25 December 1821 Birth of David Christian Ginsburg, missionary, scholar and exposer of fake Deuteronomy scroll #otdimjh

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Bernstein summarises a distinguished academic career, but Ginsburg achieved public fame through his part in exposing one of the great frauds of the century, in disproving the claims of another fellow Jewish believer in Yeshua to have discovered an early manuscript of Deuteronomy which contained an 11th commandment.

Here is Bernstein’s note:

Ginsburg, Rev. Dr. Christian David, born at Warsaw, December 25, 1821, embraced Christianity there in 1846, was missionary of the British Society in Liverpool till 1863, when he retired in order to devote himself entirely to literary work. Dr. Ginsburg contributed a considerable number of valuable [234]  articles on Jewish topics to Kitto’s Encyclopædia, published a book on the Karaites and Essenes, and a full account in English of the Kabbalah, its doctrines, development, and literature. But he will be especially remembered for his massoretic studies, and translation of Elias Levita’s “Massoreth-ha-Massorah” in 1867, and of Jacob ben Hayim’s “Introduction to the Rabbinic Bible,” published in the same year. He was on the Revision Committee of the Old Testament. He edited the Massoretic Critical Text of the Hebrew Bible for the Trinitarian Bible Society, 1894, and also Salkinson’s translation of the New Testament into Hebrew, 1886.

The Athenæum

Shapira claimed to have discovered strips of ancient parchment from the bottom of Torah scrolls that contained different versions of the Deuteronomy sections of the 10 commandments and other passages. Ginsburg, by checking the linguistics and the details of the materials, declared these to be fakes and forgeries. Shapira, his career and reputation ruined, committed suicide.

The Times – centenary article 12-23-31

The case became a matter of popular gossip and discussion. Ginsburg, working with British Museum, applied scholarly techniques to expose the fraud, but it caught the popular imagination, and as two Jewish believers in Jesus were the main protagonists, led to antisemitic jokes and public derision.


The incident was one of the most celebrated scholarly controversies of the nineteenth century. By examining the historical context, we can see that Ginsburg did more than simply expose a forgery. The entire episode symbolized the scholarly competence of the British and their approach to biblical archaeology and documents.

The Times – biblical forgery article 3-11-14


Ginsburg was truly an outstanding scholarly who left his mark on future critical editions of the biblical text. Jewish scholars noted his achievements in pioneering modern linguistic methods in studying the texts and manuscripts of the Tanach. But in his day the sensationalism of the forgery case was also what brought him to public attention.

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Prayer: For your gifts of scholarship and wisdom, we give you thanks for the life of David Christian Ginsburg. Thank you for his dedication to your Word and the upholding of its authenticity in the face of sensationalist controversy. Help us also to be diligent in being faithful to the Scriptures and their interpretation, in the light of Yeshua and your ongoing faithfulness to your people Israel. In Yeshua’s name we pray. Amen.




THE TIME OF ISRAELIn the footsteps of a master forger: In 1883, respected antiques dealer Moses Wilhelm Shapira claimed to possess ancient scrolls of Deuteronomy. The text differed slightly from the accepted version: It had an 11th Commandment (Aviva and Shmuel Bar-Am).






English Masoretic scholar and Christian missionary; born at Warsaw Dec. 25, 1831. He was converted in 1846, and was for a time connected with the Liverpool branch of the London Society’s Mission to the Jews, but retired in 1863, devoting himself entirely to literary work. Besides editions of the Song of Songs, 1857, and Ecclesiastes, 1861, he published essays on the Karaites, 1862; and Essenes, 1864; and a full account in English of the Cabala, 1865.He then devoted himself to Masoretic studies, publishing the text and translation of Elias Levita’s “Massoret ha-Massoret” in 1867, and of Jacob b. Hayyim’s “Introduction to the Rabbinic Bible” in the same year. He was elected a member of the Board of Revisers of the Old Testament in 1870, and devoted himself to the collation of all the extant remains of the Masorah, three volumes of which he published in 1880-86. Based upon these collations, he edited a new text of the Old Testament for the Trinitarian Bible Society, which was published in 1894 under the title “The Massoretico-Critical Text of the Hebrew Bible.” To this he wrote an introduction, published together with a volume of facsimiles of the manuscripts of the Hebrew Bible, in 1897. His method of settling the Masoretic text has been somewhat severely criticized by Blau in the “Jewish Quarterly Review” (viii. 343 et seq.). Ginsburg wrote the most elaborate account printed in English of the Moabite Stone (1871), and was instrumental in exposing forgeries of Shapira.

About richardsh

Messianic Jewish teacher in UK
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1 Response to 25 December 1821 Birth of David Christian Ginsburg, missionary, scholar and exposer of fake Deuteronomy scroll #otdimjh

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