SWBTS: 'Very little confidence' that their Dead Sea Scrolls collection is authentic

"Pieces of papyrus sold as rare fragments of Dead Sea Scrolls to Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary a decade ago are 'likely fraudulent' and the seminary might seek financial restitution, the school announced in a statement Monday (April 6)." - BPNews

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pvawter's picture

It seems strange to me that a seminary would spend a lot of money (possibly millions) on archaeological artifacts. While I realize that it's not my money, I wonder how such a purchase truly helps further the mission of training ministers. It would seem to be more in line with the mission of a research university than a seminary, but maybe I just don't understand SWBTS's mission. 

Bert Perry's picture

Paul, read it closely.  It was dedicated funds from a board member,authorized by Paige Patterson.  So not quite out of general fund dollars, thankfully.  

Personally, regarding the fragments, they're very interesting even if they're fraudulent.  Wise for a seminary to spend who knows how much on them?  I'm generally with Paul in saying that's really more for a research school, with one exception; if we were convinced that the powers that be were tweaking the data by controlling it, we might as well have some of the documents as an "antidote".

However, given that images of the real Dead Sea Scrolls (and thousands of other texts) are available publicly on the web....call me unconvinced that we ought to be trying to control them.  We can basically have a classics research program if we want one without getting our hands dirty in the Holy Land, which is super cool.  I still want to get my hands dirty in Israel and such, but nice that it's not completely necessary.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

pvawter's picture

Bert Perry wrote:

Paul, read it closely.  It was dedicated funds from a board member,authorized by Paige Patterson.  So not quite out of general fund dollars, thankfully.  

Personally, regarding the fragments, they're very interesting even if they're fraudulent.  Wise for a seminary to spend who knows how much on them?  I'm generally with Paul in saying that's really more for a research school, with one exception; if we were convinced that the powers that be were tweaking the data by controlling it, we might as well have some of the documents as an "antidote".

However, given that images of the real Dead Sea Scrolls (and thousands of other texts) are available publicly on the web....call me unconvinced that we ought to be trying to control them.  We can basically have a classics research program if we want one without getting our hands dirty in the Holy Land, which is super cool.  I still want to get my hands dirty in Israel and such, but nice that it's not completely necessary.

Yeah, I read that Bert, but as a leader of an institution (albeit much smaller and less influential than SWBTS) I would simply say no thanks to donations that don't fit within our mission. But I don't play politics well, and that's probably why I won't be picked to be President of a large para church anytime soon.

Larry Nelson's picture

pvawter wrote:

It seems strange to me that a seminary would spend a lot of money (possibly millions) on archaeological artifacts. While I realize that it's not my money, I wonder how such a purchase truly helps further the mission of training ministers. It would seem to be more in line with the mission of a research university than a seminary, but maybe I just don't understand SWBTS's mission. 

Is there a difference between SWBTS owning archeological artifacts and BJU owning a large collection of paintings, sculptures, and other art works?:

https://www.bju.edu/about/campus-map/museum-gallery/

BJU's art collection is reportedly worth a lot of money:

"[Bob] Jones [Jr] convinced the university's board to allot him $30,000 a year to buy religious art. He canvassed Europe, establishing ties to sympathetic dealers and leaning on the advice of experts who knew quality and what Jones wanted.

And, Steel recalled, "he was a great bargainer. He loved the deal."

Paintings that were already going at fire-sale prices often were procured for just a few hundred dollars. By the 1970s, BJU had amassed a collection of some 400 works that covers the 14th to the 19th centuries, with a few stellar Dutch and English pieces among the predominantly Italian Renaissance and Baroque works.

Today, tastes have shifted, and now the pieces are worth hundreds of thousands each; several would easily fetch more than a million dollars. Not that BJU is looking to sell."

https://www.christiancentury.org/article/2011-11/looking-catholic-art-fundamentalist-bob-jones-university-has-it 

TylerR's picture

Editor

I agree that purchases like this make no sense for a seminary. At least, they don't make sense to me. Just ... look at high-resolution photographs! Waste of money.

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Mark_Smith's picture

Who cares what people whom I don't know, who work at a school I didn't go to, did with money I didn't give.

Have some grace people.

pvawter's picture

Larry Nelson wrote:

 

pvawter wrote:

 

It seems strange to me that a seminary would spend a lot of money (possibly millions) on archaeological artifacts. While I realize that it's not my money, I wonder how such a purchase truly helps further the mission of training ministers. It would seem to be more in line with the mission of a research university than a seminary, but maybe I just don't understand SWBTS's mission. 

 

 

Is there a difference between SWBTS owning archeological artifacts and BJU owning a large collection of paintings, sculptures, and other art works?:

https://www.bju.edu/about/campus-map/museum-gallery/

BJU's art collection is reportedly worth a lot of money:

"[Bob] Jones [Jr] convinced the university's board to allot him $30,000 a year to buy religious art. He canvassed Europe, establishing ties to sympathetic dealers and leaning on the advice of experts who knew quality and what Jones wanted.

And, Steel recalled, "he was a great bargainer. He loved the deal."

Paintings that were already going at fire-sale prices often were procured for just a few hundred dollars. By the 1970s, BJU had amassed a collection of some 400 works that covers the 14th to the 19th centuries, with a few stellar Dutch and English pieces among the predominantly Italian Renaissance and Baroque works.

Today, tastes have shifted, and now the pieces are worth hundreds of thousands each; several would easily fetch more than a million dollars. Not that BJU is looking to sell."

https://www.christiancentury.org/article/2011-11/looking-catholic-art-fundamentalist-bob-jones-university-has-it 

No.

pvawter's picture

Mark_Smith wrote:

Who cares what people whom I don't know, who work at a school I didn't go to, did with money I didn't give.

Have some grace people.

Indeed.