The Valediction of Moses: New Evidence on the Shapira Deuteronomy Fragments

Discussion about the Hebrew Bible, Septuagint, pseudepigrapha, Philo, Josephus, Talmud, Dead Sea Scrolls, archaeology, etc.
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Re: The Valediction of Moses: New Evidence on the Shapira Deuteronomy Fragments

Post by StephenGoranson »

People more familiar with Devarim than I will decide whether the Shapira ms will ever be accepted as ancient or not. A few observations.
“It would surely be unusual for a forger to labor to understand a text that he himself had devised or inscribed.” (ZAW 19). Aint necessarily so.
The article (1) names him Wilhelm Moses Shapira, though he went by Moses Wilhelm.
The book bibliography has an article by Fred N. Reiner in in BAR, but not his “C. D. Ginsburg and the Shapira Affair…,” British Museum Journal 1995 109-27.
Also missing: Truly Fake: Moses Wilhelm Shapira, Master Forger, the Israel Museum catalog from 2000.
The purple ink pages (book ch. 2) are quite welcome. But are they transcription attempt or draft composition?
Shapira’s letter to “Dear Dr. Ginzberg [sic]” said he was not yet convinced the ms is a forgery “unless M. Ganneau did it!” Not proof, but odd.
The writing surface has been characterized as “thick” (7) and “stout” (8) and, though I can’t be sure, apparently more tanned than one might expect for writing. If one turns to try to compare the Shapira ms to Qumran mss, the closest matches appear to be to the claimed ones sold mostly after 2002—the thick hide, fake ones.
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Re: The Valediction of Moses: New Evidence on the Shapira Deuteronomy Fragments

Post by DCHindley »

I remember reading a magazine article about Shapira's fragments (in the 1980s or early 90s(?).

The odd shape of the fragments (rectangles with width longer than height) caught my attention. Do similarly shaped fragments show up in other contexts? While I do not presume to be any sort of expert, they do appear to be at very least trimmings of larger hides. What processes might account for it? If a tanner makes and then sells leather intended for writing, what did they do with scrap pieces? The Romans had their membrane note-books of leather pages bound together much like a modern note-book. An accordion shape? I think it was suggested that they might have been blank "post card" forms ready to be torn out as required, so letters home from an exotic place like Jerusalem would catch the attention of the recipients. I don't know if there are examples of the accordion-like folded strips or even leather/parchment postcards.

Is there a difference between "leather" rather than "parchment?" It appears that more recent synagogue scrolls are written on thicker leather than sacred scriptures are written on (I guess this could be the difference between "leather & "parchment). If it was mentioned in the footnotes or indices, I probably just missed it.

Stephen Goranson in his post mentions that, in his opinion, most of the Shapira peculiarities that can be found in the DSS are to fragments that came to light after 2002, the beginning of an era of massive forgery. I'll have to look closer at this statement, as I know the article included examples of such correspondences. I'm fairly sure that the modern forgers active around 2002 had way more info to base their fakes upon, but IMHO what passes for expert scholarship on paleography since the 19th century is based more on wishful thinking and eisegesis than exegesis. They seem to be expressing what they piously assume(d) SHOULD be the case. "Don't upset the boat."

Finally, while reading Idan Dershowitz's translation of the fragments, it struck me that the text seems similar to what happened in the book of Jubilees: A complete re-write of the story presented in the Pentateuch made from the POV of Moses himself, writing what God himself has dictated to him. This paraphrase, on the other hand, restricts itself primarily to Deuteronomy, which is itself often believed to have been an ancient re-write of the other 4 books. The monograph does not address Jubilees except in the citation of Eibert Tigchelaar, “A Cave 4 Fragment of Divre Mosheh (4QDM) and the Text of 1Q22 1:7-10 and Jubilees 1:9, 14.” In: Dead Sea Discoveries 12.3 (2005), pp. 303–12.

IMHO, these three Shapira mss are basically a series of drafts, not a finished work. If Jubilees had not been preserved in Ethiopic translation, and later found among the DSS, I think it would have been thrown into the junk heap of history. I'll have to look into the history of the study of Jubilees before the discovery of the DSS. I think there could be something to learn from a comparison to Jubilees.

Jus' my 2 cents. DCH
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