To the editors:

Let me set Cecil Adams straight on something:

In the 20 January 1989 “The Straight Dope” you say, regarding the Dead Sea scrolls, that they “contain copies of major chunks of the Old Testament (although nothing of the New) . . .”

The “scrolls proper,” i.e., the Qumran library, is as you say, but the finds in the caves above the Dead Sea did contain non-Essenic materials. In the early 1970’s, papyrus fragments found in Cave No. 7 were identified as bearing portions of texts from certain “New Testament” writings.

The identification was made by Fr. Jose O’Callaghan of Barcelona, Spain, and published in the journal Biblica, No. 53, 1972, pp. 91-100. Summaries and opinions were published soon after in a number of religious journals and magazines. A “definitive” presentation is a book by David Estrada and William White Jr., The First New Testament, Thomas Nelson, 1978.

Four fragments were from Mark and one each from Acts, Romans, I Timothy, II Peter, and James. They were dated as having been produced between the years 50 and 70 C.E. The scrolls they came from had probably been burned for bedouin campfires.

Now, in case the question comes up again, you will be prepared.

Kenneth H. Bonnell

Los Angeles, California

Cecil Adams replies:

According to The Dead Sea Scrolls by Geza Vermes (1978), “the claim made by the Spanish Jesuit, Jose O’Callaghan, that Greek papyrus scraps from Cave 7, almost entirely illegible, derive from manuscripts representing Mark, Acts, Romans, 1 Timothy, James and 2 Peter, has been justly rejected as totally unacceptable by all the authorities in the field.”