Yet another paper has appeared in the ongoing debate over the authenticity of Shapira’s [in]famous leather manuscript strips. The latest, posted on Academia, relates a story of a manuscript seen in the shop of Moses Shapira in the year 1870. The author writes that in his “rather cursory and piecemeal reading of the recent literature,” he had not encountered a reference to this story, so he offered the Academia article as a “supplementary aspect to the discussion. Even though more of a peripheral nature, it might cast a telling light on the matter.”[1] In his article summary, Stipp writes, 

“In 1875, Anton Scholz, a professor of Old Testament theology at Würzburg University, published a study of the relationship between the Hebrew and Greek texts of the book of Jeremiah, in which he disclosed that the antiquities dealer Moses Shapira in 1870 had offered him an ancient Hebrew manuscript containing the LXX edition of the book of Jeremiah. Scholz’s brief note may cast additional light on the elusive manuscript now known as the “Valediction of Moses.”[2]

The article consists of a page and a half of text, most of which is a translation of a single footnote by Anton Scholz, and a third page, a photograph of the final page of Scholz’s original German work.[3] 

At the top of the page, and numbered as his fourth point in a list of his conclusions, Scholz wrote,

„Die LXX-Uebersetzung Jeremia’s ist gewissenhaft wortwörtlich nach einem vorliegenden hebräischen Text gemacht.”

Stipp translates, 

“The LXX translation of Jeremiah is conscientiously and literally executed according to an extant Hebrew text.”

Scholz’s fourth point contained a footnote that serves as Stipp’s contribution to the ongoing debate over the authenticity of Shapira’s manuscripts. Stipp translates Scholz’s note:

“In the year 1870, the present writer met the bookseller Mr. Shapira in Jerusalem, who showed him a magnificent manuscript of Jeremiah, written without vowels and accents, of which he contended that it represented the text of the LXX. The first verses, that I solely read, correspond to the LXX translation. When I returned a few days later, it had been sold to an Englishman. According to Mr. Shapira, who claimed to have proof of his assertion, the manuscript dated approximately from the time of Christ and had been found on the Sinai Peninsula. That Mr. Shapira is skilled and reliable in this field is attested by competent quarters. Cf. D.M.Z. [Zeitschrift der Deutschen Morganländischen Gesellschaft] 1872, p. 734 and year 1873 – a letter, however, which I wrote to him about this matter in February 1873, remained without response.”

It is clear from the quoted portions in Stipp’s article that Scholz did not indicate that he believed Shapira’s “magnificent manuscript” was anything but authentic at the time of writing. He even refers his readers to competent quarters who had testified of Mr. Shapira’s skill and reliability “in this field.”

But Stipp uses this opportunity to “cast a telling light on the matter.” Since he [Stipp] had not encountered any reference to the “Jeremiah manuscript in question,” and since it seems to have “fallen into near-total oblivion,” he speculates and then suggests that his readers do the same.

“This situation makes the following speculation hard to resist: The mere fact that Shapira’s Jeremiah manuscript has apparently never made it into the press is a strong indication that it was a forgery. Normally, it was to be expected that the buyer would showcase his costly acquisition in a more or less sensationalist fashion to an awed public. When this did not happen, one may presume that he had sought expert advice and was warned that, in order to avoid ridicule, the wisest thing to do was discreetly putting the matter to rest. Shapira’s failure to reply to Anton Scholz’s enquiry points in the same direction. Thus, chances are slim that Shapira’s Jeremiah manuscript will ever be traced, and Scholz’s brief note further undermines trust in the genuineness of the “Valediction of Moses.” 

Contra Scholz, Stipp believes that the manuscript was likely a forgery since it “apparently never made it to press,” further saying, “Shapira’s failure to reply to Anton Scholz’s enquiry points in the same direction.” These lead Stipp to ultimately conclude that “Scholz’s brief note further undermines trust in the genuineness of the ‘Valediction of Moses.’” In my opinion, Stipp’s conclusions derive too much from too little. 

I first came across the story of Shapira’s Jeremiah MSS while working through Hermann Guthe’s 1883 assessment of Shapira’s leather manuscript strips.[4] Guthe wrote,

„Er erinnert an die Handscrift des Originales des Septuaginta-Textes, die Professor Scholz im Jahre 1870 im Laden des Herrn Schapira in Jerusalem gesehen hat. Ihre Spur schient sich vollkommen verloren zu haben, wenn sie nicht etwa unter einem anderen Titel noch einmal auftaucht. Ueber ihre Beschaffenheit ist leider wenig bekannt geworden,”[5]

“It recalls the manuscript of the original Septuagint text, which Professor Scholz saw in the shop of Herr Shapira in Jerusalem in the year 1870. Its trace appears to have been completely lost, if it should not at some point resurface again under a different title. Of its character, sadly little has become known,”[6]

Shapira’s Jeremiah not making it into the press is not a “strong indication that it was a forgery,” and neither is “Shapira’s failure to reply to Anton Scholz’s enquiry.” Beyond this, I see nothing in Scholz’s brief note that “undermines trust in the genuineness of the ‘Valediction of Moses.’” If there is “a telling light cast on the matter,” it reveals something that Shapira saw in his time, namely that “the tendency of showing great scholarship by detecting a forgery is rather great in our age.”[7] We see this proven time and again in our age as well. Sadly little is known about the “magnificent manuscript of Jeremiah, written without vowels and accents,” that Anton Scholz saw in Shapira’s shop in 1870. 

Indeed, the location of this Jeremiah manuscript is presently unknown, but thanks to the excellent work of Australian Shapira researcher Matthew Hamilton, certain details have already been tracked down. In an email dated 6 April 2021, Matthew shared a rather impressive list of contemporary sources that discuss this missing Jeremiah manuscript with a small team and me. Among the details shared is the “Englishman’s” name who purchased Shapira’s Jeremiah manuscript. Perhaps Matthew’s unmatched sleuthing skills will lead to its rediscovery one day. Until then, we know that a professor of Old Testament theology from Würzburg University proposed that the “LXX translation of Jeremiah is conscientiously and literally executed according to an extant Hebrew text,” and that he saw one in Shapira’s shop in 1870 that he called a “magnificent manuscript of Jeremiah.”

[1] See Hermann-Josef Stipp, “Shapira’s Jeremiah Manuscript.” The article was posted 31 January 2022 on Academia.

[2] Ibid. For the Valediction of Moses, see, Idan Dershowitz, The Valediction of Moses: A Proto-Biblical Book (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2021). 

[3] Anton Scholz, Der masorethische Text und die LXX-Uebersetzung des Buches Jeremias (Regensburg: Druck und Verlag von Georg Joseph Manz, 1875), 229.

[4] Hermann Guthe, Fragmente einer Lederhandschrift enthaltend Mose’s letzte Rede an die Kinder Israel (Leipzig: Druck und Verlag von Breitkopf & Härtel, 1883). 

[5] Ibid, IV.

[6] The English translation is part of a work scheduled to be published this month (February 2022) by Horeb Press. The translation was funded by David and Patty Tyler and executed by Mitchell Golde. Follow details on my author’s blog,

[7] Moses Shapira, letter to Edward Augustus Bond, chief librarian for the British Museum dated 28 August 1883. The letter is contained in, “Papers Relative to M.W. Shapira’s Forged MS. Of Deuteronomy (A.D. 1883-1884).” Add. MS. 41294 (London: British Library).