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James the Just as Righteous Teacher – the radiocarbon controversy

The thing that has principally held researchers back from making the kinds of connections outlined in my article “Internal vs. External Data and the Dead Sea Scrolls” two months ago (http://blogs.jpost.com/internal-evidence-vs-external-evidence-carbon-testing-dead-sea-scrolls) is the chronology of Qumran based on the External Data – as we showed – primarily including archaeology, paleography and, latterly, radiocarbon dating.

 

I covered the first two of these in several early books: Maccabees, Zadokites, Christians and Qumran, James the Just in the Habakkuk Pesher, and The Dead Sea Scrolls and the First Christians, all subjected these to thoroughgoing criticism. However, where AMS Carbon dating is concerned, I take responsibility for its having arisen, unfortunately, in the first place and the procedure itself being ultimately employed in a certainly tendentious and somewhat over-inflated manner where the Scrolls were concerned.

 

This occurred in the following manner: in March-June of 1989, Prof. Philip Davies of Sheffield University and I suggested in two letters to the Israel Antiquities Authority that, in lieu of granting proper access to all scholars and other interested persons to the unpublished corpus of the Dead Sea Scrolls – then the reigning issue in Scrolls Studies and a thing the Antiquities Authority, under the influence at the time of what was called “The International Committee”, was refusing to do – it could at least conduct AMS Carbon tests (tests well within its authority to conduct) consuming less material and unknown previously and not therefore applied.

 

However in the letters, we attached two caveats – neither of which, in the event, were observed – 1) that “Opposition Scholars” (the term people were applying to dissenting “scholars” like ourselves) be included in the process to ensure objectivity and that their concerns were properly and fairly addressed (since it was they who had felt the most need for such tests in the first place); and 2) that “relative” as opposed to “absolute dating” – meaning, “earlier vs. later” in the same test run – be the goal; because, given the fairly large margins-of-error involved (in most cases greater than the actual time span that could be considered for a given document to begin with), “absolute dating” (an attempt to get an actual date for a given mss.) was, in the circumstances, not a realistic goal. On the other hand, “relative dating” could at least test the paleographic sequences and the derivative claims for paleographic accuracy in Qumran Studies – at the time considered almost inviolable and virtually sacrosanct.

 

To state this perhaps more clearly, it was my firm opinion then and now that the margins-of-error in C-14 testing for a timeframe, such as that for the mss. at Qumran – particularly the ‘sectarian’ ones or those never seen before – were of such magnitude as to render “absolute dating” unrealistic. On the other hand, in the circumstances, "relative dating” – meaning, as we just signaled, “earlier vs. later” in the same test series – would be the best that could reasonably be expected since, in the limited circumstances of a run of tests conducted at the same time, the inherent methodological errors would more or less cancel each other out. Moreover such a process might at least test over-inflated claims for accuracy based on these tenuous “paleographic sequences”.

 

These suggestions along with the caveats were laid out in two letters (to which we attached the relevant literature on the new AMS Carbon testing, in the event he was not familiar with them – we presumed, probably correctly, he was not) to the then Head of the Israel Antiquities Authority, Amir Drori (a former Israel General who saw service in the Lebanon War), where they fell on deaf ears – the first on May 6, 1989 and the second on June 15th, 1989, after no response was received from the first.

We had already heard from the new Head of "The International Team" (which was simply the same one that had been appointed in and functioned previously in “Jordan” before the 1967 War), the late John Strugnell, who had recently been appointed in place of one Father Benoit by the Israelis, to whom we had earlier written that March (1989) and who had typically spurned our requests with ‘wise-guy’ comments like being from “the Land of the Lotus-Eaters” (by which he supposedly meant “California”)! In the event, not only did Drori not answer our letters but, what the new Antiquities Authority, as he now called it and which he now headed, did was to then proceed to announce in September its "own" intent to run precisely such tests (obviously, in response to our requests but, of course, without acknowledging it and certainly not including us!) – nor were either of our two caveats observed!

I was also indirectly responsible – not to be too vainglorious and much to my own chagrin – for the second run of tests 4-5 years later in 1995-96. This transpired as follows: at the request of the NOVA Program, “The Secrets of the Dead Sea Scrolls”, being prepared for broadcast in 1991-92; I was asked to do some last-minute filming at the Huntington Library in San Marino, California (I had already done some 3–4 hours of filming earlier for them, all of which ending up on the ‘cutting room’ floor). The reason for this was obvious – the pivotal role I had played as the Consultant for the Huntington Library in opening its archives earlier that September. This had caught the NOVA producers at the last moment by surprise, so they wanted to try to quickly ‘shoe-horn’ something concerning this in at the end (which they did).

Moreover, to heighten viewer interest in the shots they were planning at the Library, they asked me to come and to bring along a student if I could, to whom I could be shown giving tuition from the photographs the Library had theoretically newly made available to scholars (actually, it never really did make such photographs generally available until months later, after the threat of an Israeli law suit dissipated). After several of my real CSULB students proved unable on such short notice to come, I asked Greg Doudna, who he had shown a certain amount of interest in my work at several SBL Conferences and who was now doing graduate work at Cornell University – a program I had helped him enter and whom I suspected might welcome the opportunity – if he would like to come out (he did – a fatal mistake – in fact, rushed out!).

Of the many disappointments I have experienced in the struggle to free the Scrolls – and there have been many – this turned out to be one of the most ill-considered. Another was E.J. Brill’s sudden cancellation ten days before their planned date of publication in April, 1991 of the Facsimile Edition of the Dead Sea Scrolls – which James Robinson (at my invitation) and myself had prepared for them – after dissension had broken out at the Madrid Conference, “the Official Editing Team’’ had held the preceding month; and then turning the next year to this same “Official Team” (now headed Emmanuel Tov, whom they preferred anyhow because he was an Israeli, because Strugnell had been dismissed for making anti-Semitic comments in an interview piece – something that surprised me not at all) to do the same publication we had already prepared for them, thereby depriving Professor Robinson and myself of the chance to be the first to break the monopoly a full six months before The Huntington Library, where we were now sitting, did (I now being one of their "Advisers")!

Ranking a very close third was Hershel Shanks, The Biblical Archaeology Review Editor, adding an unheard of and highly irregular cartoon-like “Publisher’s Foreword” to theFacsimile Edition, Professor Robinson and I had prepared, when it finally appeared about six months after it was supposed to have done with Brill, thereby undercutting it (we didn’t need it and it was unnecessary, being in the main a ‘legal brief’ which, a lawyer by training, he had prepared – moreover, though he showed it to Robinson who did not understand what it contained and, therefore, considered it harmless; he never showed it to me!) and bringing upon ourselves a series of interminable lawsuits which took about ten years to settle.

A fourth and fifth would be the co-editor, I had chosen for The Dead Sea Scrolls Uncoveredin 1992, Michael Wise, sharing the photographs of the previously unpublished Dead Sea Scrolls corpus, I had supplied him in confidence, with mentors and students at the University of Chicago and, ultimately in the aftermath of this, proceeding to do a new translation with two other colleagues, allotting to them the ones, we had previously published together, while – as if in all innocence – he moved on to do others without a word of either personal apology or explanation to me.

Be these things as they may – to go back to Mr. Doudna (then an unknown graduate student), whom I invited to stay at my house in California to save him expenses as, so much did he want to appear on the NOVA Program, he paid his own way out. To pass the time the night before we were to film at The Huntington, I shared my concerns over the way the AMS Carbon test “results” (which had just come out and been published by The Biblical Archaeology Review) were being presented with him and ‘the Pandora’s Box’ I had opened.

Not only did I acquaint him with the subject in general, which he admitted at the time to knowing next to nothing about (but which, thereafter, became almost his principal preoccupation and, concerning which, he was eventually ‘co-opted’ by “Network” or “Consensus’ Scholars” as worldwide “expert" – though here too without a word of acknowledgement of how he came to be involved in or know anything about this subject in the first place); I meticulously explained to him the over-inflated claims for accuracy being made by the paleographers along with the de-emphasis of the margin-of-errors in the AMS Carbon Test “results” (which had just been done) by “Consensus Scholars”. Of course, this included my dissatisfaction with the way these same “results” were being seized upon to attack Prof. Davies and myself, even though we were the ones who originally and “officially” had requested these tests in the first place.

Since I thought a letter from myself to The Biblical Archaeology Review expressing such dissatisfaction would just appear self-serving; I suggested that, as a relative unknown and an outsider, as it were, he might write just such a letter outlining these points about the shortcomings of the tests, the manner in which they were done, and how they were being used to attack “Opposition Scholars”, who were the very ones who had proposed them in the first place – to say nothing of their questionable attempts to press “absolute dates” out of “relative” ones.

Apparently I did this only too well because, by all reports, upon returning to Ithaca, he became totally absorbed in the subject, so much so that he was eventually let go from his studies at Cornell. From my perspective, it was becoming clear to me that he had come to understand the tremendous possibilities inherent in the subject; because, instead of writing the letter to the Biblical Archaeology Review I had initially suggested and outlined for him, he rather wrote one proposing he pay for a new round of carbon testing and run them himself (and he being supposedly poor!). For my part, I was utterly stunned by this – all the more so, since I had explained to him what the key documents were that needed testing.

Nor was I particularly enthusiastic about it, given the tendentious manner in which the previous round had been carried out – the personalities and prior assumptions of those involved, even the labs, and how “the results”, such as they were, had ultimately been used to attack those who had first proposed making them.

On the other hand, I knew it would be something the Editor of The Biblical Archaeology Review, Hershel Shanks, seeing the PR possibilities in, would immediately snatch up and – just as he had two years before, when he stepped in to take Brill’s place in the publication of the Facsimile Edition of the previously-unpublished Scroll photographs, Professor Robinson and I had prepared (though not before demanding a subvention of $20,000 which I had to raise!). Where Doudna was concerned, after a financial settlement from Cornell and a detour to the University of Chicago – also partially arranged by myself through my erstwhile new colleagues there – he finally finished up at the University of Copenhagen.

For his part Shanks, even after having all the pictures in his hands, 'dragged his feet' in publishing them for 6 more months or so, apparently not realizing the importance of speed, so, once more, Robinson and I missed the chance to be the first to break the monopoly. Why did he do this? I don't know but, as time went on, it became apparent to me thaat, feeling no pressure, he did it in order to give another project, he was sponsoring and promoting at the time, time to take hold and, of course, return some profit – B.-Z. Wacholder and M. Abegg’s computerized reconstruction of texts from a somewhat curiously-obtained copy of “the Official Team”’s Concordance of the Scrolls – even though this was no longer necessary, since we had now given him all the photographs of the unpublished Scroll texts and he didn’t, therefore, any longer have any real need for a tenuous “Reconstruction” however cleverly done.

But never mind, where Shanks was concerned, this was nothing new as 3 years before, he had done something similar before starting his campaign “to free all the Dead Sea Scrolls” in BAR, after I had sent him a copy of the computer print-out of all the Scrolls held by the Antiquities Authority at the Rockefeller Museum. I had first seen this print-out in 1986, when I was as an N.E.H. Fellow at the Albright Institute in Jerusalem (the fabled “American School”, where the Scrolls first came in and were photographed by John Trever) and came into possession of a copy of it two years later, a xerox of which I sent to him. Since, previously, he seemed to know or even seem to care very little about the Scrolls, it had taken him therefore a little time to get moving even with this.

Nor is this to say anything about how he involved us in the completely unnecessary lawsuit by adding (without informing me anyhow) the previously unheard-of “Publisher’s Forward” noted above – a lawsuit that took almost a ten more years to sort out, as already remarked above too, during which time I was more or less constrained from visiting Israel. Consequently, it would not have surprised me at all, if he also helped make sure I was, once again, frozen out of the process (though Doudna was quite capable of doing this all by himself).

Nevertheless Mr. Shanks is still going strong, championing the authenticity of “the James Ossuary” (along with his two new PR confederates, Simcha Jacobovici and James Tabor – before it was either Doudna or Wise) – even though here too, before I wrote my books on James, he probably had never really ever heard of James either or knew little or nothing about the details of his life (but this was true of many people). Now he finds him very useful indeed!

Be these things as they may, Doudna’s revision of my original suggestion and exposition to him resulted in another round of AMS Carbon Testing which he had done, since he was now paying and doing the choosing despite his previous lack of funds (though possibly, here too, along with Shanks), at the University of Arizona Center. This was the Laboratory previously involved in testing the Turin Shroud – tests themselves fraught with controversy then and to this day, but a Center – at the time – considered to be in some manner not unconnected with Vatican Archaeological activities (perhaps through contributions – perhaps in some other less formal manner though, to be fair, Mr. Doudna was not necessarily aware of this at the time).

As already remarked, these new “tests” proved just as “skewed” as the last but, unlike these – where those initiating the tests showed no awareness of which documents were pivotal to the debate and which not – these focused on (perhaps because of the oral excursus I had given Mr. Doudna to begin with) chronologically more-important Qumran texts .

Still, aside from the general attempt again to press “absolute dating” from an insufficiently-precise-process-to-begin-with – given the time period involved (this had been my principal objection to the first set of tests) – my misgiving was made even more intense, not only because of the manner in which these tests had originated, but the tendentious way they were reported; and, thereafter, exploited (an unpleasantness which turned out to be as true for the second run of tests as it had for the first) by persons who previously had never themselves even thought about of doing AMS C-14 tests and – from my perspective – who had therefore no real sense of the limitations of their “results”.

The Weakness of “the Results"

To criticize these "results" would take an excursus in itself. I started this process in James the Brother of Jesus (Viking/Penguin/Faber&Faber, 1997-98) and The New Testament Code (Watkins/Sterling/Barnes&Noble, 2006) by pointing up the multiple inaccuracies involved in such testing including: 1) the inherent imprecision of using dendrochronology as a control (tree-ring analysis, upon which most attempts at “absolute chronology” were based); 2) the lack of any really firmly-attested paleographic “pegs” (as they were called, i. e., manuscripts, the date of which was considered known – and this, by the way, usually through “Internal Data”!) between approximately 225 BC and 115 CE, consdiered to be the basic possible timespan for the composition of the Scrolls; 3) the impurities introduced by cleansings and other procedures, particularly where oft-consulted documents like the Habakkuk Pesher (probably the most important document chronologically-speaking, as I had explained to Mr. Doudna, which is why he probably ended up tested it more than once) were at issue.

Nor is this to say anything of problems introduced by the inks scribes were using or the inability to tell when a given skin or plant (from which a certain parchment or papyrus was produced) was actually utilized; or even whether it could be with any precision determined when it had been killed or stopped growing. All of these issues probably also added to the well-known tendency of radiocarbon tests generally to archaize. But even more important than any of these, in my view, was that the analysis of the tests – whatever the pretensions of a given lab or the various investigators involved – did involve “interpretation” – “interpretation” based on their abilities, the background data they were using, and their own preconceptions. This is a very important point.

A few years ago revelations concerning the working methods of the FBI Crime Lab in Washington D.C. surfaced. These, as it were, vividly demonstrated how preconceptions on the part of the interpreters played a part even in the case of a Laboratory as prestigious as that – where, according to the findings, researchers generally came out with “results” in keeping with or confirming the preconceptions of those who had initiated the tests or submitted the materials to them in the first place.

In the parallel situation of testing the Dead Sea Scrolls, as just noted, this is a tremendously important point and is particularly the case with the tests relating to them, almost all of which either began or included in their reports an uncalled-for and fairly harsh attack on research positions such as my own. For me, this shows the bias. Why this should have been the case or even played a part must be a puzzle for any objective observer, including even the firmly-convinced believer. Nor was it widely known that it was due to efforts, on the part of persons like ourselves, that the tests were even being conducted in the first place (somehow the Israel Antiquities Authority ‘forgot’ to mention this).

But even more to the point, in my view, in the case of laboratories, themselves probably not even as prestigious or well-regulated as the FBI Lab, “the results” that were achieved were often just that – tendentious “interpretations” of raw data – data as I have been at pains to point out, that may not have been particularly accurate in the first place.

On the other hand – my own efforts aside – researchers outside the study of the Scrolls themselves, but rather expert in the more technological aspects of the processes have, not only pressed these points further, but discovered that – just as I should have suspected – those doing the “interpreting” in both runs of testing in all three labs, the 1989–91 and 1994–95 ones, were using an imprecise and outdated dating curve which made their “results” appear even older than they actually were – again increasing the “archaizing” effect, I called attention to above (this, even though the newer dating curves were already available by the time of the second reports in 1995 – for footnotes regarding these matters, see the 100 pages of endnotes to my The New Testament Code, 2006, which can be found on-line or downloaded from the Publisher's or my own websites, RobertEisenman.com and RobertHEisenman.com; they are also to be found on the CSULB Institute site: csulb.edu/centers/sjco/).

Probably just as important, they have also shown that, where radiocarbon dating in particular is concerned, multiple sample variations from a single source – that is, different pieces from varying parts of the same parchment or papyrus – can often be greater than the various margins-of-error assumed for a given sample in either of the two sets of tests that were done. In any event, almost all such testing was based on single sample (even if sometimes retested for greater accuracy), so the assumed precision is, once again, not only questionable but not a little marginal anyhow.

Moreover, despite the pretensions of both those following and conducting the tests at arriving at a degree of finality in terms of “absolute dating,” the results that were achieved in both series of tests sometimes give just the opposite impression. Some of these commentators, not only agree that nothing of any “absolute” certainty was obtained; but actually, to some extent, the opposite was rather demonstrated and the multiple uncertainties involved effectively defeated the claims for any final “precision” or “accuracy" in these tests.

One paper, I helped prepare, that appeared in both Qumran Studies in 2004 and The Qumran Chronicle in 2005 concluded that the “results”, such as they were, actually favored some of the positions I embraced and not vice versa. Nevertheless, because of the self-serving kind of analysis outlined above (to say nothing of wishful thinking); the public was left with a completely opposite impression.

This is even true for the Habakkuk Pesher (an idiosyncratic Commentary on the first several chapters of the Prophet Habakkuk, reflecting unforgettably meaningful events in the life of the Community – portions of which, nevertheless, totally important to “Christian” theology too) which, as a result of this second round of tests at the quasi Vatican-connected Arizona Laboratory, became a classic exemplar of the use of such tests to undercut positions such as the ones embraced in my piece on “Internal vs. External Dating in the Dead Sea Scrolls” in this blog two months ago.

The key here, as I also explained in that posting, is that the Habakkuk Pesher, paleographically-speaking, is exactly comparable to the Psalm 37 Pesher – another Commentary which contains the exact same dramatis personae and which is completely related to the Habakkuk, both ideologically and historiographically. This is what I have meant by referring to “the homogeneity of the Documents”.

Yet in trying to press the Habakkuk Pesher back into the First Century BC, as opposed to the First Century CE – this time, even in the face of paleographic evidence to the contrary (from my perspective, to attack positions such as those researchers like myself were identified with) – these same analysts ignored the fact that the dating of the Psalm 37 Pesher, having relatively-speaking been handled and cleaned less and therefore probably more reliable and secure, came out to be the second half of First Century CE (precisely the timespan we would have given it on the basis of “the Internal Data” – again see my above “Internal vs. External Evidence” piece two months ago, also citing most of the points that will now follow)!

These “Internal” data markers include, for instance: 1) several references to “the Community of the Poor” (that is, “the Ebionim” – popularly expressed as “the Ebionites”, the same name as the Community James is supposed to have led in all Early Church literature); 2) that “the Wicked Priest“, exactly as in the Habakkuk Pesher, sought to “put to death the Righteous Teacher”, for which act – again as in the Habakkuk Pesher – God would “pay him His reward by delivering him into the hands of the Violent Ones of the Gentiles (i.e., “the ‘Arizei ha-Go’im”) to execute Judgement upon him” – in the Habakkuk Pesher, it is “upon the body of his flesh” (thus the late G. Vermes, but really “the flesh of his body” – for footnotes on matters such as these, see the total expanse of my work from 1977 to the present, including Maccabees, Zadokites, Christians, and Qumran and James the Just in the Habakkuk Pesher, E. J. Brill, 1984-86, The Dead Sea Scrolls and the First Christians, 1996, and The New Testament Code, 2006 above).

This last, of course, is exactly what happens to James’ destroyer, the High Priest Ananus ben Ananus, if one reads one’s Josephus carefully, when the “Idumaeans” (i. e., the true “Violent Ones of the Gentiles”, but in this instance allied to the revolutionary “Zealots” and “Sicarii”) rampage through the City killing all the High Priests they come upon (who were viewed as “collaborators”); but, in particular, Ananus ben Ananus, mocking his dead body – perhaps even urinating on it to render it impure – before throwing it outside the walls of the city naked, without burial, as food for jackals and wolves. One might ask , why – why such abnormal hostility? You, dear reader, tell me. This is a good example of what can develop out of “the Internal Data” when used in a properly intelligent manner.

The reason I was so sure about my positions, right from the beginning, was because I knew that 1) given “the results” of both paleographical studies and those alleged of archaeology and AMS Carbon Dating, no sense whatever could be made of the Scrolls themselves – that is, “External Data" such as this defeated the clear thrust of “the Internal Data.” Put another way, these so-called “External” attempts to measure chronology rendered “the Internal Data” – that is, what the Scrolls themselves had to say – moot or inchoate; 2) most of the principal Qumran sectarian Scrolls, meaning those new Scrolls that had never been seen before, had to have been written at approximately the same time or, at least, in probable close chronological proximity – say within fifty years of one another, whatever the paleographers, archaeologists, or analysts of Carbon Testing might say (this is what I mean by "the homogeneity of the documents” – and this because they contained the same dramatis personae, as I have explained, and repeat the same points in the same form with the same vocabulary in the same context, over and over again. This is it!

Nor could it have been otherwise for, if they had been written at varying times, they would have included historical markers pointing to such variety (and one is not including here Biblical texts represented there or even known apocryphal pseudepigraphic texts, such as Enoch, Jubilees, Ben Sira, or “the Giants” Literature, which by the time of the composition of the more “sectarian” Qumran Documents probably had already had time to become standardized). In American history, for instance, it would probably make a difference if a document were written during the time of Abraham Lincoln or John Kennedy, two leaders assassinated in similarly brutal circumstances.

But the sectarian Qumran documents do not. To think that they were all written at varying times would be like thinking people alive today would be reading with intense interest – and considering them applicable to their own time and place – documents referring to George Washington’s time or President Polk’s Mexican War. Moreover, this is exactly what the results of carbon testing seem to imply because of the multiple variables and imprecisions involved.

A good beginning in the criticism of these results was made in 1998 by G. A. Rodley and B. E. Thiering, the latter known for some of her perhaps over-imaginative theories of Qumran Origins; but, in this instance, producing the most solid and straightforward of scientific presentations. They were the ones who first demonstrated that the parties at the University of Arizona, who conducted the second run of carbon-dating tests (for which even more extravagant claims were made for accuracy than the first), used the wrong dating curve.

Not only had researchers before this time been using the wrong dating curve too – this includes both sets of tests, as we have said, those in 1991–2 and in 1994–5 – but these made documents appear older than they actually were, sometimes by as much perhaps as 50, 100, or even 200 years! Moreover, it should be appreciated that, when these “results” are interpreted, there are in fact – even according to “Consensus” or “Establishment” theorizing – “two sigma”s (to use the statistical term): one representing the time span theory posits a test would contain the actual date 68% of the time; the other – a far wider time span – theory posits they would theoretically include the actual date 95% of the time. Nor is this to mention the issues of impurities, cleansing, biological age of the animal whose skin was being used at death, and such like, we have already several times alluded to above.

But when announcing the “results” of these tests in a public manner, those responsible and doing the interpreting almost uniformly confined themselves to the “one sigma” not the “two sigma” results. One English specialist, we noted above, now departed but well-known for his conventionally “Establishment” views – being an Oxonian, what else would one expect? – actually announced that even a single counter-indicative such “result” (even if or when not wholly accurate) would “damage almost beyond repair the hypothesis (like mine) proposing a Christian connection” – he loved attacking me. But this statement was not only factually inaccurate, it is in fact wrong in principle from a statistical point-of-view as well.

It is of little import, but worth pointing out too, that this same scholar constantly assumes that I consider the Qumran characters, known as “the Wicked Priest” and “the Man of Lying”/”Scoffer” or “Spouter of Lying’”, to be one-and-the-same or identical (see my parenthesis above on footnotes when concerned about locating such references), thereby all-too-easily dismissing my identification of this “Lying Scoffer” or “Spouter of Lies” with Paul or, at least, a Paul-like teacher.

Moreover, he has insisted on characterizing my position in this manner in the Introductions to both his ever-popular Third and Fourth Editions of The Dead Sea Scrolls in English(1987 and 1995) and, since 1998, in his The Complete Dead Sea Scrolls in English, 1998 and 2004 (note the change in title because he was now able to include all the Scrolls as a result of the success of our campaign to "free them" – a campaign he and his publisher both benefitted handsomely from – any thanks? No!), the last-named even having a footnote (on its p. 21) referring to my Dead Sea Scrolls Uncovered to supposedly prove this contention but which, curiously, omitted any page reference. I wonder why? The reason is simple – because the verifying information simply wasn’t even there and this, probably because he hadn’t really ever read it that carefully, but just assumed it had to be somewhere – it isn’t! 

Let’s forget the insult here. What’s really important is the effect. It is like setting up a “straw man” and then proceeding to demolish what was inaccurate to begin with – concluding that, as a result, his “theories (my own presumably) fail the basic credibility test” and “are foisted on the texts” (I would rather say the opposite or the same about his). Nor to the day of his passing did he ever retract what, on the face of it, was patently untrue and an unfair and tendentious mischaracterization of my position, meant to bring ridicule upon me.

To my mind, his publisher – the same as mine in America – should, in his absence. now make the apology and retract it since it has, not just once but repeatedly appeared in his books with them. In making such an assertion what he actually does do is demonstrate that – just as with this imprecise and facile footnote above – he cannot ever have carefully or seriously read the theories of mine, he is so contemptuously dismissing; but is, rather, accepting inaccurate characterizations of them, probably on the basis of secondhand opinion or hearsay, or what is probably more-to-the-point, as we shall see further below, his own theorizing.

His criticism, therefore, is doubly offensive for, had he actually himself read any of my books with any care or seriousness before criticizing; he would have, at least, known that – above all, and this contrary to the rank-and-file of the majority of Qumran commentators – what I have done is carefully and always absolutely distinguish between these two characters(“the Wicked Priest” and “the Spouter of Lying’”), a position I have insisted upon since the earliest stages of my work (beginning in 1976) and still insist on today! To consider, therefore, that I “assign the part” of “the Wicked Priest” in Dead Sea Scroll texts to Paul is, not only a misleading characterization of my position that subjects me to ridicule in a world-wide manner (Penguin’s reach), but an all-too-easy victory. Would all such arguments could so easily be won!

Rather, what the late Prof. Vermes has done, as just noted, is confuse my opinion with both his own and that of the general run of Qumran specialists – in particular, the earliest advocate of the so-called ”Judeo Christian’” hypothesis, Prof. J. Teicher of Cambridge in the early 50’s, who did present Paul as “the Wicked Priest” and Jesus as “the Righteous Teacher” (wonder of wonders, since the two seem never to have met or known each other – but he, at least, had the excuse of writing very early on); and it is this, in Prof. Vermes’ mind it would appear, that has been confused with my own (in any event, I guess to him, it sounded similar).

In fact, there is little or no similarity at all, since I consider “the Liar” and “the Wicked Priest” to be two distinctly and absolutely separate people and anyone, even remotely familiar with my work or who had taken any time to look at it at all, would know this – it is what distinguishes it and always has! The first, I identify quite clearly as being within the Community who is described in the Habakkuk Pesher, once again, inter alia as “rejecting the Law (Torah) in the midst of the whole Assembly” or “Congregation” and the other, the reigning “Herodian” High Priest (this, of course, depending on chronology and, moreover, an example of why chronology is so important), who is distinctly said – and this in the Habakkuk Pesher again – to be responsible for the destruction or death of "the Righteous Teacher" and a number of his followers, known as or called “the Poor” (“the Ebionim”) – our Ananus ben Ananus mentioned above!

But the second matter he has spoken about in relation to my work and the reason he is again also totally mistaken concerning it, is his first contention, noted above, about the impossibility of there being a so-called “Christian connection” even if there were only a single counter-indicative “result” (meaning in the Carbon Testing, n.b., his concern here – among others – to distance the Scrolls as far as possible from "Christian" origins in Palestine) is because, as explained, when dealing with an array of items expressed in terms of units of probability, the results of the entire sample must be considered.

One statistical outlier, meaning a single result outside a pattern determined by multiple other results, is always possible and no single data point can ever produce information that has greater meaning than that provided by the array in which it is contained as a whole. This is a statistical postulate obviously well beyond the comprehension or expertise of many either reading these articles or doing research in the Dead Sea Scrolls – myself included (to say nothing of our late "Oxford Don") – but it is well made and fully explained in some of the articles mentioned above. 

When it comes to analyzing the results of Carbon Testing where specifically Qumran documents, too, are concerned, it should be observed that these so-called “sigma”s or time span margin limits are not narrow – whatever the run involved. Where the first “sigma” is concerned, the time span can range to over 100 years. When the second “sigma” is taken into account, it can even be extended then to over 200 years. Right from the start, therefore, this is considerably beyond the margin-of-era required to date individual scrolls with the accuracy necessary to affect the present debate – given possible time-frame involved – or arrive at “absolute dates”, which is precisely why Prof. Davies and I originally only called for “relative dating” (not “absolute”) – and this only as a possible control for the extravagant claims being made for the accuracy of paleographic sequences by the paleographers. 

The reason why – as already remarked – when evaluating these C14 “results”, a good deal of attention was focused on this Habakkuk Pesher (a document which had received innumerable cleansings and much individual handling), aside from individual tastes and interests, was because, like the Psalm 37 Pesher above, other Peshers, and even the Damascus Document; it described what seemed like historical situations and named dramatis personae, albeit with the infuriating circumlocutions which we have also now become so familiar with.

Initial reports gave it a date of 104–43 BC. This sent researchers scurrying to date the sitz-im-leben (“life setting”) of all Qumran documents, they denoted as “sectarian” – most never seen before – back before around 50 BC – a date, of course, which suited them very well. Still, after the new 1998 revisions, this first “sigma” had to be corrected to 88–2 BC; but corrections and revisions of this sort never made the same impression as the initial identifications had on either ‘scholars’ or the general public. As a result, few ever knew that the initial reports were flawed and/or inaccurate and remained unaware of these retractions.

Moreover several other issues, as we have seen, impinged upon “the results”, that all untutored in the vagaries of Carbon Dating, took to be “certain” – not to mention, “confirming the results of paleography”. The true skeptic might properly observe of such over-enthusiasm Luigi Pirandello’s famous phrase: “It is so, if you think so.”

These included, as we saw as well, for the most part owing to conservation concerns, only one sample was taken from each item tested. Since more recent commentary has observed that such calibration ignores the greater precision multiple samples from the same host could have provided, meaning that a one-sample variance (even if repeatedly measured) is much less accurate than one obtained from multiple samples from the same host when calculating such “sigma” ranges.

When considerations of this kind are taken into account, the first “sigma” corrections for the Habakkuk Pesher would move well into the First Century CE and it is impossible to tell what would happen to the two “sigma” time span which would, most certainly, move well outside the assumed margin-of-error range. Put in another way, when sample-to-sample variations and other variables, such as calibration errors, acquiescent and tendentious interpretation, and uncertainty regarding the length of time between the death of an animal or plant and the ultimate use of its skin as parchment or its fiber as papyrus, are taken into account; the corrected deviations then boost the margins-of-error for a given document measurement by approximately another century, either upwards or downwards.

As we saw too, it has long been appreciated that, paleographically-speaking, the Psalm 37Pesher and the Habakkuk Pesher are equivalent, both denoted as being in, what paleographers call, “Herodian semiformal script” (fancy that) and dated by them to approximately 30 BC–0. But when the Psalm 37 Pesher was subjected to AMS Carbon Dating, even the first “sigma” time span came out to be between 29–81 CE and its second “sigma” extended this range to from 5–111 CE. In our view, as already signaled above but it is worth repeating, this would be the far more likely dating too of the Habakkuk Pesher – ‘Pesharim’ generally at Qumran being found in single exemplars only, because they probably represented the scriptural exegesis sessions of “the Righteous Teacher” – to whom, once again the Habakkuk Pesher tells us, “God had given” this unique ability. Rather, dominated by their preconceptions, our radiocarbon analysts and their ideological confrères, chose to highlight the radiocarbon dating of the latter because it better suited their preconceptions.

Recently, however, a new document was found among the Cave 4 fragments which appeared to contain the name of a High Priest, whose tenure dated from 46–47 CE, thus providing further incontrovertible “Internal Evidence” that no documents were deposited in this Cave prior to this time. It also put to rest any modern attempts by some, based on the tendentious Carbon Test interpretation, we have been following above, and their “paleographic sequences” (such as they were) to make it seem as if all documents were deposited in the caves before about 40–50 BC – from my perspective, a perfectly absurd and absolutely untenable conclusion that ignored 100–150 years of the most vital Palestine/Israel history – but such is the way their minds work!

Also where the earliest fragment – paleographically speaking – of the Damascus Document was concerned (4Q267), the new calibration produced a significant change, bringing its "two sigma" range well into the First Century CE; but we have already stated the opinion that all such documents like the Habakkuk and Psalm 37 Peshers and others like the IsaiahPeshers, Messianic compendiums like The Florilegium and Testimonia – to say nothing of the Damascus Document – which we examine in detail in The New Testament Code (2006), had to have been written at more or less around the same time because of their mention of and focus upon the same dramatis personae and associated contemporary events.

Finally, there is nothing in the “results” of the two runs of radiocarbon testing that were done that precludes any of the ideas or analyses I have set forth in all my works. The conclusion must be that there is no finality in these matters – and not even a presumption of one. Nor did the two runs, which produced an extremely uneven set of results as we saw, demonstrate the reliability of paleography, as most “Establishment” or “Consensus Scholars” seem to or like to think. This was true even for Mr. Doudna above, who went on to actually coin his own “Single-Generation Hypothesis” – unfortunately, in my view, he was speaking about “the wrong Generation” – and, not only gave away to a certain extent his own agenda, but cheerfully assumed he had solved the problem of Qumran Origins – when patently he had not.

Rather, when taken as a whole, C-14 test “results”, AMS or otherwise, showed that neither paleography nor Carbon Dating were sufficiently precise enough tools to conclusively contribute to the dating of the most important of the Dead Sea Scrolls. In fact, C-14 Testing generally supported and did not preclude the premise that some of the Scrolls were produced well into the First Century CE – even later (the Bar Kochba Period possibly?). Let me repeat this proposition because, in my view, it is so important: the results of C14 Testing – AMS or otherwise – contain nothing that would nullify any of the ideas I have argued for in any of my works! On the contrary, all things being equal, they probably do just the opposite. Though some may provide useful information, they may just as likely be wildly inaccurate.

It is for this reason, I have turned to "the Internal Evidence", which is just what I did in my earlier blog (http://blogs.jpost.com/internal-evidence-vs-external-evidence-carbon-testing-dead-sea-scrolls) and what I will continue to do. If the results of these tests and other “External Measurements”, such as archaeology and paleography – some, like a new “science”, “patina analysis”, even relating to the alleged ‘discovery’ of the so-called “James Ossuary” (which I consider would not have appeared before or except for my work – call this egotistic, call it what you will. I consider it to be true), really not exact sciences at all – conflict with "the Internal Data”; then, regardless of one’s confidence in them, they must be jettisoned.

 

Nor, for my part, would there be any point in writing on this subject at all were one to hold as sacrosanct the interpretations produced by “External Data” of these kinds. Unfortunately this, for the most part, is still the situation in Dead Sea Scrolls Studies today, the conclusions concerning which have been rendered inchoate and unintelligible by the superficial and uncritical reliance on questionable data and parameters of this kind. As opposed to this, I have chosen to focus on “Internal Data” – or the sense of what the actual Documents themselves say. As a result, I hope the public has felt well-served.


(For footnotes regarding any or all of these matters, as already noted, see the 100 pages of endnotes to my The New Testament Code, 2006, which can be found on-line or downloaded from both the Publisher’s (watkinspublishing.co.uk) or my own websites RobertEisenman.com and RobertHEisenman.com or The Institute for the Study of Judeo-Christian Origins' site (csulb.edu/centers/sjco/).

 
 
 
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