The BBC recently aired a short segment on the lead codices from Jordan on its Inside Out program (thanks to J. Davila, J. McGrath, and Dan McClellan for the initial heads-up on the special). The codices are allegedly early Christian texts.
I’ve blogged about the lead codices several times, as have other biblical and ancient Judaism scholars. The overwhelming consensus is that they are fakes — for lots of cogent reasons (see this video as well). The BBC investigated the claims and, most immediately, the person behind them, David Elkington.
Here is the BBC video (13 minutes or so) about the codices.
I’m guessing the of the lead codices is off the radar of most readers by now. Jim Davila posted this notice on his PaleoJudaica blog today that provides some updating and commentary. I’m with Davila; I think they are fakes for very good reasons (as he sketches here — and see the links he provides). The annual scholarly conferences are fast approaching (mid November) and so I’ll be keeping an eye and ear open for any items related to this piece of Paleobabble (and others for sure).
Dan McClellan has posted several recent pieces on the Jordanian lead codices that are highly recommended. Other than his collection of photos (very cool), he focuses on analysis. For insights into the fabrication of the artistic work on the codices, this analysis is a must read. On the lettering, this demonstration of forgery is short but important. For those who know Hebrew (and some training in the paleo-alphabet helps), McClellan also posted this treatment of the “texts” on the codices (basically a lot of gibberish on them). And finally, here’s a description containing note of some suspicious incongruities on some of the codices pictures on Facebook.
As I suggested might be the case when news of the testing of the codices was announced, the lead is apparently ancient according to the results. I’m kind of amazed that the academic community isn’t saying “who cares?” — I guess they never read Wallace’s The Word. All this proves is that forgers used ancient material, not that the texts themselves are authentic, especially when there is abundant evidence to the contrary.
To the academic blogging community (I’d address the breathless media, but they haven’t listened from the beginning): Let’s use a little imagination. If you were going to fake these, wouldn’t you anticipate your work would be tested this way? I would, and I’d make sure to use real material before copying my content.
Here’s the link to the story — seven of the lead codices have been recovered by the Jordanian police. This should mean more intensified testing that, I’m betting, will validate the forgery evidence already put forth.
Here’s a post from the Bible Places blog that offers a couple links summarizing the lead codices fraud. Here’s a paragraph:
Let’s take stock. The Greek is lifted nonsensically from an inscription published in 1958. The forger couldn’t tell the difference between the Greek letters alpha and lambda. The Hebrew script is taken from the same inscription. The Hebrew text is in “code,” i.e., is gibberish. The “Jesus” face is taken from a well-known mosaic. The charioteer is taken from a fake coin. The crocodile has a suspicious resemblance to a plastic toy.
It also has some links to material that gives the media a spanking for perpetuating its own blather without apology. Another paragraph:
The only other noteworthy news is the lack of it. Trust me, the mainstream media have been informed about the true status of the fake codices. The lack of coverage is not due to ignorance, it’s due to unprofessional indifference. Think about that. When the media report a sensationalist story and it proves to be bogus, they feel no responsibility to inform their readers of the truth. I suppose they might if they think they can get another sensation out of the correct story, but if not, they can’t be bothered. Journalists used to feel a professional obligation to their audience. No more.
Dr. Jim Davila over at PaleoJudaica as this post this morning on the codices. The post features a short, to-the-point, evidence-based analysis by professor Peter Thonemann, of some of the pages of the codices, noting inconsistencies in the story and, more importantly, how the textual contents were copied from a known source in a Jordanian museum!
There are some nice high-resolution photos at the link as well.
How was the professor able to establish fakery so quickly? Simple. Once texts like this are released (that is the key — letting experts see them), it is a simple matter to do what professor Thonemann did: transcribe them and then look up the words in concordances (digital or otherwise). In this case, there were a number of known words (specific forms) and they all happened to occur in the same text(s) — in order (!) once those source texts are checked. This required experimenting a bit with the alpha and lambda letters since they are similar in form (and that was bungled by the forger). Once at this point, you know you have LINES from known texts. The next step is to find where those texts were published through a simple database source. Publications usually note the provenance of a text (where it was found) and where it is now held, in the case of a manuscript or archaeological artifact. Voila!
For any ancient astronaut theorists or cult archaeologists out there — this is *precisely* why the people you blindly follow do *not* submit their work to peer review. It is too easy to be exposed by real experts.It is also precisely why I continually ask people who promote such nonsense, “show me the texts — the specific lines cited.” That demand is never met, which hardly surprises me. When selling snake oil, you don’t hand the recipe to a chemist.
Now, a prediction. None of this will make any difference to “researchers” who want to press some point of nonsense to peddle the paleobabble that makes them money and gives them a following.
Todd Bolen has a sweet post over at his Bible Places blog. I highly recommend it. Here’s one paragraph:
In a nutshell, the problems with this discovery include the facts that (1) we don’t know who owns the artifacts; (2) we don’t know where they were found; (3) the artifacts were not excavated by archaeologists but stolen by thieves; (4) nearly all information about the discovery so far has come from a single source of dubious reliability; (5) claims have been made that this find is more significant than the Dead Sea Scrolls; (6) the source of information appears to be positioning himself for fame and fortune.
Well, you know it’s going to happen. This sort of discovery, if valid, will introduce a new wave of archaeo-porn for archaeo-media presstitutes everywhere — and of course their mystic “researchers” across cyberspace who are just waiting for the next piece of antiquity news to twist into yet more revisionist mytho-history about Jesus and the early Christians. What fun!
Here’s a very nice posting (“Lead Codices Silliness“) that sketches the already-encroaching silliness factor. Now Robert Feather has weighed in — the guy who believes the Copper Scroll from Qumran is related to Akhenaten and his Aten-worship. Feather thinks the lead codices have Kabbalah written all over them. No kidding. All that from some pictures on the web. Now that’s scholarship. Is his last name an abbreviation of “feather-brain”? No doubt it will get even wackier (and yes, it can).
I wonder when the likes of Michael Baigent, Christopher Knight, Robert Lomas, and Lynn Picknett will get involved. Then we’ll have a non-sequitur Battle Royal on our hands.
[UPDATE: Here is a new link on this story; posted 3/30/2011. It contained the pictures below that I have now added to the original post.]
[UPDATE #2: Here is a paper on the "Mount Zion Cup" alluded to in some of the discussions of these new tablets as having an analogous cryptic script by epigrapher Stephen Pfann.]
This link leads to a press release entitled, “Secret Hoard of Ancient Sealed Books Found in Jordan.” It’s worth a read for sure. Kudos to Kim West and James McGrath.
I’d heard this report about a week ago, and my advice is still the same: let’s wait and see. The press release notes that the texts (which on on lead plates) were found in Jordan and the context is Jewish-messianic. As a result, speculation abounds that these texts (if authentic) might be the earliest Christian texts ever found, as preliminary indications point to a first century AD/CE date.Unless it’s Paleobabble. That is a legitimate fear in the wake of the archaeological forgery trials of recent times in Israel. Hopefully the material is real and can solve some mysteries about early Jewish-Christian thinking (at least for some sect).
Note as you read that there are a number of references to some of the texts being written in “code.” This refers to what is known as “cryptic script.” Some Dead Sea Scrolls were written in this script (and yes, they’ve been published — sorry, no conspiracies). I have a friend who lives in Israel who is an expert in these sorts of texts, so I’m hoping he will at some point be involved in the find. His opinion would be thoughtful and trustworthy. Stay tuned!