Redating the radiocarbon dating of the dead sea scrolls
22, 2013, “James the Just as Righteous Teacher—The Radiocarbon Controversy”) and the Jerusalem Post (Oct.
Now radiocarbon dating added a third, independent external means of dating these texts.
Because of Eisenman’s high profile as a critic of establishment scholarly views on the Qumran texts and his role in calling for open access to the unpublished texts at a time when they were still being held secret, combined with a personal style which can fairly be described as occasionally combative, he had accumulated a few scholarly enemies along the way who were only too happy to characterize the new radiocarbon datings as evidence—they claimed—disproving Eisenman’s theory of large-scale 1 century CE composition of the sectarian texts.
But when I phoned Eisenman and read him my proposed letter, I learned to my surprise and distress that Eisenman actually was opposed to further radiocarbon datings.
The results on the first set had been disappointing, he told me, and there was no need to press further.
The Huntingon Library had just announced that photographs on microfilm of all of the heretofore unpublished Dead Sea Scrolls would be made publicly available, breaking decades of secrecy and controversy over that secrecy.
In this way, at Eisenman’s invitation, I became the first student in the world to view photographs of the previously unpublished Dead Sea Scrolls now made public.
The Zurich radiocarbon datings involved the use of AMS (“Accelerator Mass Spectrometry”), a method of radiocarbon dating which required only small sample sizes.
Before the advent of AMS the amount of material that was necessary to obtain an adequate amount of carbon made radiocarbon dating of texts impracticable.
Despite anything that has happened since, I will always remember these things.