At least five pieces of the “Dead Sea Scrolls” on display at Washington D.C.’s Museum of the Bible are fakes, that organization has admitted—but these are only the latest in a long line of forgeries originating in Israel which have capitalized upon the Christian belief that Israel is the “holy land.”
According to a statement put out by the Museum of the Bible—which opened last year at a cost of $500 million funded by the evangelical Christian Green family, which runs the Hobby Lobby chain of crafts stores in the US—the fragments were removed from the exhbit after third party testing confirmed they were fake.
“Utilizing leading-edge technology, the German-based Bundesanstalt für Materialforschung und -prüfung (BAM) has performed a battery of tests and concluded that the five fragments show characteristics inconsistent with ancient origin and therefore will no longer be displayed at the museum,” the statement said.
“Though we had hoped the testing would render different results, this is an opportunity to educate the public on the importance of verifying the authenticity of rare biblical artifacts, the elaborate testing process undertaken and our commitment to transparency,” said Jeffrey Kloha, Ph.D., chief curatorial officer for Museum of the Bible.
In April 2017 the museum sent five fragments to BAM for 3D digital microscopy, scanning X-ray fluorescence (XRF) and energy-dispersive x-ray spectroscopy (EDX) material analysis of the ink, sediment layers and chemical nature of the sediment. Their report, provided to Museum of the Bible recently, further raises suspicions about the authenticity of all five fragments.
The Museum of the Bible has displayed five DSS fragments since its grand opening in November 2017, and due to the ongoing nature of the research, exhibit labels have included information to educate guests about the importance of determining authenticity and about some scholars’ skepticism of the fragments’ authenticity.
“In light of the results of the three research projects, the museum has removed these fragments from display, replacing them with three other fragments that will be on exhibit pending further scientific analysis and scholarly research,” the statement added.
The fragments—which originated on the Israeli antiques market—are just the latest in a long line of forgeries produced by swindlers in Israel who have capitalized upon the Christian belief that Israel is the “holy land” and the “land where Jesus walked.”
As discussed in the Biblical Archeology Review of April 2005, four Jews from Israel were indicted in late December 2004 in Jerusalem on charges of running a massive forgery ring over several decades.
The Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) and the Israeli police claim the ring has created a host of Biblically-related fakes involving millions of dollars, some of which were exhibited in the prestigious Israel Museum.
Many of the forgeries gained world fame, including:
– The 2002 “James ossuary” incident, when it was claimed that an ossuary belonging to James, the brother of Jesus, had been discovered with an Aramaic inscription reading “”Ya’akov, son of Yossef, brother of Yeshua,” (“James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus”).
The discovery was widely touted as the first actual “proof,” or reference to, Jesus dating from his time—until its finder, an Israeli antiques dealer named Oded Golan, was charged with 44 counts of forgery, fraud and deception, including forgery of the Ossuary inscription after the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) determined that the inscriptions were forged.
Israeli police indicted Golan along with three antiquities dealers (Robert Deutsch, Shlomo Cohen, and Faiz-al-Amaleh) on charges of running a forgery ring for over twenty years. Charges also included causing damage to antiquities and receiving fraudulent goods.
– Golan and his gang were also charged with forging the famous “ivory pomegranate,” once thought to be the top of a temple priest’s scepter and the only known relic from Solomon’s temple. It was formerly on display in the Israel Museum until its exposure as a fraud.
– A stone seal purportedly belonging to Menashe (also known as Manasseh), King of Judah ca. 687–642 BC. It is reported to have been offered to a private collector for $1 million. Reference to Menashe’s rule and to his captivity in Babylonia can be found in II Chronicles 33:11-13.
– A decorated stone menorah said to belong to a temple High Priest.
– The Yoash (or Jehoash) Inscription. The sandstone tablet supposedly contained instructions in ancient Hebrew for repairing the First Temple in Jerusalem during the reign of Yehoash, son of Akhazyah, King of Judah (836–798 BC).
– Fragments of clay vessels with inscriptions that supposedly showed a connection to biblical sites including the Israelite temples.
– A quartz bowl with an Egyptian inscription describing the destruction of Megiddo by Egyptian armies.
The forgers have been able to cash in on this lucrative market because Christians have long been anxious to find proof outside the Bible that the events contained therein actually took place.
In addition, the artifacts are used to link Christianity to Judaism, as the Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA) pointed out in its coverage of the opening of the Museum of the Bible in Washington DC, when it declared that “It especially celebrates the Bible’s Jewish origins, notably those made manifest in modern Israel.”
“The dedication included a rabbi, Israel’s ambassador to the United States, the Israeli minister of tourism and the director of the Israel Antiquities Authority,” the JTA article continued.
“At times, the event seemed like a pro-Israel gala. Ron Dermer, the Israeli ambassador, celebrated the museum as a signifier of the Jewish claim to Jerusalem. The Bible nurtured Jews through 2,000 years of exile until they were able to ‘rebuild the original DC — David’s Capital,’ he said.
“Yariv Levin, the tourism minister, read a letter from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who sent ‘warm greetings from Jerusalem, the eternal and undivided capital of Israel.’
“The deference to Judaism is evident in the museum logo, a B flat on its face resembling the tablets of the Ten Commandments, and the museum store, where Star of David pendants glitter next to crucifixes.
“Judaism as parent suffuses just about every exhibit, including one that media and special guests walked through earlier this week: The Hebrew Bible. It’s an immersive 30-minute stroll through animations and special effects illustrated by supple, handsome animated Hebrews. (The Burning Bush, a riot of bright yellow light in a darkened room, was genuinely thrilling.) That’s more than twice as long as the 12 1/2-minute immersive New Testament experience.
“On the fifth floor of this six-floor mammoth comprising much of a Washington block are artifacts contributed by Israel’s Antiquities Authority. The exhibit is permanent, but the Israeli authority will rotate the items about 1,500 at a time.
“The debt to Judaism is seen in the kosher-style food at Manna, the rooftop restaurant run by a couple who wrote ‘The New Jewish Table’ cookbook.
“Judaism and its origins in Israel are evident as well in a temporary exhibit, through May , organized by Jerusalem’s Bible Lands Museum, which served as a consultant to the D.C. museum.”