PDF The Shapira Affair: PDF

by John Marco Allegro

A Jerusalem antiques dealer, Moses Wilhelm Shapira, arrived at the British Museum in late summer of 1883 with some documents he thought interesting. He unwrapped 15 frayed & faded parchment strips inscribed in ancient Hebrew. He'd spent much of the summer deciphering & found it to be part of Deuteronomy, tho with some divergence from standard recensions. He claimed to have bought the strips from Arabs who'd found them wrapped in cloth, hidden in a cave in the side of a rocky gorge of the Wadi Mujib, which runs into the eastern side of the Dead Sea. He wanted a million pounds for them. The Museum commissioned a bible scholar, David Ginsburg, to examine & judge the authenticity of the ms. Ginsburg was intrigued. He studied the text for weeks, finding it to be Deuteronomy mixed with other Pentateuchal verses. The script was among the most ancient ever seen, perhaps as early as the 9th century BC, similar to that found on a Moabite tablet recently discovered in Dibin, above the Arnon gorge. The Times discovered what he was doing, publishing his translation in installments under excited headlines. Some were skeptical about the scrolls’ authenticity. Ginsburg hesitated. Then Clermont-Ganneau, a French scholar, arrived. He'd already come across some pottery that Shapira had presented as pre-Xian, proving it spurious. Tho denied access to the ms, he condemned them as forgeries because of the aberrant passages of text & because they had been written on strips cut from the lower margin of old law scrolls, themselves of unproven origin. He said no parchment could survive 2000 years of Palestinian winter rains. Ginsburg agreed. The ms & their owner were publicly vilified. The '47 Dead Sea Scrolls discovery undermined Clermont-Ganneau’s arguments for dismissing Shapira’s ms. The scribes who wrote the scrolls had used similar techniques: patching together 2nd-hand parchment pieces, adopting a venerably antiquated Phoenician script & using variant forms of biblical texts with many additions & omissions. The rift valley caves had certainly preserved the Scrolls from weather. Shapira believed the Deuteronomy strips were as ancient as they seemed. He didn't have the formal training in archeology or paleography to prove it, but he staked his reputation & the livelihood of his wife & daughter on finding experts who could.
When Ginsburg & Clermont-Ganneau found against him, Shapira couldn't bear his disgrace. He wrote Ginsburg on 8/23/1883: "You have made a fool of me by publishing & exhibiting things you believe to be false. I do not think I shall be able to survive this shame. Altho I am not yet convinced that the ms. is a forgery–unless Monsieur Ganneau did it. I will leave London in a day or two for Berlin. Yours truly," For some weeks he wandered inconsolate thru the Low Countries, leaving a trail of discarded clothing & unposted letters. At last, in Rotterdam's Hotel of the Valley of Flowers, he put a pistol to his head. A scholar, a shopkeeper, a dreamer, a hunter of ideas–one sees why Allegro was drawn to Shapira. Believing his ms genuine, he wasn't afraid to stand out, asking questions going beyond conventional wisdom. The Shapira Affair was published by Doubleday & Co. in '65 & was generally well received, tho not everyone was convinced that Clermont-Ganneau had been mistaken.
The Shapira Affair was published by:
W.H. Allen, '65. 1st ed
Doubleday/Garden City, '65, 1st US ed
Proquest, Book-On-Demand reprinted from microfilm ed, cloth

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PublisherDoubleday (Garden City, NY)
Pages count139
eBook formatHardcover, (torrent)En
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