The Mystery of a Purportedly Ancient Manuscript of the Bible May Finally Be Solved

April 12 2016

A Jewish convert to Christianity born in 19th-century Russia, Moses Wilhelm Shapira spent most of his life in Jerusalem, where became a prominent antiquities dealer. He managed to stay in the business even after he was caught selling a number of fake pottery artifacts he himself had a hand in forging. But the great scandal of his career came later, and is the subject of a new book by Chanan Tigay. Beth Kissileff writes in her review:

Shapira’s final attempt to sell manuscripts to the British Museum was the one that proved his undoing—and provided the story behind Tigay’s book. The “Lost Scroll of Moses” consisted of manuscripts of Deuteronomy that Shapira claimed were found by Bedouin in a cave in an embankment overlooking Wadi Mujib, east of [the Dead Sea]. From a man eager to give people what they wanted, these scrolls had a version of Deuteronomy touted as “a more original version of the Hebrew Bible” with which, Tigay says, Shapira was “hoping to make the Christian interpretation of the Bible seem to be the more authentic one.” . . .

Obviously, the parallels are tantalizing between ancient scrolls that might give a more “original” version of a biblical text than the Masoretic one, and the Dead Sea Scrolls, found in thirteen caves and containing 800-900 scrolls, 50,000 fragments in total. . . .

Shapira brought the scrolls to London in 1883. . . . At the time, though there was much debate, the scrolls were declared a hoax, and the British Museum declined their purchase. Shapira traveled to Rotterdam, Holland, where he committed suicide. . . . But when the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered in Qumran in clay jars in 1947, scholars recalled the similar story of Shapira’s claim about the origins of his scrolls. . . . One scholar . . . suggested in 1956 that Shapira’s scrolls might have been genuine and forerunners of the Dead Sea Scrolls.

Tigay claims to have resolved the question of the scrolls’ authenticity while searching through Shapira’s papers (the location of the scrolls themselves remains uncertain).

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Read more at Tablet

More about: Dead Sea Scrolls, Deuteronomy, Hebrew Bible, History & Ideas

Europe-Israel Relations Have Been Transformed

On Monday, Israel and the EU held their first “association council” meeting since 2012, resuming what was once an annual event, equivalent to the meetings Brussels conducts with many other countries. Although the summit didn’t produce any major agreements or diplomatic breakthroughs, writes Shany Mor, it is a sign of a dramatic change that has occurred over the past decade. The very fact that the discussion focused on energy, counterterrorism, military technology, and the situation in Ukraine—rather than on the Israel-Palestinian conflict—is evidence of this change:

Israel is no longer the isolated and boycotted outpost in the Middle East that it was for most of its history. It has peace treaties with six Arab states now, four of which were signed since the last association council meeting. There are direct flights from Tel Aviv to major cities in the region and a burgeoning trade between Israel and Gulf monarchies, including those without official relations.

It is a player in the regional alliance systems of both the Gulf and the eastern Mediterranean, just as it has also become a net energy exporter due to the discovery of large gas deposits of its shoreline. None of this was the case at the last council meeting in 2012. [Moreover], Israel has cultivated deep ties with a number of new member states in the EU from Central and Eastern Europe, whose presence in Brussels bridges cultural ideological gaps that were once much wider.

Beyond the diplomatic shifts, however, is an even larger change that has happened in European-Israeli relations. The tiny Israel defined by its conflict with the Arabs that Europeans once knew is no more. When the first Cooperation Agreement [between Israel and the EU’s precursor] was signed in 1975, Israel, with its three million people, was smaller than all the European member states save Luxembourg. Sometime in the next two years, the Israeli population will cross the 10 million mark, making it significantly larger than Ireland, Denmark, Finland, and Austria (among others), and roughly equal in population to Greece, Portugal, and Sweden.

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Read more at Jerusalem Post

More about: Abraham Accords, Europe and Israel, European Union, Israeli gas