By ANDREW BOYLE Dr. E. L. Sukenik, Professor of Palestinian Archaeology at the Hebrew University of Jeru salem, told me on Tuesday of the Pope's deep interest in the discovery of the now-famous Biblical scrolls near the Dead Sea, with which he has been associated.
" His Holiness received me in audience when I was in Rome some months ago," he said. "So anxious was he to hear at first hand everything possible about these fragments that he made it an audience of unlimited length. " The Pope clearly attaches considerable importance to the finds, which in my view will prove of great value to scholars of textual criticism. I have had letters from him since, inquiring about the progress of my work; and I have been in correspondence with the Pontifical Cornmission for Biblical Studies." Earlier Dr. Sukenik spoke at a news conference held in the Israeli Legation at which he displayed one sheet of the Isaia's scroll dating from 200 8.4. He described how the chance of unearthing of jars in a cave had opened up new vistas for Biblical scholars, referring to himself as " the only man in the world with all the scrolls to scrutinise."
Apart from fragments of the Pentateuch, Genesis, Leviticus, Deuteronomy, Judges and Daniel, a version of Isaias which is one-third complete also came to light. Another manuscript of Isaias, which is practically complete, has gone to the United States.
With the exception of minor differences in spelling, the new manuscript of Isaias follows the tra dional text " with astonishing
fidelity." And Dr. Sukenik places the dates of the entire collection of fragments between the end of the 3rd and the beginning of the 2nd century B.C. He added that at first non-Jewish experts in Jerusalem
were dubious about the significance of the manuscripts.
He himself was certain from the start that they were authentic, and that they at least ante-dated the Destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. Later examination of the handwriting confirmed this opinion.
Dr. Sukenik also reminded his hearers that similar discoveries in similar circumstances were alluded to by early Fathers of the Church. Eusebius, for example, had written of manuscripts excavated near Jerusalem in A.D. 217.