"Fascinating material," pronounced American Benjamin Tandelli, the lead excavator. "Clearly a dark vision, apocalyptic in tone, full of despair and doubt, and lyrical in trusting the grandeur of God. It seems to me a worthy companion to recent discoveries of biblical era material, such as the Gospel of Judas and other secret texts."
Tandelli's enthusiasm was brought to a screeching halt two days later when the unnamed scroll was identified as the Book of Habakkuk, which is already in the Old Testament.
"It's the prophet Habakkuk all right," said Fr. Ray Green of the Jerusalem Institute. "We've dated the scroll to the years just before the Babylonian exile, and besides, the words match."
Later that day, Tandelli tried to adjust his response. "This is a groundbreaking find nonetheless. After all, I bet more people have read the Gospel of Judas than Habakkuk, right? It's still an obscure work, worthy of modern attention and a possible screenplay."
Although there was initial derision in the academic community ("I've footnoted Habakkuk at least twice," sniffed Prof. John Croissant of RBCU), response by church members in Tandelli's hometown, Allentown, Pennsylvania, was generally supportive. "Well, I certainly have never heard of Habakkuk," argued Marielle Delaney of St. Rose of Lima Parish. "And I think I am fairly up on the Old Testament. I know Abraham parted the Dead Sea and Moses almost killed his son Jacob. And King David almost cut a baby in two. And there were lots of wars. Most of what happens after that is filler anyway. So I'm going to run out and read this Habakkuk right away."
The Ironic Catholic secured an exclusive interview with Tandelli after the storm of commentary died down.
IC: So, disappointed that your big find is already considered revelation and part of the canon?
BT: Well, I must admit it would have been cool to be one of those archeologists who found something truly new and iconoclastic, but as I said, Habakkuk is very obscure. I'm sure it is new to most Christians.
IC: It may not be as popular as other books, but it has been part of the Hebrew scriptures for 2200 years. It's not exactly a secret.
BT: Can I help it if people keep reading those dang Jesus stories instead? So people move from Moses in the bulrushes to the baby Jesus. That's not my lookout.
IC: So do you think the message of Habakkuk will resonate with today's religious audience?
BT: Well, it's dark, bemoans violence, complains to God...I think that never really goes out of style, if you know what I mean.
IC: Why do you think Habakkuk isn't read by contemporary Christians?
BT: Um...I'm not sure. I mean, it's short, really short...you'd think that would help. Although maybe the pages stick together and people skip it without knowing it. Or maybe people skip those prophets without the -iah ending in their names.
The Discovery Channel plans a documentary, Habakkuk: The Discovery of the Book We Already Knew About, to be aired in late Fall 2006.