September 26, 2011, 2:23 PM — I'm all for putting every scrap of arcane information online for the masses to enjoy. You never know when you'll find a Weiner Tweet or something really salacious about Afghan police trainers hiring "dancing boys" to entertain at banquets, or something of equal global importance.
The Dead Sea Scrolls – the oldest surviving copies of biblical text – were posted today in the most complete version ever published anywhere for any reason – though that's not difficult with this particular set of cables.
The scrolls have been translated and published before – any number of times, in academic journals, popular books and everywhere else.
They've even been translated and available online before. Here is the Gnostic Society's version; this one from the Library of Congress includes photos, translations and a lot of background on the scrolls, history and archeology of the region, especially the "settlement at Qumran," the designation that will stand in for the name of the town the Dead Sea Scroll authors lived in until archeologists find out what the settlers called it.
Control of content is the key to control
The content and decisions about who has access to the original copies of the scrolls – and how much of them – has always been tightly controlled. Some concerns were legitimate ones about preserving fragile documents from the damage they'd suffer from repeated bright-light photography, x-ray and other tests, not to mention constant pawing by visiting scholars and VIPs who wanted to drop by the lab just to satisfy their own curiosity.