I know this is going to come as a surprise, but five of the “Dead Sea Scrolls” stored at the Museum of the Bible are actually fake.
The Washington, D.C. museum discovered that the allegedly ancient relics of early religious scriptures were fraudulent after the scrolls underwent forensics testing.
German-based scholars tested the fragments and found that five “show characteristics inconsistent with ancient origin and therefore will no longer be displayed at the museum.”
CNN raised questions about the museum’s Dead Sea Scroll fragments in an article published last November, as the Green family prepared to unveil their new, $500 million museum. At 430,000 square feet, and with views of the Capitol, the Bible museum represents a significant investment for its evangelical founders.
Now scholars say the Dead Sea forgeries could be part of the most significant sham in biblical archeology (sic) since the “Gospel of Jesus’ Wife,” a fiasco that hoodwinked a Harvard scholar and made worldwide news in 2012. Some scholars estimate that as many as 70 forged fragments have hit the market since 2002.
Oklahoma billionaires, the Greens are best-known for their chain of Hobby Lobby craft stores and their religious freedom battle with the Obama administration over covering contraception in company health care plans.
The Hobby Lobby family has been in hot water for years, especially after it was discovered that they “accidentally” smuggled valuable artifacts from Iraq, so it’s not like this recent revelation will tarnish the museum’s reputation. Critics will criticize; supporters will dismiss it. What is surprising is how Christian groups like this still cling to fraudulent artifacts like these Dead Sea Scrolls, as if to grasp at anything they can to support their mythology.
The nature of religious belief leaves adherents vulnerable to frauds like this because they are taught that miracles are commonplace and that they shouldn’t ask critical questions about them. The stories of ancient secrets confined in scrolls or archaic statues is too promising for some scammers to resist.
In the case of these faked Biblical scrolls, experts had been warning the museum for years. But now that they have been proven to be fraudulent, the museum is trying to claim that it has been upholding high standards for the entire time.
“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, the elaborate testing process undertaken and our commitment to transparency,” said Jeffrey Kloha, the chief curatorial officer for Museum of the Bible.
As an educational institution entrusted with cultural heritage, the museum upholds and adheres to all museum and ethical guidelines on collection care, research and display.”
But some scholars have been raising questions about supposed Dead Sea Scroll fragments for years, saying that unscrupulous antiquities dealers are preying on evangelicals like the Greens, making millions in the process.
The Greens bought these artifacts without doing their due diligence, perhaps because they knew how much money they could make from interested patrons. Now they want to pretend they’re taking the high ground. Maybe next time they should just invest in “Citation needed” signs throughout the museum.
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