Chapter 17 - Abstract and author bios

17. The Bible as Cultural Property? A Cautionary Tale

Neil Asher Silberman

The various collections of ancient Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek scriptures known as the Bible are venerated as sacred law and divinely-inspired wisdom by Christians and Jews all over the world. Can the Bible be considered cultural property? If so, to whom would it belong? This chapter examines the Bible’s relationship to recent efforts by global agencies such as UNESCO and WIPO to define universal categories of traditional knowledge and to create protection mechanisms within intellectual property law. The chapter will highlight some potential ethical and ideological problems with the present legal-bureaucratic approach.

Neil Asher Silberman is a historian and heritage scholar who is the author of more than a dozen books, from Digging for God and Country (1982) to The Bible Unearthed (2001). He is an adjunct faculty member of the Department of Anthropology of the University of Massachusetts Amherst. From 2004 to 2007 he served as director of the Ename Center in Belgium, and also served as president of the ICOMOS International Scientific Committee on Interpretation and Presentation and as a member of the ICOMOS International Advisory Committee from 2005 to 2015. He is a managing partner of Coherit Associates, an international heritage consultancy.