Friday, December 01, 2017

News from Tigay on the Shapira scroll

FORGERY OR THE REAL THING? Was this the first Dead Sea Scroll? More than a century ago, an antiquities dealer from Jerusalem claimed he had discovered an ancient version of the book of Deuteronomy. But was it a fake? (Chanan Tigay, BBC). Excerpt:
For those following the affair, Shapira’s death at the age of 54 seemed to be the sad end of his story. But fast forward more than 60 years to the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, thousands of ancient biblical scrolls and scroll fragments first uncovered in 1947. Shapira’s Deuteronomy was said to have been stashed away in a cave. So, too, were the Dead Sea Scrolls. Shapira’s manuscript was full of interesting departures from the traditional Bible text. So, too, were the Dead Sea Scrolls. Shapira’s text was found by Bedouin wandering the deserts near the Dead Sea. So, too, were the Dead Sea Scrolls.

The similarities were too striking to dismiss. Beginning in the 1950s, a number of scholars decided to return to Shapira’s manuscript, using methods not available to Ginsburg in 1883, to prove once and for all whether it was real or fake.

But there was a problem: Shapira’s scrolls had mysteriously vanished.
Mr. Tigay's adventures are both entertaining and informative, so take some time to sit down and read the whole article. It contains some revelations that I have not seen before.

As for the rhetorical question in the headline: on the one hand, it has recently been argued in a peer-review journal article that the Shapira scroll was a genuine ancient artifact. On the other hand, Mr. Tigay has uncovered some striking circumstantial evidence that points pretty strongly in a different direction. Again, read it all. For more on his book, start with the latter link and follow the links from there.

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