John Strugnell, former editor-in-chief of the Dead Sea Scroll project and emeritus Professor of Christian Origins at Harvard Divinity School and my father, died on November 30 at Mount Auburn Hospital in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He was 77. His death came after a week of hospitalization for an infection.
Strugnell’s scholarship and command of ancient languages were recognized early. At age 23, while studying at Oxford, he was offered a position on the original team charged with piecing together and translating the Dead Sea Scrolls, approximately 900 documents found between 1947 and 1956 in caves near the Dead Sea. The texts have unique historical and religious significance because they include copies of Biblical documents made before 70 A.D., and because they provide evidence of diversity of beliefs in Judaism of the late Second Temple period. They also inform the Jewish roots of Christianity.
Strugnell became editor-in-chief of the Scroll project in 1984. He held the post until 1990, when his earlier achievements were overshadowed by the publication in the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz (republished in English in BARa) of negative comments he made about Judaism. The project’s backers, already frustrated with the slow progress of the Scroll team and restricted access to the texts, removed Strugnell from his position.