SCHOLARS BEMOAN DELAY OVER DEAD SEA SCROLLS

In 1972, Bible scholar Delbert Hillers completed what was intended as the most thorough, comprehensive volume on the Old Testament Book of Lamentations. Now he has to revise it because he and scholars generally were unaware that much earlier chapters of Lamentations had been available for years in the Dead Sea Scrolls, but only a select group knew it.

The particular chapters have finally been issued, but more than half of the trove of ancient manuscripts remains hidden.

Furor erupted anew this week over the long delay in releasing much of the scroll contents. It's been ``a problem'' to get access to the scroll material, said Theresa Dorsogna, an editor for Doubleday publishers of the huge Anchor Bible series, expected to exceed 70 volumes, of which Mr. Hillers' book is a part.

``It's something that scholars have been fighting for a long time,'' she said in a telephone interview. ``It works a real hardship on them.'' Hillers, of Johns Hopkins University, was expected to have his revision finished by year's end.

The scrolls contain parts of every book in the Old Testament 1,000 years older than any ever available before, as well as extensive material on first-century Judaism.

David Noel Freedman, professor of biblical studies at the University of Michigan and editor of the Anchor Bible series, said the scroll team kept their work ``in the dark while a whole generation has gone by.''

The delay has ``been almost 40 years, and that's too long to keep the material from public scrutiny,'' he said.

Less than half of the scrolls have been published, although the first were discovered in a cave near the Dead Sea in 1947 and many more were found in 11 caves over the next decade.

They've been in the hands of a small international team of scholars since the early 1950s, now overseen by Israel's Department of Antiquities.

Their editor in chief, John Strugnell, Harvard University professor of Christian origins, said the work was being speeded up and hopes were to have all the manuscripts published by 2000.

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