The Strugnell Library

The Dead Sea Scrolls Collection

Dead Sea Scrolls Editor-in-Chief John Strugnell

Dr. John Strugnell of Harvard Divinity School served as chief editor of the Dead Seas Scrolls project from 1984 to 1990. His library was, in many ways without equal.

“The Strugnell Library is unique, in that it is so deep in so many areas” said City Seminary’s Frank Walker, Professor of Historical Theology. ” He had large sub-libraries in Semitics  including Hebrew, Aramaic, Syriac, Ethiopic  as well as Greek and Latin, and large sections on classical studies, patristics [early church writings], apocryphal and pseudepigraphal [falsely attributed] literature, Judaism, Christianity, Hebrew Bible and New Testament studies.

Strugnell’s association with the Dead Sea Scrolls began in 1955, following his training in Semitic languages and classics at Oxford University in Great Britain.

The original Scrolls team was appointed in the early 1950s by Jordan, which nationalized the collection in 1961, and denied Jewish scholars access, according to a 1991 Jerusalem Report. Israel’s Department of Antiquities left the team’s jurisdiction over the Scrolls intact after Israel captured East Jerusalem in 1967.

Strugnell, who taught at Harvard School of Divinity for 37 years, worked as a team member while the Scrolls were under both Jordanian and Israeli control. Strugnell was considered brilliant, but painstakingly slow in his work. He clashed with Israeli authorities and was dismissed from the project after an interview widely viewed as anti-Semitic. Strugnell later blamed his comments on depression-induced alcoholism, and a number of Jewish scholars subsequently published a letter in his defense.

A highlight of the collection is Strugnell’s copy of the famous Dead Seas Scrolls concordance. (A concordance is a list of words found in a text arranged alphabetically, with references to all the places where each word is found in the text). The early Scrolls team made a concordance of the words in the unpublished texts to assist their own work.

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