BAR 32:05, Sep/Oct 2006
How a Scroll Scholar Went Bad
John Marco Allegro: The Maverick of the Dead Sea Scrolls
Judith Anne Brown
(Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2005), 304 pp, 47 b & w photos, $25.00
John Strugnell, a chief editor of the Dead Sea Scroll publication team, called him “the stone in the soup.” Harvard’s Frank Cross, another member of the team, said he was a charlatan.
At 23, John Marco Allegro was a probationer of the Methodist ministry. He preached sermons, led hymns and discussions and visited the sick. Academically he was the star of the Semitics department of Manchester University. But his study of the Bible and its linguistics shook his religious faith, and he decided that an academic career was a good way out of the ministry. Then, at the recommendation of Sir Godfrey Driver, his new mentor at Oxford, the young scholar was appointed to the Dead Sea Scroll publication team, arriving in Jerusalem in the fall of 1953. At first all seemed to go well. “We really are an ideally suited team,” he wrote his wife in 1954, “and this makes life very pleasant.”