A few years ago I was asked to give a speech at a museum in Raleigh NC in connection with an exhibit of the Dead Sea Scrolls that had been long in the works and had finally become a reality. I will be the first to admit, I’m not the first person you should think of to give a lecture on the Dead Sea Scrolls. It’s not my field of scholarship. But the lecture was to be one of a series of lectures, and the other lecturers actually were experts, including my colleague Jodi Magness, a world-class archaeologist who happens to teach in my department (well, she doesn’t “happen” to teach there; I hired her when I was chair of the department) and who has written the best popular discussion of the archaeology of Qumran, the place where the scrolls were found, and my colleague at cross-town rival Duke, Eric Meyers, another archaeologist famous for his work in ancient Israel. The organizers of the exhibit wanted me to give a talk because they wanted a lecture dealing with the significance of the Dead Sea Scrolls for understanding both the historical Jesus and the rise of early Christianity. And those *are* topics that I know something about.
Before giving the lecture, I started getting some emails from a person I did not know; these started out as innocent enough, but very quickly they turned highly vitriolic and mean-spirited and accusatory, attacking me viciously for not embracing the theories about the Dead Sea Scrolls held by Normal Golb, who is famous for thinking that the scrolls were not produced by the Jewish sect known as the Essenes (most other scholars think they were; I don’t know of anyone who has been convinced by Golb – but I’m sure there must be someone who has!).
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