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March 30, 1990 - Image 13

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1990-03-30

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

to Baumgarten on Oct. 13,
Prof. Philip R. Davies, a pro-
fessor of biblical studies at
the University of Sheffield
in Sheffield, England, asked
Baumgarten whether he
could inspect the documents
"for private study only."
Davies pledged "not
[to]anticipate your own
efforts in any way by
publishing any material I
see." He also told
Baumgarten that he had
been seeking access to the
documents for 15 years.
In an Oct. 29 letter,
Baumgarten declined the
request from Davies. With
"many scholars" interested
in seeing the documents, the
Baltimore professor stated
that he could envision "no
more expeditious way of
disseminating the texts to
qualified scholars" than to
either open the "Scrollery"
in Jerusalem to these schol-
ars or to give them "infra-
red photographs of the rare
documents.
But the Scrollery, wrote
Baumgarten, is a "very
P4t ,,t,:nawf,sq,t-

Hershel Shanks:
Perceives a conspiracy.

small room," and "many
would . . . have difficulty in
obtaining reliable readings"
from infra-red photographs
of the relics that had been
found in caves near the Dead
Sea in the late 1940s and
early 1950s.
The two letters exchanged
between Davies and
Baumgarten were reprinted
in Biblical Archaeological
Review. Accompanying them
was the Shanks' article, in
which he also commented
that Baumgarten's "prompt
reply" to Davies "reflects
what can perhaps best be
compared to Paul's conver-
sion on the road to
Damascus — in
Baumgarten's case, it was a
conversion on the road to the
Damascus Documents. In
short, the outsider had
become the insider."
"A little surprised" that
Baumgarten had rejected
Davies' request, Shanks

wrote that in a telephone
conversation, Baumgarten
had told him that releasing
the document was "a prac-
tical problem. If we let
Davies see it, why not
others? Then one would have
to disseminate raw material
without a check [on whether
it was used accurately]. I do
not believe this would ad-
vance knowledge of the
field."
According to Shanks' arti-
cle, Baumgarten did promise

"Shanks has
taken what was a
fine scholarly
journal and
turned it into the
National Enquirer
of biblical
literature."
Leivy Smolar

to describe the documents at
this summer's Biblical Ar-
chaeology Congress in
Jerusalem. Shanks' reaction
to this pledge was heavily
sarcastic.
Baumgarten, wrote
Shanks, will "describe his
treasure. Describe, mind
you, not show. He'll describe
them for you, BUT HE
WON'T LET YOU SEE
THEM."
"You heard me right .. .
He may even tantalize you
by reading a few lines. BUT
HE WON'T SHOW YOU
THE DOCUMENTS! NOT
EVEN PHOTOGRAPHS!"
(The capital letters are re-
produced as they appeared
in Shanks' article.)
. . . The 'scholars will
gather in Jerusalem, crowd
the room eagerly to catch his
every word, grateful for any
hint of what the secret
documents say, inwardly
seething with resentment."
Baumgarten's Oct. 29 re-
sponse to Davies, said BHU
president Smolar, "was the
height of probity and in-
dicated his concern for
scholarship and careful,
ongoing, quiet, multi-year
study. Dr. Baumgarten has
made it clear that he will
complete his work in three
years and then make it
available to scholars.
"Either we will have cir-
cuses orchestrated by people
like Shanks, or scholarship
performed by people like Dr.
Baumgarten, who is a world-
recognized scholar in the
field of rabbinics."

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