This is the first book in many years that motivated me to make a 24 hour delivery order, cancel appointments, and stay up until 2:30 in the morning reading. I was behind in my WSJ reading, and did not read the review there on Mr. Tigay's book until a few days ago (Isaac Chotiner, "Searchers Among the Scrolls," Saturday/Sunday, April 16-17, 2016, C6). Having a deep interest in biblical criticism, I snatched up and finished the book a few hours ago. For anyone interested in biblical criticism and theology, this is a must read. It will reward such interested persons intellectually, theologically, and emotionally.
Mr. Tigay's book is almost a day-by-day account of his efforts to determine the location of Moses Wilhelm Shapira's lost Deuteronomy scrolls brought to light in 1883. We have a transcription and translation of those scrolls, but not the scrolls themselves, their last known location being in England in 1889. Along the way in his present-day search for the scrolls (leather rectangular fragments), Mr. Tigay tells us the story of the dangerous and exciting times that dominated the search for biblical antiquities in the late-nineteenth century, with Shapira being in the center of those storms.
The book is extraordinarily well-documented. Mr. Tigay leaves us with every bit of documentary evidence possible in regard to his own search, so as to create an historical record that can be referred to in decades ahead. But in the process, the book was so deeply enjoyable to read. Mr. Tigay's self-deprecating humor and his sense of humor in general had me laughing out loud. For instance, he speaks of his search in terms of Indiana Jones and "The Da Vinci Code." But in all seriousness, Mr. Tigay's book is much more interesting than The Da Vinci Code, largely because Mr. Tigay's book is reality, grounded in so much tangible, factual, and readily-available hard evidence, and because (in my opinion), the implications of "Shapira's Deuteronomy," if ever proven authentic, are indeed revolutionary.
The ending was a stunner, and also quite moving. Like previous reviewers I wanted some photographs and a map or two. An index would be appropriate. But the lack of these niceties and an index are not reasons in my opinion to give the book less than five stars.
I am an amateur regarding Biblical studies, but a devoted amateur, spending every moment I can studying the Hebrew Bible in particular. I have in my extensive library Professor Jeffrey Tigay's JPS commentary on Deuteronomy and Professor Margaret Barker's books, which have helped inform my thoughts on Deuteronomy and Deuteronomists. Despite the outcome of the Shapira controversy, the theological implications regarding E, J, P, and D are still very hot. In regard to Deuteronomy, the fascinating part of this debate for me is the question of Israelite concepts of polytheism versus monotheism before the First Temple period. It is a wildly unpopular view, but my own theology, shared by millions since 1830, has never been bothered by the idea that the Gods Elohim and Jahweh could exist simultaneously. It may be a little jarring, but one can get used to it. We do have in Christianity the concept of Father and Son, which according to a few early fathers were separate, discrete beings. Professor Barker's careful scholarship on this issue is worth examining. Just throwing some fuel on the fire. There is still the Samaritan Pentateuch and other MSS that suggest a robust and spiritual polytheism that may have been embraced by Abraham, Moses, and the House of Israel in general until Ezra came along.
Be all that as it may, I would highly recommend Chanan Tigay's book, if for nothing else than for its emotional impact in reminding us that these dusty theological issues are so very fascinating, important, and modern.