John Marco Allegro: The Maverick of the Dead Sea Scrolls by Judith Anne Brown - review by Bernard Green

Bernard Green

Bernard Green Following a Different Script

John Marco Allegro: The Maverick of the Dead Sea Scrolls

By

Eerdmans 288pp £14.99 order from our bookshop
 

This is a very sad book: sad because it recounts a life of early brilliance that ended in frustration and disappointment, and sad because it is the poignant endeavour of a daughter to rediscover and, in the process, rehabilitate her father. John Allegro was the first English scholar to study the Dead Sea Scrolls, joining the international team that was reconstructing and deciphering them in 1953. He was the first of the international team working on the scrolls to publicise and popularise their findings, in a best-selling paperback of 1956. But in 1970, his notorious The Sacred Mushroom and the Cross made him a laughing stock and destroyed his academic reputation. He died on his sixty-fifth birthday in 1988, and in that early and unexpected death, as his daughter remarks, ‘All the hopes and endeavors of sixty-five years simply stopped … all stopped.’

Allegro came up the hard way. Although his father had been commissioned during the First World War, the family’s fortunes did not prosper and he had to leave grammar school at sixteen. It was 1939, and the Second World War gave him his chance. Service in the Royal Navy led

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