Battle over what could be earliest Christian texts

The study of religious or heroic legends and tales. One constant rule of mythology is that whatever happens amongst the gods or other mythical beings was in one sense or another a reflection of events on earth. Recorded myths and legends, perhaps preserved in literature or folklore, have an immediate interest to archaeology in trying to unravel the nature and meaning of ancient events and traditions.

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Battle over what could be earliest Christian texts

Postby Ishtar » Tue Mar 29, 2011 4:51 am

Jordan is battling to get back from Israel some books made of lead which could turn out to be earlier, in date, than the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Nag Hammadi gospels. They are thought to be Christian rather than Jewish ~ the main argument being that they are made up leaves rather than scrolls, and scrolls were used by the Jewish religion. There is also the phrase: "I shall walk uprightly", which appears in Revelations. But it is worrying that all their experts are Christian, and therefore they will recognise phrases and motifs to be solely Christian when they could have an earlier provenance. For instance, they cite the Tau cross as a Christian symbol, whereas the Tau cross can also be found in Egypt (it's very name is Egyptian and is linked with Taurus, the Bull.)The Tau is also the cross of the Sumerian god Tammuz and, in fact, it goes right back to Gobekli Tepe. So I hope they get some real experts to study these texts at some point ... but in the meantime, Jordan's trying to get them back from Israel! Good luck with that!

Image

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A group of 70 or so "books", each with between five and 15 lead leaves bound by lead rings, was apparently discovered in a remote arid valley in northern Jordan somewhere between 2005 and 2007.

A flash flood had exposed two niches inside the cave, one of them marked with a menorah or candlestick, the ancient Jewish religious symbol.

A Jordanian Bedouin opened these plugs, and what he found inside might constitute extremely rare relics of early Christianity.

That is certainly the view of the Jordanian government, which claims they were smuggled into Israel by another Bedouin.

The Israeli Bedouin who currently holds the books has denied smuggling them out of Jordan, and claims they have been in his family for 100 years.

Jordan says it will "exert all efforts at every level" to get the relics repatriated.

Incredible claims

The director of the Jordan's Department of Antiquities, Ziad al-Saad, says the books might have been made by followers of Jesus in the few decades immediately following his crucifixion.

"They will really match, and perhaps be more significant than, the Dead Sea Scrolls," says Mr Saad.

"Maybe it will lead to further interpretation and authenticity checks of the material, but the initial information is very encouraging, and it seems that we are looking at a very important and significant discovery, maybe the most important discovery in the history of archaeology."


Lead rings binding the pages
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Detail from the Jordanian relic The texts might have been written in the decades following the crucifixion

They seem almost incredible claims - so what is the evidence?

The books, or "codices", were apparently cast in lead, before being bound by lead rings.

Their leaves - which are mostly about the size of a credit card - contain text in Ancient Hebrew, most of which is in code.

If the relics are of early Christian origin rather than Jewish, then they are of huge significance.

One of the few people to see the collection is David Elkington, a scholar of ancient religious archaeology who is heading a British team trying to get the lead books safely into a Jordanian museum.

He says they could be "the major discovery of Christian history", adding: "It's a breathtaking thought that we have held these objects that might have been held by the early saints of the Church."

He believes the most telling evidence for an early Christian origin lies in the images decorating the covers of the books and some of the pages of those which have so far been opened.

Mr Elkington says the relics feature signs that early Christians would have interpreted as indicating Jesus, shown side-by-side with others they would have regarded as representing the presence of God.

"It's talking about the coming of the messiah," he says.


[Interjection ~ so do some of the Dead Sea Scrolls, which are Jewish, not Christian ~ ish]

"In the upper square [of one of the book covers] we have the seven-branch menorah, which Jews were utterly forbidden to represent because it resided in the holiest place in the Temple in the presence of God.

"So we have the coming of the messiah to approach the holy of holies, in other words to get legitimacy from God."

Location clues

Philip Davies, Emeritus Professor of Old Testament Studies at Sheffield University, says the most powerful evidence for a Christian origin lies in plates cast into a picture map of the holy city of Jerusalem.

"As soon as I saw that, I was dumbstruck. That struck me as so obviously a Christian image," he says.

"There is a cross in the foreground, and behind it is what has to be the tomb [of Jesus], a small building with an opening, and behind that the walls of the city. There are walls depicted on other pages of these books too and they almost certainly refer to Jerusalem."

It is the cross that is the most telling feature, in the shape of a capital T, as the crosses used by Romans for crucifixion were.

"It is a Christian crucifixion taking place outside the city walls," says Mr Davies.

Margaret Barker, an authority on New Testament history, points to the location of the reported discovery as evidence of Christian, rather than purely Jewish, origin.

"We do know that on two occasions groups of refugees from the troubles in Jerusalem fled east, they crossed the Jordan near Jericho and then they fled east to very approximately where these books were said to have been found," she says.

"[Another] one of the things that is most likely pointing towards a Christian provenance, is that these are not scrolls but books. The Christians were particularly associated with writing in a book form rather than scroll form, and sealed books in particular as part of the secret tradition of early Christianity."

The Book of Revelation refers to such sealed texts.

Another potential link with the Bible is contained in one of the few fragments of text from the collection to have been translated.

It appears with the image of the menorah and reads "I shall walk uprightly", a sentence that also appears in the Book of Revelation.

While it could be simply a sentiment common in Judaism, it could here be designed to refer to the resurrection.

It is by no means certain that all of the artefacts in the collection are from the same period.

But tests by metallurgists on the badly corroded lead suggest that the books were not made recently.

The archaeology of early Christianity is particularly sparse.

Little is known of the movement after Jesus' crucifixion until the letters of Paul several decades later, and they illuminate the westward spread of Christianity outside the Jewish world.

Never has there been a discovery of relics on this scale from the early Christian movement, in its homeland and so early in its history.


From BBC News
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Re: Battle over what could be earliest Christian texts

Postby Minimalist » Tue Mar 29, 2011 9:11 am

Israel Finkelstein has commented that because forgeries are so rampant anything which comes out of the antiquities "market" rather than a controlled excavation must be considered suspect until proven otherwise.

So close to Easter this one has the usual smell of a con job.
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Re: Battle over what could be earliest Christian texts

Postby Ishtar » Tue Mar 29, 2011 9:36 am

Yes, this is very much a wait and see-type of story.

However, one of the posters over on the Gate is quite heartened by this find, being a Mormon, because one of the arguments often used against the authenticity of the Book of Mormon is that it's not a scroll, but written on leaves, and therefore cannot be authentic. Be funny if it turned out that the oldest Christian texts were also written on leaves.
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Re: Battle over what could be earliest Christian texts

Postby Digit » Tue Mar 29, 2011 11:28 am

Lead! Is that what they mean by heavy reading?

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Re: Battle over what could be earliest Christian texts

Postby Minimalist » Tue Mar 29, 2011 11:37 am

Ishtar wrote:Yes, this is very much a wait and see-type of story.

However, one of the posters over on the Gate is quite heartened by this find, being a Mormon, because one of the arguments often used against the authenticity of the Book of Mormon is that it's not a scroll, but written on leaves, and therefore cannot be authentic. Be funny if it turned out that the oldest Christian texts were also written on leaves.



Mormons! Now there's a group of nut jobs!!!
Something is wrong here. War, disease, death, destruction, hunger, filth, poverty, torture, crime, corruption, and the Ice Capades. Something is definitely wrong. This is not good work. If this is the best God can do, I am not impressed.

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Re: Battle over what could be earliest Christian texts

Postby Minimalist » Wed Mar 30, 2011 6:47 pm

Ish, enjoy.

http://rogueclassicism.com/2011/03/30/lead-codices-silliness/

The Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA), however, has dismissed the idea that the books are of any value. Experts who examined some of them, it said, “absolutely doubted their authenticity”. According to the IAA, the books are a “mixture of incompatible periods and styles…without any connection or logic. Such forged motifs can be found in their thousands in the antiquities markets of Jordan and elsewhere in the Middle East.”

Professor Andre Lemaire, an expert in ancient inscriptions from the Sorbonne, was also dubious, saying the writing on some of the codices he had seen made no sense and it was “a question apparently of sophisticated fakes”.
Something is wrong here. War, disease, death, destruction, hunger, filth, poverty, torture, crime, corruption, and the Ice Capades. Something is definitely wrong. This is not good work. If this is the best God can do, I am not impressed.

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Re: Battle over what could be earliest Christian texts

Postby Ishtar » Thu Mar 31, 2011 3:18 am

Hi Min, yes thanks, that was an amusing read, especially about the shilly-shallying over the date of the find.

I also agree with this, as it is a also a huge bug bear with me.

One of my ongoing irritants is when an otherwise-respectable news source — such as the BBC — gives its journalistic imprimatur to ‘news’ which is clearly questionable without even thinking too hard or (worse) as a precursor to a documentary which will be appearing later on some television station, such as, well, the BBC. A few months ago I participated in an official discussion about the BBC’s coverage of science stories and pointed out that they don’t seem to appreciate their responsibility in reporting ALL news responsibly because — especially in the area of ‘archaeological discovery’ — they are considered a worthy source for other news agencies to pick up. In other words, if the BBC says it, it must be true (Ipse dixit!).


However.... I'm left with this question. If they were going to forge something purporting to be early Christian, why not forge something believable?

If it was me, I would fake some parchment and then put extracts on it from some of the Nag Hammadi gospels, instead of lead and with few, if any, motifs which can be considered to be purely Christian. Surely that would be simpler and more easy for people to find credible than creating books out of lead and then inventing strange and obscure stuff to go in them?

Perhaps the mistake is to try to flog them as early Christian. I'm now thinking that they could be early alchemists' texts ... which is why there's an allusion to 'magical processes'. The earliest alchemists' text being currently that of Zozimus, around 200 BCE. So it would still be quite a valuable find. The fact that it's made of lead only adds to that conclusion. Only an early alchemist or smith would be likely to choose lead as a material rather than parchment or vellum. For anyone who'd like to know more about history of alchemy, we have some interesting posts about it here. The Complete Idiot's Guide to Alchemy

And by the way, if they do turn out to be alchemical rather than Christian, that wouldn't make them any the less sacred texts. As Mircea Eliade writes in his The Forge and the Crucible, the purpose of alchemy at this time was to express a spiritual idea aligned with those of the death-rebirth of Mystery initiations, and the dismemberment undergone by the trainee shaman. If anything, these practises would have been part of smith initation rites. You can read more about what Mircea Eliade has to say about this here
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Re: Battle over what could be earliest Christian texts

Postby Digit » Thu Mar 31, 2011 4:07 am

Don't quote me peeps, but I think Lead can be dated.

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Re: Battle over what could be earliest Christian texts

Postby Minimalist » Thu Mar 31, 2011 11:57 am

Perhaps the mistake is to try to flog them as early Christian.


But its almost Easter, Ish.


Call me crazy but I think that factors into it. The IAA and LeMaire seem to think it is just gibberish meant to make money in the antiquities trade. There does not seem to be any inclination to attempt to have this "find" classified by reputable scholars.
Something is wrong here. War, disease, death, destruction, hunger, filth, poverty, torture, crime, corruption, and the Ice Capades. Something is definitely wrong. This is not good work. If this is the best God can do, I am not impressed.

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Re: Battle over what could be earliest Christian texts

Postby Minimalist » Thu Mar 31, 2011 11:59 am

Digit wrote:Don't quote me peeps, but I think Lead can be dated.

Roy.



But can the writing? One of the more common forgery techniques is to take an actual artifact and "add" an inscription. It's why Yuval Goren concentrates on the patina inside the inscription. In a real ancient inscription the patina would be the same.
Something is wrong here. War, disease, death, destruction, hunger, filth, poverty, torture, crime, corruption, and the Ice Capades. Something is definitely wrong. This is not good work. If this is the best God can do, I am not impressed.

-- George Carlin
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Re: Battle over what could be earliest Christian texts

Postby Minimalist » Fri Apr 01, 2011 3:01 pm

Now even the Mormons are getting the hint.

http://www.deseretnews.com/article/700123230/Ancient-metal-plates-found-in-Middle-East.html?pg=1

Others point to Elkington's involvement as a factor to instill doubt. This push of information seems to come out of a forthcoming book on the topic. His previous book was "In the Name of the Gods" which examined the vibrations of the universe. His bio says, "For 20 years David has been led on a revelatory trail through world mythology, linguistics and philology into geophysics, architecture, acoustics, music, neuro-physiology, theology and still further into the all-encompassing, resonant atmosphere of the planet."
Something is wrong here. War, disease, death, destruction, hunger, filth, poverty, torture, crime, corruption, and the Ice Capades. Something is definitely wrong. This is not good work. If this is the best God can do, I am not impressed.

-- George Carlin
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Re: Battle over what could be earliest Christian texts

Postby Minimalist » Sat Apr 02, 2011 3:37 pm

Fraud.

http://danielomcclellan.wordpress.com/2011/03/31/peter-thonemann-on-the-lead-codices/


(HT Daniel Peterson and Bill Hamblin) Peter Thonemann at Oxford has staked his career on the conclusion that the lead codices being discussed recently are forgeries executed within the last 50 years. The following is what he wrote to Elkington in an email after he was asked late last year to comment on the authenticity of the plates based on some photos:
Something is wrong here. War, disease, death, destruction, hunger, filth, poverty, torture, crime, corruption, and the Ice Capades. Something is definitely wrong. This is not good work. If this is the best God can do, I am not impressed.

-- George Carlin
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Re: Battle over what could be earliest Christian texts

Postby Ishtar » Sat Apr 02, 2011 3:58 pm

Shame!

I was really getting into my theory about them being alchemical texts.

Never mind ... you win some and you lose some. (Mainly, you lose some. :( )
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Re: Battle over what could be earliest Christian texts

Postby Digit » Sun Apr 03, 2011 4:33 am

Based on a number of photographs? Fine, here we go again, what about the photographs led to that conclusion.
I hate these unexplained decisions.
A number of Egyptologists claimed that the 'water erosion' on the Sphinx was caused by sand etc, based on photographs, whereas those on the ground claimed water.
Anyone remember Von Daniken's 'landing strips' etc?

Roy.
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Re: Battle over what could be earliest Christian texts

Postby Minimalist » Sun Apr 03, 2011 9:44 am

Well, no.

The text on your bronze tablet, therefore, makes no sense in its own right, but has been extracted unintelligently from another longer text (as if it were inscribed with the words: ‘t to be that is the question wheth’). The longer text from which it derives is a perfectly ordinary tombstone from Madaba in Jordan which happens to have been on display in the Amman museum for the past fifty years or so. The text on your bronze tablet is repeated, in part, in three different places, meaningless in each case.



The scholar in question happened to know where the text which showed up in these codices came from.
Something is wrong here. War, disease, death, destruction, hunger, filth, poverty, torture, crime, corruption, and the Ice Capades. Something is definitely wrong. This is not good work. If this is the best God can do, I am not impressed.

-- George Carlin
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