Published October 17, 2013
FORT WORTH — You will not find fragments of the Dead Sea Scrolls for sale at Walmart or even Neiman Marcus for that matter. You can’t buy any portion of the “Scrolls” from QVC or HSN. It is also preposterous to think that anyone has Dead Sea Scrolls for sale on eBay.
The Dead Sea Scrolls have been hailed as the greatest manuscript discovery of all time and are invaluable for many reasons. They constitute a treasure trove of ancient biblical texts. From a practical point of view they provide authenticity to the authority of the scriptures and are priceless not only monetarily, but also archeologically and historically.
For more than half a century pilgrims traveling to Israel have gone to the Qumran Caves to see the location where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found. Those who have been fortunate enough to actually see portions of the Scrolls observe them with awe and with a greater appreciation for the infallibility of Holy Scripture.
On a January day in 1947, Muhammad Adh-Dhib, a Bedouin boy, whose name means “the wolf”, was climbing the face of a barren cliff overlooking the northwestern shore of the Dead Sea. He was looking for his goats. They had climbed too high up the cliffs and he was nervously trying to make sure he could account for all of them before returning to his desert home.
In his search for the straying goats he saw a small opening to what appeared to be a cave and threw a rock into the opening and heard an unexpected cracking sound. The hour was late and the need to find the missing goats deserved priority over an exploration into the cave to determine the mysterious clinking, almost metallic sound.
The next morning Muhammad and several of his friends made their way to the cave to see if there might be some hidden treasure of gold that would make them rich. There was no gold to be found, but rather the discovery of earthen pots containing a selection of manuscripts, which ultimately excited the entire archaeological world.
According to the West Semitic Research Project, the discoveries first came to the attention of scholars in 1948, when Bedouins sold seven of the scrolls to a Syrian Orthodox merchant and antiquities dealer, Khalil Iskander Shahin, better known as Kando. Over the next seven years Bedouins and archeologists found new caves in the area known as Qumran and found additional scrolls and thousands of fragments of scrolls – some dating as far back as 200 B.C.
Kando continued to buy and sell portions of the Dead Sea Scrolls for many years. An estimated 80-95% of all discovered scrolls went through the hands of the Kando family, ending up in museums, institutions, and private collections around the world. Although the senior Kando died in 1993, his son, William, continues to deal in antiquities today.
According to Armour Patterson in his book, Much Clean Paper for Little Dirty Paper, Kando was recommended to his parents, Paige and Dorothy Patterson, as a reliable source of genuine antiquities. On their frequent trips to Israel the Pattersons visited Kando at his place of business, the St. George Souvenir Shop in Jerusalem.
Over the years the Pattersons took tour groups to Israel and the St. George Souvenir Shop was always on the itinerary, because the American tour hosts knew that the Kando family provided the best merchandise and offered the best prices, because the Pattersons – unlike most tour guides – refused to accept any commissions.
Over the years the Pattersons and the elder Kando developed a close and personal relationship, and as Armour Patterson reports, “Our family found him to be always friendly, hospitable, approachable, and open – in short a Syrian gentleman. Though hospitable to all of us he did seem to have a special fondness for Dorothy.”
Upon one of the visits to the St. George Souvenir Shop the Pattersons were invited by Kando to go up to the second floor of the building. It was there that they saw a jar from Qumran that had contained a rolled parchment of Dead Sea Scrolls. Armour recalls, “We studied the jar with some combination of wonder, awe, and reverence.”
Dorothy boldly requested that the jar become hers so that it could become a part of the antiquities collection they were building at Criswell College, where Paige was president at the time. Kando promised that it would become hers someday.
Unfortunately, the Israeli government knew about the jar and was not kindly disposed to allow it to leave the country, but the gracious gesture was fully noted. Subsequent visits deepened the friendship between the Kando family and the Pattersons. Through the years the Pattersons were able to bargain for items of antiquity for themselves and the college, but the value that had been placed upon the Scrolls had put them well beyond their reach.
After the death of the older Kando, William, his son whom the Pattersons had known from his youth, took over the antiquities business. Coinciding with some of the transitions taking place in the Kando family, Patterson left Criswell College and became president of Southeastern Seminary in 1992 and eleven years later moved back to Texas to become president of Southwestern Seminary.
Armour Patterson explained, “Throughout the moves and changes of office, the interest and pursuit of biblical antiquities remained. For them (the Pattersons), the building of an antiquities collection is congruous with the greater mission of theological education, and particularly so with the building of a department of biblical archeology, which had long been one of Paige’s foremost objectives since biblical archaeology had virtually faded to nonexistence among Southern Baptist seminaries.”
William Kando moved his store from Jerusalem to Bethlehem and by 2009 the prospects of acquiring fragments of the Dead Sea Scrolls changed. A visit from a SWBTS donor study group to Israel in July of 2009 prompted Kando to approach Dorothy about purchasing fragments of the Scrolls. This initiated a “musawama,” an Arabic word for “bargaining.”
Dorothy became a fierce negotiator and over a period of several years the negotiations moved from Israel to Zurich, Switzerland, where the fragments were contained in a vault at the USB Bank. There were five meetings at the Bank in Zurich between Oct. 6, 2009 and May 18, 2011, in which Dorothy Patterson and William Kando were the primary friendly combatants.
The first and last meetings produced no acquisitions, but in the second meeting, with the generous financial gifts of SWBTS donors, Dorothy returned to Southwestern with three fragments: Daniel 6:22-24, Leviticus 18:27-29, and Exodus 6:22-24.
On Sept. 3, 2010 Dorothy was able to secure two more fragments: Deuteronomy 12:11-14 and 9:25-10:1. At that time Kando gave Dorothy as a gift a fragment of Psalm 22:4-13. Three months later Dorothy Patterson and her friend, Candi Finch, returned from Zurich to Texas with their greatest acquisition, both in size and value – the Paleo-Leviticus fragment containing portions of Leviticus 21:7-12 and 22:21-27.
Today Southwestern Seminary houses the largest collection of Dead Sea Scroll fragments owned by any institution of higher education in the United States.
Eric Mitchell, associate professor of Old Testament and Archaeology at Southwestern, explained, “The Bible is reliable and the texts we have accurately relay to us what was in the original autographs.”
The Dead Sea Scroll fragments, like the portion of Psalm 22, helps confirm the biblical record about Jesus of Nazareth and gives us confidence that we know more about the life, death, and resurrection of Christ than any other person in the ancient world. God has not left us in darkness concerning the truthfulness of His precious Word.
The Southwestern Seminary Collection of Dead Sea Scrolls is located in the Phillips Library of MacGorman Chapel on the seminary campus.
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