Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Not one of 22 opponents of old theory invited to Museum lecture series

Scroll down for a list of 22 opponents and/or critics of the old, "Qumran-sectarian" theory of Scroll origins, none of whom have been invited to participate in the lecture series accompanying the Natural History Museum's upcoming Scrolls exhibit. Instead, the Museum has announced lectures by 22 proponents of the old theory.

San Diego's Jewish Sightseeing blog has published a letter from Dr. Risa Levitt Kohn, curator of the exhibit, attempting to defend the exhibit against allegations of misconduct. For details and links, see Curator-Responds-to-Allegations-of-Misconduct.blogspot.com.

In her letter, Dr. Kohn denies that the exhibit is "biased" and "unbalanced". In essence, she admits that not a single opponent of the traditional theory has been invited to participate in the Museum's lecture series (featuring, as we said, 22 speakers), but she attempts to justify this decision by referring to the "scholarly consensus" on Scroll origins.

This assertion flatly contradicts recent new accounts, as well as John Noble Wilford's 2002 New York Times article describing what he calls a "crumbling consensus" on Scroll origins. Wilford quotes Brown University archaeologist Dr. Katharina M. Galor (co-editor of Qumran, The Site of the Dead Sea Scrolls : Archaeological Interpretations And Debates, Brill 2006) as saying "There is no new consensus, or the new consensus is that the old consensus is dead." See Text of Wilford's article.

What gives Dr. Kohn (whose on-line bibliography doesn't include a single piece of writing on the topic despite her claim to be a "Dead Sea Scrolls scholar"), rather than Dr. Galor (who is a recognized expert in the field), the right to decide whether or not there is a "consensus"?

In response to Dr. Kohn's claim of consensus, we have compiled a list of 22 scholars who are known to have opposed or been critical of the traditional Qumran-sectarian theory in published books or articles. Not a single one of these scholars (let alone the most prominent of them: Donceel, Elior, Golb, Magen or Peleg) has been invited to participate in the Museum's lecture series.

We believe that a great number of additional scholars doubt the traditional theory but maintain a facade of "neutrality" in their writings because of feared professional consequences. By way of illustration, any scholar who wishes to participate in the Museum's lecture series, must adhere to the traditional theory; if he declares his opposition to the theory, he will be excluded. Thus, the Museum's policy (undeclared, but manifest in its conduct) will have a "chilling effect" on progress in Scrolls research and poses a fundamental ethical problem.

The Museum website states that Dr. Kohn is "the current president of the Society of Biblical Literature, Pacific Coast Region". We ask the Museum: has a single one of the below-listed scholars ever been invited to lecture at the Society of Biblical Literature? We are obliged to ask this question, because we are concerned that Dr. Kohn may have a conflict of interest stemming from her position at the Society -- a conflict that would flagrantly violate the ethical standards of the American Association of Museums.

List of 22 opponents and/or critics of Qumran-sectarian theory:

Rachel Bar-Nathan (Israel Antiquities Authority)
Steven Bowman (University of Cincinnati)
Lena Cansdale (University of Sydney)
Alan Crown (University of Sydney)
Phillip Davies (Sheffield University)
Robert Donceel (Catholic University of Louvain)
Pauline Donceel-Voute (Catholic University of Louvain)
Rachel Elior (Hebrew University)
Katharina Galor (Brown University)
Norman Golb (University of Chicago)
Menashe Harel (University of Tel Aviv)
Yizhar Hirschfeld (Hebrew University)
Matthias Klinghardt (Technische Universitat Dresden)
Yitzhak Magen (Israel Antiquities Authority)
Steve Mason (York University)
Yuval Peleg (Israel Antiquities Authority)
K.H. Rengstorf (University of Munster)
David Rothstein (UCLA)
Yaakov Shavit (University of Tel Aviv)
Michael Wise (Northwestern College)
David Washburn (author of A Catalog of Biblical Passages in the Dead Sea Scrolls, Brill 2004)
Jurgen Zangenberg (University of Leiden)