Was The Oldest and Most Significant Dead Sea Scroll Mistakenly Declared a Forgery in 1883?

In 1883 fifteen leather strips found by Bedouin in caves on the east side of the Dead Sea came into possession of book and manuscript antiquities dealer Moses Shapira of Jerusalem. These ancient texts were written in Paleo-Hebrew and after painstaking reading and transcription of the faded letters by Shapira, were evaluated by Germany, British, and French scholars and eventually declared to be a forgery. After all, how could leather with writing be preserved for over 2000 years in a Dead Sea cave?

The irony of that objection, now that we have the Qumran library of texts we call collectively “The Dead Sea Scrolls,” is evident today. The texts were largely forgotten and eventually lost–though I am convinced they can likely be found again and examined. Fortunately we have transcripts and two new books, both published in 2021, The Moses Scroll by Ross Nichols and The Valediction of Moses by Idan Dershowitz, reexamine this “Cold Case” mystery. Both independently conclude that the texts are likely authentic.

The New York Times highlighted the story afresh in March 2021, see: “Is A Long-Dismissed Forgery Actually the Oldest Known Biblical Manuscript?”

In Winter 2021 I published an article with Dershowitz in Biblical Archaeology Review:

Dershowitz, Idan, and James D. Tabor. “The Shapira Scrolls: The Case for Authenticity,” Biblical Archaeology Review 47, no. 4 (2021): 47–53. [1]It is now available on my Academia.edu page: https://www.academia.edu/81814044/The_Shapira_Scrolls_The_Case_for_Authenticity You can also find much more at: TheMosesScroll.com which is Ross Nichols’s site.

This lecture is part of the annual “Bible and Archaeology Fest” hosted by the Biblical Archaeology Society for the past 24 years! I highly recommend their magazine, programs, seminars, and especially membership in the BAS Library–that contains thousands of previous articles, books, videos, and other materials for a very low subscription price. See https://www.biblicalarchaeology.org



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