Bible Museum Admits Some of its Dead Sea Scrolls Are Fake

23 October, 2018

The Museum of the Bible opened in November 2017 in Washington, D.C. Even then, some questioned whether its collection of 16 Dead Sea Scrolls were real versions of the religious texts.

Now, the museum admits that at least five of its scroll pieces are fake. A team of German researchers used technology to identify the false texts.

The announcement has serious effects for the Bible Museum and other Christian individuals and organizations.

Visitors look at an exhibit about the Dead Sea Scrolls during a media preview of the Museum of the Bible in Washington, D.C., Nov. 14, 2017.
Visitors look at an exhibit about the Dead Sea Scrolls during a media preview of the Museum of the Bible in Washington, D.C., Nov. 14, 2017.

Jeffrey Kloha is the chief curator for the Museum of the Bible. In a statement, he said that the findings are a chance to educate the public on the importance of making sure that rare biblical objects are real. He added that the museum was committed to being honest about the situation.

What are the Dead Sea Scrolls?

The scrolls are a collection of ancient Jewish religious texts. They were first discovered in the 1940s near the Dead Sea in what is now Israel. The documents are believed to date back to the first century, near the time Jesus was alive, some say. Researchers believe the total collection includes more than 9,000 documents and 50,000 pieces.

Most of the scrolls and pieces are closely controlled by the Israeli Antiquities Authority. But around 2002, new pieces began to appear on the market. Bible experts became concerned. They warned that these pieces were designed to appeal to American evangelical Christians.

That appears to be exactly what happened. One religious school in Texas and an evangelical college in California reportedly paid millions of dollars to buy what they thought were pieces of the scrolls.

The Green family also bought pieces of the scrolls. The Greens are wealthy evangelical Christians and the main financial supporter of the Museum of the Bible. In the years before the museum opened, the family bought many ancient objects.

Now it appears the Greens mistakenly bought some not-so-ancient objects, too. Associated Press reporter Ashraf Khalil called the situation "a massive case of archaeological fraud."

I'm Jonathan Evans.

The Associated Press reported this story. Jonathan Evans adapted it for Learning English. Kelly Jean Kelly was the editor.


Words in This Story

curator – n. a person who is in charge of the things in a museum

fake – n. not true or real

antiquitiesn. objects from ancient times

evangelicaladj. of or relating to a Christian sect or group that stresses the authority of the Bible, the importance of believing that Jesus Christ saved you personally from sin or hell, and the preaching of these beliefs to other people

fraudn. the crime of using dishonest methods to take something valuable from another person