From Frances Gumley In Jerusalem Biblical scholars of all denominations in Jerusalem are highly indignant over the way the western press has handled the news of the discovery of ancient Biblical manuscripts and icons at St Catherine's Greek Orthodox monastery in the Sinai desert.
It is felt here that the monks have been grossly misrepresented in the European papers. "They have been caricatured as ignorant hoarders, just sitting on the manuscripts out of a childish distrust of foreigners," a Jerusalem commentator on Orthodox affairs told me last week.
A lecturer at the Tantur Ecumenical Institute near Bethlehem said, "The monks have behaved very well. They are taking advice on treating the manuscripts. It is not surprising they do not want to let go of their manuscripts. Promises of safe return have been broken in other cases before."
The full contents of the find has not yet been disclosed but speculation has been rife. It has been described as the most exciting Biblical discovery since the Dead Sea Scrolls were found twenty years ago.
St Catherine's has been a rich source for such discoveries. In 1844 and 1859 a cache of 3,000 manuscripts was found there by von Tischendorf, a German theologian. The collection dating from the fourth century AD was quickly spirited away from the monastery. Now known as the "Codex Sinaiticus", it is installed in the British Library.