A `DEAD' ISSUE COMES ALIVE

The Dead Sea Scrolls access issue has begun to receive increasing attention in the United States. A pair of panel discussions at Princeton University, Princeton, N.J., last week fanned the flames of public debate over why the contents of many of these archaeological treasures, discovered in 1947, are still not universally available to researchers. The forum, sponsored jointly by the university's religion department and the Institute for Semitic Studies, brought together leading figures from the two sides - scholars working with the scrolls and those who accuse this group of footdragging in releasing valued documents.

Present and pressing for greater availability was Hershel Shanks, publisher of Biblical Archaeology Review, a Washington, D.C.-based magazine that has led the charge to lift the veil of secrecy in a series of editorials.

Representing the keepers of the scrolls were two members of the small international editing team responsible for their publication - Harvard University's John Strugnell, who has worked on the project since it began, and the University of Notre Dame's Eugene Ulrich.

They presented a rough timetable for the release of the unpublished texts, many of which are in fragments. There are growing signs of impatience, however.

Some were evident in Poland at a recent conference of Dead Sea scroll specialists, where there was lobbying for earlier disclosure.

In the United States, media exposure has picked up. Time magazine ran a story on the ``squabble,'' and under the headline ``The Vanity of Scholars,'' the New York Times referred to the ``dawdling'' tying up materials that could shed new light on the Bible.

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