The Curious Case of Moses Wilhelm Shapira

The revered Fortean John A. Keel wrote about Moses Wilhelm Shapira. A 19th Century antiquities dealer who died of suicide by revolver in a hotel in Rotterdam. He also may have found the most exceptional biblical relic of the modern age.

You can find Moses’s story recounted by John Keel in “The Eighth Tower” on page 17, but it’s a complex story which has evolved some. Even in the last year. We thought the Wikipedia entry on Moses was solid if you’d like more information after our summary below.

Moses was an an adventurous buisnessman in the 19th Century. He became infamous during the relic craze of the 1880’s. Some of his antiquities were proven to be genuine and some were proven to be hoaxes.

His most famous and controversial find was the “Shapira Strips,” which contained a different version of the book of Deuteronomy and an eleventh commandment: ‚ÄúThou shalt not hate thy brother in thy heart: I am GOD, thy GOD.”

Shapira Scrolls Rendering *public domain

When Moses presented these scrolls to experts at the time, they declared them a forgery. This disgrace ultimately lead to Moses taking his own life. However, that is not where the story ends, and it didn’t end in John’s book either. It’s still debated today. If they’re proven to be authentic, these scrolls would be about as old as the Dead Sea Scrolls. And that 11th Commandment might be hard for some people to take to take.

The Dead Sea Scrolls are used as evidence by some biblical scholars of divine intervention. The modern Christian Bible IS remarkably similar to the text of the Dead Sea Scrolls. Their accuracy over time IS remarkable. Yet, if this is proof of divine words, aren’t all of the Dead Sea Scrolls divine? Even the texts found by Moses Wilhelm Shapira?

One of the more interesting open questions is how Moses came to be in possession of these scrolls. Here we had a businessman with a spotty past in relics. How did he get a hold of (possibly) one of the greatest historical biblical finds of all time? According to Keel, some shepherds wandered into his shop and offered them up. Shapira’s account of how he came into possession of the scrolls varies. We find Keel’s account more likely given Shapira’s penchant for showmanship.

Why does it matter? Beyond the historical and biblical significance of Moses Wilhelm Shapira’s find, we see how quickly foundational theory becomes forgotten. Regardless of whether or not Shapira’s find is proven true, fragments of the Book of Enoch were found among the Dead Sea Scrolls. Yet, they didn’t make it into most current versions of the Bible. In case you’re unfamiliar, Enoch’s book is a wild ride.

Biblical history like all other history is subject to constant change caused by new discovery.

Does this mean there is no God? No Jesus? No Christian Church? Of course not. Shapira himself converted to Christianity. As a society we’ve unnecessarily conflated history and fact with religion. If our standard of what God intended to say is dictated by the age of his words, God will always be changing his mind. Religion is Faith pure and simple.

The Curious Case of Moses Wilhelm Shapira remains unsolved and as such becomes a grand reminder: Even our deepest held beliefs are subject to change. We shouldn’t apologize for changing our mind based on new information. For example, we at Fortean Winds are people who believe wholeheartedly in science, and we’ve been proven wrong time and time again.

To us, that is science. We’re all just learning. So, let’s be open to new discoveries and follow their threads wherever they may lead. Keep your faith close to you while we do, our research has lead us to believe Faith has a power of its own.

We do believe science will ultimately solve the mystery of the authenticity of Moses Wilhelm Shapira’s find. What that means is entirely up to you.

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