John Allegro Discusses the Dead Sea Scrolls
John Allegro was part of the original team of scholars who translated the Dead Sea Scrolls. While working with the team, he realized that the other researchers were intent upon leaving out the information which refutes commonly held notions held by Christianity.
Most of the Dead Sea Scrolls have been left unpublished. In fact, Allegro has published more than anyone else on the matter.
Within the scrolls, we can find the truth about our history, including the true nature of the “Christ” figure that is held so highly by the Christian faith.
The Defamation of Allegro
When the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered in 1947, there was immense anticipation from Christians everywhere. This was thought to be a guarantee for the Church to prove Christianity correct. It appeared as though the only thing left to do was to read and interpret the scrolls and Christians would have all the proof they needed. The Dead Sea Scrolls were written in Semitic in the language of Aramaic between 250BCE and 136CE, which was the era that the Jesus character was said to be walking the earth. To find scrolls written in “His language” during the period of time in which he was said to be living, was a major finding and Christians everywhere were very excited about this. However, today we do not hear about this much at all, and for good reason. The information contained within the scrolls was exactly what the select, privileged few in the Church knew all along.
John Marco Allegro was a researcher in philology who had graduated with a first-class honors degree in Oriental Studies from Manchester University in England. He had earlier begun training for the Methodist ministry, but had left to pursue the degree course when he found that studying biblical languages was making him question the foundations of his Christian beliefs. While working towards a doctorate at Oxford, he was invited to join the original Scrolls-editing team in 1953. In 1954, he became an assistant lecturer at the University of Manchester. Considered an up-and-coming philologist in regards to middle-eastern and Mediterranean languages, Allegro was the only agnostic on the international team of translators of the Dead Sea Scrolls. Most of the other members of the “international” scrolls team were ordained Catholic priests, including Father de Vaux and Father Josef Milik of the École Biblique (the library publication/research arm of the Vatican), Father Jean Starcky, Father Maurice Baillet, and Monsignor Patrick Skehan. They were joined by Frank Cross of the McCormick Theological Seminary and the Albright Institute, Claus-Hunno Hunzinger from Gottingen and later, John Strugnell from Oxford.
The work of this team, organized by Father de Vaux, was originally supposed to be published as soon as possible and open to scholarly interpretation. John Allegro was the only member to publish all his translations in learned journals as soon as he felt they were ready to be laid open to scrutiny. The other members tended to hold onto their allocations for so long that some people–including Allegro from time to time, in moments of extreme exasperation–suspected a cover-up and suppression of the research. Scholars who attempted to question the orthodox view (as Allegro found out) had their careers destroyed.
In 1956, Allegro gave a series of talks on BBC radio in which he suggested that elements of Christianity derived from the beliefs and practices of the Qumran community and probably from some of the events in the life and death of the Essene Teacher of Righteousness as depicted in the Scrolls. In other words, Christianity was, in part, a derivative religion. This caused outrage among some members of the team. By 1957, he believed their anger had subsided and returned to Jerusalem unaware of anything awry in his relationship with the other members of the International team. He was soon to realize that the other members had clearly separated themselves from him because of his public statements and interpretation of scroll information.
A long, heated debate between John Allegro and the other research members of the Dead Sea Scrolls editing team ensued for decades. They held that Allegro had prematurely released information from the scrolls, particularly the Copper Scroll, with mistranslations. Allegro came to think that the other researchers were holding back information contained within the scrolls to promote their careers and to hide anything that might shake up the orthodox view about the origins of Christianity and Judaism. Allegro pointed out that it was of utmost importance to release the scrolls as he translated them, even with possible errors, so that the rest of the research community would have access to the portion of the scrolls under his jurisdiction for peer review. The others wanted to wait until they had completed a definitive edition of the scrolls they were translating–an attitude that looked like possessiveness or secrecy from the outside. The conflict in approach came to a head over the Copper Scroll. Allegro’s interpretation differed fundamentally from the official line. He held back the book in which he offered his “provisional” translation (The Treasure of the Copper Scroll, 1960) for over three years to enable Father Josef Milik to publish his version. Milik had in fact published an unofficial translation in English and French in July 1959, and expected the official edition to be out before 1960. At the last minute, it was delayed at the printer’s and Allegro’s book came out first. Because of this unintentional pre-emption, Allegro was condemned for piracy by most of the establishment figures of scrolls research.
…[W]hen Allegro went ahead with his own publication [of the Treasure of the Copper Scroll], he found himself in the embarrassing position of seeming to have pre-empted the work of a colleague. In effect, he had been manoeuvred into providing the international team with further ammunition to use against him—and, of course, to alienate him further from them…. Allegro displays no propensity for either secrecy or self-aggrandisement. If he is conspiring, he is conspiring only to make the Dead Sea Scrolls available to the world at large, and quickly enough not to betray the trust reposed in academic research. Such an aspiration can only be regarded as honourable and generous.
~ Michael Baigent and Richard Leigh
By 1968, Allegro completed and published all of his translations of the Cave 4 scroll fragments assigned to him and began work on a book that he was certain would explain the religious foundations of Christianity and Judaism. In the fifteen years since the international team was put together in 1953 to decipher the scrolls, Allegro was the only member to finish his assigned duty.
Because of Allegro’s so-called errors in his translations and his willingness to release the translations with errors for other scholars to review (for the purpose of finding and eliminating errors), he came under the attack of his team replacement, John Strugnell. Though they had been friends, Strugnell later turned against Allegro and tore apart most of his translations, the effect of which was to further destroy Allegro’s credibility amongst his peers. Michael Baigent and Richard Leigh made an explosive indictment of Strugnell and his so-called team of experts in The Dead Sea Scrolls Deception, published in 1991, though not all their inferences have been soundly substantiated. Baigent and Leigh suggest that there was a cover-up by Strugnell and the other members of the team, and it was deeper than Allegro had originally imagined.
Strugnell attacked Allegro’s ability to translate because of the early releases that Allegro was willing to put up for debate. In 1970, Strugnell wrote a “rebuttal” against Allegro entitled Notes in the Margin. This was one of only three pieces Strugnell was ever to write (not publish) in his 30-year career with regards to the scrolls. The rest of the research team refused to release any of their own translations for nearly four decades, thus hiding any of their own possible errors.
In 1983, Dr. Robert Eisenman of California State University, Long Beach, launched his attack against Strugnell and the other research members of the team. In 1985, Dr. Philip Davies of the University of Sheffield and other international scholars also joined Eisenman’s forces, as did the Biblical Archaeology Review (BAR):
~ Biblical Archaeology Review
Three years after Allegro’s death, in 1991, Strugnell was, with the approval of the Israeli government, dismissed from his position. The Huntington Library in San Marino, California decided to settle the dispute by releasing all their copies of original photographs of the Dead Sea Scrolls, thus ending the scroll monopoly by the remaining team members. This act of heroism caused the remaining members, who had not released the scrolls under their jurisdiction in nearly four decades, to scream “scholarly thievery.” Interestingly, after 35 years of suppression, Dr. Eisenman published fifty of the Dead Sea Scrolls documents just one year after the release of the photographs.
We must remember that Allegro was the only non-Christian member of the research team. All of the other researchers had the predetermined idea, based on flimsy or no evidence, that a man named Jesus Christ really existed. Allegro argued that they had predetermined what they would find in the scrolls. From the start, Allegro and the other researchers never agreed. Since the other researchers did not release their research for nearly four decades, we will never know what they found in the interim.
Allegro’s campaign for open access to the Scrolls was won by other scholars after his death. However, during the late 1960s, the continuing disagreements over publication and interpretation between Allegro and the Establishment arm of Scrolls scholarship meant that he had plenty of enemies. When his brilliant work, The Sacred Mushroom and the Cross, came out in 1970, it pointed out that the foundation of Christianity and Judaism is not only derived from astrotheology, but much of the mythology surrounding these religions is firmly rooted in fertility cults and psychedelic mushroom and drug use as well. The establishment seized the opportunity to destroy his reputation once and for all.
[Allegro], once a promising young scholar, has been turned into a babbler of sciolistic bawdry by an overdose of the hallucinogenic mushroom Amanita muscaria.
~ John Strugnell
Jack Herer, author of The Emperor Wears No Clothes, spent eight months fact-checking Allegro’s work in The Sacred Mushroom and the Cross in the 1980’s. Herer had this to say about the book: “He [Allegro] has not made a mistake, excepting a few minor errors.” Herer still stands behind this statement twenty years later, and will soon publish his evidence.
[W]e discussed Allegro when I was in graduate school in the late 1960’s. His scholarship is not respected and his conclusions are fanciful. He should really write science fiction.
~ Dr. John Pilch, Biblical Scholar – Georgetown University
Many Christian organizations and other groups, who had not read any of Allegro’s work, including those who believe the theory that Jesus was a shaman,, spent a lot of time and effort to discredit John Allegro’s integrity as well. Instead of taking the time to sit down and research Allegro’s work, to find out what he was referring to, they decided to attack his personality and his integrity. Based on false accusations and lies and with the help of Strugnell and the International team, they misconstrued the facts in order to make it appear as though Allegro was only out to profit from publishing the scrolls and The Sacred Mushroom and the Cross. Jonathan Ott quotes Wasson extensively on page 352 in his argument against Allegro in Pharmacotheon:
Allegro’s book was originally serialized in an English tabloid of sensationalist stripe (The News of the World), a far cry from the peer-reviewed scholarly literature he normally favored. Allegro never addressed his theory to fellow specialists in Biblical philology. Allegro was paid the princely sum of ₤30,000 for first serialization rights (Wasson in Forte 1988) and at the time was apparently hard-pressed to pay some debts (Wasson, 1977). It is difficult to escape the conclusion that he wrote The Sacred Mushroom and the Cross to make a fast buck. As Wasson later commented, “I think that he [Allegro] jumped to unwarranted conclusions on scanty evidence. And when you make such blunders as attributing the Hebrew language, the Greek language, to Sumerian—that is unacceptable to any linguist. The Sumerian language is parent to no language and no one knows where it came from” (Wasson in Forte 1988). This and several other points were made in the reviews of Jacobsen and Richardson (1971); see also the criticism of Jacques (1970). Nevertheless, Allegro’s specious theory continues to be taken seriously by some students of entheogenic mushrooms (Haseneier 1992; Klapp 1991), and a recent German anthology on the fly-agaric (Bauer et al. 1991) was dedicated to John Marco Allegro.
~ Jonathan Ott
~ John Allegro
Unfortunately, when Ott published Pharmacotheon in 1993, he had not realized that Strugnell and his team of “scholars” had lost all credibility by 1991. Allegro had felt unable to submit anything for peer review for years, as he knew biblical scholars would attack him on principle. Baigent and Leigh think scholars were strong-armed by the Vatican’s Ecole Biblique, which they went so far as to suggest is a direct arm of the Pontifical Biblical Commission, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, formerly known as “The Holy Inquisition” office of the Vatican. Jonathon Ott’s one remaining item against Allegro is, “And when you make such blunders as attributing the Hebrew language, the Greek language, to Sumerian—that is unacceptable to any linguist.”
On page 334 of Pharmacotheon, Ott admits:
The only evidence Allegro offered was linguistic. Since I am not an expert in Biblical philology, I will not attempt to evaluate his arguments. It should be noted, however, that specialists in the study of Biblical languages have unanimously rejected Allegro’s thesis…
~ Jonathan Ott
When we began to research this scandal in the summer of 2004, we originally believed that it would be necessary to prove whether these arguments against Allegro’s “language bridge” to Sumerian were in fact incorrect. We soon realized that this could require a lifetime of research to accomplish. After contacting many philologists, we often received much of the same blind condemnation against the idea that Allegro had endured.
During our research, however, we were able to find scholars who were willing to hint toward their agreement with Allegro. We contacted Dr. Philip Davies of the University of Sheffield, who was among those fighting John Strugnell and the International Team over scholarly access to the Scrolls. Dr. Davies stressed that he is not specifically a Sumerian palaeographer, there are few. However, he is a leading Hebrew, biblical and Dead Sea Scrolls scholar. He had this to say about Allegro’s ideas of the development of Alphabets, which may also give credence to Jay Lynn’s work (See Appendix B), and the so-called “language bridge”:
What Allegro said [pg. 11-13 of The Sacred Mushroom and the Cross] is almost certainly correct. That Cuneiform became stylized from an originally more pictographic script is true – the same happened in Egypt as Hieratic and then Demotic script developed from hieroglyphic. The letters of the Semitic alphabet can be shown to undergo the same development – the letter Aleph developed from an original depiction of a bull’s head into various forms in other Semitic languages, while in Greek it was turned 90 degrees clockwise to form the now familiar ‘A’. And so in many other scripts too.
~ Dr. Philip Davies
Since the time Allegro published The Sacred Mushroom and the Cross, much new research in the area of fertility cults and their relationship to entheogens, and especially mushrooms, has surfaced., Finding a Sumerian philologist who possesses a knowledge of entheogens and fertility cults is next to impossible. However, during our research we learned of one highly accredited Sumerian philologist, Anna Partington. Partington is a former associate of Allegro, who also possesses a deep understanding of entheogens and fertility cults. Though not in complete support of his views, this is what she had to say regarding Allegro:
Most people come to the field of Sumerian studies with a background in several early Mideastern languages. Although John was of a previous generation, he was, in common with most Orientalists, perfectly well equipped to deal with cuneiform languages. He found comparative linguistic study especially interesting; but early in his career the finding of the scrolls by the Dead Sea led him to specialise in translation of these Hebrew and Aramaic documents.
Unfortunately, the comparative philological work presented in SMC [The Sacred Mushroom and the Cross] uses a number of hypothetical Sumerian words not attested in texts. These are marked with an asterisk following philological convention. This is akin to proposing there is a word in the English language ‘bellbat’ because the individual words ‘bell’ and ‘bat’ are known to exist separately. Then again words of different languages are gathered together without the type of argument which would be expected in order to demonstrate possible relationship.
~ Anna Partington
We must also point out that both the Allegro family and their associates have informed us that the mushroom origins of religion were a serious area of study for John Allegro. There is no evidence to support the accusations that he was seeking revenge (as some have suggested), or out to make a fast buck. In May, 2005, John Allegro’s daughter, Judith Anne Brown, published John Marco Allegro: The Maverick of the Dead Sea Scrolls, which proves, from Allegro’s personal archives, that the attacks against him are unfounded.
…Allegro’s suggestion that “Jesus” was a mushroom god is not implausible, considering how widespread was the pre-Christian Jesus/Salvation cult and how other cultures depict their particular entheogens as “teachers” and “gods.” However, this mushroom identification would represent merely one aspect of the Jesus myth and Christ conspiracy, which, as we have seen incorporated virtually everything at hand, including sex and drugs, widely perceived in pre-Yahwist, pre-Christian cultures as being “godly.
~ Acharya S
David Spess, an expert in ancient Sanskrit (a member of the Semitic language group), has discovered that there is a direct correlation between Middle Eastern religions including Judaism, Christianity, and Gnosticism, and the Rg Vedic Soma use. Spess argues rather successfully that all Indo-European/Mediterranean religions are really a development through Indo-Aryan/Iranian cultures and Soma use in the Rig Vedas. Spess is not the only one to make this suggestion. In 1927, Ganga Prasad wrote The Fountain-Head of Religion: Being A Comparative Study of the Principal Religions of the World and a Manifestation of Their Common Origin from the Vedas, which covers this same topic in detail.
Again it is this Soma, or its two varieties called White Homa, and the Painless Tree which became the prototype of the Biblical “Tree of Knowledge,” and the “Tree of Life” supposed to have existed in Paradise., [underline—ours]
~ Ganga Prasad
With these new facts, we can finally throw out the false indictments claiming, “specialists in the study of Biblical languages have unanimously rejected Allegro’s thesis” and begin to move toward a more mature approach in looking at these ancient religions. Allegro’s ideas were ahead of his time, and it is still very difficult to prove linguistic links to the Sumerian language.
Because this book is not a study of ancient languages, we intend to reveal the truth behind many of Allegro’s ideas through other means. Furthermore, new evidence may suggest that both “Mesopotamian” and Rg Vedic religions are developments from the Ural-Altaic (Siberian) peoples, as Wasson suggested in 1968, thus, making arguments about the Mesopotamian origins of religion questionable. It would be interesting to discover if there are possible links to Sumerian, Sanskrit, Hebrew, and Greek from the Ural-Altaic language groups, though we must admit we are not qualified to undertake such research.
An entire book could be written based solely on those who have wrongfully attacked Allegro. Surprisingly, the most ruinous attacks to his career came from within the psychedelic research community. Many of the arguments against John Allegro seem to have stemmed from R. Gordon Wasson who admitted to never having read Allegro’s work! How can an entire research community base its contentions against Allegro on a man who never read his work? Had any of these researchers had an understanding of fertility cults, archaeoastronomy, and philology, many of Allegro’s theories would not have been heavily contested.