Thursday, December 01, 2016

Dead Sea Scroll Forgeries in Your Favorite Bible Software?

Dead Sea Scrolls in Accordance
Over at the Lying Pen of Scribes blogÅrstein Justnes has posted a list of forged Dead Sea Scrolls that have made their way into modules for Accordance, BibleWorks, and Logos. Among other problems, Årstein points out that their inclusion in this software “has statistical implications.”

Now before you go and toss your PC out the window (if you have a Mac, go right ahead), Martin Abegg adds some important context in the comments:
Good. This is a necessary step in the process. But allow me to make a couple of comments.
  • First, my mandate when constructing Dead Sea Concordances 1-3 was to include all of the documents in Emanuel Tov’s “Lists.”
  • Second, we have a bit of guilt by association at foot in this list—3 are marked “forgery” the rest are painted with the same pollution brush although marked probable forgery or unprovenanced—but assuming for the sake of argument that they are ALL forgeries, these fragments account for 0.17% of the morphological forms in the biblical data and 0.02% of the non-biblical. Or in other words, 179 of 103,383 and 32 of 174,917 morph forms respectively. Certainly we would hope for 0 elements of “pollution,” but this hardly amounts to the possibility of “major statistical implications” as suggested in the post. I have no doubt that misreadings in the editions is at least as problematic as outright fraud.
  • Finally, my procedure from this point on: my past position has been that I add nothing to the data until I have a peer-reviewed publication in hand. I have had to modify this position as a result of the recent debate: I will for the present allow everything in Tov’s list to remain but I will add nothing of the new publications (not even my own Nehemiah fragment!) until a peer-reviewed debate brings some degree of assurance as to what to remove and what to add.
Årstein thinks all the fragments he lists are forgeries adding in the comments that “most of them are just as problematic as the unfamous Gospel of Jesus’ Wife.” He also clarifies that the statistical implications are mostly to do with how many DSS manuscripts we have for various Biblical books.

Certainly something to be aware of if you use these modules.


  1. Are you saying directly that these fragments are forgeries? Or are you just saying that there is a concern that they may be forgeries?

    1. James, who are you asking?

    2. James,
      Justnes lists 3 as forgeries, 2 as without provenance, and 9 more as probable forgeries. Justnes, then, in a discussion with Abegg, says he believes ALL are forgeries.
      Ultimately, I believe the main point is that doubted Mss should be identified in any medium in which they are listed, following Rollston.

  2. Maybe meant "infamous."
    For reasons to think some 21st-century-sold "DSS" mss are forgeries, if interested, see papers by Justnes and by Eibert Tigchelaar on
    (Speaking of modern forgeries, the egregious "early Christian" lead tablets are back in the news.)

  3. Peter Gurry,
    I was asking you.

    1. Okay. I'm not saying anything. Just relaying the message.