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The Dead Sea Scrolls and Information Paranoia 585

jfruhlinger writes "Today Google and the Israel Museum have made the famed Dead Sea Scrolls available for online viewing. This is a great step forward for scholars and those curious about the oldest known copies of many biblical texts. But why has it taken nearly 50 years for the contents of this material to be made fully public? Blogger Kevin Fogarty thinks the saga of the scrolls since their discovery — along with the history of religious texts in general — is a good example of how people seek to gain power by hoarding information. In that regard, it holds some important lessons for the many modern debates about information security and control."
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The Dead Sea Scrolls and Information Paranoia

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  • by sdguero ( 1112795 ) on Monday September 26, 2011 @08:58PM (#37522100)
    From what I could see, that article only had links to other articles that didn't have links to the actual museum website. Its a pretty weak website but still would hav ebeen nice to have a link somewhere. []
  • Re:Where's Jesus? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Mr.Bananas ( 851193 ) on Monday September 26, 2011 @09:04PM (#37522138)
    The reason for this is quite simple... Jesus was just another of the many prophets who existed in this era of Israel, an era of great political uncertainty in which the Judean countryside with filled with all sorts of roving bandits and revolutionaries (read Josephus for all the background). People who fit the general profile of Jesus were literally dime-a-dozen at that time, and public executions of these sorts of people was a pretty regular occurrence. The historians from that period and region were focused on the greater discourse of the time, namely the tenuous nature of the Roman vichy government that existed at the time, and the growing discontent and militancy of the Jews against oppressive Roman rule.

    That being said, the Dead Sea Scrolls consist of material that is either older (the Torah) or more obscure than the mainstream events of the time, such as the documents related to the hermetical Essene sect of Jews (or some group similar to the Essenes).

    In short, you're looking for historical evidence of Jesus' existence in a totally unrelated place. There isn't much direct evidence, really, except for his most immediate followers and the tradition that followed them. However, given what we do know about Jesus, one wouldn't expect historians from his time to mention him. Christianity, his teachings, and his death only became historically important much later on.
  • Re:Where's Jesus? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 26, 2011 @09:24PM (#37522232)

    Jesus wasn't born until 70+ years AFTER these scrolls were written, so of course you wont find any references to Jesus in these texts.

  • by agm ( 467017 ) on Monday September 26, 2011 @10:19PM (#37522564)

    The assertion, without demonstration thereof, of the falsehood of claims of divinity is every bit an assertion of faith as is the assertion that such claims of divinity are true, due to the lack of empirical evidence in both positions.

    Without such evidence, the opinion becomes one of faith; faith in the assertion itself.

    The athiest doesn't assert that claims of divinity are false. The athiest asserts that they do not believe such claims are true. A subtle but important difference. There is a difference between have a belief in a lack, and having a lack of belief. You seem to be referring to what some call the "strong atheist" - someone that does actively claim that there are no gods. Not all atheists hold that position though. If you don't believe in any gods, then you are an atheist. That's not a statement of faith, it's a statement of lacking a particular kind of belief.

    I don't need evidence to say "I don't think there are ants on the moon". I do need evidence if I were to say "There are no ants on the moon". Both are two subtly different positions. The former is not one of faith, the latter is.

  • Re:Where's Jesus? (Score:3, Informative)

    by Marble1972 ( 1518251 ) on Monday September 26, 2011 @10:26PM (#37522600)
    Re Josepheus mentioning Christ: scholars generally agree that the text has been embellished by Christian copiests - however there's an 10th Centruy Arabic copy of Josespheus' text without the embellishments that scholars agree that would be consistent with what Josepheus would have written given that he hadn't converted to Christiantiy. And as there are no copies of Josephus that don't mentioned Christ (that I'm aware of) - the evidence is strong that Josepheus does mention Christ.

    The Romans had no sense of humor about sedition in the first place

    To go along with that - Jesus at the _start_ of his ministry mentioned 'he who wants to follow me - take up their cross'. Not metaphorically - literally! This was a clear warning for those who thought Jesus would be the all conquering Messiah that they were anticipating that they were going to be more than disappointed if they attempted to install him as King (of the Jews).

  • by symbolset ( 646467 ) * on Monday September 26, 2011 @10:52PM (#37522788) Journal
    The Pantelgraph, invented in 1865 [] and commercialized as a telefax service that year, predates even the telephone. I imagine some time in the ensuing century and a half a pack of religious scholars might have gained access to this commercial service if they wanted to.
  • by Morty ( 32057 ) on Monday September 26, 2011 @11:06PM (#37522862) Journal

    Aramaic paleography skills.

    I agree with most of what you wrote, but please note that most of the Dead Sea Scrolls are in Hebrew rather than Aramaic. Also please note that ancient Hebrew is surprisingly readable to people who can read "modern" Hebrew. For the last 2000 or so years, Hebrew has mostly been a dead language used only for ritual and study, so it hasn't changed all that much. I haven't personally seen any of the Aramaic parts of the Dead Sea Scrolls, but I wouldn't be surprised if they were relatively easy to read as well.

  • Re:Where's Jesus? (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 27, 2011 @12:00AM (#37523148)

    The scrolls were written at different times. Some are older than 70BCE, some later. (the site dates the war scroll between 100BCE to early first centure CE and some are as late as 70CE (according to the story, nearly 40 years after the death of Jesus.)

    Some of the other reasons discussed may be the reason why there is no mention of Jesus (he wasn't an important enough figure at the time; or references to Jesus would contradict what they wanted to be their teachings) but Jesus did live before the Essines closed up shop, so they could have kept a record of him if they chose to.)

  • by DSS11Q13 ( 1853164 ) on Tuesday September 27, 2011 @01:40AM (#37523608)

    I'm studying ancient Christianity and Judaism at Harvard, have published on one of the Dead Sea Scrolls and work with them regularly (I'm procrastinating on translating a bunch of fragments for my homework right now actually).

    It's taken this long partly for bureaucratic reasons, but mostly because there are thousands of fragments that are basically shredded wheat that had to be put back together, reconstructed, translated, categorized, edited, and published. This was also around the time the State of Israel, and the cluster**** that was caused a lot of delays and red tape.They have not been kept secret, they have been steadily published in the DJD series (Discoveries in the Judaean Desert) for the last 50 years as this tremendous task has been accomplished. As someone said above, yes people were not very careful with them by today's standards, people smoked around them, drank coffee, and used the handiest invention that had just come out-"scotch tape"- to piece them together. All that said, with the exception of fragments in private collections, the last of the Dead Sea Scrolls were published in the early 90's.

    This is not publishing anything new, or secret. It is being scanned and put online for the public, who doesn't have a clue what to do with them, can look at them. Scholars have known how to look at them, in the DJD, and in a half a dozen other widely available publications that have been around for decades.

    Facts the dilettantes have said in these comments that have made me [face_palm]:
    The Dead Sea Scrolls (DSS hereafter) were composed in Qumran, not Jerusalem. (some of the stuff is clearly copies of other documents that circulated elsewhere however)
    The Qumran community responsible for the scrolls existed between the 2nd century BCE and ca 70CE during the Roman war.
    There is nothing in the DSS about Jesus because they probably never heard of him, they probably lived a monastic style life and kept to themselves.
    There are, however, certain strong affinities between things we find in the DSS and the New Testament, including the method of scripture interpretation, some apocalyptic ideas, as well as some apparently common expressions like that found in 4Q521 and Acts.
    There is nothing damaging or threatening to the modern religions of Judaism and Christianity. To be sure, the DSS are of tremendous importance for contextualizing their origin and telling us what life was like back then, but this is not a conspiracy to keep them hidden.

    Anyone that has any questions please feel free to ask me, and stop giving those asshats up there 5 points for 'information'

The intelligence of any discussion diminishes with the square of the number of participants. -- Adam Walinsky