Forgeries

views updated

FORGERIES

Since the essential characteristic of a forgery is its intent to deceive, the pseudo-epigraphical literature, which consists of religious admonitions and prophecies ascribed to the biblical patriarchs in order to give them greater spiritual force (and similar writings found among the *Dead Sea Scrolls of the same period), are not in this category. There has been much controversy over the midrashic christological excerpts included by Raymond *Martini (13th century) in his Pugio Fidei:S. *Lieberman maintains that they derive from originals now lost; Y. *Baer, that they are fabrications. In the course of the scholarly discussions that followed the archaeological discoveries of the 19th and 20th centuries, many of them, e.g., the *Moabite Stone and the Dead Sea Scrolls, were denounced by some skeptics as forgeries. In 1883 M.W. Shapira attempted to sell to the British Museum for a fabulous sum certain Hebrew manuscript fragments of the Bible, purportedly from an ancient scroll of the book of Deuteronomy of the 9th or 10th century b.c.e. He was denounced at the time as a forger, but since the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, some scholars have maintained that they may not have been forgeries. However, much material that passed through Shapira's hands as a dealer was certainly fabricated or altered. The Karaite scholar Abraham *Firkovich (1785–1874), in his attempts to prove the antiquity of the Karaites and, in particular, their settlement in the Crimea, published a number of obviously forged tombstone inscriptions and manuscript colophons. In addition, in view of his sectarian enthusiasm, a certain suspicion may be entertained about the details in any of the codices that passed through his hands (as also in the case of Shapira). At the first rumblings of the Reform movement in Judaism, Saul *Berlin (1740–1794), the brilliant son of Hirschel *Levin and rabbi of Berlin, produced a collection, Besamim Rosh (1793), purporting to be responsa by the medieval scholar R. Asher of Toledo, which ostensibly favored the new tendencies; when this was discovered, Berlin was driven into retirement (see R. Margoliot, in: Aresheth, 1 (1959), 424–5, no. 1737). In 1907–1909 S.J. *Friedlander published a substantial part of the fifth order of the Jerusalem Talmud from a Spanish manuscript dated 1212, which he claimed to have discovered in Turkey. It was, however, no more than a mosaic of passages from other parts of the Talmud, and after some initial excitement the work was dismissed as a fabrication.

Eliakim *Carmoly (1802–1875), rabbi of Brussels, published in profusion documents which he claimed to have in his rich library, but since some of them were obvious fabrications and some "improved," he undermined all confidence in what might have been genuine. B.H. *Auerbach's (1808–1872) edition of the Sefer ha-Eshkol (1868–69) by Abraham of Narbonne was also subjected to attack as a forgery. L. *Goldschmidt (1871–1950) admitted that in his youth he forged the book Baraita de-Ma'aseh Bereshit (cf. E.S. Rimalt, in: Aresheth, 1 (1959), 484–5). On the other hand, Goldschmidt leveled accusations of forgery against collectors of Hebrew printed books who made them appear as if they were incunabula (cf. L. Goldschmidt, Hebrew Incunables (1948)). H. Lieberman (b. 1892), the bibliographer, also deals with forged title pages (ks, 31 (1955/56) 397–8). G. *Scholem and his students discovered a number of forgeries in kabbalistic literature. In recent years with the increase in collectors of Jewish ritual art, very large numbers of forgeries in this sphere have been placed on the market, many of them very ingenious. Among the favorite methods are the appending of purportedly old inscriptions to modern objects, or the skillful adaptation of secular bricà-brac to ostensibly Jewish purposes. Forged shekels (some of them bearing modern Hebrew lettering!) have been in circulation since the Renaissance period, having a special sentimental appeal to both Jews and Christians.

bibliography:

C. Roth, in: Commentary, 43 (1967), 84–86.

[Cecil Roth]

About this article

Forgeries

Updated About encyclopedia.com content Print Article Share Article