Friday, February 15, 2019

A 400-year-old Torah book seized in Turkey?

APPREHENDED: Turkish police find 400-year-old Torah in Aydın province (Daily Sabah).

The Turkish police are doing an impressive job of disrupting the work of antiquities smugglers. That said, most of what they are recovering seem to be fake artifacts. Still, that's good. It keeps the smugglers from duping people who might otherwise have wasted money on them.

There is a photo at the top of this article which I infer to be of the seized "Torah." The article doesn't actually say. But assuming that it is, it does not look like a Torah manuscript to me. I am no expert on seventeenth-century Torah codices, but some things don't add up.

The writing on the cover is in Hebrew letters. I see the word "fire," followed by "You are the King of the World/Eternity." There seem to be some other words, but it's hard to tell because there don't seem to be spaces between the words in the marginal writing. Some of the lettering does not readily add up into words.

Moreover, the writing and layout are clumsy and do not look like the work of a professional scribe. There is no photo of the inner contents, but I can't imagine that there is a Torah inside.

The menorah design on the cover is worth noting too. Menorahs are a favored decoration in the rash of recent fake manuscripts that have been turning up.

It could be an early modern Hebrew book of some sort. But I think most likely it is another modern fake. I would have to see the contents of the codex to be able to say any more.

The article mentions two "gold plated Torahs that were seized recently. I have commented on (at least) one of those stories here and here. And I have commented on the report of the seizure of a 1900-year-old Torah scroll here. None of these reports was credible.

For other manuscripts and artifacts seized from smugglers by the Turkish authorities, both recently and in recent years, start here and follow the links. I have not seen a single case that seems to be a genuine ancient artifact.

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