The Shapira Scroll was first introduced to the world back in 1883 and there has been much debate surrounding its authenticity ever since. But now, a new expert has come forward claiming that it is in fact the real deal and is “actually the oldest known Biblical script” that has ever been found.
The scroll is a paleo-Hebrew script written on fifteen leather strips that contain verses from the book of Deuteronomy and even an 11th commandment, “you should not hate your own brothers: I am God, your God”. Jerusalem antiques dealer Moses Wilhelm Shapira claimed to have found the scroll in a cave near the Dead Sea. He sold the scroll to the British Museum for £1 million who then put two pieces on display for the public to view.
Shortly after the museum put them on display, a French archaeologist named Charles Simon Clermont-Ganneau looked at them then claimed that they weren’t authentic and the museum staff quickly agreed with him. Shapira ended up taking his own life in 1884 after receiving a lot of shame from those who thought the scroll was a fake. The museum then sold the scroll in 1885 and it wasn’t seen again until a public sale where it was sold again. It is believed that it was damaged in an 1899 fire at the home Sir Charles Nicholson – believed to be the last owner of the scroll.
But that’s not the end of the story as now a scholar from the University of Potsdam in Germany named Idan Dershowitz has claimed to have literary, linguistic, and archival evidence that confirms the scroll is authentic. He reconstructed the ancient text from 19th century drawings and transcriptions, and is confident that it dates back to the First Temple time period (it could be as old as 957 BC) which would make it the oldest known Biblical artifact that has ever been found.
In an interview with the New York Times, Dershowitz stated that the scroll being called fake was a “tragedy” for Shapira as well as the “entire existence of the discipline of Bible studies”. He went on to say, “It's mind-boggling that for almost the entire existence of the discipline of Bible studies this text hasn't been part of the conversation.”
And since the scroll contained no laws other than the commandments, it might be older than the book of Deuteronomy. In fact, the commandments in the scroll were a bit different as they were written in the first person instead of the third.
More people are becoming convinced that Shapira didn’t fake the scroll. “If he forged them, or was part of a conspiracy, it makes no sense that he'd be sitting there trying to guess what the text is, and making mistakes while he did it,” Dershowitz claimed. (Pictures can be seen here and here.)
Dershowitz’s research can be read in full here.