In 1933, the British Museum purchased one of the world’s most precious Biblical manuscripts from the Russians. It is known as the Codex Sinaiticus. They reportedly paid £100,000; a price equal to approximately £7.3 million in 2022. I, of course, knew the basic story of its discovery, but today I learned something from a newspaper article written eighty-eight years ago, on 10 February 1934. I discovered that at least one writer was afraid of fraud, and not just any fraud.

While searching the internet, I came across the following quote from the Hawera Star:

“The British Museum’s purchase from the Soviet Government of the Codex Sinaiticus (a fourth century Greek manuscript of the Old Testament) recalls the famous Shapira fraud of 1883, writes J.A.G. in the Brisbane ‘Courier-Mail.’”[1]

In my book and a previous blog post, I shared that some scholars were also afraid of fraud when the Dead Sea Scrolls first came to light.[2] The first reaction to manuscript discoveries seems always to be a fear of fraud – the “famous Shapira fraud.” The authenticity of the Qumran manuscripts and the Codex Sinaiticus is no longer doubted, but Shapira’s manuscript strips remain suspicious.

Caution is expected of scholars, especially since fakes do exist. Thankfully, we are in a much better position to detect forgeries today. We are also in a much better place to prove authenticity. I hope that one day the leather strips of Shapira will turn up so that we can settle the question of their genuineness once and for all.

I am reminded of the words of Georg Eber to Eduard Meyer regarding his evaluation of Shapira’s leather manuscript strips. He said, “It is no art to declare suspicious things fake, but it takes courage and certain knowledge to publicly declare that which is tainted with the smell of fake, still genuine.”[3]

[1] “Shapira Manuscript Fraud,” Hawera Star, Volume LIII, 10 February 1934, 14. See,

[2] See, Ross K. Nichols, “The Shapira Affair and Those Skeptical of the Scrolls,” See also, Ross K. Nichols, The Moses Scroll (Saint Francisville: Horeb Press, 2021) 113-4.

[3] Letter from Georg Eber to Eduard Meyer, 10 July 1883, in “Der Briefwechsel zwischen Georg Eber und Eduard Meyer (187-898),” Vorbemerkung von G. Audring.