SWBTS ends archaeology program, addresses Dead Sea Scrolls authenticity

Citing financial constraints associated with COVID-19 and an “institutional reset,” Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (SWBTS) announced April 6 it was discontinuing its archaeology program.

SWBTS’s current “institutional reset” is a result of the institutional plan President Adam Greenway, who became president in February 2019, laid out during the seminary’s spring 2019 board of trustees meeting.

The plan is to “recalibrate and to reposition our seminary in every way to strengthen the core of what we do,” according to a SWBTS press release from the spring 2019 meeting.

SWBTS is the only evangelical institution in the world to award a doctoral degree in archaeology. When the program ceases in May, five faculty members will be terminated and more than 25 graduate students will face academic uncertainty, according to Christianity Today.

The seminary also addressed the authenticity of the Dead Sea Scrolls fragments in its collection in an announcement made the same day.

In 2010, under the leadership of former president Paige Patterson, SWBTS purchased what were believed at the time to be fragments of the Dead Sea Scrolls, ancient Jewish writings containing Scripture that were discovered over a 10-year period beginning between 1946 and 1947.

The current administration at SWBTS stated it has little confidence in the authenticity of the alleged Dead Sea Scroll fragments currently in the institution’s possession.

“Given that significant institutional resources were expended on the acquisition and promotion of the likely fraudulent fragments, it is not prudent for the seminary to spend further precious funds on them,” the seminary said.

SWBTS left open the possibility of pursuing legal action “to seek restitution of payments made by the seminary, as authorized by the prior administration.”

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