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February 24, 2017 7:32 am

Finding ‘The Lost Book of Moses’

avatar by Steve Wenick

Email a copy of "Finding ‘The Lost Book of Moses’" to a friend
Moses Breaking the Tables of the Law (1659) by Rembrandt. Photo: Wikipedia.

Moses Breaking the Tables of the Law (1659) by Rembrandt. Photo: Wikipedia.

The Lost Book of Moses is an account of author Chanan Tigay’s exhaustive search for the whereabouts and authenticity of the oldest scrolls of the Book of Deuteronomy. These texts appeared 70 years before the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls in the Qumran Caves, and then suddenly vanished.

Tigay’s pursuit reads much like a mystery novel, with twists and turns on every page. The author ventured into dangerous regions of the world, and often found himself at great risk. He stomped around Israel, Jordan, England, France, Germany and the Netherlands in search of the elusive scrolls. But did he find them?

According to Tigay, after years searching for the scrolls of Moses, what he found instead was Moses Wilhelm Shapira — a man.

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Who was Moses Wilhelm Shapira? In short, a conundrum. Born a Polish Jew, he became a German citizen, and was finally baptized as an Anglican. To those who knew him or about him, he was an enigma — a man once celebrated from the display cases of the British Museum and museums worldwide, only to be unceremoniously dismissed as a skilled forger.

Paradoxically, his talents as a forger were appreciated even by those who knew of his ignominious reputation. Some of his forged scrolls and manufactured Moabite pottery pieces are still on display in museums of repute in London, Jerusalem and Germany.

More than a century after his death, questions still linger as to whether or not his discredited reputation as a forger is warranted. According to his daughter, Myriam Harry, her father was misunderstood, as were his motives.

In the end, the world still does not know if Shapira discovered the scrolls of the “lost book of Moses,” or simply created them. Perhaps one day, archaeologists — using newly developed tools — will finally discover the answer.

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