After forensic testing, the Washington D.C. Museum of the Bible discovered that its five “Dead Sea Scrolls” — allegedly ancient relics of early religious scriptures — are actually fake. Fragments of the scrolls stored at the museum were tested by German-based scholars who found out that they show characteristics inconsistent with ancient origin. As a result, the scrolls will no longer be displayed at the museum.
“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, according to CNN. “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.”
Last year, before the museum was even opened, some scholars suspected that the scrolls are expensive forgeries, suggesting that more than 70 Dead Sea Scroll fragments have surfaced on the antiquities market since 2002, and that ninety percent of those are fake. On the other hand, Steve Green, founder and chairman of the museum, stated that the Dead Sea Scrolls are an important part of the Bible’s story and that they testify to the reliability of the Bible, to scripture’s timeless truths. It looks like these new studies resolved the dilemma and showed that the Scrolls are one of the most significant shams in biblical archeology since the “Gospel of Jesus’ Wife,” a fiasco that hoodwinked a Harvard scholar and made worldwide news in 2012.
Owners of the Museum of the Bible, the Green family of the Hobby Lobby chain of craft stores, already had problems with their reputation when they “accidentally” smuggled valuable ancient artifacts from Iraq. As for the scrolls, they were obligated to perform forensics and other necessary testing before displaying artifacts, but they bought and displayed these artifacts without doing their due diligence. The Greens were buying too many artifacts too quickly, without being sure exactly where they came from, or who had owned them in the past. Instead it seems their focus was counting the amount of money they could make from interested patrons.
Those who collect artifacts motivated by faith should be very careful with antiquities dealers eager to take advantage of their interest in supposedly ancient scraps of scripture. As Patheos reports, 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 are too promising for some scammers to resist.