Thursday, March 17, 2005

Who Sold Them and How Did They Get Them?

An article in the Pilot (a local newspaper in North Carolina) has been getting lots of attention lately. It tells the story of how one of the organizers of the From the Dead Sea Scrolls To the Bible In America exhibit, Lee Biondi, bought some Dead Sea Scrolls fragments. Private ownership of Dead Sea Scrolls is extremely unusual and as far as I know, Biondi is the only private owner who has made his ownership public.
Making Scrolls Accessible

By Robert Boyer: Special to The Pilot

It was October 2002. Lee Biondi was in a Swiss hotel room when he received the most scintillating phone call of his life.

The caller’s question was simple, but astounding: Was Biondi interested in buying fragments of the Dead Sea Scrolls?

At the time, Biondi was an antiquities dealer. He was in Basel, Switzerland, exhibiting items as part of Cultura, an antiquities and art fair.

He could scarcely believe what he was hearing. Acquiring even one Scroll fragment would be a crowning career achievement.

“This is unheard of, unprecedented,” he said. “No American dealer had ever purchased a Dead Sea Scroll collection.”


The big question, of course, is who the sellers were and how they got the scroll fragments. It's interesting that Biondi says "Some of them still had Scotch tape on the back." The original editors sometimes put tape on the back as they were piecing the fragments together. Does this mean that these fragments came originally to the Rockefeller Museum and were handled by the original team of editors before someone removed them from the collection? I don't know, but I would sure like to find out.

First noted by Jim West on the g-Megillot list. The list goes on to discuss a fragment that may have belonged to this collection. Jim also notes the article on his Biblical Theology blog.