In 1990 Strugnell gave an interview to Ha'aretz in which he said that Judaism was a "horrible religion" which "should not exist,". He also said that Judaism was "a Christian heresy, and we deal with our heretics in different ways. You are a phenomenon that we haven't managed to convert -- and we should have managed."
There was immediate condemnation of his comments, including an editorial in the New York Times. As a result of the interview Strugnell was forced to take early retirement on medical grounds at Harvard., and he was finally removed from his editorial post on the Scrolls project, the Antiques Authority citing his deteriorating health as reason for his removal.
Strugnell later said that he was suffering from stress-induced alcoholism and manic depression when he gave the interview. He insisted that his remarks were taken out of context and he only meant "horrible" in the Miltonian sense of "deplored in antiquity". In a 2007 interview in Biblical Archaeology Review, Frank Moore Cross said that despite Strugnell's comments, which were based on a theological argument of the early Church Fathers that Christianity superseded Judaism, Strugnell had very friendly relationships with a number of Jewish scholars, some of whom signed a letter of support for him which was published in the Chicago Tribune.
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