Samuel Iwry, a pre-eminent scholar of the Dead Sea Scrolls
and a Near Eastern Studies professor
emeritus at Johns Hopkins, died of a stroke at Sinai Hospital in
Baltimore on May 8. He was 93.
Iwry joined the faculty in 1951, the year he earned his
doctorate from the university and taught here part time until his
retirement in 1991, while also teaching full time at Baltimore
Hebrew University from 1948 to 1985. He pursued a range of
scholarly endeavors in ancient Near Eastern studies, biblical
archaeology, the history of the Hebrew language, Jewish
civilization and modern Hebrew literature.
Iwry was a member of the team led by his mentor at Johns
Hopkins, William Foxwell Albright, who first authenticated the
Dead Sea Scrolls in 1991.
In the late 1940s, Iwry was writing a paper at a seminar at
Johns Hopkins in which he theorized that the Dead Sea Scrolls
were written more than 2,000 years ago based on his study of the
ancient writing and a close reading of the internal evidence, but
no proof existed until 1947, when the scrolls were discovered in
He completed his doctorate in 1951 with the presentation of
the first dissertation about the Dead Sea Scrolls. Iwry believed
they were written between the second century B.C. and the middle
of the first century A.D. Some scholars remained skeptical until
1991, when a new, less destructive method of carbon dating was
used on the scrolls. The test confirmed Iwry's hypothesis. The
long-awaited news was announced in April 1991, the same month
Iwry retired to emeritus status.
In addition to his professorship at JHU, Iwry was
distinguished professor of literature and dean at the Baltimore
Hebrew University. While most scholars focus on either ancient or
modern Hebrew, Iwry was well-versed in both, teaching the
critical study of the biblical Hebrew texts, classical Aramaic
language and modern Hebrew literature.
The Blum-Iwry Professorship in Near Eastern Studies was
established at Hopkins in 2002 with a commitment by the family of
alumni Alvin and Mildred Blum. A 1986 endowment from the Blums
established the Samuel Iwry Lectureship in Hebraic Studies, which
brings a distinguished scholar to the department for two weeks
Born in Bialystok, Poland, on Dec. 25, 1910, Iwry earned a
diploma from the Vilno Teachers Seminary in 1931 and a master's
diploma in 1937 from the Higher Institute for Judaic Studies in
Warsaw. Two years later, the Nazis invaded, and Iwry fled to
Moscow, then Tokyo and finally to Shanghai. "After helping other
refugees escape and emigrate to Palestine, he was imprisoned in
Shanghai by the Japanese occupying forces and tortured for his
activities," his son, J. Mark Iwry, told The Sun.
Iwry then met his future wife, Nina Rochman, a hospital
administrator who persuaded authorities to release Iwry to a
hospital, where he regained his health. His wife survives him,
along with their son and a grandson.
In August, Samuel Iwry's oral history of his life —
To Wear the Dust of War: From Warsaw to Shanghai to the
Promised Land — will be published by Palgrave