The World of Dead Sea Scroll Forgeries

In recent decades, a number of texts and inscriptions in Hebrew, Aramaic, or Greek that appeared to have been composed by ancient Jews and Christians were later discovered to be fakes—but not before being taken seriously by experts. Christopher Rollston, one of the leading authorities on Near Eastern inscriptions and paleography, discusses the subject with Daniel Silliman:

Forgers today have really become quite good. It’s not something that just anybody can do. And when just anybody attempts it, it’s painfully obvious that it’s a modern forgery and a particularly bad one.

Basically what is required is a good knowledge of the ancient language, whether that’s Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek, Latin, or Coptic; a very good knowledge of the script; and a really good knowledge of the medium as well. A forger has to know how a piece was produced, like the chemical composition of the ink and other technical aspects. But if someone knows the language quite well and knows the script and has access to a scanning electron microscope with extended depth-of-field determinations of the chemical composition of the patina and the inks, it’s not all that difficult.

The forgeries that we’ve seen produced in the last 40 years—the good forgeries—are definitely by people with training in the field. Forgers are people who have gone through or washed out of graduate programs. Or they’re just venal scholars—greedy scholars with no scruples. I think that’s what we have with the Dead Sea Scroll forgeries at the Museum of the Bible. These are sophisticated forgeries, and I think they’re from a senior scholar with a lot of experience.

The damage that forgeries do can be enormous. It corrupts the data set we use to understand life in the biblical world. . . . [T]hat information gets into books. It gets into articles. And once it gets that far, it’s hard to eradicate.

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Read more at Christianity Today

More about: ancient Judaism, Archaeology, Dead Sea Scrolls

The New Iran Deal Will Reward Terrorism, Help Russia, and Get Nothing in Return

After many months of negotiations, Washington and Tehran—thanks to Russian mediation—appear close to renewing the 2015 agreement concerning the Iranian nuclear program. Richard Goldberg comments:

Under a new deal, Iran would receive $275 billion of sanctions relief in the first year and $1 trillion by 2030. [Moreover], Tehran would face no changes in the old deal’s sunset clauses—that is, expiration dates on key restrictions—and would be allowed to keep its newly deployed arsenal of advanced uranium centrifuges in storage, guaranteeing the regime the ability to cross the nuclear threshold at any time of its choosing. . . . And worst of all, Iran would win all these concessions while actively plotting to assassinate former U.S. officials like John Bolton, Mike Pompeo, and [his] adviser Brian Hook, and trying to kidnap and kill the Iranian-American journalist Masih Alinejad on U.S. soil.

Moscow, meanwhile, would receive billions of dollars to construct additional nuclear power plants in Iran, and potentially more for storage of nuclear material. . . . Following a visit by the Russian president Vladimir Putin to Tehran last month, Iran reportedly started transferring armed drones for Russian use against Ukraine. On Tuesday, Putin launched an Iranian satellite into orbit reportedly on the condition that Moscow can task it to support Russian operations in Ukraine.

With American and European sanctions on Russia escalating, particularly with respect to Russian energy sales, Putin may finally see net value in the U.S. lifting of sanctions on Iran’s financial and commercial sectors. While the return of Iranian crude to the global market could lead to a modest reduction in oil prices, thereby reducing Putin’s revenue, Russia may be able to head off U.S. secondary sanctions by routing key transactions through Tehran. After all, what would the Biden administration do if Iran allowed Russia to use its major banks and companies to bypass Western sanctions?

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Read more at Dispatch

More about: Iran nuclear deal, Russia, U.S. Foreign policy