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How Many Scrolls are Still Out There?

According to the two presentations made public at the recent IOQS meeting in Ljubljana by Prof. James Charlesworth and Dr. Hanan Eshel, each made separate estimates as to what other unpublished scrolls are known to be still out there.The tally of the scrolls known by Prof. James Charlesworth is 30, all of which have already been purchased and which he plans to make available (by electronic images?) to scholars for study by the end of August.

According to Dr. Hanan Eshel, the tally of scroll fragments that are available for purchase, or in private collections (mainly that of Martin Schøyen of Norway, who is fortunately happy to share images) amount to about 40. As in the case of the Nahal Arugot Leviticus fragments and perhaps some others he located in America, the scholar made it clear that he makes himself available to connect sellers with purchasers (without charge) as long as he will have the right to publish the fragments himself.

After the conference there were other individuals (some scholars), who spoke privately and want to remain anonymous. These also know of many of the manuscript fragments mentioned (and possibly other fragments). They are also interested to see buyer who are willing to donate the fragments to a museum or at least allow epigraphers to photograph and publish them. Most of these individuals are not interested to have their names known 1) since they consider this to be counterproductive for ongoing negotiations, 2) since their involvement may be seen as potentially incriminating, 3) and/or since they do not want to be accused of seeking some sort of “self glorification”.

It seems that the race is on. Whatever the case, it is highly fortunate that at least some of these still outstanding fragments have now been saved from a secretive collector’s safe. Because a cooperative and discreet buyer was found, these are about to become available to the scholars. It would be hoped that similar buyers could be located for the remaining scrolls. However, recent additional publication of information concerning the still as yet unacquired texts may be counter-productive. Now that the cat is out of the bag as to what, who and where, some of these scrolls may now go to the highest bidder, not of our own choosing. It may now be that a number of those many secretive (non-sharing) private collectors, after hearing of this news may work to broker a deal (even if they would choose to keep the scroll all for themselves or show it only to a few chosen friends).

UHL Staff

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