The Bible Says What? Deuteronomy was made up by a religious zealot?!

The latest Jewish News

Read this week’s digital edition

Click Here

The Bible Says What? Deuteronomy was made up by a religious zealot?!

Rabbi Pete Tobias looks into the Torah and offers a Liberal Jewish response to a controversial passage

Rabbi Pete Tobias

The Bible Says What?

Deuteronomy was made up by a religious zealot?!

“I have found the book of the Law,” the priest Hilkiah tells Shaphan the scribe in 2 Kings, Chapter 22.

Shaphan has been sent by King Josiah to the Temple in Jerusalem to ensure that those working to renovate it are being paid.

Suddenly he is in possession of a remarkable find: the Sefer HaTorah that had apparently been hidden in the walls of Solomon’s Temple.

This discovery is what makes up some or all of the book of Deuteronomy (most likely the middle section, chapters 13 to 26). But is it just a  Biblical dodgy dossier?

Shaphan would surely have been
intrigued to be handed such a mysterious scroll. But he simply takes it to the king, reports that the workers have been paid and then adds “and Hilkiah the priest gave me this book”.

Shaphan then reads this “book” (actually a scroll) to Josiah. Judah’s young king tears his clothes on hearing how far his people have fallen short of these laws.

Only after tearing his clothes does the King think to check the authenticity of the source by sending Shaphan and some others to Huldah the prophetess for confirmation.

Shaphan is the key figure in this mystery. It is thought that he was the ringleader of a group of scribes and prophets – now referred to by biblical scholars as Shaphanites – who were keen to reform religious life in Judah.

To add further intrigue, Huldah, who confirms the text as God’s word, was almost certainly part of this gang too.

Later Shaphan and his sons feature in the book of Jeremiah (a contemporary), and his grandson, Gedaliah, becomes the first governor of the Babylonian province of Y’hudah
before being murdered by the Judahites as a traitor. We can certainly conclude there is more to Shaphan and his family than 2 Kings reveals.

υRabbi Pete Tobias serves  The Liberal Synagogue Elstree

Support your Jewish community. Support your Jewish News

Thank you for helping to make Jewish News the leading source of news and opinion for the UK Jewish community. Today we're asking for your invaluable help to continue putting our community first in everything we do.

Unlike other Jewish media, we do not charge for content. That won’t change. Because we are free, we rely on advertising to cover our costs. This vital lifeline, which has dropped in recent years, has fallen further due to coronavirus.

For as little as £5 a month you can help sustain the vital work we do in celebrating and standing up for Jewish life in Britain.

Jewish News holds our community together and keeps us connected. Like a synagogue, it’s where people turn to feel part of something bigger. It also proudly shows the rest of Britain the vibrancy and rich culture of modern Jewish life.

You can make a quick and easy one-off or monthly contribution of £5, £10, £20 or any other sum you’re comfortable with.

100% of your donation will help us continue celebrating our community, in all its dynamic diversity...


Being a community platform means so much more than producing a newspaper and website. One of our proudest roles is media partnering with our invaluable charities to amplify the outstanding work they do to help us all.


There’s no shortage of oys in the world but Jewish News takes every opportunity to celebrate the joys too, through projects like Night of Heroes, 40 Under 40 and other compelling countdowns that make the community kvell with pride.


In the first collaboration between media outlets from different faiths, Jewish News worked with British Muslim TV and Church Times to produce a list of young activists leading the way on interfaith understanding.


Royal Mail issued a stamp honouring Holocaust hero Sir Nicholas Winton after a Jewish News campaign attracted more than 100,000 backers. Jewish News also produces special editions of the paper highlighting pressing issues including mental health and Holocaust remembrance.

Easy access

In an age when news is readily accessible, Jewish News provides high-quality content free online and offline, removing any financial barriers to connecting people.

Voice of our community to wider society

The Jewish News team regularly appears on TV, radio and on the pages of the national press to comment on stories about the Jewish community. Easy access to the paper on the streets of London also means Jewish News provides an invaluable window into the community for the country at large.

We hope you agree all this is worth preserving.

read more: