The Lost Book of Moses

The Lost Book of Moses: The Hunt for the World’s Oldest Bible by Chanan Tigay 2016

About the Author
Chanan Tigay is an award-winning journalist who has covered the Middle East, 9/11, and the United Nations for numerous magazines, newspapers, and wires. Born in Jerusalem, Tigay holds degrees from Columbia University and the University of Pennsylvania and was a recent Investigative Reporting Fellow at UC Berkeley. He is a professor of Creative Writing at San Francisco State University.

About the Book
In 1883, Moses Wilhelm Shapira arrived unannounced in London claiming to have discovered the world’s oldest Bible scroll in a desert cave east of the Dead Sea. With his phenomenal find, Shapira swiftly became world famous—but, just as quickly, his scroll was discredited as a clever forgery. With the discovery of the eerily similar Dead Sea Scrolls in 1947, however, investigators reopened the case, wondering whether Shapira had, in fact, discovered the first Dead Sea Scroll, seven decades before the rest. Here, in a globetrotting narrative with all the suspense of a classic detective story, award- winning journalist Chanan Tigay sets out to find the scrolls and determine Shapira’s guilt or innocence for himself.

“Extremely enjoyable. . . . It will delight anyone who finds religion or its history even remotely arresting. At once a mystery and a historical yarn, Mr. Tigay’s book is also a reminder that humor and a real sense of fun can enliven a serious piece of work.” — Wall Street Journal

“A rollicking tale all its own, The Lost Book of Moses is a page-turning adventure that will engross proof-seeking readers everywhere.” — San Francisco Chroncile

“The heart of Tigay’s book is a gripping account of his quest… This admirably researched book offers a fine occasion to understand Shapira as a product of a modern fetish for authenticity and a rivalry between European nation-states obsessed not just with colonial expansion but with their own origins.” — Haaretz

Summary of Prologue (portion)
Police received a dispatch from a seedy hotel two days earlier that a guest had locked the door of his room and locked it in. Adjunct Inspector G. Putman Cramer was sent to investigate. Slumped on the bed was the bloodied corpse of a middle-aged man, a bullet hole notched in his head. Months earlier, Cramer had been a household name, meeting with England’s prime minister and its intellectual elite.

M. W. Shapira arrived at the London doorstep of Sir Walter Besant, longtime secretary of the Palestine Exploration Fund, in July. He claimed to have in his possession an ancient manuscript that would “simply make students of the Bible and Hebrew scholars reconsider their ways” It was a bold claim, redolent of a magician’s patter.

The fund had paid Shapira eight pounds and change for his efforts; Palmer had not fared so well. Soon after his capture the Bedouin had slaughtered him, tossing his body off a cliff to be feasted on by birds. Besant also knew Shapira as one of the British Museum’s most important purveyors of centuries-old Hebrew manuscripts.


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