John M. Allegro
John Marco Allegro
|Died||17 February 1988 (aged 65)|
|Known for||The Sacred Mushroom and the Cross, Dead Sea Scrolls studies|
John Marco Allegro (17 February 1923 – 17 February 1988) was an English archaeologist and Dead Sea Scrolls scholar. He was a populariser of the Dead Sea Scrolls through his books and radio broadcasts. He was the editor of some of the most famous and controversial scrolls published, the pesharim. A number of Allegro's later books, including The Sacred Mushroom and the Cross, brought him both popular fame and notoriety, and also destroyed his career.
Early life and training
Allegro was born in 1923, son of John Allegro and Mabel (nee Perry). Allegro went through Wallington County Grammar School in 1939. He joined the Royal Navy, serving during World War Two. After the war he began training for the Methodist ministry, but found that he was more interested in Hebrew and Greek, so he went to study at Manchester University with fees paid by government grant due to his military service. Allegro received his Honours degree in Oriental Studies at the University of Manchester in 1951. This was followed in 1952 by a master's degree under supervision of H. H. Rowley. While engaged in further research in Hebrew dialects at Oxford under Godfrey Driver in 1953, Allegro was invited by Gerald Lankester Harding to join the team of scholars working on the Dead Sea Scrolls in Jerusalem, where he spent one year working on the scrolls. He became a lecturer in Comparative Semitic Philology in Manchester in 1954.
The Copper Scroll
It was on Allegro's recommendation in 1955 that the Copper Scroll was sent by the Jordanian government to Manchester University in order for it to be cut into sections, allowing the text to be read. He was present during the cutting process in 1956 and later made a preliminary transcription of the text, which he soon translated, sending copies of his work back to Gerald Lankester Harding in Jordan. Although Allegro had been first to translate the Copper Scroll, the text was assigned for editing to J.T. Milik by Roland de Vaux, the editor in chief of the scrolls. While he was in England he made a series of radio broadcasts on BBC Radio aimed at popularising the scrolls, in which he announced that the leader discussed in the scrolls may have been crucified. He posited that the Teacher of Righteousness had been martyred and crucified by Alexander Jannaeus, and that his followers believed he would reappear at the End time as Messiah, based on Qumran document Commentary on Nahum 1.4–9 (a position that he re-iterated in 1986). His colleagues in Jerusalem immediately responded with a letter to the Times on 16 March 1956 refuting his claim. The letter concluded,
- "It is our conviction that either he [Allegro] has misread the texts or he has built up a chain of conjectures which the materials do not support."
Allegro was asked a number of times by the Jordanian Director of Antiquities if he would publish the text of the Copper Scroll. After a few years of waiting for Milik's publication of the scroll, Allegro succumbed and set about publishing the text. His book, The Treasure of the Copper Scroll, was released in 1960, while the official publication had to wait another two years. Although several of his readings in the text are acknowledged, Allegro's book was disparaged by his colleagues. He believed that the treasure in the scroll was real—a view now held by most scholars—and led an expedition to attempt to find items mentioned in the scroll, though without success.
During this period Allegro also published two popular books on the Dead Sea scrolls, The Dead Sea Scrolls (1956) and The People of the Dead Sea Scrolls (1958). He was keen to photograph the site of Qumran and various texts, providing an important source of information for posterity.
Publishing the Pesharim
Allegro was entrusted with the publication of 4Q158–4Q186, a collection of fragments which mainly contained exemplars of a unique kind of commentary on biblical works known as pesharim. He believed that it was necessary to get these works out as quickly as possible and published several preliminary editions in learned journals during the late 1950s. He told de Vaux that he could have his share of the texts ready in 1960, but due to hold ups had to wait until 1968 for his volume, Discoveries in the Judaean Desert of Jordan V: 4Q158–4Q186, to be published. He reworked his material in 1966 with the assistance of a Manchester colleague, Arnold Anderson, before publication. He stated in the volume that
- "it has been my practice to offer no more than the basic essentials of photographs, transliteration, translation of non-biblical passages where this might serve some useful interpretative purpose, and the minimum of textual notes."
John Strugnell published a severe critique of the volume, "Notes en Marge du volume V des 'Discoveries in the Judean Desert of Jordan'" in Revue de Qumran. Allegro's minimalist approach has received widespread scorn in the scholarly world, which nevertheless had the opportunity to analyse the Allegro texts for decades while waiting for other editors to publish their allotments. The first part of Strugnell's allotment was published in 1994.
Change of direction
As early as 1956 Allegro held controversial views regarding the content of the scrolls, stating in a letter to de Vaux, "It's a pity that you and your friends cannot conceive of anything written about Christianity without trying to grind some ecclesiastical or non-ecclesiastical axe." The bulk of his work on the Dead Sea Scrolls was done by 1960 and he was at odds with his scrolls colleagues. When a conflict broke out with H.H. Rowley concerning Allegro's interpretation of the scrolls, Allegro, on the invitation of F.F. Bruce, moved from the Department of Near East Studies in the Faculty of Arts at Manchester to the Faculty of Theology. It was during his stay in Theology that he wrote his controversial book, The Sacred Mushroom and the Cross, whose subtitle was "A Study of the Nature and Origins of Christianity within the Fertility Cults of the Ancient Near East". Apparently realising the impact this book would have, Allegro resigned his post at Manchester.
The Sacred Mushroom and Christian Myth
Allegro's book The Sacred Mushroom and the Cross (1970) argued that Christianity began as a shamanistic cult. In his books The Sacred Mushroom and the Cross and The Dead Sea Scrolls and the Christian Myth (1979), Allegro put forward the theory that stories of early Christianity originated in an Essene clandestine cult centred around the use of psychedelic mushrooms, and that the New Testament is the coded record of this shamanistic cult. Allegro further argued that the authors of the Christian gospels did not understand the Essene thought. When writing down the Gospels based on the stories they had heard, the evangelists confused the meaning of the scrolls. In this way, according to Allegro, the Christian tradition is based on a misunderstanding of the scrolls. He also argued that the story of Jesus was based on the crucifixion of the Teacher of Righteousness in the scrolls. Mark Hall writes that Allegro suggested the Dead Sea Scrolls all but proved that a historical Jesus never existed.
Allegro argued that Jesus in the Gospels was in fact a code for a type of hallucinogen, the Amanita muscaria, and that Christianity was the product of an ancient "sex-and-mushroom" cult. Critical reaction was swift and harsh: fourteen British scholars (including Allegro's mentor at Oxford, Godfrey Driver) denounced it. Sidnie White Crawford wrote of the publication of Sacred Mushroom, "Rightly or wrongly, Allegro would never be taken seriously as a scholar again."
Allegro's theory of a shamanistic cult as the origin of Christianity was criticised sharply by Welsh historian Philip Jenkins who wrote that Allegro was an eccentric scholar who relied on texts that did not exist in quite the form he was citing them. Jenkins called the Sacred Mushroom and the Cross "possibly the single most ludicrous book on Jesus scholarship by a qualified academic". Based on the reactions to the book, Allegro's publisher later apologized for issuing the book and Allegro was forced to resign his academic post. A 2006 article by Michael Hoffman discussing Allegro's work called for his theories to be re-evaluated by the mainstream. In November 2009 The Sacred Mushroom and the Cross was reprinted in a 40th anniversary edition with a 30-page addendum by Carl Ruck of Boston University.
Personal life and death
Allegro married in 1948 Joan Lawrence by whom he had a son and a daughter. In 1982 he was living in Ballasalla on the Isle of Man before returning to live in England. In 1988 John Marco Allegro died of a heart attack on his 65th birthday in his home in Sandbach, Cheshire.
Among Allegro's works are the following:
- J.M. Allegro (1956). The Dead Sea Scrolls. Harmondsworth: Pelican.
- J.M. Allegro (1958). The People of the Dead Sea Scrolls. Garden City, NY: Doubleday & Co.
- J.M. Allegro (1960). The Treasure of the Copper Scroll. Garden City, NY: Doubleday & Co.
- J.M. Allegro (1964). Search in the Desert. Garden City NY: Doubleday & Co.
- J.M. Allegro (1965). The Shapira Affair. Garden City, NY: Doubleday & Co.
- J.M. Allegro (1968). Discoveries in the Judaean Desert of Jordan V: 4Q158–4Q186. Oxford.
- J.M. Allegro (1970). The Sacred Mushroom and the Cross. London: Hodder and Stoughton Ltd.
- J.M. Allegro (1970). The End of a Road. London: Macgibbon and Kee.
- J.M. Allegro (1971). The Chosen People. London: Hodder and Stoughton Ltd.
- J.M. Allegro (1977). Lost Gods (Dutch "Verdwenen goden"). Baarn, NL: H. Meulenhoff. ISBN 9022402525.
- J.M. Allegro (1979). The Dead Sea Scrolls and the Christian Myth. Devon: Westbridge Books. ISBN 0879752416.
- J.M. Allegro (1982). All Manner of Men. Springfield, IL: Charles Thomas.
- J.M. Allegro (1985). Physician, Heal Thyself. Amherst, United States: Prometheus Books. ISBN 9780879753054.
His scholarly journal articles include:
- J.M. Allegro (1956). "Further Messianic References in Qumran Literature". Journal of Biblical Literature. 75 (3): 174–187. doi:10.2307/3261919. JSTOR 3261919.
- J.M. Allegro (1956). "More Unpublished Pieces of a Qumran Commentary on Nahum [4Q pNah]". Journal of Biblical Literature. 75: 304–308.
- J.M. Allegro (1958). "More Isaiah Commentaries from Qumran's Fourth Cave". Journal of Biblical Literature. 77 (3): 215–221. doi:10.2307/3264101. JSTOR 3264101.
- J.M. Allegro (1958). "Fragments of a Qumran Scroll of Eschatological Midrashim". Journal of Biblical Literature. 77 (4): 350–354. doi:10.2307/3264674. JSTOR 3264674.
- J.M. Allegro (1962). "Further Light on the History of the Qumran Sect". Journal of Semitic Studies. 7: 304–308. doi:10.1093/jss/7.2.304.
An undated play 'The Lively Oracles' (with Roy Plomley).
- Weston W. Fields (2009). The Dead Sea Scrolls, A Full History. 1. Leiden: Brill. p. 211. ISBN 978-9004175815.
- Jan Irvin & Andrew Rutajit (2009). Astrotheology and Shamanism. Gnostic Media Research & Publishing. p. 196. ISBN 978-1439222423.CS1 maint: uses authors parameter (link)
- Mosley, Charles (editor) (1982). Debrett's Handbook 1982, Distinguished People in British Life. Debrett's Peerage Limited. p. 30. ISBN 0-905649-38-9.CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)
- Weston W. Fields (2009). The Dead Sea Scrolls, A Full History. 1. Leiden: Brill. pp. 212–213. ISBN 978-9004175815.
- Philip R. Davies, "John Allegro and the Copper Scroll" in George J. Brooke; Philip R. Davies, eds. (2002). Copper Scroll Studies. Sheffield Academic Press. pp. 26–27. ISBN 0826460550.
- From the back cover, J.M. Allegro (1956). The Dead Sea Scrolls. Harmondsworth: Pelican.
- George J. Brooke, "Dead Sea Scrolls Scholarship in the United Kingdom", in Devorah Dimant, ed. (2012). The Dead Sea Scrolls in Scholarly Perspective: A History of Research. Leiden: Brill. pp. 453–454. ISBN 978-9004208063.
- Judah K. Lefkovits, "The Copper Scroll (3Q15): A Reconsideration", in Lawrence H. Schiffman; Shani Tzoref, eds. (2010). The Dead Sea Scrolls at 60. Leiden: Brill. p. 181. ISBN 9789004185050.
- George J. Brooke, "Dead Sea Scrolls Scholarship in the United Kingdom", in Devorah Dimant, ed. (2012). The Dead Sea Scrolls in Scholarly Perspective: A History of Research. Leiden: Brill. p. 457. ISBN 978-9004208063.
- Norman Golb (1995). Who Wrote the Dead Sea Scrolls. New York: Touchstone. p. 164.
- James VanderKam, Peter Flint, The Meaning of The Dead Sea Scrolls: Their Significance For Understanding The Bible, Judaism, Jesus and Christianity, pp. 323–324 (T & T Clark International, 2002). ISBN 056708468X, also in Time, Volume 67, Issue 6 (6 February 1956), article entitled "Religion: Crucifixion Before Christ" 
- R. Joseph Hoffmann, Gerald A. Larue; Eds, Jesus in History and Myth (Prometheus Books, 1986) ISBN 978-0879753320
- Philip R. Davies, "John Allegro and the Copper Scroll" in George J. Brooke; Philip R. Davies, eds. (2002). Copper Scroll Studies. Sheffield Academic Press. p. 33. ISBN 0826460550.
- This was Allegro's view, stated in a letter to John Strugnell dated 6 February 1957, cited in Judith Anne Brown (2005). John Marco Allegro: The Maverick Of The Dead Sea Scrolls. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. p. 106. ISBN 0802828493.
- Judith Anne Brown (2005). John Marco Allegro: The Maverick Of The Dead Sea Scrolls. Grand Rapids: William B Eerdmans Publishing Co. p. 107. ISBN 0802828493.
- John Marco Allegro (1960). The Treasure of the Copper Scroll. New York: Doubleday & Co. p. 6.
- Philip R. Davies, "John Marco Allegro", in Lawrence H. Schiffman; James C. VanderKam, eds. (2000). Encyclopedia of the Dead Sea Scrolls. 1. Oxford. p. 18. ISBN 0195137965.
- George J. Brooke, "Dead Sea Scrolls Scholarship in the United Kingdom", in Devorah Dimant, ed. (2012). The Dead Sea Scrolls in Scholarly Perspective: A History of Research. Leiden: Brill. p. 458. ISBN 978-9004208063.
- Judith Anne Brown (2005). John Marco Allegro: The Maverick Of The Dead Sea Scrolls. Grand Rapids: William B Eerdmans Publishing Co. p. 152. ISBN 0802828493.
- Cited in Judith Anne Brown (2005). John Marco Allegro: The Maverick Of The Dead Sea Scrolls. Grand Rapids: William B Eerdmans Publishing Co. p. 155. ISBN 0802828493.
- "Discoveries in the Judaean Desert: X". Orion Center. Retrieved 15 April 2013.
- Judith Anne Brown (2005). John Marco Allegro: The Maverick Of The Dead Sea Scrolls. Grand Rapids: William B Eerdmans Publishing Co. p. 182. ISBN 0802828493.
- John Allegro, The Sacred Mushroom and the Cross 1970 ISBN 978-0-9825562-7-6
- John Allegro The Dead Sea Scrolls and the Christian Myth 1979 ISBN 978-0-879-75757-1
- The Meaning of the Dead Sea Scrolls by Peter Flint and James VanderKam (Jul 10, 2005) ISBN 056708468X T&T Clark pp. 323-325
- The Essenes, the Scrolls, and the Dead Sea by Joan E. Taylor (Dec 14, 2012) ISBN 019955448X Oxford University Press p. 305
- Robert E. Van Voorst Jesus Outside the New Testament: An Introduction to the Ancient Evidence Eerdmans Publishing, 2000. ISBN 0-8028-4368-9 p. 77
- Hall, Mark. "Foreword," in Allegro, John M. The Dead Sea Scrolls & the Christian Myth. Prometheus 1992, first published 1979, p. ix.
- The Meaning of the Dead Sea Scrolls by Peter Flint and James VanderKam (10 July 2005) ISBN 056708468X T&T Clark pp. 323–325
- A History of the Middle East by Saul S. Friedman (15 March 2006) ISBN 0786423560 page 82
- Sidnie White Crawford (2006). "Review of Judith Anne Brown, John Marco Allegro: The Maverick of the Dead Sea Scrolls". Catholic Biblical Quarterly. 68 (4): 725.
- Jenkins, Philip. Hidden Gospels. Oxford University Press, 2002, p. 180.
- Hoffman, Michael., ed. by Dr. Robert Price., "Wasson and Allegro on the Tree of Knowledge as Amanita" in Journal of Higher Criticism, 2006. Archived 14 August 2007 at the Wayback Machine
- The Sacred Mushroom and the Cross, 40th anniversary edition by John M. Allegro, Gnostic Media, 2009. ISBN 978-0-9825562-7-6
- Sidnie White Crawford (2006). "Review of Judith Anne Brown, John Marco Allegro: The Maverick of the Dead Sea Scrolls". Catholic Biblical Quarterly. 68 (4): 726.
- Judith Anne Brown: John Marco Allegro: The Maverick of the Dead Sea Scrolls. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans 2005.