Treasure of the Copper Scroll, 1960

The Treasure of the Copper Scroll had been ready for the press in 1957. Again and again, John had written to his colleagues pressing for news of when Milik expected to publish his official translation. Again and again he held back his own, until the publishers all but lost interest.

Not only his own publication was at stake: Goodwill in Jordan and support from around the world were essential to Scrolls research and depended in part on a steady return of interesting results. The Jordanian government wanted to know what all the reticence was about and how much the Copper Scroll might be worth. John felt they had the right to know, and feared that De Vaux and his team at the Palestine Archaeological Museum would alienate the government by continuing to prevaricate. The Jordanians would have liked him to issue his own version, as he mentions in the foreword to the first edition of his book:

I was invited in the summer of 1957 to publish the text by the then Director of Antiquities of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, Dr. Ghuraibi. This invitation has since been renewed by his successors, Mr Said Durra and Dr Awni Dajani. (The Treasure of the Copper Scroll, p. 6)

In the end, the publishers Doubleday & Company arranged with John and his colleague David Noel Freedman to set a date for publication in autumn 1960, which they assumed would be far enough in the future to allow Milik to publish the official view first.

Milik’s official version was not ready. However, he published a French translation of the text – without the Hebrew original – in Revue Biblique 66, July 1959, and also an English one in the Annual of the Department of Antiquities in Jordan, Volumes 4 and 5 (1960). John’s book duly appeared in autumn 1960, as a hardback companion volume to The People of the Dead Sea Scrolls.

Later commentators, including some of the original editing team, have suggested that John pirated the Copper Scroll translation by publishing The Treasure of the Copper Scroll before the official version came out in DJDJ. But, as mentioned, Milik had published a preliminary translation in Revue Biblique in 1959. John did not describe his own translation as anything but “provisional” and held it back for over three years to let Milik issue his official version – hardly suggesting piratical intent.

The Treasure of the Copper Scroll was published by:

Double Day & Company, Inc., 1960 First edition
Routledge & Kegan Paul, London, 1960 First U.K. edition
Double Day & Company, Inc., 1964, completely revised second edition
Proquest, Book-On-Demand reprinted from microfilm of 1964 2nd edition, hardcover – thru 2008. No longer available.