Sea in modern Israel during the late 1940s and 1950s. Dating back to the late third century B.C. and first century A.D., the scrolls provided academics with insights into Judaism at the time Christianity was born.

Doubts were raised as to the authenticity of the fragments held by the museum prior to its opening, due to a soaring increase in forgeries designed to fool wealthy American evangelical Christians, such as Green. Experts estimate that as many as 70 forged fragments of scrolls have been traded on the antiquities market since 2002, according to CNN. The museum said it would swap the fakes with three other fragments (but even those may not be real).

While I don't really believe in the idea of "karma" as the New Agers explain it, this is one of the problems inherent to buying items on the black market. The people you are dealing with are already criminals, so it really doesn't seem that much of a stretch to figure that they don't care whether an item is real or not as long as they get paid. Furthermore, they might just go ahead and forge the items themselves, counting on buyer cluelessness to line their pockets.

Either the Museum of the Bible needs to get more qualified experts to validate their purchases, or better still, get out of buying black market antiquities altogether. The countries they are effectively raiding in order to build their collection will thank them.

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