APn 02/22 1446 Obit-Allegro LONDON (AP) -- Dr. John Allegro, renowned for his work in

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APn 02/22 1446 Obit-Allegro LONDON (AP) -- Dr. John Allegro, renowned for his work in deciphering the Dead Sea Scrolls but ridiculed for his theories that Western religions were based on the worship of mushrooms, has died. He was 65. Allegro died at his home on Feb. 17, his birthday, according to death notices and obituaries published Monday. No cause of death was given. He is to be cremated Tuesday. Allegro was a brilliant student of Semitic languages at Manchester University and went on to study Hebrew dialects at Oxford University. In 1953, he was named to an international team formed to decipher the Dead Sea Scrolls, which were discovered in caves at Qumran on the shores of the Dead Sea six years earlier. The scrolls, which spanned from about 100 B.C. to 70 A.D., included the oldest known manuscripts of books from the Old Testament. Allegro's gift for deciphering minute texts was crucial. His book, "The Dead Sea Scrolls," was published in 1956 and became a bestseller. Allegro's subsequent notoriety caused derision in the scientific community but developed a cult following in the early 1970s. Allegro, in his 1970 book "The Sacred Mushroom and the Cross," contended that Judaism and Christianity were in fact products of an ancient sex-and-mushroom cult. He theorized that Jesus's last words on the cross were not a lament to God but "a paean of praise to the god of the mushroom." Although trained for the Methodist ministry, he became a fervent anti-Christian devoted to debunking the story of Jesus. Allegro also published a 1966 book, "Search in the Desert," about an unsuccessful search for lost scrolls in the Judean Desert. He is survived by a son and a daughter.

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