May 17, 2022

Inside the Cloak-And-Dagger Search for Sacred Texts

From National Geographic (Published in December 2018 issue):

People of many faiths venerate religious relics. But for those who believe that God speaks through words written down by prophets and apostles in past ages, ancient texts are foundational to their faith. From artfully adorned medieval manuscripts to humble fragments of papyrus, revered texts represent tangible links to God’s appointed messengers, whether Muhammad, Moses, or Jesus Christ.

Reverence for holy writ is integral to the faith of evangelical Christians, who have become a driving force behind the search for long-lost biblical texts in desert caves, remote monasteries, and Middle Eastern antiquities markets. Critics say that the evangelical appetite for artifacts is fueling demand for looted objects—a charge borne out to some degree by recent investigations and by reports from legitimate dealers.

“Evangelicals have had a tremendous impact on the market,” says Jerusalem antiquities seller Lenny Wolfe. “The price of anything connected to the lifetime of Christ goes way up.”

Whatever their religious commitments, wealthy collectors and deep-pocketed benefactors have long played a supporting role in the search for ancient exotica. Among those helping to underwrite [Randall] Price and Gutfeld’s Qumran expedition is a foundation established by Mark Lanier, a well-heeled Houston lawyer and avid collector of theological texts. Another archaeological dig, this one at Tel Shimron in Israel, is being supported by the new Museum of the Bible in Washington, D.C. The museum’s chairman, Steve Green, is president of the craft store giant Hobby Lobby and one of the biggest supporters of Christian causes in the United States. His enthusiasm for Bible hunting is unabashed.

Read the Complete Article, View Images (approx. 5700 words)

Direct to Cambridge Digital Library

About Gary Price

Gary Price ( is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.