The Washington Post
Navigation Bar
Navigation Bar

  Scroll Said Resembles Sea Scrolls

By Karin Laub
Associated Press Writer
Monday, Sept. 27, 1999; 7:55 p.m. EDT

JERUSALEM –– A religious text that has mysteriously surfaced in Israel and is being billed as one of the "lost" Dead Sea Scrolls uses some of the same phrases and imagery as the other 2000-year-old writings, a scholar said Monday after studying excerpts.

But it's too soon to say whether the "Angel Scroll," which describes a believer's trip through the heavens, is a major find that will shed new light on Jewish mysticism and the origins of Christianity, or an elaborate hoax, said Stephen Pfann, president of the University of the Holy Land.

The story of the Angel Scroll is shrouded in mystery.

Rumors have circulated for years among scholars in the Holy Land that one of the scrolls – the religious writings of the Essenes found in caves near the Dead Sea between 1947 and 1954 – made its way to an antiquities dealer in one of the nearby Arab capitals.

On Monday, the Jerusalem Report magazine reported that in 1974, Benedictine monks bought the parchment filled with 1,000 lines of Hebrew text, spirited it to a monastery on the German-Austrian border and secretly studied it. The monks were sworn to secrecy, but one – identified only by the pseudonym Mateus – broke the vow, bequeathing a transcript and his commentary to a German friend after his death in 1996.

The transcript was given to an Israeli college administrator and a physician with an interest in Kabbala, a form of Jewish mysticism, the magazine said. It said the two men have insisted on anonymity, but allowed the magazine to look at the transcript. The limited access meant the magazine was unable to draw conclusions about the scroll's authenticity, the report said.

The college administrator handed Pfann – one of several scholars deciphering the Dead Sea Scrolls – part of the transcript for review.

In the document, a man identified as Yeshua ben Padiah describes a religious vision he had while at Ein Eglatain, a desert settlement on the eastern shore of the Dead Sea. He says he was taken by an angel, Panameia, on a journey through the heavens, entering through the gates of a heavenly palace.

A second unidentified source in the document provides embalming recipes for the resurrection of the dead and the use of herbs and stones for healing, practices attributed to the Essenes by the Jewish historian Josephus, a contemporary.

Phrases associated with the Essenes recur in the new text, such as "children of light" and "children of darkness," as well as the word "el" for God. Grammar and spellings are similar to those of the Dead Sea Scrolls, Pfann said.

He said he also found a complete phrase in Yeshua's story that he had been trying to reconstruct in one of the scrolls he was working on.

The Angel Scroll is plausible, he said.

"I haven't found anything to knock this totally out of the ballpark," he told The Associated Press. If it's a forgery, it was done by an expert who has studied Dead Sea Scrolls at length, he said.

Father Bargil Pixner, the Benedictine authority on the Dead Sea Scrolls, was skeptical about the text, and said that if the Benedictines were in possession of a scroll, "I would know about it," Pixner said.

© Copyright 1999 The Associated Press

Back to the top

Navigation Bar
Navigation Bar