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Conspiracy in the Caves

From the time of their discovery in 1947, the "scrolls from the Dead Sea" have been a source of fascination, speculation, consternation, confusion, and, in the view of these two authors, a far-reaching religious conspiracy. Deception reads like a thriller, or the best of the many books on the assassination of President Kennedy. It is furnished with considerable documentation, which lends weight, or at least an appearance of weight, to its thesis. In the authors' view, the scrolls, properly and fully published and understood, would force a virtually total revision of the traditional historical understanding of the Palestinian sect known as the Essenes and, much more significantly, overthrow most of the historical data on which Christianity is built. The degree to which their thesis, if proved and accepted, would change our understanding of the origins of Christianity—and therefore, necessarily, of the truth of Christian doctrines—is similar to the degree to which the revisionists, who claim that the Nazi Holocaust of 1933-45 is a fiction, would change our understanding of those years.

The scrolls were discovered in 1947, during the last days of the British mandate in Palestine, and until the Six Days' War they were principally under Jordanian oversight in Arab-held Old Jerusalem. When news about their discovery began to spread, there was a burst of excitement at the prospect that they might destroy...

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