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Scrolls from the Dead Sea. From the manuscript Department of the British Museum dossier number 41 to 94 London August 23rd 1880. The old doctor Ginsburg here has made a fool of me by publishing and exhibiting things you have believed to be false. I do not think I will be able to survive this shame. Yours truly. M-W shoppy a few months later the man called Shapiro accused of trying to sell forged biblical manuscripts. Put him into his life. The case of a missing Shapira manuscript program for scrolls from the Dead Sea. A radio exploration of the most significant archaeological find of the 20th century. These programs are produced by radio station WAGA of the University of Wisconsin
under a grant from the Educational Television and Radio Center in cooperation with the National Association of educational broadcasters M-W Shapiro was an antique dealer living in Jerusalem during the last century there came into his possession a manuscript of Deuteronomy which he tried to sell to the British Museum. A great controversy resulted over the authenticity of the document. A controversy known in the literary world as the Shapira forgery incident. Professor Menachem Mansoor chairman of the department of Hebrew and Semitic Studies at the University of Wisconsin believes that in the light of recent discoveries the incident should be re-examined during his tour of Europe and Israel collecting materials for these broadcasts on the Dead Sea Scrolls. Professor Mansoor examined the British Museum dossier on Shapira and also made inquiries in Jerusalem. His findings are contained in this broadcast. Professor Mansoor. You are probably asking what has the Shapiro forgery incident to do with the
data scrolls. Well to begin with Shapiro claimed the manuscript was found in caves not far from the date see. Moreover there were also wrapped in linen as is the case with the dates the scrolls recently found for over 70 years the Shapiro scroll of Deuteronomy has remained a painful memory to Biblical and he risk Carse a few years ago following the fabulous finds nearly did see some scholars recall that the 1883 Shapiro story about the acquisition of Deuteronomy from the Bedouin tell it almost exactly with the finding of the dates of scrolls. Perhaps it is not widely realized today that the scrolls recently found are not the first revelations of their kind. That's the Church Father origin of the third century A.D. described the find of manuscripts in a cave near the date see in the ninth century. Timothy was the
church bettery Ark related how the Jews of his time had discovered a library of books in a cave including over 200 songs of David the Bible by the way contains only one hundred and fifty. It is possible that other documents also were found at other times. There is no reason therefore why the Shapiro scroll should not be re-examined in this light. I decided merely in the interest of scholarship to reopen the subject and for this purpose I left last summer for London and spent several weeks at the British Museum examining the special dossier on Shapiro's incident. I also went to Jerusalem in an attempt to trace any descendants of Shapira Apollo investigation I was able to locate the house where Shapiro's family lived. Over 80 years ago I also came across an autographed copy of his daughter's printed diary. But the chief source of information remained the dossier in the British Museum.
It contains invaluable although incomplete papers relative to SHAPIRO allegedly forged manuscript of Deuteronomy consisting chiefly of or original handwritten letters. Alas the dossier does not contain the original manuscript but happily there are photographic reproductions of them very valuable too. Are there several contemporary newspaper cuttings on the heated controversy. I spent over four weeks studying this dossier at the museum's manuscripts room. This is the fascinating and tantalizing story which emerges from my study. We don't know very much about Shapiro. We do not even know what his initials M-W stand for. We do know that he was a Polish Jew converted to Christianity and that he had an antique shop in Jerusalem. He was officially an agent to the British Museum. His markets covered prominent libraries and museums throughout the world. His contacts included leading scholars and authorities
and also by his own admission a better one who would steal his mother in law for a few piastres his daughter gives us childhood memories of him and his shop. I remember him wrapped in a flowing silk Some are like like an Arab chief lying full length with bare feet a hundred divan smoking his water pipe with the rose petals dancing merrily in a large bowl. Oh and I remember riding with him on his Arab charger through the Judean countryside. His cloak would float on the breeze and the tassels of his veil would get in tangled in my hair. On other occasions his dress was sedately European. On Sundays going to church he looked so well in his great overcoat and soft broad brimmed hat. I knew how proud mother must feel to take such a handsome husband to change the British Museum dossier begins with a letter Shapiro wrote to a German scholar describing his acquisition of the Deuteronomy scroll in July
1878. I met with several Bedouins. We came of course to speak of all things. They told me that several years ago some Arabs had occasion to hide themselves in caves high up in a rock facing the moon jab. The biblical river are none flowing to the eastern bank of the Dead Sea. They discovered there are several bundles. As I knew well the place the Bedouin spoke of knowing it is an old burial place and having marveled of the dryness of the place nor rain are able to approach this place as the North South High Rock sheltered from the rain. So I thought that such a dry land may preserve for us the oldest documents. I therefore took an interest in the story and asked the Bedouin to persuade the owner to bring as proof a small piece of leather from the bundle. The Bedouin told me that he knows a man that will rob or steal away any antiquities of his country. Well that man brought me slowly all I now possess.
In that summer of eighteen seventy eight Shapira began translating. By September he was able to send portions of the translation to a German professor named Monday asking for his opinion. Slotman replied without seeing the actual scrolls that they were obvious forgeries because they contradicted the Bible. After that Shapiro did nothing until in 1883 he wrote to Dr Harriman Schrock professor of theology at Berlin University. Joe Solem May 19 18 83. My dear Professor stock you will excuse me the a professor if I shall trouble you with a letter. I hope you will read it with interest in spite of your having so little time to spare. I am going to surprise you with a short description of the curious manuscript written in Old Hebrew or Phoenician letters upon small strips of embalmed leather and seems to be a shop out of Doc's
a cool book of the last speech of Moses in the plains of Moab. I studied the manuscripts and found it a very heavy task for my eyes. The blackness of the lab the decaying away of the ink their lack of any stop or space between the words. All these did hurt my eyes very much. I will send a time scription of most of the manuscript and I will put here and there I remark. You will dear Professor be better able to find the faults and virtues of it than I should you or your friends find it interesting. You may send me a telegram with a few words at my expense. Excuse also my very bad writing done in great haste. Allow me to remain yours truly and obedient servant M-W Shapira. German scholars though were still not interested. At least a part of the German coolness toward Shapira and his wares must be attributed to a collection of pottery at the Berlin
museum sold to that institution by Shapira. Some ten years earlier in 1872 German authorities first believed the pottery to be of great antiquity dating from Moabite culture. Subsequent study indicated the pottery was forged but it was made clear then that Shapiro was not the culprit but the dupe in this case. Faced with the German apathy M-W Shapira picked up his merchandise and bought a ticket for London. Friday July 20th 1893 Shapira contacted Walter BAS and the secretary of the Palestine exploration fund in London. On that occasion he informed me that he had come to England with an ancient document worth a million sterling. On Monday July 23rd he spent the greater part of the day with us explaining the way in which he got his manuscript and the ciphering portions on Tuesday. He came again and on July 26 a meeting was arranged with a
party from the British Museum a group which included the eminent doctor Ginsburg on Friday August 3rd 1893. The presence of Shapiro and his sheepskins became public knowledge. The London Times carried the following story. There are now deposited in the British Museum 15 leather slips on which are written portions of the book of Deuteronomy different from that of the Received Text. The mere period graphical indications would give the probable date of the slips as the ninth century B.C. or sixteen centuries earlier than any other clearly authenticated manuscript of any portion of the Old Testament. The sheepskins are literally black with age and are impregnated with a faint odor as of a few Meriel spices. No complete account of the dot of the contents of the fragments can be given yet but enough has been deciphered to show that the text employed in them exhibits discrepancies of the most remarkable
and important character as compared with that of the received version of the mosaic books. The version of the fragments literally rendered runs as follows. I am God your God who has liberated the from the land of Egypt sanctified in six days I have made the heaven and the earth and all that is there in and rested on the seventh day. Therefore rest also now and buy cattle and all that power hast. I am God. Dya God on our thy father and thy mother. I am God. By God now shalt not kill the person of the brother. I am God. By God shalt not commit adultery with the wife of the neighbor I am God. By God Thou shalt not steal the property of the brother I am God. By God. Now shalt not swear by my name falsely before I visit the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of those who take my name in
vain. I am God die God now shalt not bear false witness against my brother. I am God like God. Now shalt not convert the wife or his man servant or his maid servant or anything that is his. I am God die God now shalt not hate die brother in Die Hard. I am God by God. Several points may be noted in this version. The singular refrain I am God like God which does not appear at all in the received version occurs 10 times. The distinctive Jewish name for the almighty Jehovah or Yahweh does not appear at all. The familiar phrase of the received version. The Lord thy God being replaced throughout by God by God. The problem presented by the fragments is one of profound interest and the whole world of letters will resign with the controversy they are certain to excite.
As the news about Shapiro and his sheepskins became public a great stir spread through England spilling out onto the continent daily reports appeared in all leading newspapers so intense was the interest of Mr. Gladstone the British prime minister took time out from a crowded parliament schedule to visit the British Museum inspecting the manuscript. And according to the newspapers closely questioning Shapira reporters and photographers swarmed around the antique dealer who became the man of the hour. While all this world around him. Shapiro watched carefully for some indication of Ginsburg's attitude. The sale of the manuscript to the British Museum depended primarily on Dr Christian David Ginsberg the noted Hebrew scholar and gauged in a translation and evaluation of the scrolls for the museum. The tenseness with which Shapiro awaited Ginsburg's evaluation is indicated by letters he wrote. For instance here are parts of a letter explaining his innocence in the Moabite pottery sale to the
Germans. London tenants to the hotel August 6 1880. Really. The old doctor Ginsburg newspapers mention again this sad business of the Moabite party and I think it will be right to let you know at the doctor how little I am to be blamed even if the papa they should be on questionable forgeries. I doubt that very much doubt genuine this but others thought them genuine and persuaded me to buy mother of them. I want you to understand their doctor why my greatest enemy is could write nothing against my understand as yours truly and will be the M-W shop into the newspapers too were waiting for Ginsburg's verdict in the mean time they kept the pot boiling by quoting various eminent but reckless authorities on August 13th. The Oxford authority Professor new bar gave to the world the statement from the very outset.
When I did not as yet no word of the contents of Mr Shapiro's know about Utah to me. I hated to be a forger. Here's Neubauer his colleague Professor SES of Queen's College Oxford. It is really demanding too much of western credulity to ask us to believe that in advance. I didn't like that of Palestine any sheepskins could have lasted for nearly three thousand yards behind the walls of the British Museum. Chief librarian a bond coordinates the investigation various kinds of tests are made. For example the chemical examination produces this opinion. The black coloring matter taken from the back and front of the Skins does not appear to be asphaltum but rather a way as it is variously acted upon by different solvents. But what struck me most of all was the bright fresh look of the margin of the book colored leather on one piece. It looked quite like leather which had been prepared within the last five years
and then into the limelight of attention stepped another important figure in the drama. An old antagonist AMW Shapira one of the most eminent authorities the learned French Oriental and explorer formerly French consulate Jerusalem Monsieur Clermont Gano. He announced his arrival through the London Times of August 21st. I reached London on Wednesday last entrusted by the Minister of Public Instruction in finance with a special mission to examine Mr shoppy of those manuscripts. I will not conceal the fact that I entertained in advance most serious doubts as to their authenticity and that I came here in order to settle these doubts. I went to the British Museum and Mr. Bond the principal librarian informed me that he could not submit the fragments to me. Their owner Mr. Shelby over having expressly refused his concept.
I leave to public opinion the business of explaining this refusal. I will confine myself to recalling one fact without comment. It was Mr. Shapiro who sold the story of Marguerite potteries to Germany and it was Miss your claim Mangano Would ten years ago discovered and establish the apocryphal nature of them in these circumstance. The object of my missile became extremely difficult to attain. I said to work with a meager means of information which were at my disposal. This is my conclusion. The fragments are the work of a modern forger. Grandma Gunn knows ingenious theory was that the forger took an old synagogue scroll of Deuteronomy cut off the lower edge of the scroll and thus obtained some narrow strips of leather with an appearance of comparative antiquity.
But it appears that the Times was not satisfied. The Deuteronomy manuscripts are written on leather of a thicker character differing very considerably from that usually employed in the synagogue. Anyhow Claremont gun nose evidence is weakened by the prejudice which he confessed he had previously entertain. Other newspapers too felt that an injustice had been done. This for example from the echo from the moment that the discoveries were declared to the world that there was an eagerness in many quarters quite inconsistent with the true spirit of criticism or scholarship to stigmatize them as forgeries. Meanwhile the question is still at issue. The British Museum judgment has still to be put on record. The press became irritable at the long delay and the difficulty in keeping the story alive was evident in the standard the solemn Fosse of the Shapiro manuscript seems rapidly drawing to a close.
Indeed our only wonder has always been how a fraud so transparent could put a single eye will have imposed on the good unity of the experts. Finally Dr. Christian David Ginsberg sat down and wrote his evaluation. He addressed his comments to the public in general as well as to the British Museum authorities. London Aug. 22 1893. There must have been a manuscript of that on a May which Mr. Shapiro submitted to us for examination. It is a forgery. The evidence which to my mind convicts the manuscript as a modern forgery is of a twofold nature that is external and internal. The narrow strips of leather on which it is written are cut off from the margin of synagogue scrolls according to an ancient practice the Jews and Ginsburg developed for points in connection with the external evidences of forgery.
The last three are generally speaking in support of the first point. One the fabricator cut the marginal leather from recent scrolls and sew them together to Phoenicians scrolls are bounded on the right and left margins by vertical lines drawn with a hard point. The Shapiro fragment showed these lines but not as marginal boundaries for the writing on them extended on each side beyond the lines indicating margins sewed together 3. No manuscript can be preserved for over 2000 years under or above ground. For chemical analysis showed plainly that the writing was then framed and then chemically treated. This was shown by the fact that the inscribed part was perfectly black and shiny while the leather covered by the frame was of a different and fresher color and showed the shape of the frame so much for X Journal evidence. The Thunderbolt as far as Shapiro was
concerned came in Ginsburg's findings in connection with the text itself. As to the internal evidence it will be seen from the following analysis of the documents that there were no less than four or five different persons and gauged in the production of the forgery and that the compiler of the Hebrew text was a Polish Russian or German Jew or one who had learned Hebrew in the north of Europe. This I conclude from certain errors in spelling which occurred in this document and can only be accounted for on this hypothesis. Crushed by the implications of Ginsburg's accusations M-W Shapira wrote one last note to the eminent doctor Ginsburg London August 23rd eighteen eighty three. Deal doctor Ginsburg. You have made a fool of me by publishing and exhibiting things you have believed to be false. I do not think I will be able to survive this
shame although I am not yet convinced that the manuscript is a forgery unless Mr. Clement Gano did it. We leave London in a day or two. A few days later from Amsterdam. Shapiro wrote one more letter to the British Museum begging them to have the manuscript examined by other scholars. The sin of believing in a false document wrote Shapira is not much greater than disbelieving the truth. The tendency of showing great scholarship by detecting a forgery is rather great in our age. There followed twelve pages of defense for his manuscript. But even the handwriting seemed to reflect despair. It appears that father then lost his reason. He disappeared from the London hotel leaving most of his luggage behind him trunks filled with presents which he had brought before hand from mother and us and then he apparently wandered from country to country from town to town and from hotel to hotel.
Finally he arrived at Rotterdam and took rooms in the hotel the bloomin dark the valley of flowers. Perhaps he was attracted by that name. There he evidently enjoyed a lucid interval and remembered us for You wrote letters to us which he never addressed. Then he must have relapsed into his former distressing condition for we were told that he put a pistol to his head and ended his life. And what happened to the controversial manuscript of The Book of Deuteronomy. Did Shapiro take them with him from London and leave them behind in some European hotel or did he leave them to be stored away in the dusty basement of the British Museum. Yes that is the question. Where are the original scrolls of Shapira. The British Museum authorities believe that they were returned to their owner. I could find no written record supporting this claim but it is perhaps relevant
to point out that in July of 1884 almost a year after the incident Mr Bond of the British Museum sent a letter to Dr Ginsburg informing him that he had received a letter from Mrs Shapira the widow requesting the return. Among other documents of the Deuteronomy scroll of her late husband no indication is found in the dossier relating to the reply by Ginsburg or to the fate of the manuscript. Moreover Claire Mangano himself in his book writes that every examination of the document took place at the British Museum six months after it had been declared forgery. You may ask why all this commotion today about the last Shapira scroll. Well the whole story might have remained in Oblivion had not certain scholars been struck by certain parallels between the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Shapiro scrolls. The international team working on this cross in Jerusalem recently reported that among the thousands of fragments
discovered there were several from the Book of Deuteronomy described as the most popular book in Qumran. Moreover some of these fragments are written in archaic finish and rescript. Now the Shapiro scroll also contains portions of Deuteronomy written in a similar alphabet and found not far from the eastern shores of the date's sea. Although admittedly the script is much earlier than that of the Dead Sea Scrolls most of the objections advanced to indicate that Shapiro's document was a forgery can now be eliminated such as the fact that no manuscript could have been so well preserved for over two thousand years. Or that the strips were sewn together. If these objections were valid they would invalidate the present that the scrolls in our possession. The fact that appears discovery was on the eastern shores of the ditsy is no insuperable difficulty. And it's called are dealing with the Dead Sea Scrolls can hardly fail to admit that the whole incident should be carefully
re-examined. One noted archaeologist and scholar Dr S yeven director of the Department of Antiquities in Israel has recently called for a real investigation of the Shapiro scroll hinting that it might not it might have not after all been a forgery. However it was generally agreed then that it was the internal evidence that sounded the death knell on Shapiro's fragments at the 90 second meeting of the society of biblical literature held last December in New York at the Union Theological Seminary. I produced 15 bits of internal evidence and refuted every point against the scroll advanced by scholars in 1883 Ginsberg NOI Bauer and Clare Mangano. An overwhelming majority I believe of the three hundred scholars present at the conference and Dorst my views. PROFESSOR JEFF MILLER Pyatt president of the society of biblical literature and dean of the Vanderbilt University Divinity School
in his presidential address declared that he believed that the discovery of the dates it scrolls would eventually lead to the authentication of the Shapira Deuteronomy. One final point. I do not claim that champion is just wrong to me is genuine. I simply believe that in the light of recent discoveries the whole question must be carefully examined. The case of the missing Shapira manuscript program for schools from the Dead Sea. A radio exploration of the most significant archaeological find of the century. These programmes are produced by radio station WAGA of the University of Wisconsin under a grant from the Educational Television and Radio Center. Professor Menachem Mansoor chairman of the department of Hebrew and Semitic Studies at the University of Wisconsin is the author already planner and narrator for the series production and editing by Clare Prothero and Carl Smit. This program was distributed by the National Association of
educational broadcasters. This is the NEA E.B. Radio Network.
Scrolls from the Dead Sea
The missing Shapira manuscript
Producing Organization
University of Wisconsin
WHA (Radio station : Madison, Wis.)
Contributing Organization
University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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Episode Description
In 1883, a "Dead Sea" Deuteronomy Scroll sold by a Jerusalem antique dealer to the British Museum was declared a fraud. This program reexamines the case in light of the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls.
Series Description
The story of the Dead Sea Scrolls, featuring interviews with 30 leading scholars, scientists, archeologists and theologians.
Broadcast Date
Forgery of manuscripts
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Producing Organization: University of Wisconsin
Producing Organization: WHA (Radio station : Madison, Wis.)
Speaker: King, Martin Luther, Jr., 1929-1968
Subject: Shapira, Mozes V_ilhelm, 1830?-1884
Writer: Mansoor, Menahem
AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 57-21-4 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:29:21
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Chicago: “Scrolls from the Dead Sea; The missing Shapira manuscript,” 1957-01-01, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed May 28, 2024,
MLA: “Scrolls from the Dead Sea; The missing Shapira manuscript.” 1957-01-01. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. May 28, 2024. <>.
APA: Scrolls from the Dead Sea; The missing Shapira manuscript. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from