Writing the Dead Sea Scrolls Airs on National Geographic Channel: Some Reflections

Dr. Robert Cargill appears in "Writing the Dead Sea Scrolls" on National Geographic ChannelNational Geographic Channel aired the documentary Writing the Dead Sea Scrolls this evening, Tuesday, July 27, 2010. It was accompanied by a UCLA Today story by Meg Sullivan and an article entitled, “Dead Sea Scrolls Mystery Solved?” by Ker Than on National Geographic News.

I wrote about the making of this documentary in a blog shortly after returning from filming it in January 2010. I’ll let others critique the show (you’re also welcome to praise it, but such is usually not the nature of Qumran studies ;-). I shall offer here just a quick summary of what the producers were trying to do with the show.

What This Documentary Explores

The point of the documentary was to highlight the most recent scholarship on Qumran and to get the different, often warring sides talking to one another. As a relatively young scholar in this field, I was asked to investigate the new claims to see what they have to offer.

No one theory answers all of the questions about the Dead Sea Scrolls, and no one Qumran scholar owns the whole truth. The traditional Qumran-Essene Hypothesis – where Essenes built Qumran and wrote the Dead Sea Scrolls there – has slowly been losing support over the past decades. Other theories have been offered in its place, but many of these theories take extreme positions claiming, often rancorously, that the scrolls have nothing to do with Qumran and that the scrolls are the products of anyone but the Essenes. These alternative theories have just as many problems, if not more so. This documentary hopes to show that the answer lies somewhere in between, and that only when all sides work together as professionals and actually talk to one another in a professional dialogue can we begin to reach a viable solution to the question of who wrote the Dead Sea Scrolls.

There is a tremendous congruency of ideology within the sectarian manuscripts, which make up a significant portion of the Dead Sea Scrolls. There is a congruent, yet unique messianic expectation (or expectations), interpretation of scripture, halakhic interpretation, and a unique, but consistent calendar present within the sectarian manuscripts recovered from the Qumran caves. It is difficult to explain this congruence – the use of a solar calendar, references to the Teacher of Righteousness, Community Rules for life together in the desert, and especially the very low view of the Jerusalem Temple priesthood – within these sectarian documents if one argues they came from disparate libraries in Jerusalem. The Jerusalem Origin Theory (defined as: the Dead Sea Scrolls were in no way a product of anyone living at Qumran and came, rather, from various Jewish libraries throughout Jerusalem) creates more problems than it solves and has been dismissed time and time again. It fails to explain the congruency of ideology in the sectarian manuscripts. Likewise, the Jerusalem Temple Library theory (which argues that the scrolls are the product of the official library of the Jerusalem Temple) has also been discounted as it fails to explain why the Jerusalem Temple priests would preserve and copy literature that so negatively portrays their activities and emphasizes their illegitimacy.

At the same time, it is difficult to explain some of the ideological diversity present within some of the scrolls if one argues that all of the scrolls were composed by a single sectarian group at Qumran. For example, why are the scrolls written in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek if they are the product of a single sectarian community? Likewise, the Copper Scroll from Cave 3 is from a later date than the rest of the scrolls, is written on a different medium, and in a different dialect (some say language) of Mishnaic Hebrew. We simply cannot consider the Copper Scroll the product of a community of Jewish sectarians living at Qumran.

Therefore, it is possible that more than one group or groups hid documents in caves surrounding Qumran. Based upon the evidence, it is possible that a group of sectarian Jews took up residence in the former fortress that was Qumran, brought scrolls with them to the site, copied and penned other scrolls, and hid them all in the nearby caves during the suppression of the Jewish Revolt by the Romans. They may or may not have been Essenes (although the Essenes are still the best candidate for the sect at Qumran). The theory examined in this documentary (a Multiple-Cave, Multiple Author theory, or whatever you choose to call it) explains both the congruence and the diversity within the scrolls, and it explains the development of ideological and theological thought contained with the scrolls from one of strict halakhic interpretation to one that incorporates and develops apocalyptic and dual-messianic expectations, as well as rules for life together as a community. This is not to say that the Multiple Cave Theory is not without problems. The statistical analysis is still in need of serious review and critique, and a theory that argues that different caves “belong to” or “represent” different sectarian groups may be overly simplistic. However, it is a new attempt to explain the congruency and the diversity of the Dead Sea Scrolls and is worthy of examination.

Simply put, some of the scrolls could be the product of a sect within a movement (if I may so summarize John Collins) that resided at Qumran, and other scrolls may be the product of other groups that hid scrolls in many of the caves nearby Qumran. This explains the congruency of sectarian ideology and the diversity of the scrolls, as well as their presence in caves both in Qumran’s backyard (Caves 7-9, 4-5) and those some distance from Qumran, as well as explaining the nature of the archaeological expansions made to the site of Qurman, which appear to be in a communal, non-military fashion.

On this last topic (the archaeology of Qumran), I shall dispense with the equally difficult discussion about the origin and nature of the Qumran settlement. While some have argued that the Essenes built the settlement from the ground up at a date ranging anywhere between 150-50 BCE, I have argued that Qumran was initially built as a fort, was abandoned, and was reoccupied by a small community of Jewish sectarians who were ultimately responsible for collecting, copying, and even composing some of the Dead Sea Scrolls. (In fact, I can recommend an excellent book on the subject. ;-) You will notice, however, that I nowhere in the documentary touted my own theory. Rather, my job was to investigate other scholars’ claims and to assess all of the evidence fairly and without prejudice. The producers chose the interviewees and setup the interviews, and I had the opportunity to talk to this diverse assemblage of archaeologists and scientists and ask them about their research.

The Point of This Exercise

The point of the documentary and of the producers’ approach was to do less of this, and have more of the professional exchange of ideas and more of the kind of scholarly and public dialogue that a documentary like this can generate. It is possible to discuss Qumran and the Dead Sea Scrolls without resorting to aliases and anonymity, without abusing one’s position to suppress new ideas, and without doing drive-by hit jobs on the personal lives of graduate students and scholars with whom you disagree. This documentary is an example of how one can facilitate a discussion amongst a number of scholars – many of whom disagree strongly – and present the new information, responses to these new ideas, and allow the viewer (both scholar and non-specialist alike) to make an informed decision. It is hoped that this documentary can shed light on the new research surrounding the Dead Sea Scrolls, and can serve as an example of how scholarship can be done professionally and collaboratively in this new age of modern media and the Digital Humanities.

The Importance of the Dead Sea Scrolls

The Dead Sea Scrolls are important because they are the oldest known copies biblical manuscripts we have. They are important because they demonstrate the length Jews were willing to go to protect what they considered Scripture. The scrolls are important because while they have nothing whatsoever to do with Christianity (i.e., nothing to do with John the Baptist, James the brother of Jesus, Jesus, or the early Christian community), they demonstrate that the Christians were not the only Jewish sect reinterpreting Hebrew scripture and applying it toward their leader (the “Teacher of Righteousness” as opposed to Jesus), awaiting a Messiah (actually, two Messiahs were expected at Qumran as opposed to only one (Jesus) in Christianity), engaging in ritual purification (cf. baptism in Christianity), holding property in common (cf. Acts 2:44-45), and awaiting a final, apocalyptic battle (cf. the War Scroll at Qumran and the New Testament book of Revelation). The Dead Sea Scrolls show us the importance of scripture and its interpretation to Second Temple Judaism.

Thank You

My thanks to Executive Producer Ray Bruce and CTVC for producing the show, choosing the scholars, and allowing much of their new research regarding Qumran to come alive. Thanks also to Producer, Director, Writer, and fearless leader John Fothergill for his excellent direction, script, vision, support, encouragement, and enthusiasm in making this project. Thanks also to associate producer Paula Nightingale, who made everything happen when it was supposed to, and to Director of Photography Lawrence Gardner, who shot a beautiful show, and to Sound Engineer David Keene for making the show sound so wonderful (as well as for the many great late evening laughs). Thanks also to Israeli producer Nava Mizrahi and to Antonia Packard for making everything in Israel pleasant and expedient. May we share many more adventures together.

Advertisements

more on ‘writing the dead sea scrolls’

With Shrine of the Book curator Adolfo Roitman (left), Professor Cargill looks at the longest segment of the actual Isaiah Scroll, the oldest copy of any book of the Bible known today. Only a few select scholars are allowed access to the document.

With Shrine of the Book curator Adolfo Roitman (left), Professor Cargill looks at the longest segment of the actual Isaiah Scroll, the oldest copy of any book of the Bible known today. Only a few select scholars are allowed access to the document.

the ucla press room has a short writeup by meg sullivan on my coming nat geo documentary probing the question of who wrote the dead sea scrolls. the documentary will appear on national geographic channel, tuesday, july 27, 2010 at 9:00 PM. you can read more about the show here or preview clips form the show here.

chronicle of higher ed asks what’s best done with the dead sea scrolls

An infrared image of a fragment of Deuteronomy 27, part of Azusa Pacific U.'s Dead Sea Scrolls acquisition.

An infrared image of a fragment of Deuteronomy 27, part of Azusa Pacific U.'s Dead Sea Scrolls acquisition.

a new article by jennifer howard of the chronicle of higher education asks an important question: ‘what’s best done with the dead sea scrolls?’ in the article, howard examines the pros and cons of religiously-affiliated universities acquiring fragments of the dead sea scrolls for the sake of publicity.

But for some scholars, the purchases are more a cause for concern than for celebration. Will such acquisitions by academic institutions, even though they are made legally, help drive up the market for looted antiquities and rare artifacts? And is the boost to scholarship really worth the large sums of money those fragments cost?

she also makes note of my recent satirical blog post announcing the acquisition of some dss fragments by other previously unknown dead sea scrolls-centered institutions.

Some scholars feel queasy at the thought that universities will shell out that kind of money in these hard-pressed times, even for objects as symbolically and historically important as pieces of the Dead Sea Scrolls. On his blog, Robert R. Cargill, a Biblical archaeologist, imagined “a race of archaeological one-upmanship,” in which institutions compete to scoop up high-profile objects in order to boost their academic reputations.

Mr. Cargill is the institutional technology coordinator of the Center for Digital Humanities at the University of California at Los Angeles, and the chief architect and designer of UCLA’s Qumran Visualization Project. “Universities are charged with educating people, not acquiring cool artifacts,” he said in an interview. “If someone gives a university something, OK. But universities should spend the bulk of their money on educating students and not on cheap public-relations ploys in an attempt to increase credibility overnight with the purchase of an antiquity.” Mr. Cargill also worries that high-profile acquisitions will encourage would-be looters to see what else they can dig up and put on the market.

jennifer did an excellent job with the article and it is certainly worth the read.

journey to discover who really wrote the dead sea scrolls

Dr. Robert Cargill viewing the copy of the Great Isaiah Scroll at the Shrine of the Book in Jerusalem's Israel Museum.

Dr. Robert Cargill viewing the copy of the Great Isaiah Scroll at the Shrine of the Book in Jerusalem's Israel Museum.

who really wrote the dead sea scrolls? that is the subject of a forthcoming documentary produced by ctvc in london for the national geographic channel. i was asked to be among the interviewees which include (in alphapetical order):

  • robert cargill
  • rachel elior
  • shimon gibson
  • jan gunneweg
  • gideon hadas
  • jean-baptiste humbert
  • jodi magness
  • yuval peleg
  • stephen pfann
  • ronny reich
  • adolfo roitman
  • lawrence schiffman
  • orit shamir
  • pnina shor

the documentary is designed to take all evidence into account, including the site of qumran, the known sects of the second temple period, the caves in which the dss were found, and the contents, shape, size, date, paleography, orthography, language, and ideology of the scrolls themselves.

we discussed several aspects of the scrolls including what it meant to be understood as ‘jewish’ in the second temple period. would orthodox zadokites have understood pharisees to be ‘real’ jews? how about essenes? can one be perceived as jewish if one celebrates yom kippur and passover on a date different from other ‘orthodox’ jews? what does it mean that some jews followed different calendars? what if they believed in various versions of an afterlife if they even believed in an afterlife at all? what happens if different groups claim different biblical canons or have a different understanding of what is ‘scriptural?’ what happens if they expected different messiahs or even multiple messiahs? that is to ask, how far can one stray from orthodox temple judaism before one is no longer considered ‘jewish’ and is considered something else?

on my trip, i visited the kidron and og wadis. i walked through ronny reich’s excavation in the drainage tunnels leading from the temple mount to the kidron valley. i dug the destruction layers at en gedi with gideon hadas and climbed atop masada to ask what copies of genesis, deuteronomy, leviticus, psalms, ezekiel, and most importantly, songs of sabbath sacrifice (fragments of which were also found in qumran caves 4 and 11) would be doing on top of the mountain fortress. i walked around qumran with yuval peleg and had him interpret the site for me based upon his ten seasons of excavations there. we later had a drink at the american colony and discussed the various interpretations of qumran and a couple of recent scandals surrounding the study of the scrolls. i read from the actual isaiah scroll in the basement vault of the shrine of the book with curator adolfo roitman. i held actual scroll jars and viewed roland de vaux’s actual field notes at the école biblique with jean-baptiste humbert. i walked around the walls of jerusalem to what shimon gibson believes to be the gate of the essenes. i visited cave 11 with stephen pfann and listened while he explained his multiple cave theory. i visited the israel antiquities authority’s organic materials lab and had orit shamir show me the scroll linens, the tefillin (phylacteries), wooden bowls, and other domestic items from the caves like combs and sandals. i visited the iaa’s restoration lab with pnina shor and watched as her crew restored fragments of the dss and prepared others for travel abroad for exhibition in the united states.

the production crew was wonderful. led by ctvc executive producer ray bruce, the field team consisted of director/producer john fothergill, associate producer paula nightingale, director of photography lawrence gardner, sound engineer david keene, israeli producer nava mizrahi, and antonia packard.

when it was all said and done, i felt fortunate to have had the opportunity to follow the path of the dead sea scrolls from their creation to their hiding, their discovery, restoration, and exhibition. i have a much better picture of who really wrote the dead sea scrolls. did the essenes really write them? some of them? were the scrolls written at qumran or elsewhere? should we even consider the dead sea scrolls a single corpus? or, should see it as a bunch of different collections of writings from various different jewish groups throughout the land? want to know what i think? it might surprise you. keep your eyes peeled in april for the national geographic channel’s presentation of the answer to the now 60 year old question: who really wrote the dead sea scrolls?

Robert Cargill and Jean-Baptiste Humbert

Robert Cargill and Jean-Baptiste Humbert with the Dead Sea Scrolls collection at the École Biblique in Jerusalem.

Robert Cargill and Jean-Baptiste Humbert

Robert Cargill and Jean-Baptiste Humbert reviewing photographs and Roland de Vaux's actual field notes at the École Biblique in Jerusalem.

Robert Cargill and Ronny Reich in the drainage tunnels leading from the Jerusalem Temple Mount to the Kidron Valley.

Robert Cargill and Ronny Reich in the drainage tunnels leading from the Jerusalem Temple Mount to the Kidron Valley.

Robert Cargill and Pnina Shor

Robert Cargill and Pnina Shor in the Dead Sea Scrolls Conservation Lab of the Israel Antiquities Authority in Jerusalem.

Adolfo Roitman, Curator of the Shrine of the Book, reads from a portion of the Isaiah-a Scroll discovered in Cave 1 at Qumran. The Isaiah-a scroll is presently housed in the vault of the Shrine of the Book in Jerusalem.

Robert Cargill and Adolfo Roitman

Robert Cargill and Adolfo Roitman viewing a portion of the Great Isaiah Scroll in the vault of the Shrine of the Book in Jerusalem's Israel Museum.

Robert Cargill and Orit Shamir

Robert Cargill and Orit Shamir at the organic materials lab of the Israel Antiquities Authority.

Robert Cargill and Shimon Gibson at the Wall of the Old City of Jerusalem.

Robert Cargill and Shimon Gibson at the Wall of the Old City of Jerusalem.

Robert Cargill and Yuval Peleg in the locus 138 miqveh (ritual bath) at Qumran.

Robert Cargill and Yuval Peleg in the locus 138 miqveh (ritual bath) at Qumran.

Robert Cargill and Yuval Peleg

Yuval Peleg shows Robert Cargill parts of his excavation at Qumran.

Robert Cargill and Stephen Pfann in Cave 11 near Qumran

Robert Cargill and Stephen Pfann in Cave 11 near Qumran.

the guardians of the dead sea scrolls

Robert Cargill and Pnina Shor view a mounted Dead Sea Scrolls being prepared for exhibition in the Israel Antiquities Authority's Artifacts Treatment and Conservation lab in Jerusalem.

Robert Cargill and Pnina Shor holding a photographic reproduction of the Deuteronomy scroll containing the 10 Commandments, in the Dead Sea Scrolls Conservation Lab of the Israel Antiquities Authority in Jerusalem.

there is a great new article in ha’aretz by nir hassan that talks about the guardians of the dead sea scrolls: four tireless women who restore and preserve the dead sea scrolls for future generations. lead by pnina shor, these scientists – tania treiger, asia vexler, tanya bitler, and lena libman – painstakingly work on the scrolls and scroll fragments to make sure they do not succumb to the elements. as the article states:

But without the work of the four women in the conservation laboratory, Israel and Jordan would have nothing left to squabble over a few years from now. Innocent mistakes made in storing the scrolls led to their deterioration and disintegration over the years. Treiger and her colleagues are constantly fighting every source of damage to these 2,000-year-old treasures, including light, chemicals and heat.

Overseeing the efforts is Pnina Shor, head of Artifacts Treatment and Conservation at the authority. Shor is soon to be the first director of a special unit that will handle all the work on the Dead Sea Scrolls. “There is no other collection like this in the world, with such problems and such importance,” she says.

i had the honor of meeting many of them in their lab just last week. the article goes on to clarify:

Treiger, whose tools include Q-tips, tweezers and lots of patience, is one of four “guardians” of the Dead Sea Scrolls. These four women, all from the former Soviet Union, are the only people in the world permitted to touch the scrolls.

i repeat: they are the only ones permitted to touch the scrolls (and they do a very effective job of policing that policy!)

below are some of the pictures i took in the lab.

Robert Cargill and Pnina Shor

Robert Cargill and Pnina Shor at the Dead Sea Scrolls Conservation Lab of the Israel Antiquities Authority in Jerusalem.

Not a Dead Sea Scroll, but a Bar-Kokhba Letter presently in the IAA Conservation lab in Jerusalem.

Not a Dead Sea Scroll, but a Bar-Kokhba Letter presently in the IAA Conservation lab in Jerusalem.

IAA Conservation Lab

Lena Libman, Head of the DSS Conservation lab of the IAA.

IAA Conservation Lab

Asia Vexler, DSS Conservator, treats the phylacteries.

Tefillin or phylacteries being restored in the IAA Conservation lab in Jerusalem. Photo by Robert R. Cargill.

Tefillin or phylacteries being restored in the Dead Sea Scrolls Conservation Lab of the Israel Antiquities Authority in Jerusalem. Photo by Robert R. Cargill.

Tefillin or phylacteries being restored in the IAA Conservation lab in Jerusalem. Photo by Robert R. Cargill.

Tefillin or phylacteries being restored in the Dead Sea Scrolls Conservation Lab of the Israel Antiquities Authority in Jerusalem. Photo by Robert R. Cargill.

Dr. Robert Cargill and Dr. Pnina Shor read a section of a mounted Dead Sea Scroll in the IAA Conservation lab in Jerusalem.

Robert Cargill and Pnina Shor read a section of a photographic reproduction of the Deuteronomy scroll containing the 10 Commandments, in the IAA DSS Conservation lab in Jerusalem.

Dr. Robert Cargill and Dr. Pnina Shor read a section of a mounted Dead Sea Scroll in the IAA Conservation lab in Jerusalem.

Robert Cargill and Pnina Shor read a section of a photographic reproduction of the Deuteronomy scroll containing the 10 Commandments, in the IAA DSS Conservation lab in Jerusalem.

Dr. Robert Cargill and Dr. Pnina Shor read a section of a mounted Dead Sea Scroll in the IAA Conservation lab in Jerusalem.

Robert Cargill and Pnina Shor, Head of the Department for the Treatment and Conservation of Artifacts, in the IAA Conservation lab in Jerusalem.

Tefillin Fragment. Photo by Robert R. Cargill.

Tefillin Fragment. Photo by Robert R. Cargill.

congrats to the iaa conservation lab team on their work. and thanx to ha’aretz for highlighting their work!!

on looted archaeological objects, the antiquities market, the heliodorus stele, and the israel museum

Heiodorus Stele

The so-called Heliodorus Stele is said to be both authentic and from an archaeological excavation in Beit Guvrin, Israel. Scholars wonder how an object discovered in a sanctioned excavation made it onto the antiquities market.

there is an excellent editorial on the bible and interpretation site by editors mark elliot and paul flesher about the so-called ‘heliodorus stele.’ specifically, the editorial asks the question why this inscription, if authentic, wound up in the hands of collectors and antiquity dealers?

the article concludes:

In short, we would argue that there are many questions which need to be answered about the Heliodorus Stele, above and beyond the inscription written upon it: when was it found; how was it found; if it were looted from Beit Guvrin, did the dig directors know when and how it was taken; did the IAA and the Parks Authority know that such looting was going on and, if so, what steps did they take to prevent further looting; how did Gil Chaya really come into possession of the stele; how did the Steinhardts find out about it and buy it; how much did they pay for it and was Chaya allowed to keep the money; why wasn’t the sale stopped; why was the sale allowed in the first place; what role did the Israel Museum play in this; and why isn’t the IAA (and the dig directors) questioning all this if the object has been shown through analysis to come from the same place on a licensed dig as three other similar objects?

there are a few different conclusions we can draw about the heliodorus stele, and each one of them raises some serious questions. i want to know the following:

  • looted – if it was taken from beit guvrin, why aren’t the authorities trying to apprehend the looter(s)? who received money for the transfer of this looted object?
  • antiquities market – if it was not looted, but is simply an unprovenanced object on the antiquities market, why are scholars and journals publishing articles about unprovenanced materials?
  • forgery – if it is a forgery, what is the israel museum doing displaying it? and who got duped into saying this forgery is authentic? also, if a forgery, were the fragments discovered during the ‘dig for a day’ excavations planted?

put simply, if it was discovered in a legitimate excavation, what on earth is it doing on the antiquities market? and who took it?

the copper scroll project gives an exclusive tv interview

Jim Barfield on GLC talking about the Copper Scroll Project.

Jim Barfield on GLC talking about the Copper Scroll Project.

jim barfield and chris knight, amateur archaeologists and directors of the copper scroll project, have finally landed a primetime television interview!! the two met with glc (god’s learning channel) founders al and tommie cooper, live from their satellite-access living room studio. the ark-eologists (they literally are looking for the ark of the covenant, see 17:10) – gave an exclusive, sit down interview to al and tommie and filled them in on their exciting summer. click here to watch the video hosted by waytozion.org.

there is but one word to describe this video: classic. it is simply classic!!! you must watch the first 10 minutes of this video. it is so, so very worth it. seriously. and set aside your whole, ‘watching the video only dignifies their actions’ argument. trust me, this is worth it. at least watch the first 10 minutes of this painfully long 1 hour 45 minute video. the last 90 minutes are admittedly excruciating, as jimmy barfield talks about himself for most of the interview. barfield does allow chris knight to get in a few words (on his cue), but most of the interview is barfield attempting to synchronize significant events in his own life with significant events in the life of the scrolls and the nation of israel, thereby providing irrefutable evidence that barfield’s interpretations are correct, god revealed this revelation to barfield personally, and that their mission is the father’s will. the bulk of the interview is rehash of barfield’s earlier videos, but the first 10 minutes are pure television gold.

Jim Barfield on GLC talking about the Copper Scroll Project.

Jim Barfield on GLC talking about the Copper Scroll Project.

after you get past the bob ross-inspired painted landscape background of the sea of galilee and the ceramic lion lying down with the lamb in front of the coffee table holding up what can only be described as the last remnants of the garden of eden, the interview will blow your mind.

===

here are a couple of great lines from the interview:

speaking about the fact that their dig was cancelled shortly after it was begun, a bewildered barfield says at 2:58:

‘there’s no one gonna disrupt the timing of the father.’

Jim Barfield on GLC talking about the Copper Scroll Project

Jim Barfield on GLC talking about the Copper Scroll Project

that is to say, the fact that barfield and the copper scroll project were shut down shortly after it was discovered that the israel antiquities was working with them must be a part of the will and timing of god. it certainly has nothing to do with the fact that the iaa was embarrassed to be seen working with a bunch of amateur observers (including a fire marshal and a compact tractor salesman), who were raising funds and claiming to be ‘leading’ an excavation for the copper scroll. it certainly has nothing to do with the fact that a group of archaeologists began to question why the iaa would be mixed up with a group like this. no, the shutting down of the copper scroll project is all a part of god’s big plan.

===

another great line from barfield speaks just as much about the israel antiquities authority as it does the copper scroll project nonsense. at 4:12 in the video, barfield claims that he met with shuka dorfman, head of the iaa. barfield claims dorfman gave them the ok to dig. describing this unprecedented opportunity, barfield says:

what they’ve [the iaa] done was an un…, is an unprecedented dig in israel. they dug, the antiquities authority of israel dug on the research on a fireman from oklahoma. [laughter] that was unprecedented.

The Tabernacle treasures Jim Barfield says are described by the Copper Scroll and buried at Qumran.

The Tabernacle treasures Jim Barfield says are described by the Copper Scroll and buried at Qumran. In case you missed them, here they are on one of Jimmy Barfield's powerpoint slides.

i could not have said it better. the idea of the iaa following the ‘research’ of a fireman from oklahoma with no archaeological training and a ‘kindergarten’ level understanding of hebrew truly is unprecedented.

===

barfield hit a little closer to home when he actually referred to the archaeologists that have critiqued the copper scroll project and shown that the entire campaign is sheer and utter nonsense.  in an exchange with al and tommie cooper, barfield states:

barfield: there are gentlemen throughout the world that are angry at me, that hold a ph.d. they are…uh, you can go on the web and you’ll see that they are just hammering me!

al: why?

barfield: i don’t know.

tommie: because he’s an upstart.

al: oh, you don’t have the post hole digger thing on your name.

barfield: there ya go. i don’t have the uh, credentials. i don’t have a string of letters behind my name. and with all due respect to these men, i’m, i’m not trying to take over their, their occupation, i just happened to figure out something – i found something – and i just wanna, i just wanna present it to israel, and if i’m correct, and if they’re still there, i wanna get ’em back into the hands of the israelis. so, there’s no reason for them to be angry with me. i’ll be out of their way soon if they will just let me dig. one way or another we really need to find out.

Jim Barfield on GLC talking about he Copper Scroll Project

Jim Barfield on GLC talking about the Copper Scroll Project

first, the sheer lack of understanding of the value of an education is striking. post hole digger? really? only the uneducated don’t realize they are uneducated. only the uneducated don’t appreciate what it means to have an education. i would never claim to know what a fire marshal does because i visited a fire station. nor would i claim to even pretend to be able to know how to fly a helicopter because i enjoyed riding in one. i don’t have training in that field. therefore, i don’t pretend to be an authority in that field, even if i’m very enthusiastic about it.

i simply have to laugh a this notion that not having ‘credentials’ makes barfield’s ‘accomplishment’ more significant. it does not. what has barfield accomplished? what has he found? having no credentials does not mean barfield is impressive, it simply means he lacks credentials – proper education and training in a field he obviously doesn’t understand. and bashing the educated doesn’t make you smart just like bashing the rich doesn’t make you wealthy!

i do not sign my name:

Robert R. Cargill, AA, BS, MS, MA, MDiv, PhD

i don’t sign my name this way because letters behind one’s name does not make one any more correct than one without a formal education. rather, it is one’s methodology and willingness to submit to critical peer-review that determines whether or not one’s theories will stand up to scientific and critical examination. i am not objecting to mr. barfield’s lack of education. i’m objecting to his methodology, reasoning, and conclusions. were jimmy barfield’s conclusions the result of sound methodology and critical cross-examination, and found to be credible, i’d accept them whether he went to college or not. but he didn’t. mr. barfield has devised an absurd set of timelines and coincidences, interwoven them with his own life and a political and religious ideology, and is attempting to sell it to the public without even stopping to consider the last 60 years of accepted, tested scholarship.

second, mr. barfield is incorrect about scholars’ anger towards him. stop saying we’re angry. we’re not angry. not in the least. we’re scholars. our job is to point out real research, expound on its significance to the public, and warn the public about charlatans and fakes. the copper scroll project is, in my professional judgment, nothing but circularly reasoned nonsensical speculation. that’s it. there is not a single shred of evidence to support a single thing barfield says, and most existing evidence points to the contrary. he has found nothing. simply crying ‘if you’ll only let me dig deeper’ is laughable. there’s an expression about digging oneself into a hole. put down the shovel mr. barfield. there’s nothing there.

mr. barfield misunderstands a few things. the copper scroll was not authored by jeremiah. all of the treasures are not buried at qumran. the qumran tower is not a pyramid (that’s still my favorite). the date press to the south of the southeast potter’s station is not a ‘fountain of intercourse’ where married couples take a bath after they do it. it’s all sheer nonsense! we’re not angry, we’re just informing the public of the multitude of problems with your outlandish theories.

Jim Barfield accidentally mentions the name of the IAA 'archaeologist' working with the Copper Scroll Project.

Jim Barfield accidentally mentions the name of the IAA 'archaeologist' working with the Copper Scroll Project.

third, did barfield really say, ‘i’ll be out of their way soon if they will just let me dig?’ really?? where are you going to dig? who is going to permit your excavations? the iaa? no one in the state of israel is going to let you and your metal detector go anywhere near qumran. not anymore. and did you really say, ‘one way or another we really need to find out?’ one way or another? mr. barfield, please articulate what you meant by ‘or another.’ if you cannot dig in a permitted excavation, what is this ‘other’ way you will be digging?

and did shuka dorfman really approve barfield’s excavation as barfield claims? did he really summon the two main iaa qumran archaeologists for judea and samaria and instruct them to proceed with this excavation following barfield’s research? i highly doubt that. in the video, jim barfield keeps referring to this unnamed ‘archaeologist’ that was assigned to their project, but no name is ever mentioned and the ‘archaeologist’ page on the copper scroll project website is blank. either there was no archaeologist, or the archaeologist has ordered barfield to never use his name in association with the copper scroll project. which is it?

(by the way, at 45:22 in the video, barfield accidentally says the name of the iaa archaeologist helping him with this dead sea scrolls treasure hunt at qumran. barfield refers to him as ‘yuval.’ so the question becomes: what qumran archaeologist working for the iaa in judea and samaria named yuval was working with the copper scroll project? and was he really working for/with barfield, or is barfield making this up?)

===

Chris Knight holds up a facsimile of the Copper Scroll that Jim Barfield made

Chris Knight holds up a facsimile of the Copper Scroll that Jim Barfield made

another interesting statement comes at 8:07 when barfield is explaining how they want to continue to work with the israel antiquities authority. they are disappointed with the iaa because they did not allow him to ‘dig to the proper depth,’ but barfield claims that they were, in fact, sanctioned by the iaa and working with iaa supervisors. what’s more, barfield claims the iaa paid for the excavation at qumran:

they’ve [the iaa] been wonderful to us. they’ve done some… they’ve done some wonderful things. and it didn’t cost us anything. they paid for the, the diggers. they paid for the… they paid for everything… the equipment. so now they’re working on the word of a fireman from oklahoma. that gives me some credibility.

that the iaa paid for everything (the equipment, the diggers, etc.,) is troublesome. if this is true, i must ask: why was the iaa working with these people? and why is the iaa paying for it. that is, unless the iaa was going to dig at qumran anyway, and they let the copper scroll project bunch tag along and observe, in which case barfield is misrepresenting his role on this excavation. what is even more troublesome for the iaa is barfield’s continual claim that the iaa is ‘working on the word of a fireman from oklahoma.’ scary indeed. i know of only two other people who routinely praise the archaeologists working for the iaa digging at qumran. strange bedfellows indeed.

an even more problematic question must be asked: if the iaa is paying for everything: why is the copper scroll project raising money?? why does barfield need to raise money of the iaa is funding the excavations?

===

still another great exchange takes place at 8:42 when tommie asks barfield if he actually knows hebrew:

tommie: jim, did, did you, um, study hebrew, do you, did… to know how to read hebrew?

barfield: i’m on about a kindergarten level. at best. and people say, ‘well how in the… and these ph.d. guys are jumping all over this. how did a guy with a kindergarten level understanding of hebrew figure this copper scroll out? it’s not that hard. here’s what i did: i used an investigative technique… i used a very technical piece of equipment. it’s called a uh, strong’s concordance. that thing works wonderful… i got the strong’s concordance number and i added it to it in case anyone ever questioned where i came up with this word at. i could show them. and it worked beautiful.

i don’t know where to begin. barfield admits to having a kindergarten level understanding of hebrew. this perhaps explains why barfield can’t tell the difference between mishnaic-style hebrew and biblical hebrew. and yes, we ph.d. types are ‘jumping all over this.’ think of this: barfield is claiming to have properly interpreted the text of the copper scroll, but only reads hebrew at a kindergarten level and can’t tell mishnaic hebrew from standard biblical hebrew. this probably explains why barfield believes jeremiah wrote the copper scroll.

and a strong’s concordance? for mishnaic hebrew??

===

finally, at 23:38, we are told why barfield and knight are doing what they are doing and how they are doing it. according to knight:

Jim Barfield disappointed that the Copper Scroll Project was not allowed to 'dig to the proper depth' to allow them to find the treasures of the Copper Scroll

Jim Barfield is disappointed that the Copper Scroll Project was not allowed to 'dig to the proper depth' to allow them to find the treasures of the Copper Scroll

jim and i were friends since 03, and when we… he discovered the copper scroll and he deciphered it, as we began to pray about it and really f… try to figure out why in the world would god reveal to jim and m… myself to associate with him and helpin’ him to s… to research the copper scroll, and we could only come to one conclusion, and it was, and it was sealed our mission: was that the items are to be retrieved and returned to the nation of israel.

according to knight, jimmy barfield ‘discovered’ the copper scroll. jimmy barfield ‘deciphered’ the copper scroll. and most shockingly according to knight, god apparently revealed all this information to jimmy barfield for the specific purpose of discovering the items from the tabernacle and returning them to the nation of israel (before the palestinians get them).

again, i am speechless. i literally have nothing to say to that.

===

another bombshell from barfield comes at the 35:31 mark:

because jeremiah… it, it is my undying opinion that he was the teacher of righteousness written about in the dead sea scrolls.

wow. just wow! jeremiah, who lived in the 6th century bce, is the ‘teacher of righteousness’ written about in mishnaic hebrew on the copper scroll (dating to the late 1st/early 2nd century ce). go figure. this must come from barfield’s kindergarten level understanding of hebrew.

===

one final area of concern comes when barfield mentions that someone from the travel channel heard about him and interviewed him for a program called ‘secret worlds.’ i resolutely do not believe that any network, production studio, or director would have the lack of sense to put jimmy barfield on any television show. i have a feeling that any producer who gives barfield air time will suffer greatly from tarnished credibility. it will most likely be a black mark on their resumé, and will cause legitimate  archaeologists to avoid them from barfield forward.

===

in sum, i am not out to make fun. i am not out to waste time on nonsense. it is important, however, for scholars to address ridiculous claims made by amateurs with the same vigor we critique those within the academy. popular amateurs are not exempt from peer-review simply because they avoid it. it is the responsibility of real archaeologists and scholars to help the public as well as production companies to understand when they are being lied to and being fed mere speculation. it is the responsibility of the academy to provide credible original research and to protect scholarship from claims from the likes of jimmy barfield and the copper scroll project.

n.b. don’t miss the commercial break at the 49:00 mark. again: classic!

%d bloggers like this: