John Strugnell, 77, a biblical scholar who was the editor in chief of the Dead Sea Scrolls project for five years but was dismissed from his position for anti-Semitic remarks, has died.
A former professor of Christian origins at Harvard Divinity School, Strugnell died Nov. 30 in Cambridge, Mass., where he had been hospitalized with an infection, said his daughter, Anne-Christine Strugnell. He was a resident of Arlington, Mass.
Strugnell was in his early 20s when he began working on the scrolls, some 900 documents dating from 200 B.C. to A.D. 70. The scrolls had disintegrated into fragments by the time they were discovered in caves near the Dead Sea on the West Bank in 1947.
After piecing them together, scholars discovered that they contained the oldest known copies of a number of biblical texts as well as other religious writings and laws that shed light on a critical period in the history of Judaism and early Christianity.
Strugnell was among a small group of scholars with access to the scrolls, to decipher and publish them in a project overseen by the Israeli Antiquities Authority.
He became chief editor of the project in 1984. Six years later, he set off an international furor with comments he made during an interview with the Tel Aviv newspaper Ha'aretz. Strugnell was quoted as referring to Judaism as "a horrible religion. It's a Christian heresy, and we deal with our heretics in different ways."
Colleagues denounced his remarks and called for his resignation. He was removed from his post in 1990.
LOS ANGELES TIMES