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'Anti-Judaist' Editor of Dead Sea Scrolls Ousted

December 22, 1990|From Religious News Service

John Strugnell, professor of Christian origins at Harvard Divinity School, has been removed as chief editor of the Dead Sea Scrolls following publication of an interview in which he described himself as an "anti-Judaist" and characterized Judaism as "a horrible religion."

Peter Costa, a spokesman for Harvard, confirmed Strugnell's dismissal. He said that the scholar was in a hospital but could not disclose its name or Strugnell's treatment.

"I find the statements ascribed to Prof. Strugnell personally repugnant, and Harvard Divinity School in no way shares his views," said Mark Edwards, acting dean of the divinity school.

The interview with Strugnell was conducted by Israeli journalist Avi Katzman Oct. 28 at the scholar's room at the Ecole Biblique et Archaeologique Francaise in East Jerusalem. Katzman said it was given on the condition that it be printed both in Ha-Aretz, the Hebrew newspaper for which he writes, and in an English-language publication. The Hebrew version appeared in Ha-Aretz Nov. 9. The English version will be published in the January/February edition of the Biblical Archaeology Review, a Washington-based periodical that has denounced the more than 30 years of delays in the publication of the Dead Sea Scrolls.

"The stories, the rumors, the gossip we had heard, had refused to print, have turned out to be true," Hershel Shanks, editor of the Review, wrote in an editorial accompanying the interview. He declared that "for the man, we have compassion; but for his views, contempt."

In the interview, Strugnell declared that his attitude toward Judaism did not affect his work on the Scrolls. "Unless someone talks to me about the subject (of Judaism), I don't, when I'm working on a Qumran text, think how stupid and wrong the Jews were," he said. "I'm concerned with trying to find out what a document is saying in its context."

Strugnell had been chief editor of the Scrolls project since 1987, when he succeeded the late Pierre Benoit. In November, 1989, in response to criticism from numerous scholars about the denial of access to the Scrolls, he said: "When we recognize a genuine scholarly need by a genuine scholar, we make the material available."

Although the removal of Strugnell as chief editor must be approved by the Israeli Antiquities Authority, the agency has already appointed a co-editor, Emanuel Tov of Hebrew University in Jerusalem.

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