If you’re interested in the Shapira affair, you might be interested in reading the sole academic treatment of Shapira’s sixteen leather strips from the 19th-century, Herman Guthe’s, Fragmente einer Lederhandschrift enthaltend Mose’s Letzte rede an die Kinder Israel. An English translation was published on 5 May 2022 and is available for $15 from Amazon as, Fragments of a Leather Manuscript Containing Moses’ Last Words to the Children of Israel.
On 30 June 1883, Moses W. Shapira arrived in Leipzig, Germany carrying a curious leather manuscript. The sixteen blackened strips of leather consisted of two copies of an unknown text resembling in some ways the Bible’s Book of Deuteronomy, but with many notable variations.
Shapira checked into the Hotel Hauffe and made his way to the Univerität Leipzig where he informed his friend, the German Semitic scholar Hermann Guthe of his latest antiquarian acquisition. Intrigued by what he heard from his unexpected Jerusalem visitor, Guthe went with Shapira back to the Hotel Hauffe, where, with the strips before his eyes, Shapira described how he came to possess them. Shapira then told Guthe that he desired knowledgeable scholars to examine and decide whether the manuscript strips were truly ancient and authentic as he had come to believe they were. Guthe agreed to carefully examine the strips and enlisted the help of another young scholar named Eduard Meyer to assist him. The two scholars met Shapira at his room in the hotel each day for the next week where they scrutinized every detail of the manuscript strips.
Their work concluded on Friday, 6 July 1883, and on 31 August 1883, the official report of the week-long examination appeared in print as, Fragmente einer Lederhandschrift enthaltend Mose’s letzte Rede an die Kinder Israel (Leipzig: Druck und Verlag von Brietkopf & Härtel, 1883).
While researching for my book, The Moses Scroll, I learned of the published work of Hermann Guthe. I found the booklet online but discovered it was only available in the original German. From scant references and brief citations published by previous investigators, I realized the importance of reading Guthe’s assessment firsthand. Initially, I used online translation tools. These provided me with enough information to recognize the value of having a formal English translation since Guthe’s report contained a description of the manuscript, an account of its origin as reported by Shapira, a transcription of the manuscript strips, comments on the script’s character, remarks on the text, and a table of the Paleo-Hebrew characters.
In April of 2020, David and Patty Tyler, friends and co-researchers, volunteered to fund an English translation of Hermann Guthe’s treatise. They commissioned Mitchell Golde to translate the German text while I worked on the Hebrew portions. Mitchell and I worked together closely and completed the final draft on 28 May 2020.
On 5 May 2022, Horeb Press released our translation under the English title, Fragments of a Leather Manuscript Containing Moses’ Last Words to the Children of Israel. Prior to the publication of our English translation, this important work, the sole academic treatment of Shapira’s MSS strips from the 19th-century was only available in German and was (and remains) to a large degree ignored.
I hope this work will contribute to the growing body of material related to Moses Wilhelm Shapira and will aid scholars in the current reassessment of the most controversial case in the history of biblical scholarship. Considering the renewed interest in Shapira’s manuscript, I am pleased to present, for the first time in English, a translation of Guthe’s Fragmente einer Lederhandschrift enthaltend Mose’s Letzte rede an die Kinder Israel.
His published work clearly sides on a verdict of forgery, but as I document in my book The Moses Scroll (see chapter 5 – The German Scholars) we have personal correspondence that shows a different conclusion!
Get your copy of Fragments of a Leather Manuscript Containing Moses’ Last Words to the Children of Israel here.