Israel today announced it has fired the American academic who led an effort to translate the Dead Sea Scrolls, the oldest known copies of the Old Testament. The decision came after the professor made anti-Jewish remarks.
The announcement cited “health reasons” for removal of Harvard University Prof. John Strugnell from the project, but the 60-year-old scholar has been sharply criticized for an interview containing anti-Jewish remarks published in November in the Hebrew daily Haaretz.
The project also had come under increasing fire for the slowness with which the scholars’ work is being published.
Strugnell has worked on the scrolls for more than three decades and has been editor of the scrolls project since 1987. Earlier in December, other scholars working on the project voted to have him replaced.
The scrolls, some of which date to 100 B.C., were found starting in 1947 in caves near the Dead Sea. They contain the oldest known copies of the Old Testament, other biblical writings, ancient literature and poetry.
In his announcement today, Amir Drori, the director of the Israel Antiquities Authority, said Strugnell was being relieved at the suggestion of the agency’s three-man Scrolls Advisory Committee.
Strugnell, who has been in ill health, was reported hospitalized in the United States.
In the interview published Nov. 9, Strugnell, who is Roman Catholic, described Judaism as “a Christian heresy” and suggested that its adherents should convert.