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Palestine Exploration Quarterly
ISSN: 0031-0328 (Print) 1743-1301 (Online) Journal homepage: http://www.tandfonline.com/loi/ypeq20
The Shapira Scroll was an Authentic Dead Sea
To cite this article: Shlomo Guil (2017) The Shapira Scroll was an Authentic Dead Sea Scroll,
Palestine Exploration Quarterly, 149:1, 6-27, DOI: 10.1080/00310328.2016.1185895
To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/00310328.2016.1185895
Published online: 15 Mar 2017.
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THE SHAPIRA SCROLL WAS AN AUTHENTIC DEAD SEA
“The tendency of showing great scholarship by detecting a forgery is rather great in our age”
Wilhelm Shapira in a letter addressed to Edward Augustus Bond, principal librarian of the
British Museum, of August .
Wilhelm Shapira astonished the European academic world in 1883 by offering for sale fifteen or sixteen leather
fragments of an ancient Hebrew scroll containing parts of Deuteronomy, but in a version that deviated from the
Masorah. The script of the scroll, known to us today as paleo-Hebrew, is an archaism of the pre-exilic Hebrew
script. The sale offer was made to the British Museum and the asking price was one million British pounds. The
British museum was willing to consider the offer and appointed Christian David Ginsburg to ascertain the auth-
enticity of the scroll.
Ginsburg analyzed the fragments of the Shapira scroll for almost three weeks but it was Charles Clermont-
Ganneau, the renowned French scholar, who publicly announced on 21 August 1883 that the scroll is a forgery.
On the following day, Ginsburg wrote to Bond, the director of the British Museum, that the manuscript is in fact
This article attempts to demonstrate that the Shapira scroll was an authentic manuscript by presenting cir-
cumstantial evidence in favour of the scroll. The evidence focuses upon physical characteristics of the scroll as well
as upon paleographic aspects.
Keywords: Shapira fragments, Dead Sea Scrolls, paleo-Hebrew, forgeries, British Museum, Palestine Exploration Fund
Wilhelm Shapira committed suicide in hotel Willemsburg in Rotterdam (Sabo ), located at
number De Boompjes , an elegant street stretching along the Rotterdam wharf of the Maas
river. The date was March . Wilhelm (Moses) Shapira, a converted Jew, was a successful
antique dealer. His shop, located at present day –– Christian street in the old city of
Jerusalem (Guil ), served as a base for his international transactions with the Berlin
museum, the British museum as well as private collectors. His business grew at a rapid
pace. The discovery of the Mesha Stele in triggered significant interest in Moabite arte-
facts. Shapira consequently started to offer, together with his partner Selim el-Qari, large
amounts of such items in order to keep up with growing demand. These items were later
proved to be forgeries. Many scholars, particularly German scholars, were led to believe
that these items were authentic despite the fact that the supposedly ancient Moabite text
inscribed on these terracottas was totally illegible and meaningless.
In Shapira offered to the British Museum fifteen leather fragments on which was
written text in an ancient Hebrew script. These leather strips of Deuteronomy included the
Palestine Exploration Quarterly,,(), –
© Palestine Exploration Fund :./..
Ten Commandments in a version that differs from that of the Masorah. The asking price was
one million British pounds.
Finally it was Ch. Clermont-Ganneau, the well-known archaeologist, who declared the
scroll to be a forgery. Clermont-Ganneau was also the scholar who in identified Shapira’s
Moabite terracottas as forgeries. Subsequently, C. Ginsburg of the British museum came to the
same conclusion regarding the authenticity of these leather fragments.
For further details of the Shapira Affair and the Shapira scroll see Allegro (),Reiner
()and Shanks ().
Dupont-Sommer ()provides a description of events that led to the declaration that the
Shapira Moabite terracottas were forgeries: Soon after the discovery of the Mesha stele in
, so called Moabite terracottas started to appear in the market. In Clermont-
Ganneau examined in the London premises of the Palestine Exploration Fund (PEF) some
drawings, made in Jerusalem, of clay vases, figurines and inscribed tablets. He was told that
the originals belonged to a certain Moses Shapira and that the Berlin Museum was considering
a purchase of these items. The drawings were made by Claude Conder and Tyrwhitt Drake on
behalf of the PEF who were convinced that the items were authentic. Clermont-Ganneau sus-
pected that they were forgeries. Based upon a favourable report by Professor Konstantin
Schlottmann and other German scholars, the Prussian government decided to purchase not
less than one thousand seven hundred ‘Moabite’antiquities which were offered by Shapira.
Clermont-Ganneau travelled to Jerusalem in in order to investigate the matter. He sus-
pected that Selim el-Qari, who was the partner of Shapira, was behind the forgery. Clermont-
Ganneau was familiar with Selim el-Qari as he was the one who assisted him when he tried to
obtain the Mesha stele. After some research, Clermont-Ganneau succeeded in locating the
workshop of the potter who produced the Moabite figurines for Selim el-Qari. Clermont-
Ganneau presented a report of his findings to a committee of the PEF on December
(Clermont-Ganneau ), which was also published in the Athenaeum on January
. But the matter could not stop there. Professor Schlottmann was not willing to admit
his mistake. He even tried to demonstrate the falsity of the testimony gathered by Clermont-
Ganneau. Only in did the German scholars Emil Friedrich Kautzsch and Albert Socin
(Socin and Kautzsch ) publish a book in which they concurred with the conclusion of
Clermont-Ganneau. They closed their detailed analysis of the authenticity of the Moabite fig-
urines by stating ‘the modern forger was limited to very inexpensive awkward shaping of the
naked body, and wisely refrained from entering a testing ground on which he would face great
difficulties’(Translation from German, ).
Shapira defended himself by putting the blame on his partner Selim el- Qari. Shapira was
actually never directly accused of having taken part in the production of the forgeries. Neither
Clermont-Ganneau nor Schlottmann claimed that Shapira was aware that the items which he
sold were in fact works of forgery. This enabled Shapira to continue his business specializing
mostly in trade of Hebrew manuscripts. For further details concerning the involvement of
Clermont-Ganneau in shedding light upon the Moabite forgeries see Clermont-Ganneau
It is quite interesting to follow the analysis of Schlottmann in what concerns the Shapira
Moabite potteries, which he considered perfectly authentic. Fig. represents one of the items
analysed by him (Schlottmann ). Schlottmann produced a transliteration of the inscription
which appeared on this figurine to read as follows: עאלאדמנאשתזונאלשאלואמהרזחדמתר .
He then explained the meaning of this text.
We shall end the discussion to this sad ordeal of Professor Schlottmann with a final note
presented by Aloys Sprenger (PEQ ,): “On Thursday, March , on the occasion
of the Lower House of the Prussian Diet resuming consideration of the estimates of the Edu-
cation Department, attention was drawn to the inefficient administration of the Royal
museums, and as an illustration, to the acquisition of the so called Moabite antiquities …
The administration of the museums is to be completely reorganized, and, we suppose, the col-
Fig. . A forged Moabite statuette offered by Shapira and analyzed by Schlottmann.
“I am going to surprise you with a notice and a short description of a curious manuscript written in old
Hebrew or Phoenician letters upon small strips of embalmed leather and seems to be a short unorthodoxical
book of the last speech of Moses in the plain of Moab …In July I met several Bedouins in the house of
the well-known Sheque Mahmud el Arakat, we came of course to speak of old inscriptions. One Bedouin
asserted that the antique brings blessedness to the place where it lays. And begins to tell a history to
about the following effect. Several years ago some Arabs had occasion to flee from their enemies & hid them-
selves in caves high up in a rock facing the Moujib (the neues Arnon) they discovered there several bundles of
very old rugs. Thinking they may contain gold they peeled away a good deal of Cotton or Linen & found only
some black charms & threw them away; but one of them took them up & and since having the charms in his
tent, he became a wealthy man having sheeps etc”.
Those were the exact words of Wilhelm Shapira in a letter in which he described the
finding of a manuscript. The letter was sent from Jerusalem, on May , addressed to Pro-
fessor Hermann Strack of Berlin.
The Shapira scroll has been declared, in the late th century, to be a forgery. Given that
the scroll disappeared in the beginning of the th century we are unable to directly prove the
contrary. The only possible analysis can relate to epigraphic aspects of the text based upon the
transcription prepared by Ginsburg and the transliteration prepared by Guthe. An indirect
paleographic analysis is possible only by means of cross-reference between the transcription
of Ginsburg and the paleo-Hebrew alphabetic table presented by Guthe, based on the assump-
tion that these works can be considered to be sufficiently reliable. This implies that the only
additional option is to bring forward some circumstantial evidence pertaining to the known
external characteristics of the Shapira scroll.
So where is the Shapira scroll now? It is has long been known that last to hold the Shapira
fragments was Qauritch, a London antiquarian book dealer. Alan Crown ()suggested that
the manuscript was acquired subsequently by Sir Charles Nicholson and perhaps destroyed in
a fire in Nicholson’s home near London in . Crown could not substantiate his proposal but
this narrative has been generally accepted ever since its publication and all hope to somehow
retrieve the scroll was abandoned. Only very recently did Sabo ()present sufficient proof,
having been assisted by Matthew Hamilton, a librarian residing in Sydney, Australia, that the
buyer was in fact medical Dr. Philip Brookes Mason of Burton-on-Trent, Staffordshire, who
bought the manuscript in or beginning of . Mason exhibited the Scroll before the
Burton-on-Trent Natural History and Archaeological Society on March . The where-
abouts of the Shapira scroll after is unknown.
Shapira wrote, in the above-mentioned letter addressed to Hermann Strack, that he prepared
transcriptions of most of the fragments of his manuscript and sent them on September to
Professor Schlottmann of Berlin. Schlottmann angrily replied on October “How dare
(you) to call this forgery the Old Test(ament) Could I suppose even for a moment that it is
older than our unquestionable genuine Ten Commandments?”Shavit (,) presented
a facsimile of the letter sent by Schlottmann to Shapira.
It is quite surprising that Shapira elected to send the fragments of his scroll first to Schlott-
mann. Only two years had passed since Schlottmann was put to public shame by having
wrongly identified the Shapira Moabite terracottas as authentic antiquities. Shapira should
have expected such a harsh reply from Schlottmann, who surely was hurt and unwilling to
be involved in a new scandal.
Guthe was the first scholar to openly declare that the Shapira scroll is a forgery. He did
not identify any external faults, unrelated to the text, which could possibly raise suspicion but
rather focused his attention on epigraphic issues which pointed, according to his view, to
errors, inconsistencies and unacceptable deviations from the Masorah (Guthe ,–).
Interestingly enough, as we shall see further on, Guthe did not come to a conclusion that
the paleography of the fragments points to a forgery. Despite his negative conclusion he did
take the trouble to prepare transliterations of the fragments and to compare them with the
canonic biblical text. His final decision was ()“The examination of the text has led to the
understanding that the manuscript is forgery, which cannot be called clumsy despite all the
Next in line to consider the authenticity of the Shapira scroll was a special committee of
German experts. An article appeared in The Times on August concerning a German
committee which was set up in July to study the authenticity of the Shapira scroll. The
committee was set up in Berlin by Richard Lepsius, the keeper of the Royal Library. It
included Prof. August Dillman, Prof. Eduard Sachau, Prof. Adolf Ermann and Dr. Moritz
Steinschneider. The committee, which met on July ,“spent exactly one hour and a
half in a close and critical investigation into the character of the goatskin wares. At the end
of the sitting they unanimously pronounced the alleged codex to be a clever and impudent
The German committee consisted of senior scholars. Even though the members of this
committee were not directly involved in the Moabite potteries farce, they surely must have
been aware of the positive published analysis of Schlottmann and the decision of the Prussian
government to purchase from Shapira Moabite items. None of these scholars criticised the
purchase of these forgeries nor did they disagree with Schlottmann. Nevertheless, it took less
than two hours for this committee to identify the Shapira scroll as a forgery. The rationale
behind this unanimous decision was never published.
The decisive declaration in the th century that the Shapira scroll is a forgery is to be
attributed first and foremost to Ch. Clermont-Ganneau, the French scholar who, several
years earlier, correctly identified Shapira’s Moabite terracottas as forgeries. To be more
specific, the coup de grace was primarily the letter which Clermont-Ganneau wrote to The
Times on August while Ginsburg was still analyzing the fragments. The letter was
quite long and we shall therefore relate only to the important issues raised in this letter.
. Clermont–Ganneau wrote “I only wished to concern myself with the external and
material state of the fragments …I was ready to bind myself to refrain from examining
the text, properly so called, and from publishing anything whatsoever on the contents
of the fragments.”The judgment of Clermont-Ganneau was therefore based solely
upon the physical aspects of the fragments of the scroll. He refrained from analyzing
the epigraphic aspects.
. Clermont-Ganneau requested Bond, the principal librarian (director) of the British
Museum, to submit to him the fragments but Bond replied that Shapira expressly
refused his consent. Clermont-Ganneau never had the opportunity to inspect the
scroll at close range. This did not stop him from passing judgment on the scroll.
Clermont-Ganneau described how got a quick glance on the scroll: “I set to work with
the meagre means of information which were at my disposal. (). The hasty inspection
of two or three pieces which M. Ginsburg had allowed me to handle for a few minutes
on my first visit; ().The examination of two fragments exposed to public view in a glass
case in the manuscript department of the British Museum—a case very ill-lighted and
difficult of approach, owing to the crowd of the curious pressing round these venerable
. Clermont–Ganneau announced his conclusions: (A). “The fragments are the work of a
modern forger. …He took one of those large synagogue rolls of leather containing the
Pentateuch …The forger then cut off the lower edge of this roll …He obtained in this
way some narrow strips of leather with an appearance of comparative antiquity, which
was still further heightened by the use of the proper chemical agents. On these strips of
leather he wrote with ink, making use of the alphabet of the Moabite stone.”(B). “The
lines of the Moabitish writing are arranged in the shape of columns , separated by ver-
tical creases in the leather—that is to say, by creases perpendicular to the general
direction of the writing. On the right and left of each of these folds I had noticed
two vertical straight lines, drawn with a hard point, as guides for the vertical
margins, starting from the upper edge of the strip, and extending to the lower edge,
which they do not always reach. The Moabitish forger had not paid much attention
to these extremely fine lines, which have scratched the leather in an almost invisible
but indelible manner; and the lines of Moabitish characters, instead of being confined
by this drawing, have no relation to it. Sometimes they pass over the lines, sometimes
they rest on the inner sides of them, both at their beginning and ending.”
In summary, Clermont-Ganneau pronounced judgment declaring that the scroll is a modern
forgery because the Shapira scroll consists of narrow leather strips which according to him can
be explained as having been cut off from the lower edge of old Synagogue scrolls, because the
script is identical to that of the Mesha stele and because the scroll contains hard point vertical
ruling which were disregarded by the scribe. These conclusions were reached with hardly
inspecting the manuscript.
On August , one day after the publication of the report by Clermont-Ganneau,
Ginsburg wrote to Bond informing him of his conclusion in respect of the Shapira scroll.
The letter was later published in The Times on August and in the PEF Quarterly Statement,
October , pages –.Ginsburg opened his letter to Bond by stating “The manuscript of
Deuteronomy which Mr. Shapira submitted to us for examination is a forgery.”.
Ginsburg then explains the reasons for his rejection of the Shapira manuscript:
“(I). The narrow slips of leather on which it is written are cut off from the margin of syna-
“(II). The columns of these scrolls are bounded on the right and left by vertical lines drawn
with a hard point. These lines not only extend from the top to the bottom of the written
portion, but reach to the very end of the leather, right across the upper and lower margins.
Now, the Shapira fragments exhibit these lines with the dry point, but not as boundaries to
the margin, for the writing on them extends on each side beyond the lines, thus confirming
the theory that they originally formed the ruled margins of legally written scrolls. What is
still more remarkable is the fact that the uninscribed slip already mentioned has also these
guiding lines, and that they correspond to the inscribed Shapira fragments”.
“(III). Many of the Shapira slips are only ragged at the bottom, but straight at the top, thus
plainly showing that they have been comparatively recently cut off from the scrolls, since they
have not had time to become ragged at the top”.
“(IV). Some of the slips show plainly that they have been covered by a frame which
enclosed the writing, and that this frame was filled with chemical agents. The result of this
is to be seen in the fact that while the inscribed part has thereby been rendered perfectly
black and shiny, the part of the leather covered by the frame is of a different and fresher
color, and exhibits the shape of the frame.”He then adds, “There were no less than four or
five different persons engaged in the production of the forgery, and that the compiler of the
Hebrew text was a Polish, Russian, or German Jew.”. Ginsburg then raises some epigraphic
issues to which he refers as “internal evidence”and stipulates that the forger “imitated
closely the archaic writing of the inscription on the Moabite Stone”. Ginsburg ends his report
by explaining why according to him there were four or five persons involved in the forgery. “I
conclude that there were two scribes employed in copying them. These, with the compiler of
the Hebrew text and the chemist who manipulated the slips, account for my remark that there
were four or five persons engaged in the forgery.”
It seems that Ginsburg wrote his report under extreme pressure of time and maybe against
his will. These issues were never raised by him prior to the publication of the report and some
of them were never repeated afterwards.
Clermont-Ganneau was quite annoyed by Ginsburg’s report which he claimed was an
exact repeat of his conclusions but which was not sufficiently appreciated by the local press
(Clermont-Ganneau ,). In his words “Les arguments qui dans ma bouche étaient
sans valeur deviennent tout d’un coup sans réplique dans cette bouche plus autorisée.”
The fact that Ginsburg condemned the Shapira scroll is quite surprising. Reiner (,
) points out that four days earlier, on August , Ginsburg published in the Athenaeum
a lengthy transliteration of one of Shapira’s fragments, in which he “treats the manuscript as
potentially legitimate”. In fact Ginsburg ends his presentation in the article by stating “I have
only to remark”that the writing on the scrolls is continuous, that the points after certain sen-
tences are a kind of versicular division and that when a word could not be got into the line it is
divided.”In this presentation by Ginsburg there does not appear any doubt in respect of the
authenticity of the scroll. Obviously something drastic occurred between the and of
August . It would be logical to conclude that the declaration made by Clermont-Ganneau
on of August was the traumatic event that forced Ginsburg to change his mind or to publish
a condemnation against his will.
Allegro (,) indicates that Ginsburg published transliterations of the Shapira scroll
in The Times on , and of August . During all this time he gave no hint of any
It should be noted that on August Bond, the director of the British Museum, wrote to
Ginsburg, his subordinate , in reference to the Shapira scroll: “I also am of the opinion that the
setting of the text in a widely separated columns between ruled lines is a later character than
the period indicated by the writing”(Allegro ,). It is obvious that Bond has given
Ginsburg the clearest possible hint on how he expected him to direct his judgment.
There is no doubt that the Deuteronomy text of the Shapira scroll deviates significantly from
the text of the Masorah and it does contain several mistakes. Allegro (,)claims that he
would not invalidate ancient manuscripts which contain deviation from classical Hebrew. “Cri-
ticism leveled at the choice of words or grammatical constructions that do not conform to
normal classical Hebrew usage seems to me to have little validity …I myself should be inclined
to count such features as points in favour of the document’s authenticity than against it. A
forger, after all, would have made his work far easier and more acceptable if he had simply
copied a classical word or style from the Hebrew of the Bible.”Allegro (,) further
claims that the th century scholars rejected the Shapira scroll because they could not cope
with those manuscripts. He writes “This basically, was the fault of the nineteenth-century
pundits who condemned Shapira and his manuscript. They did not want to believe in it. It
would have been inconvenient, and it would have raised questions they could not answer. It
was far easier to condemn it outright.”. Allegro concludes by declaring that “I cannot
myself believe that it is a forgery.”Silberman (,) stated that “The idea that the text
of the Bible was fluid and not based directly and unerringly on God’s revelation was an
insult to many scholars’deepest religious faith.”.
In a talk given by Gabriel Barkay on February , on the subject of authenticity of
ancient artefacts he said the following (Barkay ): “The existence of linguistic and paleo-
graphic anomalies is not a reason to dismiss inscriptions and to say that they are fakes or for-
geries …There are anomalies in provenanced inscriptions and every ancient inscription
actually has some peculiar characteristics of its own, some of which do not fit the rules and
laws of either linguistics or paleography. Every inscription is a human hands product of the
human mind and as such it has its own peculiarities as we all have our own characteristics.”.
Tov (,) related to errors which appeared on the Dead Sea scrolls. He states that
many of them were not recognised by the scribes or subsequent users. Tov then presents some
examples of which one of them is QJub
in which the letter he was left out in ואלויכה which
should have been ואלוהיכה . One could assume that had QJub been discovered in the th
century it would have probably been declared to be a forgery considering that אלויכה is a
typical phonetic pronunciation of the word by Yiddish-speaking Polish Jews.
Tov (,) concludes that the Dead Sea scribes made all the types of mistakes, includ-
ing “omissions of small and large elements, duplication, writing of wrong words and letters and
mistakes in matters of sequence”. Obviously, these mistakes did not lead to suspicions of
forgery but were rather accepted as human errors integrated in authentic manuscripts. The
same principle should also be applied to the Shapira scroll.
Sanderson (,) summarizes her overview on the diversity in text of the Dead Sea
scrolls: “As has already become clear, the biblical scrolls in the caves at Qumran do not con-
stitute a homogeneous group. Most are written in square script, thirteen in palaeo-Hebrew, a
few are in Aramaic targumim, and six are in Greek. Of those in Hebrew, the orthography
varies from very defective, i.e., with few or no matres lectionis to indicate vocalization, to extre-
mely full, or plene. Corresponding to the diversity in language, script, and orthography is a great
diversity in text …There was certainly nothing near a consensus about the text of Scripture
among the Qumran community.”
The following analysis is focused upon the physical characteristics of the Shapira scroll and its
paleography rather than on epigraphic aspects due the fact that the scholars of Shapira’s time
rejected his manuscript mainly on considerations of external aspects (Jefferson ,). The
epigraphic aspects of the Shapira scroll have been sufficiently analyzed and defended by
Mansoor (),byAllegro (),byJefferson (), and not much can be added. The rejec-
tion of the Shapira scroll by the th century scholars was based upon several observations
which may have been valid and logical at the time. However, the discovery of the Dead Sea
scrolls, particularly the paleo-Hebrew scrolls, and current paleographic research have
created a need to reconsider these observations and the conclusions which were drawn from
them. This is the intent of the following analysis.
A. The text of the Shapira scroll was written on leather
The great majority of the documents of Qumran were written on leather and so was the
Shapira scroll. Had the Shapira scroll been a forgery it would not have been written on
leather for the simple reason that scholars at that time were not aware of ancient Hebrew
leather manuscripts, dating over two thousand years. A forger, in order to avoid drawing atten-
tion, would have forged text on stone, similarly to the Mesha Stele or the Siloam Inscription.
A general negative attitude towards the leather scroll was apparent from the day that the
scroll came to the attention of the public. The Times published an article on August (a
few days after the arrival of Shapira and his scroll in London) in which it was stated that “In any
case the prima facie presumption must be held to be enormously against the genuineness of the
fragment. Such a presumption rests on the improbability of finding manuscripts older by at
least sixteen centuries than any extant manuscripts of the same text, on the comparative
Fig. . Detective Ginsburg apprehends Shapira. Punch, September .
ease with which such fragments can be forged, and on the powerful motives to such forgery
attested by the price placed by Mr. Shapira on his property.”. Verdict was declared on the
Shapira manuscript well before the verification process commenced.
Claude R. Conder wrote in The Times on August “I do not think any archaeol-
ogist will suppose that leather, as limp and supple as that on which this manuscript is written,
could exist for such a length of time in the damp atmosphere of a country which has a rainfall of
inches …the difficulty of the great age which it is necessary to suppose leather to be able to
attain without rotting in a damp cave is even more fatal to this clever forgery.”.
Archibald H. Sayce published a letter in The Academy on August in which he
stated that “It is really demanding too much of Western credulity to ask us to believe that
in a damp climate like that of Palestine any sheepskins could have lasted for nearly ,
Rabinowicz (,), a th-century scholar, tried to belittle the fact that the th century
scholars raised doubts of authenticity based upon claims that leather cannot withstand time of
over years. His motive was clearly an effort to minimize the significance of the claim of
these scholars within the process leading to their announcements that the Shapira fragments
are a work of forgery. Rabinowicz stated, “Apart from Prof. Archibald Henry Sayce none of
the other scholars has said so.”. Nevertheless, he then added a footnote (, footnote ) saying
that Claude Reignier Conder “also said so”. It should be noted that both Conder and Sayce
were very well known and highly respected scholars. There is no doubt that their opinion had
an influence both on their colleagues as well as on newspaper readers who were following the
affair. Furthermore, Bond in a letter addressed to Ginsburg dated August stated “For
myself I regard the account of the first discovery of the fragments as altogether unsatisfactory
and consider that the condition of the manuscript is incompatible with exposure to atmos-
phere for the long period indicated by the character of the writing.”. It is obvious that for
Bond the unlikelihood that a leather scroll will endure over a period of two thousand years
is a dominant factor in the determination of the authenticity of the scroll.
In reference to this aspect Cansdale (,) commented, “It is exactly this fact, that the
manuscript was written on animal skins, which makes its genuineness more likely. As we know
today, most of the scrolls discovered in the s and s in the Dead Sea caves were written
on leather and have survived for over two thousand years.”.
Little surprise that in such an atmosphere Punch published on September (after the
scroll was declared to be a forgery) a caricature of Shapira being apprehended by Ginsburg in
which some features leave no room for imagination. Note also Shapira’s right hand from which
ink drips down from his Digitus Medius (Fig. ).
Ginsburg, in his final Report on Shapira’s Manuscript of Deuteronomy commented “The
compiler of the Hebrew text was a Polish, Russian, or German Jew”.
As noted above, Ginsburg observed “Many of the Shapira slips are only ragged at the
bottom, but straight at the top, thus plainly showing that they have been comparatively
recently cut off from the scrolls.”. This was one of his reasons for considering the Shapira
scroll to be a forgery. However, there are at least two Dead Sea scrolls displaying a similar
phenomenon. The first is the Deuteronomy scroll of cave , known as QDeut
et al., plates XXVIII and XXIX, White ,). The second is the Psalms scroll of
cave , known as QPs
where the top edge of the scroll is almost cut in a straight line
while the bottom edge is completely deteriorated (Sanders , plate II).
B. The Shapira scroll was discovered near the Dead Sea
The circumstances described by Shapira leading to the discovery of his document in a cave
near the Dead Sea are similar to those described, more than sixty years later, by the
Bedouin who found the first Dead Sea scrolls. The question arises whether Shapira could have
been aware of similar reported incidents which occurred in antiquity.
Kahle (,) reports that “A letter written in the Syriac language by the Nestorian
Patriarch of Seleucia Timotheus I (AD –) to Sergius, Metropolitan of Elam the letter
is not dated, but must have been written about A.D. relates that trustworthy people
had told him of a discovery of books about ten years earlier in a small cave in the rocks
near Jericho.”. However, this letter was published by Oscar Braun of Wiirzburg, in Syriac
Aramaic with a German translation, in Oriens Christianus, vol. i, ,–, after
Eusebius (Ecclesiastical History . –), writing in the beginning of the fourth century,
repeated the report by Origen concerning the finding of a Greek scroll (one of the versions of
the Psalms in Hexapla) which “was found at Jericho in a jar in the time of Antoninus the son of
Even if Shapira did have access to the book of Eusebius, the description in the book relates
to a Greek document (not Hebrew), found at Jericho (not in a cave), in a jar (not wrapped in
cotton or linen). Furthermore, the Eusebius text does not refer to a leather scroll.
The first Dead Sea scrolls were discovered in a cave, late or early , by a group of
Ta’amireh Bedouin. The cave was located near the Ain Feshka spring on the northwestern
shore of the Dead Sea, close by to Khirbet Qumran. The finding included several scrolls
and the cave was later named Cave I. Additional scrolls were discovered in other caves in
this vicinity with subsequent numbering of the caves.
C. Shapira commented on apparent mistakes in the scroll
There is no doubt that Shapira was an educated person with extensive understanding of the
scriptures, Jewish studies, Hebrew scripts, etc. It is not known where he obtained his knowledge
but surely an important part of it stems from his early youth when he studied and practiced the
Jewish religion. Shapira left Kamenets-Podolsk (presently in Ukraine) at the age of twenty-five,
on his way to Palestine. He converted to Christianity in Bucharest sometime during his voyage
One can be impressed by Shapira’s in depth analysis of certain Karaite Manuscripts
which was published by The Athenaeum on July and July .
Claude R. Conder reports on the PEF Quarterly of July that Shapira assisted in
deciphering the Siloam inscription. Conder attributes to Shapira the initial understanding
that the inscription stipulates that the Siloam Tunnel was cut simultaneously from both
sides. He wrote (PEQ ,)“Mr. Shapira gives a different interpretation to the text,
explaining it as referring to the cutting of the tunnel from the two opposite ends. This we
know was really how the excavation was effected, and Mr. Shapira’s intimate acquaintance
with the Hebrew idiom (as a Talmudist of years education) seems to render his opinion
worthy of consideration.”.
Shapira, in his letter to Bond, the principal librarian of the British Museum, dated
August , presented an eight pages epigraphic critique in which he identified in his
scroll numerous mistakes and deviations from the Masorah. Had he been the forger he
wouldhave surely avoided these mistakes. Furthermore, the scroll composed of sixteen rela-
tively long fragments (Guthe ,). Any forger is aware that the longer his manuscript,
the higher the probability that his forgery will be exposed. Had Shapira wanted to forge a
Biblical manuscript, he would have probably opted for a short inscription inscribed in
D. The cloth wrapping of the Shapira scroll
Strong objections to the Shapira scroll were raised because of Shapira’s account concerning
the linen wrapping of his manuscript (Mansoor ,). The Times Weekly published on
August an article in which it was stated “The mention of the linen seems somehow
a mistake since even believers in leather can hardly be expected to assign equal staying
power to mere flax.”
Jefferson stated (,) that the fact that the Shapira scroll was said to have been
wrapped in cloth and smeared with asphalt to preserve it is an argument for its genuineness.
It is obvious, according to her, that a th century forger would not have known that the scrolls
in Qumran Cave were treated in the same way.
Cansdale noted (,) that Shapira claimed that the Deuteronomy manuscript had
originally been wrapped in cloth when found by the Arabs as was the case with several
Dead Sea scrolls. According to her, “This practice was not known to the archaeologists of
his time, it makes Shapira’s claim as to the authenticity of the manuscript more sustainable.”.
In fact, the discovery of Cave I in late or early by a group of Ta’amireh Bedouin
near Ain Feshka, brought to light the Great Isaiah Scroll. With it were found two greenish
bundles, wrapped in linen, and coated with black layer of what appeared to be pitch or
wax (Urlich and Flint ,). These were later identified as the Habakkuk Commentary or
Habakkuk Pesher (QpHab) and the Manual of Discipline, later called the Community
E. Ruling in the Shapira scroll
Almost all Qumran texts written on leather had ruled horizontal lines. Usually, vertical ruling
was continuous, extending beyond the written text into the top and bottom margins as far as
the edges of the leather. Tov (,) noted that the most frequently used system of vertical
ruling was employed at both the beginning (right side) and end (left side) of the column. For
some examples see QIsa
. Tov also stated () that
usually the vertical lines are more or less perpendicular to the horizontal lines, creating a rec-
tangular shape. This rectangular shape may explain the observation of Ginsburg, in his final
authenticity report, where he mentioned a “frame which enclosed the writing”.
Burrows (,) reports on the Habakkuk Dead Sea scroll. “The scroll was made of two
strips of soft leather sewed end to end with linen thread …The smoothed surface was carefully
ruled into lines and columns, with ruled margins between columns. The ruling was done with a
sharp instrument , leaving a fine depression which is evident to touch as to sight.”
Fragments of QpaleoGenesis-Exodus
contain vertical ruling to mark the width of the
column and horizontal rulings for the lines (Skehan et al.,). As to QpaleoExodus
(Skehan et al.,)“The manuscript was ruled vertically for the right and left margins
of each column, and lined horizontally across the columns and the margins between columns.”.
Skehan also indicates that many fragments of paleoDeuteronomy show that the ruling on
this scroll, with a dry point, was strong to the extent that the manuscript often split along those
lines (Skehan et al.,). Furthermore, “Frg. was cut, probably in antiquity, at the top
and left along straight lines that do not coincide with the horizontal and vertical ruling …In
frg. the leather has broken at the centre and bottom along both the vertical and the horizon-
tal transcolumnar rulings.”.
Let us now relate to the vertical dry point rulings which, according to Clermont-Ganneu
and Ginsburg, were not respected by the scribe of the Shapira scroll. Both Clermont-Ganneau
and Ginsburg highlighted the fact that the text protrudes horizontally through the vertical
rulings. Clermont-Ganneau also referred to vertical creases in the leather which resulted
from folding of the Shapira fragments. Ginsburg did not mention these fold creases but rather
referred only to the vertical guidelines.
The British Library in London holds copies of the Shapira related documents (file number
). Among these documents is a drawing made by Ginsburg which includes a transcription
in Paleo-Hebrew of a column in the Shapira Deuteronomy text in which the first row reads:
Note that the last word ( מארצ ) is split in such a way that מא appears in the first line and רצ
in the beginning of the second line (see also Guthe ,). This split of words is totally in line
with writing practices which appear on paleo-Hebrew scrolls of the Dead Sea. Tov (,)
states “In texts written in the paleo-Hebrew script where words could be split between two
lines, scribes were more consistent in not exceeding the left margin.”
Clermont-Ganneau, in his final report in which he declared the Shapira scroll to be a
forgery (see section above), differentiated between vertical folding creases and vertical
ruling. Ginsburg, in his report, related only to vertical ruling, claiming that the text pro-
trudes from these guidelines. The same claim was raised by Clermont-Ganneau.
However, the Shapira file of the British Library includes a drawing by Ginsburg (Fig. )
in which he clearly distinguishes between the fold lines and the vertical guidelines which
he marked B-BB. On the upper slip he marked the folding line, which he placed directly
on top of the ruling line, and he wrote on the bottom of the fold line “line of fold to cor-
respond with BB.”. Underneath the lower slip, which is an exact copy of the upper slip, he
wrote “rule in plain lines where the lines are to indicate dry point lines on M.S”. It is there-
fore obvious that Ginsburg was well aware of the existence of both fold lines and ruling
Now let us observe in the drawing (Fig. ) the vertical limits created by the fold lines
and those drawn as rule lines. This is best noticed on the bottom slip of Fig. . The fold
lines are those straight highlighted vertical lines while the vertical rule is the thinly
drawn line marked as B-BB. The matching vertical rule line to appear on the left is the
second vertical line from the left. It is immediately noticeable that the fold lines are
Fig. . Drawing of a Shapira scroll fragment by Ginsburg showing fold lines and vertical ruling.
drawn totally within the text while the rule lines are perfectly placed on the right and on
the left of the text column.
This surprising observation implies that Clermont-Ganneau, who glanced at the Shapira
fragments only for few minutes, confused the issue of fold lines and rule lines. Ginsburg, who
was probably under pressure to end the saga, dropped the mention of the fold lines and instead
only discussed the vertical rule lines, as if they represented the fold lines.
In summary, the declaration of both Ginsburg and Clermont-Ganneau, stating that the
text in the Shapira fragments protrudes beyond the vertical traced guidelines, is misleading.
This conclusion is based upon Ginsburg’s drawing in which it can be seen that the text goes
beyond the limit of the fold lines but not beyond the limits of the vertical ruling. This
implies that the scribe who wrote the Shapira scroll did in fact respect the limits drawn by
the vertical rule lines, contrary to the claims of both Ginsburg and Clermont-Ganneau, who
raised this issue in order to prove that the forger of the Shapira scroll cut the lower blank
margins from ancient Torah scrolls which were already traced by vertical ruling, but which
were carelessly disregarded by the forger.
Let us now refer to the research of Hermann Guthe, the well-known German scholar.
Guthe carried out an in-depth analysis of the Shapira fragments. He published the results of
his research on of August in a booklet of ninety-five pages which included the transli-
teration of the Shapira fragments. There is no doubt that he had the opportunity to closely
inspect these fragments. Guthe (,) wrote that the scribe of this scroll did not respect
the delimited area defined by the vertical ruling. Guthe then () explained what he meant by
that statement: “Dennoch ist die Länge der Zeilen ganz gleichmäßig und ein auffallendes regel-
loses Heraustreten der ersten oder der letzten Buchstaben einer Reihe nirgends bemerkbar; der
Schreiber hat also die freigewählte Zeilengrenze sicher inne gehalten.”(Translation: “Neverthe-
less, the length of the rows is very uniform, and the remarkable nonconforming projections of the
first or the last letter are hardly noticeable. The scribe has therefore respected the freely self
imposed line boundary.”) Guthe has in fact observed that in certain cases only a single letter pro-
truded to the left or to the right side of the vertical ruling. This certainly was not the problem,
which Clermont-Ganneau and Ginsburg presented as proof that the scribe totally disregarded
the vertical guidelines. As far as it is known, neither Clermont-Ganneau nor Ginsburg were
aware of this booklet, which was published amidst the commotion, which evolved in London.
It was noted above that Ginsburg, in his concluding letter which was published on
August , stated “The columns of these scrolls are bounded on the right and left by vertical
lines drawn with a hard point. These lines not only extend from the top to the bottom of the
written portion, but reach to the very end of the leather, right across the upper and lower
margins.”Tov (,) when discussing the Dead Sea scrolls, states “Usually, vertical
ruling was also continuous, extending beyond the written text into the top and bottom
margins as far as the edges of the leather (see e.g. QIsa
…)”. No doubt that a th century
forger would not be aware of this custom.
Neither Ginsburg nor Clermont-Ganneau detected horizontal ruling on the Shapira frag-
ments. Guthe, likewise, did not mention any horizontal ruling. It is possible that there were no
horizontal ruling on this scroll. Tov (,) stipulates that a few of the Qumran documents
were not ruled. However, it is possible that the horizontal ruling on that scroll were simply not
noticed due to the dark tone of the fragments. Even though the transcriptions of Ginsburg indi-
cate that the text was written in reasonably straight lines, no conclusion can be reached from
Let us close this subject by mentioning again the letter of Bond to Ginsburg of August
concerning the Shapira fragments in which he stated “I also am of the opinion that the
setting of the text in a widely separated columns between ruled lines is a later character than
the period indicated by the writing.”. Bond refers here to “columns between ruled lines”.He
does not draw attention to text protruding out of these vertical guidelines. This possibly implies
that also Bond noticed that the text written on the Shapira scroll remained within the limits of
the vertical rulings.
F. The efforts of Ginsburg in deciphering the blackened fragments
For almost three weeks Christian Ginsburg, the expert on behalf of the British Museum, pub-
lished transcriptions and translations of the Shapira manuscript in the local press. A number of
fragments of the scroll were put on public display and on August, Mr. Gladstone, the British
Prime Minister came to see them. Mansoor (,p.) claimed that “Had the British
Museum scholars been convinced that Shapira’s documents were a forgery, they would
have neither displayed them to the public nor troubled the Prime Minister to come and
Reiner (,) presents the contents of a letter written by Ginsburg on September
to his daughter Ethel just after his declaration that the Shapira scroll is a forgery: “… I
do not think that the month which I spent on the ms. is time thrown away though it is a
forgery and though the deciphering of it has nearly blinded me …I do wish you could
come up to town to see it for it is so wonderfully clever. If I could afford it I would give
£ for it.”.
Reiner comments () that If the manuscript was clearly a forgery, “why did Ginsburg
spend a month working on it, when he was busy producing his volumes on the Masorah, his
magnum opus. Given that deciphering the manuscript was difficult and taxing on his eyes,
why did he bother to translate it, and publish it rather than just presenting his scholarly
opinion that the work was a forgery?”Reiner further adds that Ginsburg’s comment to
his daughter about desiring to purchase the manuscript for such a high amount is also
Ginsburg complained, in his letter to his daughter, that the process of deciphering the
Shapira fragments had nearly blinded him. The reason for this is that those strips were very
dark and the recognition of the script was quite difficult. Reiner presents a photo which was
taken when Ginsburg was working on those fragments in which the dark toning of the
leather is very noticeable (Reiner ,).
The question arises why were these leather strips so dark? Is this phenomenon also appar-
ent in the Dead Sea scrolls? In fact both paleo-Hebrew Genesis and paleo-Hebrew Leviticus of
cave are described to be “très noircie”(very blackened) (Baillet et al.,–). The text of
columns – of QH
(Thanksgiving) is written on what appears to be very dark brown leather
(Davies et al.,). The sheet containing columns – is even darker. The matter could
partially be related to the Iron Gall ink which has been found in the Qumran manuscripts.
Poole and Reed (,) found Gallic acid in every sample they analyzed from Cave .Cal-
dararo (,) points out that leather so degraded by Gallic acid when in contact with moist-
ure will darken, in many cases, irretrievably. He then suggests that “This may partly explain the
blackened appearance of the Shapira Scrolls.”.
Walter Flight was requested by Bond of the British museum to investigate the black col-
ouring of the Shapira fragments. Flight, in his report dated of August , stated that the
black material which adheres to the fragments “does not appear to be asphaltum but rather
wax”. This oily material may have been applied by the Bedouin who initially held the
Shapira fragments, for the sake of preservation. Nevertheless, it is interesting to note that
upon the discovery of the Habakkuk Pesher (QpHab) and the Community Rule (QS) in Cave I,
it was reported by the Bedouins who discovered those scrolls that the bundles were “coated
with a black layer of what appeared to be pitch or wax”(Urlich and Flint ,).
G. The palaeography of the Shapira scroll and of the Mesha stele does not point to an identical script
The presumed forger of the Shapira scroll was said to have imitated the Mesha stone.
Ginsburg, in his final report stipulated that the forger “imitated closely the archaic writing
of the inscription on the Moabite Stone.”
Guthe (,) who analysed the Shapira scroll suspected a paleographic similarity
between the Shapira scroll and the Mesha stele. He also compared the paleography of the
Shapira scroll with that of the Siloam inscription but this inscription could not have served
as a paleographic source for the forger in consideration that Shapira already sent in a
transcription of his fragments to Schlottmann. The Siloam Inscription was discovered by
C. Schick in , well after Schlottmann saw the transcription sent to him by Shapira.
Guthe (,) pointed out that at least seven Hebrew letters deviate from those
inscribed on the Mesha inscription קצכזודב )).
Guthe (,) identifies three letters on the Shapira scroll which are in a new form,
unknown to him at that time. The letters are קכט .
Guthe prepared a paleographic table indicating the various letter forms which appear in
the Shapira fragments (Fig. .). The letter טdoes not appear on the Mesha stele (Fig. ) but it
does appear on the Shapira fragments and in a very similar form on QpaleoGen as well as on
QpaleoLev (McLean , plate and plate ).The letter כis somewhat similar to the same
letter which appears on QpaleoLev (Freedman and Mathews ,) and the letter ק
resembles, to a certain extent, the same letter which appears on QpaleoDeut as well as
It should be noted that the Paleo-Hebrew script of the various Dead Sea scrolls is not
homogenous. Tov (,) indicated that “All texts written in the paleo-Hebrew script
reflect a similar scribal approach, but the scribes of these texts often displayed their individual-
ity is specific features.”.
In consideration of the analysis of Guthe it is only logical to conclude that Ginsburg’s
claim that the forger “imitated closely the archaic writing of the inscription on the Moabite
Stone”cannot be substantiated.
Mansoor (,)claims that in the Shapira document the letters גand כare almost
identical but this is not evident from the table presented by Guthe. A comparison can be
made between the paleography table of Guthe and the script which appears on the transcrip-
tion produced by Ginsburg. Most of the paleo-Hebrew letters which were drawn by Guthe are
similar to those drawn by Ginsburg. There is however one letter which differs, the letter ג
(Fig. . line ). The form of that letter confirms the observation of Mansoor.
H. The form of the Paleo-Hebrew Aleph in the Shapira scroll
Both Ginsburg and Guthe, as shown above in Fig. and Fig. , have identified the Hebrew
letter aleph on the Shapira scroll, to be in the cursive pointed V form rather than in the
cursive “parallel”form (Guil a,b).
The parallel aleph form is most prominent in the paleo-Hebrew lapidary script and less so
in the cursive script in which the Dead Sea scrolls were written. Surely it must have been dif-
ficult for the th century scholars to identify the exact form of this letter.
If the Shapira scroll is to be dated to the period of the Dead Sea scrolls then the parallel
form would be expected rather than the V form which is the earlier form (Herr : Fig. ,
Naveh ,–,Guil b). The following paleo-Hebrew Dead Sea scrolls clearly demon-
strate the parallel aleph form in its cursive script: QpaleoGen, QpaleoExod, QpaleoDeut,
QpaleoJob, QpaleoGen, QpaleoLev and QpaleoLev. For further details see McLean,
–, plates –.
Guthe does not include the letter aleph among the letters which deviate from the letter
forms of the Mesha Stele so this would imply that the Shapira scroll do contain the V form
Fig. . The three left columns are the paleographic table prepared by Guthe (,) pertaining to the
Shapira fragments. The forth column is the Mesha paleographic table being a section of Table in Sass
Aleph as appears on the Mesha stele. However, Guthe (,) stipulates that “Die formen
für י,ד,ג,ב,א, finden sich auf hebräischen Münzen am treuesten wieder.”. So if Guthe finds
a similarity between the aleph of the paleo-Hebrew coins and that of the Shapira scroll it would
imply that the form of the aleph on the Shapira scroll was in the parallel form, as it appears on
Furthermore, Guthe compares the paleography of the Shapira scroll with that of the
Siloam Inscription. He arrives at the conclusion that the letters נ,מ,כdiffer significantly in
both texts. However he does not include the letter aleph in his list despite the fact that in
the Siloam Inscription clearly appears the parallel form. This may indicate that the Shapira
aleph was in the parallel form.
Chapter II in Freedman and Mathews (), which analyses the paleography of Qpa-
leoLev, was written by Richard S. Hanson. Hanson opens his discussion by commenting that
the Leviticus scroll was written in a hand so inconsistent and even careless that he (Hanson) was
tempted to ascribe the manuscript to two or more scribes (Freedman and Mathews ,).
Hanson then comments on each letter that appears on the scroll and when relating to the letter
Aleph he writes: “The alep, in the mind of the scribe, was made with three strokes. In
execution, however, the scribe moved with such a cursive flow from the upper to the lower
horizontal line that he connected them and actually produced a form that is akin to the
alep seen in the scripts of the eighth century B.C.E.”. This implies that Hanson has identified
in QpaleoLev both the “paralel aleph”and the “V form aleph”. Hanson has drawn a clear
distinction between the two forms (Hanson ,).
I. The similarity between the Leviticus scroll (QpaleoLev) and the Shapira scroll
The Dead Sea scroll QpaleoLev, written in paleo-Hebrew script, comes from the Hasmo-
nean period and is dated to the first century BCE (Edge ,).There are some character-
istics which can identified both in QpaleoLev and in the Shapira scroll.
Fig. . A transcription of one of the Shapira fragments prepared by C. Ginsburg .
.Content and script
The Leviticus scroll (QpaleoLev) contains parts of the final chapters (–) of Leviticus, the
third book in the Pentateuch. This scroll is written in the paleo-Hebrew script. According to
Mathews (,) the paleo-Hebrew script of the scroll imitates the archaic or “old
Hebrew”script used during the seventh to sixth centuries BCE. He further states that a com-
parison of the paleo-Hebrew characters of the Leviticus Scroll with their seventh-century
proto-types reveals that the characters evolved over time; the changes, however, are not
Similarly, the Shapira scroll was written in paleo-Hebrew. The text refers to parts of
Deutronomy, the fifth book in the Pentateuch, and includes the Decalogue. The text
however diverts from the Masoretic version.
As noted, both scrolls were written in the paleo-Hebrew script and both contain text from
the Torah. Tov (,) states “The preserved biblical fragments (of Qumran) written in the
paleo-Hebrew script contain only texts of the Torah and Job, both of which are traditionally
ascribed to Moses.”. Obviously, the Shapira scroll respects this norm.
.Writing material and measurements
The writing surface of QpaleoLev is tanned leather. The colour of the scroll ranges from a
light to dark brown. The QpaleoLev fragments include one continuous scroll of seven
columns, coming from Leviticus –, and seventeen disconnected fragments, ranging in
content from Leviticus – (Mathews ,). The continuous scroll measures approxi-
mately centimetres and its height at its present state is .centimetres. It consists of two
sheets of tanned goat leather sewn together between the third and the fourth columns
(Mathews ,). Even though the scroll is of continuous text. Mathews estimates that its
original height was to centimetres. This estimate is made by averaging letter and line
counts in conjunction with the existing column size (Mathews ,).
The Shapira scroll was also made of leather. The fragments of the scroll were very dark as
can be seen from the photo taken by the British Museum (Reiner ,). Freedman and
Mathews (,) describe the colour of the QpaleoLev leather “The color of the scroll
ranges from a light to dark brown hue.”.The photo of plate of fragment L of QpaleoLev
in Freedman and Mathews clearly demonstrates the dark leather of that scroll which is quite
reminiscent of the photo taken by the British Museum of the Shapira fragment.
According to Guthe (,) the manuscript composed of sixteen strips of leather whose
height varied between .and .centimetres. Five strips were only to centimeters long,
while some were to centimetres long.
It is therefore obvious that the dimensions of the fragments of QpaleoLev and those of
the Shapira scroll, in the state which they were discovered, are quite similar. However,
Clermont-Ganneau (,–) claimed that the Shapira strips, given their dimensions,
were cut from ancient Torah scrolls. Clermont-Ganneau based his claim upon the vertical
ruling analysis which we discussed above. Furthermore, Mansoor (,) referred to an
article published by the Daily News on August on the matter of Clermont-Ganneau’s
conclusion in respect of the leather strips of the Shapira scroll. The newspaper sent its own
unnamed expert to examine the strips and his conclusion was that “… the portion of the Deu-
teronomy manuscript examined by the present writer was written on leather of a thicker char-
acter, differing very considerably from that usually employed in synagogue-rolls.”.
When unrolled the Leviticus scroll QpaleoLev demonstrates an arc-like shape (Mathews
,; Freedman, Mathews ,). The distinct curvature of QpaleoLev can be
clearly noticed in plate (Freedman and Mathews ).
Similarly, the shape of the Shapira scroll was also in an arc-like form. This curvature is
clearly apparent on the following drawing made by Christian David Ginsburg (Fig. ).
When Clermont-Ganneau introduced his idea that the strips of the Shapira scroll were
actually cut from the lower margins of a contemporary Torah scroll (Clermont-Ganneau
, plate ,), he correctly drew straight narrow strips which supposedly represented
those lower blank leather margins. However, he must have been unaware of the fact that
the Shapira fragments were rather in an arc-like form (Fig. ), a form which obviously
cannot be attributed to a contemporary Torah scroll.
In this article, I have attempted to demonstrate, by means of circumstantial evidence, that the
Shapira scroll was an authentic manuscript. The analysis in this article focused upon the phys-
ical characteristics of the scroll as well as upon paleographic aspects. The evidence was mostly
based upon our present day familiarity with of the Dead Sea scrolls together with current
knowledge of the paleo-Hebrew script. Facing these tools were th-century transcriptions
of the Shapira scroll, which were meticulously prepared by the scholars who tried to determine
the authenticity of the scroll. In addition, I have analyzed the validity of their conclusions
basing myself upon their observations and descriptions of the physical traits of the scroll. An
attempt was then made to demonstrate that due to lack of ancient Hebrew leather manuscripts,
dating over two thousand years, these scholars brilliantly analyzed the Shapira scroll but unfor-
tunately came to the wrong conclusions.
Surprisingly, contrary to the belief held for the last forty five years, the Shapira scroll was
not destroyed in a fire that erupted in the house of Sir Charles Nicholson, near London. We
presently know that it was Dr. Philip Brookes Mason of Burton-on-Trent, Staffordshire, who
acquired the Shapira scroll in or beginning of and probably held it until his death in
. There are indications that, after his death, his wife sold his life’s collection at an auction.
Some good detective work might lead to the rediscovery of the Shapira scroll.
This article is dedicated to the late Prof. Menahem Mansoor who in risked his academic
reputation by claiming that there is no evidence to support the idea that the Shapira scroll was
a work of forgery.
Fig. . Drawing by C. Ginsburg of a Shapira fragment demonstrating the arc-like shape.
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