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 earlierversion 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.
It is often presumed that biblical redaction was invariably done using conventional scribal methods, meaning that when editors sought to modify or compile existing texts, they would do so in the process of rewriting them upon new scrolls. There is, however, substantial evidence pointing to an alternative scenario: Various sections of the Hebrew Bible appear to have been created through a process of material redaction. In some cases, ancient editors simply appended new sheets to existing scrolls. Other times, they literally cut and pasted their sources, carving out patches of text from multiple manuscripts and then gluing them together like a collage. Idan Dershowitz shows how this surprising technique left behind telltale traces in the biblical text – especially when the editors made mistakes – allowing us to reconstruct their modus operandi. Material evidence from the ancient Near East and elsewhere further supports his hypothesis.
Moses Wilhelm Shapira’s infamous Deuteronomy fragments have long been deemed forgeries, with Shapira himself serving as the obvious suspect. I provide new evidence that Shapira did not forge the fragments and was himself convinced of their authenticity. Indeed, the evidence for forgery is illusory. In a companion monograph, I show that the Shapira fragments are not only authen-tic ancient artifacts but are unprecedented in their significance: They preserve a pre-canonical antecedent of the Book of Deuteronomy.
The original biblical Noah was not affiliated with the Flood. An early edition of J told of a devastating famine that afflicted the entire earth from the days of Adam and Eve until it was brought to an end on account of Noah. The Proto-J narrative was supplemented with a version of the popular Babylonian Flood story, ironically transforming a story of drought into a tale of torrential rain. It is this Noah who is referenced in Ezekiel and Deutero-Isaiah – not the familiar Flood hero.
A l’origine, la figure de Noé n’était pas associée au déluge. Une ancienne édition de J contenait le récit d’d’une famine dévastatrice qui touche la terre entière, depuis Adam et Eve jusqu’au récit de Noé. La narration du Proto-J fut complétée par une version de récit babylonien du déluge, transformant ironique-ment l’histoire d’une sécheresse en celle d’une pluie torrentielle. Les livres d’Ezéchiel et du Deutéro-esaïe font r´férence à ce Noé et non pas au héros du déluge.
Die biblische Noahgestalt wurde ursprünglich nicht allein mit der Flut in Verbindung gebracht. Eine frühe Fassung von J erzählt von einer weltweiten Hungersnot seit den Tagen Adams und Evas, die erst um Noahs willen beendet wurde. Diese protojahwistische Erzählung wurde um die babylonische Fluterzählung ergänzt, so dass ironischerweise aus einer Dürreerzählung die Erzählung eines sintflutartigen Regens wurde. Auf den ursprünglichen Noah bezieht sich auch Ez und Dtjes und nicht auf den Fluthelden.
We have developed an automated method to separate biblical texts according to author or scribal school. At the core of this new approach is the identiﬁcation of correlations in word preference that are then used to quantify stylistic similarity between sections. In so doing, our method ignores literary features—such as possible repetitions, narrative breaks, and contradictions—and focuses on the least subjective criterion employed by Bible scholars to identify signs of composition. Te computerized system is unique in its ability to consider subtle stylistic preferences in aggregate, whereas human scholars are generally limited to cases where a word preference is pronounced. Our method is also less liable to accusa-tions of bias, thanks to its reliance on context-independent criteria. Its eﬃcacy is demonstrated in its successful deconstruction of an artiﬁcial book, Jer-iel, made up of randomly interleaved snippets from Jeremiah and Ezekiel. When applied to Genesis–Numbers, the method divides the text into constituents that correlate closely with common notions of “Priestly” and “non-Priestly” material. No such corroboration is forthcoming for the classic Yahwistic/Elohistic division.
We propose a novel unsupervised method for separating out distinct authorial components of a document. In particular, we show that, given a book artificially “munged” from two thematically similar biblical books, we can separate out the two constituent books almost perfectly. This allows us to automatically recapitulate many conclusions reached by Bible scholars over centuries of research. One of the key elements of our method is exploitation of differences in synonym choice by different authors.