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Canada's Big Biblical Bargain

Canada's Big Biblical Bargain: How McGill University Bought the Dead Sea Scrolls

Copyright Date: 2010
Pages: 449
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  • Book Info
    Canada's Big Biblical Bargain
    Book Description:

    Providing many vibrant details, the authors examine the intrigue surrounding the Dead Sea Scrolls and debunk many of the myths about them, including allegations of the Vatican’s involvement in hiding the texts from scholars, the possibility that they contained earth shattering revelations, and the actual status of the infamous international editorial committee who limited access to the texts. A fascinating account of international relations, religious negotiation, and scholars, Canada’s Big Biblical Bargain reveals another part of the fascinating tale of the Dead Sea Scrolls.

    eISBN: 978-0-7735-8274-3
    Subjects: Archaeology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Illustrations
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xiv)
    Jason Kalman and Jaqueline S. du Toit
  5. Foreword
    (pp. xv-xviii)
    Eileen Schuller

    As I write this foreword in the last days of June 2009, the news media in southern Ontario is full of articles and sound bites about the opening of an exhibit of the Dead Sea Scrolls at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto. More than sixty years after they were first discovered, these ancient manuscripts are still able to excite, attract crowds, raise questions, and generate controversy.

    Of the sixteen scrolls that are on display at the rom, about one half were purchased originally by the Palestine Archaeological Museum in Jerusalem from the Bedouin with money that was given for...

  6. Preface
    (pp. xix-xxii)
  7. Abbreviations
    (pp. xxiii-xxiv)

    • 1 Introduction: “I should perhaps recall to you ...”
      (pp. 3-20)

      In July 1959 McGill University in Montreal, Quebec, patiently awaited the arrival of its allotment of fragments of Cave 4 manuscripts from the renowned Dead Sea Scrolls. Discussions about the housing of this valuable contribution to world heritage were in progress; the local newspapers were agog at the import this acquired collection might have for the profile of Canadian scholarship, and university authorities were taking the precautionary steps needed for the conservation of the ancient fragments and the concomitant influx of scholars who were expected to make annual pilgrimages to Montreal to work on these extant texts dating from before...

    • 2 “Telling tales of the early days”: McGill Buys the Dead Sea Scrolls
      (pp. 21-78)

      In the winter of 1946–47 Bedouin of the Ta’amireh tribe discovered a cave containing ancient scrolls in the cliffs that rise above the western shore of the Dead Sea.² Four of the scrolls were sold by the Bedouin to a Bethlehem antiquities dealer, Khalil Iskandar Shahin (Kando),³ who in turn sold them to Mar Athanasius Yeshue Samuel, the Metropolitan of the Syrian Orthodox Church in Jerusalem. Three others were sold to Eleazar Sukenik, the Hebrew University archaeologist, who purchased them through another Bethlehem antiquities dealer, Feidi al-Alami.⁴ Even though British Mandate and then Jordanian law required that the Jordanian...

    • 3 “We must ride out the crisis”: The Efforts to Bring the Dead Sea Scrolls to Montreal
      (pp. 79-122)

      In April 1956 Scott informed de Vaux that he had become aware of further discoveries of manuscript material in the area of Qumran (Cave 11 had been discovered in February 1956 by the Bedouin).² In the same letter he indicated that he had been in discussion with the Princeton University librarian and believed that as much as $20,000 USD could be raised to support additional purchases with terms similar to those arranged for McGill University.³ Scott clearly did not see purchasing material for Princeton as a conflict of interest with his continued commitment to the purchase and preservation of the...

    • 4 The Real Question: The Nation, the Object, and Owning the Past
      (pp. 123-134)

      On 1 November 1966 the Jordanian government nationalized the Palestine Archaeological Museum, a private institution, and also its holdings, of which the most important were the scroll fragments from the Dead Sea.⁴ Although Jordan had reasserted ownership of the Dead Sea Scroll fragments in May 1961,⁵ now also the pam, as the physical custodian of the scrolls since purchase from the Bedouin, had been nationalized. The purpose was clearly to keep the Dead Sea Scrolls collection – the most important of the holdings of the museum – intact and firmly in Jordanian custody and preserved in a national museum under direct government...

    • POST SCRIPT “The harvest of this patient waiting”
      (pp. 135-136)

      For all their efforts, neither Scott nor McGill University were left entirely empty-handed. Included here, for the first time, are high-resolution and infrared photographs of five fragments from the collection of McGill’s Redpath Museum.² The catalogue record for the fragments reads: “Five Hebrew manuscript fragments on papyrus – four of which have writing on them. The collection was bought from Dr. R.B.Y. Scott by the Faculty of Religious Studies in October 1978.”³

      The fragments were purchased by the Faculty of Religious Studies from Scott, who in 1978 was retired from Princeton University and living in Toronto, Ontario. In preparing to move...

  9. PART TWO Annotated Correspondence
    (pp. 137-307)

    Letters with McGill archival sources appear courtesy of the McGill University archives, while letters with IAA archival numbers appear courtesy of the iaa. Permission for reproduction of all letters has been granted by the family of R.B.Y. Scott, the Jordanian Department of Antiquities, the iaa; L’École Biblique in Jerusalem, and McGill University.

    Although our purpose is to publish the letters in the McGill collection, a number of letters related to the McGill purchase were found in the archives of the IAA. They added significantly to the understanding of McGill’s participation in the purchase of Cave 4 material and have therefore...

  10. Appendix Transcription of R. B. Y. Scott’s Handlist of Qumran Cave Four fragments purchased by McGill University as of May 1955
    (pp. 308-318)
  11. Notes
    (pp. 319-386)
  12. Bibliography
    (pp. 387-406)
  13. Index
    (pp. 407-424)