Religion: Buried Treasure

In all the mystery and marvel of the 2,000-year-old scrolls found nine years ago in caves near the ruins of a religious community on the Dead Sea, two scrolls shone with a special aura. For these, instead of leather or parchment, were of copper—a precious metal in those ancient times, betokening a message of highest value. Oxidized by time, the copper scrolls stubbornly withheld their secret while scientists puttered and pondered over the problem of unrolling them without crumbling them to powder.

Imaginations, scholarly and unscholarly, danced to the possibilities hidden in the copper scrolls. When British Philologist John Allegro discoursed with...

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