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Recalls Abegg: "I was hoping all the time Wacholder was doing these negotiations that it wasn't just a word list, that it was a key word in context, like Strong's concordance. Actually, I found it was better than that, because if you looked up the last word in an entry or in a verse, Strong's wouldn't give you the next word in the next verse; but this concordance did."

Because the cards were keyed to each other, Abegg could type one card after the other into his word processor until he had reconstructed whole texts—texts that had never before been published. When in 1991 the editor of Biblical Archaeology Review, Hershel Shanks, who since the mideighties had been calling for the "release" of the scrolls, caught wind of Abegg's reconstructed texts, he encouraged Abegg to let him publish them.

Abegg found himself facing an ethical dilemma. On the one hand, there was the academic protocol against publishing other people's work—coding the 3x5 cards represented hundreds of days of piecing the texts together. On the other hand, says Abegg, "we saw that this material had been done in the late fifties and could have been published then. They had held on to this material, were telling everyone it couldn't be published because there had been no transcriptions. And then we found out that, indeed, there had been transcriptions back in the fifties—they were pulling the wool over our eyes all these years."

The texts went to print in September 1991. The Huntington Library in California quickly followed by making public actual photos of the manuscripts. And finally, even the Israel Antiquities Authority, which controlled the scrolls, ruled that it now supported open access ...

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In the Magazine

October 6, 1997

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