ReligionScience

Dead Sea Scrolls Bought by Hobby Lobby are FAKE

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Transcript:

The Museum of the Bible has admitted to being the victim of a massive fraud: it turns out, there is no god and the Bible is just nonsense made up by a bunch of semi-literate goat herders.

Just kidding! They haven’t quite gotten there yet but they have done something quite unexpected for an ostensibly religious organization: they hired outside experts to examine their most prized artifacts, and then actually made the results public despite the finding that all of those artifacts are bogus.

I’m talking about the Dead Sea Scrolls, texts on parchment and papyrus that are some of the earliest known manuscripts of the Hebrew Bible. Now before I go any further, let me take a moment to pop some bubbles for the edgy atheists crowing on social media: this news is not about the 1,000 or so Dead Sea Scrolls that are currently housed in the Israel Museum’s Shrine of the Book. Those were discovered in the mid-20th century in some caves near, as you might have guessed by the name, the Dead Sea. They date from about 400 BCE to the first century AD, according to radiocarbon and paleographic dating as well as from coins found nearby.

That is actual science, and the existence of fragments of the Bible dating back to that long ago does not in any way support the existence of an angry God who gives people boils for fun, just like how the discovery of the Homeric Hymns, which predate the Dead Sea Scrolls by several centuries, in no way suggests that Dionysius exists. So even if all of the Dead Sea Scrolls were found to be forgeries, it wouldn’t put a dent in any of the evidence for or against the existence of the Christian God.

That said, all of the Dead Sea Scrolls were not found to be forgeries — only many of the Scrolls that were “discovered” after 2002, and all of that which were on display at the Museum of the Bible in Washington DC. 

This isn’t shocking news, even to the Museum of the Bible. For years, experts have questioned the authenticity of the newly discovered Dead Sea Scrolls. You see, the originals were discovered literally by a bedouin looking through caves to find his lost sheep. From there, they went to an antiquities dealer and then to researchers. Bedouins have constantly beat archaeologists to these finds, and that makes it kind of difficult to determine their provenance. So when the son of the original trusted antiquities dealer started peddling new discoveries, collectors just sort of accepted that they must be real. Unfortunately, when skeptical experts started examining them more closely in the past few years, they found some problems. For instance, one fragment had modern day ground up salt crystals on it. Was one authenticator eating potato chips while he read over it? No, because the ink on the leather was written over top of the salt. There are a lot of other more subtle problems with them but that one really sums up how completely ready these people were to be suckered.

That’s why this was such a comparatively easy grift: the collectors really, truly wanted these to be real Dead Sea Scrolls. The person fabricating them didn’t even need to try very hard, just putting some Bible verses on ancient pieces of leather in blocky Hebrew. Despite inconsistencies, each fragment was quickly and easily selling for tens of thousands of dollars to churches and individual believers who desperately wanted a piece of their religion’s history. And not to say that Christians are any more gullible than anyone else but it’s not like they have a lot of experience with real evidence and real historical artifacts. I mean, throughout history there have been many churches that claimed to have the official, confirmed foreskin of Jesus Christ. They have philosophical debates over who has it, or if anyone has it because maybe the foreskin actually ascended to heaven with Jesus even though it wasn’t attached at the time. Historians of religions gotta deal with a LOT of bullshit.

Anyway, it’s been known for years that many of the Museum of the Bible’s Dead Sea Scrolls are forgeries. So kudos to them for actually sponsoring independent investigation, and then for actually publishing the results when it came to light that exactly zero of their Scrolls were real.

Why would the Museum be so honest about all this? Well, I have a theory. The Museum is funded by none other than Hobby Lobby. You may know Hobby Lobby for their virulent opposition to women’s bodily autonomy and affordable healthcare, or for their illegal smuggling operation that looted thousands of antiquities from Iraq. But what you might not know is that Hobby Lobby is also a craft store. And what do they have on sale right now? That’s right: Dead Sea Scroll forgery supplies. Ancient leather. Reed pens with worn nibs. Hebrew letter stencils.

The entire thing was just an international multi-million dollar marketing scheme! And now that you’re all quarantined, what else are you going to do with all your time inside? There are only so many shows on Netflix! You might as well know how to forge your own Dead Sea Scroll!

That’s my theory, anyway. It could also be that they realized it was only a matter of time before everyone knew they had forgeries anyway so they may as well get ahead of the story and use it to remind everyone that there’s a Museum of the Bible in Washington, DC. No such thing as bad publicity for a religion, after all! So it could be that. But my money’s on the crafts.

Rebecca Watson

Rebecca is a writer, speaker, YouTube personality, and unrepentant science nerd. In addition to founding and continuing to run Skepchick, she hosts Quiz-o-Tron, a monthly science-themed quiz show and podcast that pits comedians against nerds. There is an asteroid named in her honor.

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2 Comments

  1. Hi, Rebecca:
    First post. I wanted to mention the reason that MotB (aka Hobby Lobby) revealed that their scroll fragments were fake was because they had to. According to several news reports (including The Economist), they exibited their collection in 2017 and immediately raised suspicions; several fragments were found to be fake by Germany’s Federal Institute for Materials Research. They submitted the whole bunch to Art Fraud Insights, LLC for testing. The director, Colette Lott stipulated as part of the contract that AFI would have control over testing and would publish the testing results and make them known to the public.
    The report discusses how the fragments were doctored to appear genuine and how examination showed that some pieces may have been ancient shoe leather. The 214-page report is full of photos and geeky details and the biographies at the end should be an inspiration for anyone going into the fields of archeology or ancient manuscripts.

  2. Just saw your video on Dr Richard Carrier.
    Carrier is a piece of work who needs to be brought down.
    He is not only arrogant towards women, but to men too.

    I am an Atheist who claims to have found Jesus in the historical record. My (well-researched) book upsets Christians because my Jesus is a warrior king, and it upsets Richard Carrier because he says Jesus is mythical.
    Jesus, King of Edessa
    https://www.amazon.co.uk/Jesus-King-Edessa-Trilogy-Book-ebook/dp/B009Q5F9CO

    Richard Carrier’s response to my reasoned arguments, is to call me “clinically insane” on his ‘Free Thought Blog’. (Not much freedom of thought there…)

    He said:
    … It is devoid of facts and logic. It is, in a word, insane. All further comments trying to defend this insanity will be deleted.
    … Ralph Ellis is another crank (indeed, IMO, genuinely insane).
    … That’s insane. And I mean that seriously. This is paranoia, a form of insanity.
    … (I re-posted as Rod Elliot, as I was deleted from the blog by Carrier, for expressing my Freedom of Thought…!)

    Oh, Jerry Russel was also insane, as were Joe Atwill and Stephen Campbell.
    In fact everyone posting on this blog was insane, except for Carrier…

    Richard Carrier’s Free Thought Blog…
    https://www.richardcarrier.info/archives/4664
    … (do a search for ‘insane’.)
    … (this archive has managed to delete every ‘y’ for some reason.)

    If this tirade by Carrier is useful in defending anyone against Carrier’s lawsuits, then please let me know. It certainly exposes Carrier’s general demeanour and behaviour. Jerry Russel and Joe Atwill might agree to assist too, as they are not exactly enamored by Richard Carrier.

    Cheers,
    Ralph Ellis

    Incidentally, Richard Carrier says:
    The only Jesus the Talmudic rabbis know about died half a century before
    Romans even arrived in Judaea (the only Jesus known in the Talmud was
    killed circa 75 BC)

    Richard Carrier is a respected professional historian, yet he is totally unaware that Jesus is mentioned in the Talmud on several occasions.
    For instance, from Sanhedrin 43.
    Quote: On the eve of the Passover Yeshu the Nazarene was hanged … With Yeshu however it was different, for he was connected with royalty.
    Quote: Our Rabbis taught: Yeshu had five disciples, Matthai, Nakai, Nezer, Buni and Todah.
    It is also widely accepted that Jesus is the character called ben Stada in the Talmud.
    Quote: And this they did to Ben Stada in Lydda, and they hung him on the eve of
    Passover …. The husband was Stada, the paramour Pandira … His mother’s
    name was Stada. But his mother was Miriam, a dresser of woman’s hair? As
    they say in Pumbeditha, This woman has been unfaithful (stath-da) to her
    husband. (Sanhedrin 67a)
    In Aramaic, a ‘Dresser of Ladies’ Hair’ is a play on words with ‘Mary Magdalene’.

    ?>>Richard Carrier says:
    No mention is made of any arms being taken (onto the Mount of Olives).

    Has Dr Carrier ever read the New Testament? Jesus ordered swords to be
    purchased in Luke 22:36. They were delivered to Jesus in Luke 22:38. Jesus
    went to the Mount of Olives in Luke 22:39. And those same swords were used
    on the Mount of Olives in 22:50 to cut off an ear. So why does Prof Richard
    Carrier not know of this?

    Richard Carrier says:
    Jesus is not the high priest in any Gospel narrative.

    Yet Hebrews 7 details how and why Jesus became High Priest. The
    explanation is complex, because Jesus was not a Levite and needed an
    excuse, but luckily Hebrews 3:1 and 8:1 give a summary. The first of these
    says: “Consider the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus”
    That sounds like a High Priest to me.

    Richard Carrier says:
    There is no revolt in the Gospels.

    Yet Mark 15:7 says, quote:
    “And there was one named Barabbas, which lay bound with them that had
    made revolution with him, who had committed murder in the insurrection.”
    In what way is that not a revolution?

    Richard Carrier says:
    Barabbas was the leader of the revolt, not the
    Gospel Jesus. And Barabbas … is not crucified.

    It appears that Richard Carrier does not know that Barabbas was also called
    Jesus; and that the Koran, the Talmud and the Gospel of Barnabas all say
    there was a switch of characters, and so Jesus was not crucified.

    Richard Carrier says:
    The only Jesus the Talmudic rabbis know about died
    before the Romans arrived in Judaea.

    In addition to the quotes already given in Chapter IX, the Jewish
    Encyclopaedia says:
    “the pseudonym ‘Balaam’ is given to Jesus in Sanh. 106b and Gi?. 57a”
    So Jesus is to be found in the Talmud, under the name ‘Yeshu the Nazarene’
    and under the pseudonym ‘Balaam’. Why does Richard Carrier not know of
    this?

    Richard Carrier says:
    The Vulgate Cycle misidentifies Vespasian as the son of Titus.

    If this was not so sad, it would be funny. Here is a professor of history who
    does not know that the Vulgate Cycle has the opposite naming convention
    for the Flavian emperors, to that given by modern scholarship. (Because
    Vespasian and Titus have exactly the same names – Titus Flavius Vespasianus
    Augustus – they can be easily confused). Please see the book King Jesus for
    details.

    Richard Carrier says:
    The Vulgate Cycle (calls) Vespasian a leper rather than the emperor.

    It would appear that Richard Carrier does not know that lepros (a leper)
    refers to someone with scales (of a fish). Thus Vespasian (ie: Titus) was being
    identified as a supporter of Christianity, because the symbol of Christianity was
    and is the fish (the Christian Ichthus).

    Do note that in his latest videos, Carrier does now say that the Talmud mentions the biblical Jesus. However, I never received an apology. I am still ‘insane’ for saying that the Talmud mentions the biblical Jesus.

    Good luck…
    Ralph

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