Israeli-American Scholar Claims ‘Fake’ Bible Manuscript Is Actually Oldest-Known Copy

A 2019 closed-door seminar on the manuscript ended in fierce debate

An Israeli-American scholar in Germany has challenged a 140-year-old claim of fraud by arguing that not only was a supposedly ancient bible authentic, but it may, in fact, be the oldest biblical manuscript found so far, according to newly published findings.

The manuscript was the center of a sensational controversy at the time of its discovery: Found by antiques dealer Moses Wilhelm Shapira, the manuscript comprised 15 fragments he supposedly found in a cave near the Dead Sea.

Shapira claimed the manuscript contained the original Book of Deuteronomy, but some experts and collectors denounced the discovery as a fraud after examination, leading Shapira to flee and commit suicide, according to reports.

Idan Dershowitz, 38, now claims the manuscript is, indeed, real and far older than Shapira thought.

Dershowitz published his claims and arguments in a paper released earlier this month, “The Valediction of Moses: New Evidence on the Shapira Deuteronomy Fragments.”

The paper outlines a number of techniques, including linguistic and archival evidence, to argue that the text is actually an earlier, more primitive draft of Deuteronomy, dating to the period of the First Temple.

Proving the authenticity of the claims will be incredibly difficult. 

Experts have yet to subject Dershowitz’s claims and research to analysis, but a closed-door seminar at Harvard in 2019 resulted in fierce debate, according to The New York Times.

“Qumran was a massive shift,” Na’ama Pat-El, an expert in classical Semitic languages at the University of Texas in Austin, said, referring to the area where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found. “What Idan is offering is something that’s at least equivalent, if not more. It’s pretty incredible if he’s right.”