The Moses Shapira “Dead Sea Scroll”
A Shapira ‘Dead Sea Scrolls’ News Roundup Professor James Tabor covers some of the major high-lights of March with respect to several books coming out making a solid case for the authenticity of Moses Shapira’s enigmatic ancient Hebrew writings that were brought forth in the 1880s and almost as quickly plunged into infamy and obscurity due to scholarly counter-claims of forgery. The artefacts themselves were sold off and their discoverer suicided due to the damage to his reputation.
Ross Nichols is one of the authors to create the current buzz, following up his book with a blog. Here’s a recent aggregation of bloggings he has in turn blogged: Out with the New – The Moses Scroll Beyond New Release Status (March 28, 2021)
Idan Dershowitz is the other author with a new book out. His shorter article is online here: The Valediction of Moses: New Evidence on the Shapira Deuteronomy Fragments — Zeitschrift für die Alttestamentliche Wissenschaft (ZAW)
He calls Shapira’s ancient text “V” or “the Valediction of Moses” and studies it in depth in his book, which he has made available online here: The Valediction of Moses: A Proto-Biblical Book
Medium contributor Jonathan Poletti adds his own take on the tale: A Bible Before the Bible? …which is a good historical backgrounder on the controversy in the 1880’s.
Nichols and Dershowitz aren’t the first scholars to make a case for authenticity. For example Shlomo Guil wrote this paper from 2017: The Shapira Scroll was an Authentic Dead Sea Scroll
Before them Menahem Mansoor in 1958 made an impassioned appeal for a re-examination of the evidence: The Case of Shapira’s Dead Sea (Deuteronomy) Scrolls of 1883
So why is the Shapira Scroll so significant? Firstly it’s an old Paleo-Hebrew text, possibly older than everything post the Babylonian Exile, which ended in 537 BCE. It’s also written completely differently to anything in the Tanakh (aka Hebrew Bible) as if spoken by Elohim, and fits what Moses is reported to have written – the Ten ‘Words’ and the Blessings and Curses of the Covenant. So could it be the core document of the rest of the Tanakh?