As August of 1883 came to a close, Hermann Guthe’s assessment of the Shapira MSS was published without notice or fanfare in Leipzig.

Guthe concluded his publication with the following comments: “The examination of the text has led to the certain realization that the manuscript is a forgery.… It is not the artistry of a gifted craftsman to which we must, as must others attribute this forgery. Its originator is at least a dilettante in the area of Old Testament science, scarcely a representative thereof by profession—his work must, then, in any case count as a witness of arguably good facilities…. He shows, namely, in the last part of his work, a quite good handling of Hebrew expression, has language understanding, as the application of interpuncts in the Decalogue proves, has certain epigraphical knowledge, is familiar with multiple results of Pentateuch criticism, was able to giftedly recognize doublets in our Bible text, but betrays, in his critical operations, the complete lack of a firm method.


Guthe’s work went unnoticed for the most part. English readers would have to wait until 8 September 1883 to learn of it when a brief notice appeared in The Academy in an article titled, “The Shapira MSS. of Deuteronomy” (8 Sept. 1883, No. 592).

Meanwhile, Shapira was in the Netherlands, and we now know why. (See my chapter twelve, “The Venice of the North,” in The Moses Scroll).


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For an English translation of Guthe’s book, see Fragments of a Leather Manuscript Containing Moses’ Last Words to the Children of Israel (Saint Francisville: Horeb Press, 2022). The book is also available in Kindle edition.