Thursday, October 25, 2007

Has National Geographic violated the SBL resolution on handling new documents?

Judy Redman has kindly sent me a reference to the 1991 Society of Biblical Literature resolution that was officially adopted in order to put a stop to monopolies on newly found ancient manuscripts. Has National Geographic violated both of these official Society of Biblical Literature resolutions which it had distributed to the American Council of Learned Societies? I think so. These are the resolutions that lifted all restrictions from the Dead Sea Scroll materials. National Geographic Society is supposed to be a "learned society". In my opinion, it must comply to these wise resolutions. The facsimiles should be released immediately.
1. Recommendation to those who own or control ancient written materials: Those who own or control ancient written materials should allow scholars to have access to them. If the condition of the written materials requires that access to them be restricted, arrangements should be made for a facsimile reproduction that will be accessible to all scholars. Although the owners of those in control may choose to authorize one scholar or preferably a team of scholars to prepare an official edition of any given ancient written materials, such authorization should neither preclude access to the written materials by other scholars nor hinder other scholars from publishing their own studies, translations, or editions of the written materials.

2. Obligations entailed by specially authorized editions: Scholars who are given special authorization to work on official editions of ancient written materials should cooperate with the owners of those in control of the written materials to ensure publication of the edition in a expeditious manner, and they should facilitate access to the written materials by all scholars. If the owners or those in control grant to specifically authorized editors any privileges that are unavailable to other scholars, these privileges should by no means include exclusive access to the written materials or facsimile reproductions of them. Furthermore, the owners or those in control should set a reasonable deadline for completion of the envisioned edition (not more than five years after the special authorization is granted.)
These recommendations were originally published in Zeitschrift fuer Papyrologie und Epigraphik 92 (1992) 296.

4 comments:

Judy Redman said...

The other question this raises is how does SBL go about making sure that scholars and ideally also those in control of manuscripts, are aware of these recommendations? I wasn't at SBl 1991 when they were agreed on, but I found them because James Robinson reproduced them in Patterson, Robinson and Bethge The Fifth Gospel - The Gospel of Thomas Comes of Age (1998, Trinity Press International, PA). Increasing numbers of scholars who have the kinds of reputations that might mean they would be invited to be part of a team to examine new manuscripts were not at SBL 1991 and probably haven't read either the journal article or The Fifth Gospel, yet this seems important information for them to have if MSS are to be available freely.

Geoff Hudson said...

From my experience in business, "wise resolutions" are 'water off a ducks back' to the US business community that usually only reacts to law, not honour.

Judy Redman said...

I wasn't thinking that the US business community would be champing at the bit to follow the SBL guidelines. Am I being too idealistic in thinking, though, that if all the "big name" scholars were to say to them "I'm sorry but that contravenes SBL guidelines and my name would be mud in the profession if I did it" that they might rethink their proposals somewhat?

Geoff Hudson said...

But then Judy, I would have to ask, how many 'big name' scholars have vested interests that would inhibit joint protest? May be National Geographic Inc. has more than a few that sit on its Board of Directors.