Is a long-rejected forgery in fact the oldest known Bible manuscript?

Over the years, some who have attempted to reopen the Shapira case have speculated that the manuscript may be a “rewritten Bible” of the type found among the Dead Sea Scrolls – texts that revise the canonical books of the Bible, to clarify certain points or attract new readers.

But Gesundheit, of the Hebrew University, said the lack of laws suggests V is older than Deuteronomy. In ancient times, he said, people who copied biblical texts could add or compile different versions. But they haven’t deleted, he said.

“For them the text was holy,” he said. “It’s hard to believe anyone would do away with these divine laws.” Further, he said, V’s version is “more fluid and looks more original” than canonical Deuteronomy, where the laws “interrupt the narrative flow between the beginning and the end of the book.”

And the implications of the absence of laws, Gesundheit said, are huge. “These laws are really important for the history of Judaism, for Christianity, for tradition,” he said. “We have entire libraries of interpretations of the laws, but all of a sudden we see that there could have been a version that only talks about beliefs, stories and theology, without the laws.”

As for the Ten Commandments – or “proclamations,” as Dershowitz translates it – they take quite a different form from the familiar text, Dershowitz said. They are all rendered in the first person, from a divinity perspective – for example, “I made the heavens and the earth…” (In the canonical version, they are in the third person.)

And the presentation, in stark contrast to Biblical tradition, implies that there were no other divine laws communicated by Moses.

About Cody E. Vaughn

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