The Hopeful Bible Museum: 5 Dead Sea Scroll Fakes

I actually feel bad for the folks at the bible museum. They are really trying hard to be factual and on the up and up but they keep getting conned by shysters.

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That is not the right byline @Patrick. It is not “poor bible museum”, but “hopeful or honest bible museum.”

  1. All these fakes were purchased a while ago.
  2. They were pressured about their acquisition process.
  3. In response, they cleaned house, and brought in new management Jeff Kloha, who is a legitimate scholar of impeccable integrity.
  4. This began a self-funded process of due diligence.
  5. Through this process have identified fakes, and have been immediately honest about it.
  6. Far from a cover up, are still acknowledging their uncertainty about existing untested artifacts, working to continue their due diligence to completion.

The Museum of the Bible is handling a mistake exactly as how organizations should. This should garner nothing but our highest respect.


@Patrick, didn’t you already post an OP on this?


I also want to add that The Museum of the Bible’s response to error is exactly what would calm our concerns about issues at “another” organization.

The Museum of The Bible is a hopeful example of how organizations can restore trust, reputation and credibility. It is possible. I hope it is the path that the “other” organization takes too.

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You should know, however, that however they handle it, mainstream media is going to eat them alive.

Ah, I don’t know, maybe I’m being too pessimistic.

You are being pessimistic. The Bible Museum is an example of a secular-confessional space, and it is being well received. Take a look at this Washington Post article: The Ark Encounter or The Bible Museum.

Look what @Patrick writes about them:

It is only one year old now too. They had over a million visitors their first year, and are on an upward trajectory.

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There is no support from the article you linked to that the folks at the bible museum “keep getting conned by shysters.”

Ah, yes, I do tend to be overly pessimistic on occasions (not fun) but, usually I’m a complete idealist. Honest!

I wonder if @Patrick is instead thinking of the ancient Bible manuscript collection that Paige Patterson was collecting (with the aide of a very wealthy Southern Baptist friend) for a museum at one of the SB seminaries. I knew that they were in trouble when an article said that his wife, Dorothy Patterson, had confirmed the authenticity of a manuscript offered by a curio shop dealer in Israel when they happened to visit the store during a casual stroll. They paid a huge sum only to find out later that everyone was warning them that it was bogus.

I think so, but I couldn’t find it. If this can be combined with the other one, I would keep it together as one topic.

My mistake it was not an OP. It was in a comment in the Five Views on Inerrancy thread.

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Note that the first linked article got facts wrong and the second article, linked in the OP, reeks of propaganda.

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The source articles from Friendly Atheist are always better than the articles from Friendly Atheist. Atheists…you need better representation.

Before the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered 70 years ago, the earliest and most complete version of the Hebrew Bible was from the 9th century.

But then Bedouin shepherds stumbled on the scrolls, hidden away for nearly 2,000 years in caves in Qumran, on the western shore of the Dead Sea.

The discovery was so vast, with more than 900 manuscripts and an estimated 50,000 fragments, it took six decades for scholars to excavate and publish them all.

The Israeli Antiquities Authority keeps a tight hold on most of the Dead Sea Scrolls, displaying them in the Shrine of the Book in Jerusalem. For decades, it was almost impossible for private collectors to get their hands on even scraps from the famous archeological find.

But in 2002, new fragments began mysteriously appearing on the market. The Greens bought their fragments between 2009-2014. At the time, they were deeply involved in the antiquities trade, amassing a collection of some 40,000 artifacts.

This is also a good quote from the CNN article:

Davis, who studied the fragments for the Museum of the Bible, said Monday’s news about the fakes felt like bittersweet vindication. His takeaway: Evangelicals and others whose faith motivates them to collect artifacts should be very careful with antiquities dealers eager to pique their interest in supposedly ancient scraps of scripture.

“These good intentions that draw from a place of faith are subject to some really gross manipulations,” Davis said, “and that is a big part of what has happened here.”

The issue was people outside The Museum of the Bible taking advantage of their good intentions. You can dump on them for being targeted, or you can see them as the honest victims here.

It may seem strange but FFRF and the Bible Museum are (or have) worked together well in assuring factual information is presented at the Bible Museum. Attorneys are FFRF are expert in church and state separation issues at the founding of our nation. So when the Bible Museum presented as fact certain items, FFRF worked with the Bible Museum on the historical background. FFRF suggest many changes that the Bible Museum accepted and made making the presentations historically accurate.


I have wondered if Ken Ham & Co. ever considered investing his $100+ million for the Ark Encounter not in a semi-remote county in Kentucky but in virtual reality software that he could have placed in dozens of tourist attractions in various major cities, including Washington D.C. (I’m thinking of a “chain” of attractions like Ripley’s Believe It Or Not, which is usually located near other museums, city aquariums, zoos, water parks, and other popular tourist spots.)

That would have brought in a lot of casual foot-traffic (especially if the lower costs could have meant much lower ticket prices for admission) to something like Ken Ham’s Super-Duper Noah’s Ark Virtual Reality Theater. Indeed, $100 million could build a lot of software and lease a lot of prime commercial space at major tourist locations.

Of course, I’m glad Ham didn’t do that. As it is, most Americans won’t even think of flying to Cincinnati to make the trek to the Ark Encounter in Kentucky. AIG’s outreach will remain limited and largely focused on preaching to the choir.

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@Patrick, here is the other story of Dead Sea Scroll fakery that I was talking about where Paige Patterson and his wife Dorothy asked a millionaire friend to pay a huge sum for a bogus fragment without getting any qualified experts to look it over:

One fragment sold to the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary conveniently refers to the biblical prohibition against homosexuality in the Book of Leviticus.

The problem is, experts suspect many of these sensational and pricy new fragments are expertly crafted fakes. For example, the fragment references passages in Leviticus 18 and 20 that contain the two strongest condemnations of homosexuality in the Bible. Such a strong coincidence is a flag of fakery.

“It is extremely unlikely that a small Dead Sea Scroll fragment would preserve text from both chapters” of Leviticus, says religion scholar Arstein Justnes, at University of Agder in Norway, who called the new fragments “amateurish” imitations that seem to have been copied from modern textbooks about the scrolls. “I think this fragment was produced for American evangelicals.”

That’s from a Newsweek story which talked about the Hobby Lobby manuscript purchases but also the Southern Baptist collection purchase I mentioned recently:

For Patterson, a fragment which just happens to include two different Leviticus passages condemning homosexual behaviors should have set off alarm bells. Talk about “made to order” manuscripts!

(I’m not laughing at someone being conned by shysters. I’m more aghast at how easily the head of an academic institution was conned.)

POSTSCRIPT: I admit to never having been a Paige Patterson fan. I have long been appalled at the ways he ruled the Southern Baptist convention with an iron hand—and the ways that his lackeys in high positions supported his nonsense and appalling behaviors. (Most readers heard the weeks of news coverage this year concerning the outrageous things Patterson had preached and the ways he shut down women who reported sexual harrassment etc.) I have appreciated the outstanding Christ-followers within the SBC who have been quietly (and not so quietly) trying to end that tyranny, including Southern Baptist Wade Burleson. He was a voice of reason throughout and this blog article sums up the sad situation well:


Huh, wonder why they chose exactly those passages.

But, seriously, amateurs.

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Who’s taking his job?

I don’t follow SBC matters at all closely but last I heard, Patterson was to be succeeded by James Merritt, who I remember from his presidency at Southeastern (a SBC seminary) some years ago. (However, don’t take my word for it. At my age, my memory sometimes fails me.)

@Patrick, here are more details of how the Pattersons got talked into buying the bogus DSS fragment:

Sadly, “hero worship”, mentioned in the story, does appear to be at the heart of so much of the long years of SBC drama.

Here’s an interesting list of semi-recent Dead Sea Scroll fakes and their selling prices. Keep in mind that most ancient manuscript fragments are not at all the impressive scrolls which many people imagine. Many such fragments are no bigger than a postage stamp, yet can sell for enormous sums of money.