Why, after 30 years, was John Allegro the only scholar to have published all the scroll texts allotted to him? Why were the others so reluctant to discuss differences of interpretation, or welcome the light that the scrolls shed on the origins of Christianity?
John Allegro argues that the Christianity of the New Testament is a weave of many threads. It has little to do with historical circumstance, unless to recall the possible fate of the Essene Teacher of Righteousness. It has much to do with key elements of Essenism, hidden in names, titles and story motifs; and with Old Testament prophecy; and with Jewish cultic beliefs and practices which go back to ancient fertility religions. All these are woven with Hellenistic mystery cults and myths into the Pauline theology of Christos.
Allegro understood from the start that the job of the editing team was to make the Dead Sea scroll texts available to scholars everywhere, and he believed their message mattered to everyone.
The scrolls had been written around or shortly before the time of Jesus. They give insight into the religious life and thought of a Jewish sect based at Qumran by the Dead Sea and usually identified as Essenes. Allegro believed the scrolls could help us understand the common origin of three religions - Judaism, Christianity and Islam. He hoped they might be able to bring together scholars of each tradition in studying their common heritage without the barriers of religious prejudice.
This would mean making the texts accessible to all. Allegro had published the sections of text allotted to him in academic journals as soon as he had prepared them, and his volume (number five) in the official series Discoveries in the Judaean Desert of Jordan was ready for the press by the early 1960s. He continually campaigned for the publication of all scroll texts. However, his colleagues took a different approach, and little else appeared until 1991.
Allegro saw himself as a publicist for the scrolls. His books, talks and broadcasts promoted public interest in the scrolls and their significance. At first, the rest of the team encouraged his efforts, which after all were intended to help fund their research. But they thought he went too far in raising questions about the parallels between Essenism and Christianity, and doing so in public. He was accused of stirring up controversy at the expense of scholarship.