Module: Moses Shapira



Several important points should not be overlooked when considering Moses Wilhelm Shapira’s story. First, it should be noted that Shapira faced hostility of all sorts from the time he founded his antique store. As a converted Christian, he was portrayed by large parts of the Jewish population as an apostate and traitor to the faith, while for large parts of European academics he always remained a Jew and had to reckon with anti-Semitic resentment from this side. Furthermore, the events took place in a time in which Germany, France and Great Britain were each striving for scientific supremacy and trying to outdo each other with scientific success.

The interference of the Frenchman Charles Ganneau in the evaluation of the Moabitika and the Deuteronomy Scrolls, the careful and meticulous preparation of the article on the manuscripts by Ginsburg, and the eagerness of the German scholars to buy the manuscripts paint a picture of that very race for academic supremacy. Overall, the discussion about the authenticity of the scrolls represents one of the most important scholarly debates of the 19th century.

The question of authenticity

Finally, it should be noted that in recent research, it is occasionally doubted whether the scholars‘ assessment of the authenticity of the manuscripts was incorrect. Researchers like Mansoor Jacob L. Teicher, Shlomo Guil, or Yoram Sabo concluded, that the Shapira scrolls were genuine manuscripts, while Moshe H. Goshen-Gottstein and Oskar K. Rabinowicz took the opposite position. In order to ultimately answer the question of authenticity, it would be nessesary to examine the original manuscripts. However, their exact whereabouts have been unknown since about 1899 and could not be located despite intensive research work by various scholars and reasearchers.

  • Discuss in what way or if the question about the authenticity of the Shapira manuscripts can be answered without the lost originals.
  • What influence does the availability of modern research methods have on the question of the authenticity of the Shapira scrolls and the reputation of the antique dealer?