Books are classified as New Releases for the first thirty days, and I am very pleased with the reception of The Moses Scroll during the first month since it was published on Amazon. When I published the book, I listed it in the following categories: (1) Religion – Antiquities and Archaeology, and (2) History – Expeditions and Discoveries. The Moses Scroll achieved and maintained #1 New Release status for the duration of its new release period in the category of Expeditions and Discoveries, and for a short time reached the #1 New Release status in the category of Ancient Civilizations as well. To date, hundreds of copies have shipped to readers all over the world, and so far, the feedback is positive based upon the ratings and reviews posted on Amazon. Despite no longer being classified as a New Release, we pause to celebrate our first month and look forward to what the future holds for The Moses Scroll, and more importantly, to the growing interest in all things Shapira.
The Moses Scroll reopens the most controversial case in the history of biblical scholarship. In 1878, a Jerusalem antiquities dealer named Moses Wilhelm Shapira acquired a curious biblical manuscript consisting of sixteen leather strips. The manuscript, written in ancient, Paleo-Hebrew contained what appeared to be a form of the Bible’s Book of Deuteronomy but with significant variations. It was allegedly discovered by Bedouin tribesmen around 1865, east of the Dead Sea, in a remote cave, high above the Wadi Mujib (biblical Arnon). Shapira believed that his manuscript was both ancient and authentic. In 1883, he presented his scroll to the leading scholars of Europe. Newspapers around the world covered the unfolding story as scholars debated the genuineness of the leather strips. Ultimately the scroll was deemed a forgery and Shapira the forger. However, beginning in 1947, ancient scrolls discovered in the Qumran caves near the Dead Sea lead us to ask—were the critics wrong?
- The Moses Scroll documents the details of the entire saga based upon what we know today including a chronological telling of the fascinating story based upon 19th-century reports;
- An assessment of the genuineness of Shapira’s scroll;
- A new transcription of the manuscript as seen through the eyes of the 19th-century’s best Hebraists;
- And the author’s own translation of the original sixteen leather strips with a commentary and notes.
The book has been mentioned on Dr. James Tabor’s popular TaborBlog several times:
30 January – Fascinating New Book Soon to be Released: The Moses Scroll
5 March – Was the Shapira “Dead Sea Scroll” a Forgery or Genuine? A New Look at an Old Question
8 March – Moses Shapira and his “Dead Sea Scroll” Last Seen March 8, 1889
10 March – A “Shapira” Bombshell has Just Exploded – Idan Dershowitz’s Research and the case for Authenticity
17 March – A Shapira “Dead Sea Scrolls” News Roundup
21 March – Dershowitz’s “Shapira Dead Sea Scroll” Story Hits Front Page of International NYTimes
The Moses Scroll was also mentioned on the Paleo-Judaica blog of Professor Jim Davila of The University of St. Andrews in Scotland, in an article titled, Another New Shapira Book.
Truth2U host, Jono Vandor has produced three podcasts with the author and published them on his website; May Moses Shapira’s Name Be for a Blessing, Here We Ganneau Again, and Ebal, Gerizim, and The Moses Scroll – Theological and Geographical Challenges.
I have been invited to submit a 2,500-word paper about the Shapira saga for publication on the prestigious website Bible and Interpretation managed by Professor Mark Elliott, and Popular Archaeology Magazine is planning to publish a piece on the book soon.
Imagine my surprise, just two weeks after The Moses Scroll was published (24 February 2021), to wake up to an article about Shapira and his manuscript in the New York Times on 10 March 2021. The article was written by Jennifer Schuessler and titled, Is a Long-Dismissed Forgery Actually the Oldest Known Biblical Manuscript? This is a well-written article prompted by the release of a new academic book by Idan Dershowitz titled, The Valediction of Moses: A Proto-Biblical Book. The book is presently offered as a PDF at no charge on Idan’s Academia page. The description of the work reads, “Moses Wilhelm Shapira’s infamous Deuteronomy fragments – long believed to be forgeries – are authentic ancient manuscripts, and they are of far greater significance than ever imagined. The literary work that these manuscripts preserve – which Idan Dershowitz calls “The Valediction of Moses” or “V” – is not based on the book of Deuteronomy. On the contrary, V is a much earlier version of Deuteronomy. In other words, V is a proto-biblical book, the likes of which has never before been seen. This conclusion is supported by a series of philological analyses, as well as previously unknown archival documents, which undermine the consensus on these manuscripts. An excursus co-authored with Na’ama Pat-El assesses V’s linguistic profile, finding it to be consistent with Iron Age epigraphic Hebrew. V contains early versions of passages whose biblical counterparts reflect substantial post-Priestly updating. Moreover, unlike the canonical narratives of Deuteronomy, this ancient work shows no signs of influence from the Deuteronomic law code. Indeed, V preserves an earlier, and dramatically different, literary structure for the entire work – one that lacks the Deuteronomic law code altogether. These findings have significant consequences for the composition history of the Bible, historical linguistics, the history of religion, paleography, archaeology, and more. The volume includes a full critical edition and English translation of V.”
The book bears many resemblances to The Moses Scroll, including that both books contain an English translation as well as a Hebrew transcription of the forsaken fragments. Idan’s book is written for academics whereas The Moses Scroll is written in a more accessible format. We highly recommend both books.
NOTE: Dr. Tabor and I have been corresponding with Idan Dershowitz and he now has a copy of my book.
Numerous other media outlets picked up on the announcement of Idan’s work including an article in The Daily Mail titled, Has the mystery of the Shapira Scroll finally been solved? Ancient manuscript dismissed as a fake since 1883 is actually the oldest known Biblical script, expert claims. Since then several others have picked up on the story and published on the subject.
Well-known Epigrapher, Professor Christopher Rollston published a quick counter to the claims of authenticity on his blog in an article titled, Deja Vu all over Again: The Antiquities Market, the Shapira Strips, Menahem Mansoor, and Idan Dershowitz. Twice, Professor Rollston, referenced The Moses Scroll Blog, and Dr. James Tabor made several contributions to the ongoing debate among the scholars in the comments section of Rollston’s blog. Another scholar, Maria Metzler of Harvard, defended Dershowitz’s claims and criticized Rollston’s critique in an article here.
It should be noted that the author has had several cordial email exchanges with Professor Rollston, and a copy of The Moses Scroll was sent to him by request.
On 18 March 2021, Biblical Archaeology Review published an article titled, The Shapira Fragments: An Artifact of 19th-Century Jewish Christianity by Jonathan Klawans. The following weekend, the International Print Edition of the New York Times published, as its lead story, “What if They Were Real?”
On 28 March 2021, The New York Times published another article on the subject of Shapira titled, A Biblical Mystery and a Reporting Odyssey, and on the same day, Joe Kovacs, Executive New Editor of World Net Daily (WND), published an excellent article featuring The Moses Scroll titled, Was the ‘oldest Bible in the world’ mistakingly dismissed as fake? This article by World Net Daily is the first major media source to mention the book.
All in all, we could not have hoped for a better start. We believe that the media attention and the scholarly debate have only just begun.
I realize that this is a lot to keep up with, but if I am right in my assessment of this manuscript as I present the matter in my book, the time invested is certainly worth it! For those who are interested in keeping up with this fascinating and ongoing discussion, you can subscribe to be notified of new blog posts on my Author’s Blog. So far, I have published four blog posts.
I am looking forward to what develops in the second month.