Lead Codices Silliness

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!). Unfortunately, the BBC has just ‘done it again’ and have given legitimacy to a story which a twelve-year-old might be able to pick apart.

The story seems to have originated in the Jewish Chronicle at the beginning of March 2011 … here’s the incipit of their version:

Robert Feather is out to prove the sceptics wrong. A metallurgist with a passion for archaeology, he has been asked to help authenticate what he believes could be one of the most exciting religious discoveries since the Dead Sea Scrolls.

The West London Synagogue member has previously published a book on the Copper Scroll, the Dead Sea Scroll thought to hold clues about the location of buried Temple treasure.Now he is trying to establish the origins of a mysterious cache of metal books which could be linked to the Kabbalah.

The objects belong to Hassan Saeda, a Bedouin farmer in Galilee who says they have been in his family’s possession since his great-grandfather found them in a cave in Jordan, a century ago.

His collection consists of more than 20 codices (early books), cast mostly in lead and containing cryptic messages in Hebrew and Greek along with symbols such as the menorah. In various places, the Hebrew letters appear to stand for Bar Kochba, leader of the second-century Judean revolt against the Romans; and the talmudic mystic Shimon bar Yochai, who hid from the Romans in a cave for 13 years.

“The first time I heard about the discovery, I was extremely cautious,” Mr Feather said. “However, when I was given an opportunity to see and examine some examples…and visit the cave where they were said to have come from, my scepticism was allayed.”

The books appear to be “Kabbalah-related and the nature of the content indicates a magical incantation style of writing,” Mr Feather said. Before 400 CE, almost all ancient codices were made of parchment. The lead codices “predate any form of codex by several hundred years and this particular material was probably chosen to ensure permanency.”

Okay … let’s stop there and just note some things: we have 20 codices (that’s a rather large number, but not suspicious in itself), made from cast lead (whiskey tango foxtrot … first alarms should be going off), then we get phrases like “Kabbalah-related” and “magical incantation style of writiing” (second set of alarms go off). Alarms might also go off for some with the mention of Robert Feather’s involvement (he has ‘interesting’ interpretations of the Copper Scroll and assorted other things).

Then the article goes on to give some expert opinions:

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”.

… which are some pretty weighty opinions and should be enough to be ‘end of story’. Of course, it wouldn’t be for a metallurgist dabbling in a field he seems to have no real credentials in, and once again we are presented with the ‘outsider taking on the establishment’, which the press seems to love so very much:

Undeterred, Mr Feather instead cites the findings of Peter Northover, a metals analyst at Oxford University. Conducting tests on two samples of metal from one book, Dr Northover concluded that their composition was “consistent with a range of ancient lead,” and that it was clear from the surface corrosion that the book was “not a recent production”.

One might cynically suggest that a metallurgist might know of some ways to corrode lead convincingly, but we’ll leave that aside for the IAA’s opinion:

The IAA remains unconvinced, arguing that the metal could have been taken from an ancient coffin while the messages could have been fabricated later.

… or indeed, from a stash of lead curses which wasn’t as interesting to the finders. In any event:

But Sasson Bar-Oz, a lawyer representing Mr Saeda, the artefacts’ owner, believes that the IAA did not carry out extensive enough checks. “My opinion, after a lot of time on this project,” he said, ” is that they are genuine.”

Now there is fresh hope for Mr Feather, who was approached to help Mr Saeda because of his expertise in metal. A piece of leather, bearing the image of a crocodile, which also turned up with the metal books, was sent for carbon dating. The results, just back, indicate it is nearly 2,000 years old. But Mr Feather said that the dating needed to be corroborated by other tests, currently being conducted, before he could be confident of its accuracy.

The article continues/concludes with what is, I guess, the ANE-equivalent of ‘appeal to Schliemann’ which we get in the Classics world. That is, whenever someone comes up with a nutty theory about ancient Greece or Rome (say, about Atlantis), they usually resort to saying something along the lines of ‘no one believed Troy was real either’. In this case, the appeal is to something called the Shapira Strips, which I confess I’ve never heard of, and which don’t seem to be a very strong comparison.

So at the beginning of the month, the story was still somewhat obscure, press-wise. Then last week, the Daily Mail picked up the story — this is, of course, the sort of thing which the Daily Mail has no problem presenting as ‘news’. To be fair, they seem to base their story on something which appeared in the Sunday Times, and sadly, that must be behind a paywall now. Whatever the case, the opening grafs of their coverage shows the incredible new direction this story is being taken:

Artefacts discovered in a remote cave in Jordan could hold a contemporary account of the last years of Jesus.

The find of scrolls and 70 lead codices – tiny credit-card-sized volumes containing ancient Hebrew script talking of the Messiah and the Resurrection – has excited biblical scholars.

Much of the writing is in code, but experts have deciphered images, symbols and a few words and the texts could be 2,000 years old.

So now we have 70 codices (possibly a typo), but now — and in keeping with the Lenten season of course — we have a connection to Jesus and the resurrection! Skipping a bit, we get another important detail:

The treasure trove was found five years ago by an Israeli Bedouin and may have been around since the 1st century, around the time of Jesus’s crucifixion and Resurrection.

Note that we’ve gone from these being found by someone’s grandfather a hundred years ago to them being found five years ago. Which is it? Dare we mention that the movie version of the DaVinci Code came out five years ago too? The story continues with some scholarly opinion and just a pinch of ‘intrigue’ thrown in:

There is a thriving market in Middle Eastern antiquities and many shadowy figures involved. One archeologist has allegedly received death threats.

A number of experts have examined the writings, including Margaret Barker, a former president of the Society for Old testament Study with a renowned knowledge of early Christian studies.

She told the Sunday Times how the intrigue surrounding the artefacts was similar to the black market secrecy with the discovery of the Dead Sea scrolls.

Ms Barker said: ‘There has been lots of shenanigans. Vast sums of money have been mentioned with up to £250,000 being suggested as the price for just one piece.’

She has had access to photographs taken of the codices and scrolls, and is wary of confirming their authenticity.

But she said if the material is genuine then the books could be ‘vital and unique’ evidence of the earliest Christians.

‘If they are a forgery, what are they are forgery of?’ she said.’ Most fakes are drawn from existing material, but there is nothing like this that I have seen.’

After a reiteration of the dating tests, the Daily Mail‘s coverage finishes:

However, Philip Davies, emeritus professor of biblical studies at Sheffield University is convinced the codices are genuine after studying one.

He has told colleagues privately that he believes the find is unlikely to have been forged, say the Sunday Times.

So the Mail’s coverage ends by taking us  into ‘friend of a friend’ territory — folks definitely should see what Davies says at  Jim West’s blog (which also suggests the find comes from two years ago) … something strange going on there. So far so good … we’ve seen silliness on the Internet before and don’t really get too excited about it any more. But then the BBC picks up the story, and — perhaps to make it look more serious — dresses it up in the guise of an antiquities dispute. Here’s how their version opens:

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.

Okay … so the five-year vs a-hundred-year problem is given a context, but is still incredibly suspicious. We also seem to have settled on 70 as the number being counted, and the number being counted is 70. The BBC continues with the ‘meat’:

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.”

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.

“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.”

So let’s get back to setting off alarms. First we have this ‘cast lead’ thing again … I would be very happy if anyone can point me to an example of a cast lead codex of any kind from any period. As far as I’m aware, this would have been utterly unprecedented at the time. Even Roman military diplomas (in bronze) were incised. Of course, if these ‘books’ were so important, one has to wonder why such a malleable medium such as lead would be used. So that alarm bell is ringing loud and clear. Then we hear (again) of things being written in code, which sets off more alarms. Claims of Jews being forbidden to depict the menorah is utter garbage as well as a simple google image search for ‘menorah mosaic’ will show, and so the alarm bells accrue. Finally (for now, I suppose) alarm bells must go off if one of the folks involved is given the label “scholar of religious archaeology”, which clearly indicates we ain’t dealing with a professional in this area. Indeed, David Elkington has been working in the area of ‘religion’, as can be seen from a webpage which reviews his book, In the Name of the Gods (inter alia):

He trained as an artist at the Bath Academy of Art where an interest in the relationship between Christian myth and sacred sites was fuelled. Research for ‘In the Name of the Gods’ began in earnest in the early 1980s when he walked through Europe and the Middle East on a quest to understand and appreciate the mind of Ancient Man and his relationship with particular sites upon the Earth. 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. As his research continued, surprising results emerged. For several years, David has been working with Dr Keith Hearne, the ‘father of lucid dream research’, on a new area of psychology – Geolinguistics – which sees the development of language as a direct result of the Earth’s physical environment.

I’ll leave it to the reader to decide how seriously we can take Mr Elkington’s scholarship. The BBC coverage continues with some more from Professor Davies:

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.”
Book found in Jordan The books were bound by lead rings

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.

… and Ms Barker:

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.”

… then curiously, the BBC coverage closes with a section that isn’t attributed to anyone:

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.

This sounds like it was taken verbatim from a draft of a documentary proposal.

To sum up, it seems clear to me that this supposed ‘discovery’ stinks on a number of levels:

  • the ‘code’ content aspect is suspicious
  • the subject matter is suspicious
  • the material and method of manufacture is suspicious
  • the story of the find is suspicious
  • some of the people involved are suspicious (I’m sure things might be said about all those involved, but I don’t have time to dig)
  • the opinions of the IAA and Andre Lemaire are pretty much being ignored at this point in the story’s development

All of the articles have photos which are worth looking at, by the way, but all in all, this seems to be just a yet-to-be-written-completely sequel to the James Ossuary … hopefully this story doesn’t flood my mailbox because of the BBC coverage.

But don’t take my word for it, see what some of the Bibliobloggers have been saying:

UPDATE (a short time later): while checking to see if Google had picked up this post yet, I note that David Elkington has (not surprisingly) has actually written a book called The Lead Codices, which came out last May and curiously doesn’t seem to be in stock anywhere. You don’t suppose some media outlet — say, the BBC — has purchased the documentary rights or has purchased the documentary from the purchaser of the documentary rights? Hmmmmmmmmmm ….

UPDATE (a short time after that): seems I’m not the only one who sees DaVinci Code connections: Possible Da Vinci Code Prequel Unearthed | Gawker

UPDATE (August 13, 2012) … it appears as if David Elkington has appeared once again on Coast to Coast and there is an upsurge in interest in this post; as such, I am pointing folks to The Jordan Lead Codices Information Page at the Biblioblog reference library, wherein the totality of the claims made by Elkington are pretty much laid to rest.

48 thoughts on “Lead Codices Silliness

  1. I agree that the article was based on flimsy “evidence” toward the validity of the codices. However, they’re an astonishing/interesting find. If you look around the web– and, granted, the web is NOT the best source of reliable science– you’ll see that no one (at least, so far as I can ascertain) has yet claimed that they’re not ancient. That is… the notion of forgery, immediately thrown at the “James Ossuary,” has yet to be bandied about.

    Point being… it’s an interesting find (potentially) and it would be as ridiculous to dismiss it… nay, even more ridiculous, as, in one way or another, if throughly investigated, it will inform us in some way (even about forgery)… as it would be to accept it at face value, as the BBC have done.

    Doubt, however, is the key to all of the sciences. We can’t prove, but we can falsify, and we should falsify whenever we casn.

  2. Quick note… while Davies’ actual comments are relatively cautious (by layman standards), they’re rather bold in a certain way for a scholar. And he is an important authority, as a note.

  3. Last on same (pardon me): While it isn’t right to invoke Schliemann/Troy specifically, it is fair to say that a great many wonderful finds were initially met with tremendous skepticism. There are still those to this day who claim that the Q’mran scrolls are BS. Yet most scholars (the sane ones) consider them one of the most important finds of the 20th century.

    The “Shapira Strips” affair is actually a wonderful thing to cite here, for a number of reasons. First, they were most likely a forgery. Shapira, himself, was a forger… but he also sold genuine artifacts. There are a ton of guys around like this today in Israel. You never know what you’re getting. The point is… they were examined in 1883 by experts and declared forgeries. Shapira wound up killing himself shortly thereafter. We would love to examine them today, but they’re gone. To rely on what experts believed back at that time is ridiculous; they didn’t have some of the more sophisticated techniques that we have today. Even if they WERE INDEED forgeries, we’d like to know that.

    We don’t know what we never examine. I’m sure that these little lead books deserve, and will get, a hell of a lot of scrutiny.

  4. I seriously doubt that these are real. From what I’ve seen and from I’ve briefly discussed with various colleagues, the letters are a mixture of various alphabets, and even among the Hebrew letters appear to be of different dates.
    In addition, from what I can see, none of the “experts” who are quoted in the various reports are in fact experts in ancient documents. With all due respect to e.g. Philip Davies, he is NOT a paleographer/epigraphist.
    Although I can’t say this with 100% certainty since I have only seen a picture of a few of these objects – I smell a rat…
    Aren Maeir

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

    I haven’t done an in-depth study on this, but I’ve asked a number of people and none of us can find this phrase in the Book of Revelation. We’ve tried similar phrases as well, in case they were using an obscure translation.

    I enjoyed your analysis. I hope it turns out to be as exciting as everyone says it is, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it tanks either.

    1. There is no such phrase in Revelation. I have searched the verb “walk” (Gr. peripateo) and other similar words. And I don’t remember anything like this in the first person.

  6. The “cross” in the shape of a “T” would not have been used by a first century Christian. The Romans used stakes alone for crucifiction at that time and did not adopt the Persian cross until much later.

    1. I disagree. First century Christians would refrain from illustrating the cross for different, but more obvious reasons.

      In Pompeii and Puteoli, there are graffiti that clearly indicate that the Roman crucifixion pole was equipped with both a crossarm at the top and an impaling stake at mid-height. These are known as the Vivat Crux Graffito and Pozzuoli Graffito, respectively. The Vivat Crux, entombed in a Roman time capsule, is most interesting, for the graffito is not so much as evidence of Christianity, as it is an utterly obscene version of the curse, “May you live in interesting times.” The Pozzuoli is obvious: it shows a person nailed to and impaled on the execution pole.

      Here is a link to an image that shows the VC as a gray watermark underneath the Pozzuoli in black. http://img169.imageshack.us/img169/6475/pozzuolihv3.jpg

    2. Y’shuua crucified on a “stake”? That’s all they used? Really?? And just how long were the stakes that these criminals carried through the streets? Let’s do the math…

      6 ft. tall man +
      2 ft. arms above head +
      2 ft. room for written charges +
      5 ft. space feet to ground (min.) +
      5 ft. deep in ground =
      20 ft. long stake, minimum

      Size? 5×5 or 6×6 minimum. Weight? Not sure, but considerable.

      And they lugged this absurdly long and crazy-heavy “stake” through crowded Jerusalem streets? Really???

      Not likely…

      1. And nailing or tying a struggling criminal to a simple stake already in place could actually be more difficult than nailing him to a crossarm on the ground and then hoisting it with him on it into place. At least when you nail him on the ground you could sit on him, keeping him immobilized. Even better if he had to wear himself out by bearing the crossarm a half-mile or so to the place of exceution.

      2. David: The “Romans used stakes” claim is made only by Jehovah’s Witnesses. No scholar agrees with the assertion.

      3. Yes, the Romans used stakes and yes there is no mention of a “cross” or “crucifixion” in the New Testament. The important thing is that Yeshua hung on a tree and was therefore accounted accursed on our behalf. By the way it is not just JW’s who say this – I’m not a JW and never have been. The Greek word used in the New Tetament is definitely “stake” – have a look at Vines if you don’t believe me. Truth is, the Romans didn’t care what shape the wood was they nailed people to, just so long as their feet couldn’t touch the ground and they died publicly in agony.

      4. @Philip says “Truth is, the Romans didn’t care what shape the wood was they nailed people to, just so long as their feet couldn’t touch the ground and they died publicly in agony.”

        How do you know this truth? How do you know they didn’t care about the shape of the wood? From all accounts that I have read, crucifying a man was not an easy job, but after hundreds of years of practice the Romans had the process down to a science. I would think that they cared very much how the wood was “shaped.”

        By reading your image of a “stake” back into the word staurus, you are committing an anachronistic fallacy.

      5. @ Philip: “The important thing is that Yeshua hung on a tree and was therefore accounted accursed on our behalf.”

        Except a tree is three-dimensional just like the Romans’ “crucifixion” frame. You could click on the links in my post above and you’ll find that even as early as 79 CE (around or before the time the gospels were written) that the frame was cruciform or T-shaped in nature. And was equipped with a “seat” that guaranteed that the criminal died with his feet above the ground, in total agony and in utter humiliation.

        Charles Cherry is right; the Romans got it down to a science. And what they did to criminals it Italy, they imposed throughout their whole Empire as a standard punishment. When someone back then mentioned the word crux, everyone knew what he was talking about. Completely the opposite today, I’m afraid.

  7. II would hope that we would let science tell us if the texts are real or not. Many times in OT literature texts were written in code or in symbolic terms,as in Daniel, to prevent censureship. Both the Greeks and Romans has forced assimulation polocies. Being tnat such a large collection of scrolls were found near the Dead Sea, the possibility of finding others is real. Cerit-an groups will be all over this,one beingnthe mormons, also another, in very much another way skeptics who have never read prior texts nor cracked open a Greek tragety beyond spark nots to know the difference. Since I have no stakes in the matter in either camp, I am morenthen willing to listen to those who are qulified to work with such documents to state their cases. The IAA has been wrong in the past and like evangelicals have swayed findings for political and religious reasons. But like the Dead Sea scrolls the truth will come out, maybe in 30 years or more,but maybe we have learned our lesson. Until then like anynresearch project we can still find the dicussion intresting until we have better hypothesises. Sorry for the sloppy spelling and type. I put this in off a phone. 😉

  8. The problem with the dating, of course, is that as far as I can tell, the dates cited apply only to the *material* — the lead. As I think is the case with the James Ossuary, the material on which the inscriptions were made is indeed ancient, but the inscriptions could very easily have been added more recently.

    If the lead is modern, of course, there’s no way this can be a 2,000-year-old object. But the mere fact that the lead is old does not mean the object is old.

    I personally wouldn’t make too much of the claim that these leaves were “cast.” I have ample experience of people in my research area saying that artifacts are made in a technique that they personally are vaguely familiar with, even if it turns out not to be the right one. They may simply not recognize other techniques, or know which ones are most probable for this sort of artifact, or know what tests to apply to tell the difference.

  9. Lead tablets huh? So how often would you have to handle these things before you got lead poisoning? Secret knowledge would have come at a high price no?

  10. Full Press Release: http://www.scribd.com/doc/51540533/Lead-Plates-Press-Release
    London 22nd March 2011 – For Immediate Release
    On Behalf of David and Jennifer Elkington

    “The team involved in bringing the find to the world’s attention has been led by David Elkington, a British scholar of the early Christian period and of ancientreligious history. David has been supported by his wife Jennifer and a smallteam of leading international academic experts, including Dr. Margaret Barker, Co-founder of the Temple Studies Group and former President of the Societyfor Old Testament Study, and Professor Philip Davies, Emeritus Professor of Biblical Studies at Sheffield University and an authority on the Dead Sea Scrolls.”

    What are these scholars doing mixed up with Elkington?

    … and from the literary agent http://www.curtisbrown.co.uk/news.aspx?news=1107
    David Elkington is the author of In the Name of the Gods, the highly acclaimed academic thesis on the resonance and acoustical origins of religion. David is primarily an Egyptologist, specializing in Egypt-Palestinian links that have inevitably drawn him into the field of Biblical studies.

    Between 1987 and 1990 he trained under Julia Samson, curator of the Petrie Museum, University of London, specializing in the Amarnan period of Egypt (c. 1500 BC), and also under Prof. Christine el Mahdy at the British School of Egyptology. He has co-hosted academic tours of the major ancient sites of Egypt and has been a member of the Egypt Exploration Society, the Palestine Exploration Fund and well as a fundraising Vice-Chairman of the Oxford China Scholarship Fund Working Group. He has lectured at universities all over the world and written many papers on ancient history and linguistics.

    Jennifer Elkington spent two years working in the contemporary art market in Paris before being enticed into the world of classical music, producing concerts and operas as well as managing a number of internationally renowned conductors, opera singers and piano virtuosos. She then worked as a PR consultant in an agency for a year before starting up her own business, Jennifer Solignac Associates, specialising in Public Relations, Marketing and Event Management, representing clients in interior design, travel, property, consumer goods with a particular interest in publishing. Having developed an impressive list, Jennifer focused almost exclusively on author profiles, primarily dedicated to the subjects of ancient history and politics, out of personal interest.

    Upon meeting David in 2006 and stumbling across the Jordanian Codices, she closed down her business in order to work exclusively with David to co-write the adventure that had taken them from the initial discovery of the artefacts to their current position in working to recover the collection intact for the benefit of a potentially fascinated international audience.

  11. Well said. In my experience, incredible claims and limited research tend to be inversely proportional with each other. When you classify a find as “biblical” it tends to cause many to think, respond and defend it in very predictable ways.

  12. Robert Feather is not only an world-famous metallurgist, but a biblical scholar of the deepest integrity; he participated in demonstrating the Christian antiquity of the Holy Lance, and his seminal works include The Secret Initiation of Jesus at Qumran.

    The effort to impugn the reputation of Dr. Feather and his colleagues was taken to its logical conclusion by Raphael Golb, and we know where HE will be spending six months. I got a good laugh from his law brief, in which he tries to use the First Amendment to justify his anti-Christian baloney. If you don’t believe me, see for yourselves:

    Click to access raphael-golb-appeal-brief.pdf

  13. Well said !

    But the BBC aspect in this matter is very concerning.

    A REAL historical figure once said :

    Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I’m not sure about the former.


  14. This is an excellent article. I would add merely (in response to Matt) that the verse in question would appear to be Psalms 26.11, usually translated as “I will walk in mine integrity.” The author of the sensationalist news item tendentiously chooses to refer to Revelation instead, without citing a specific verse. I could go on in a similar vein, but I believe the point is sufficiently clear.

  15. The fact that this was done in Hebrew script vs Koine Greek seems to disqualify this as being a Christian document. By the time of the Bar Kochba revolt in A.D. 123 Christianity was completely separated from it’s Jewish roots. Even the early Hebrew Gospel of Matthew had been translated into Greek by then and Christians were using their meeting places instead of synagogues. This is a fake designed to cash in on the Da Vinci code fad. I agree with the sharp and articulate assessment done by the author of this blog.

    1. If it isn’t a fake, then it’s an ancient artifact of Jewish origin. It has no need of Christianity to explain its origin.

  16. You (rogueclassicist -whoever you are) are quite right to be sceptical about the lead codices reports, but basically the article in the Jewish Chronicle was reasonably accurate and the writer consulted me, but of course like most journalists did his own thing. He did at least go to the trouble of checking with views from other parties. You are rather derogatory about me, as a metallurgist, but I am a member of a professional Institution and Chartered Engineer, and studied metallurgy at London University. Of course the Daily Mail picked up the JC and ST stories and tarted them up, with a great deal of misinformation from an unofficial source, and failed to check their facts. I wrote them a stern repost and as a result The Mail on Sunday (3rd April) printed a new version, by Nick Pryer, which is much more balanced and quite near the truth. Your doubts about the authenticity of the material is reasonably founded, but the IAA did no metallurgical or laboratory testing on the materials, as I did and merely dismissed them as forgeries on a cursory examination. We now have three respected professors and one eminent Christian scholar giving their views that the codices are almost certainly not fakes. C14 will be the definitive test and the Mail quotes one as showing the material to be around 2000 years old. I have always been cautious about the authenticity of the artefacts, but if this C14 result turns out to be supported by further test results you may have to revise your views. Before knocking my credentials you should read my books – The Mystery of the Copper Scroll of Qumran, and The Secret Initiation of Jesus at Qumran and the next book on the failure of academics to actually understand the Dead Sea Scrolls. When you have done that you may well be in a position to question my work, until then off the cuff criticism do not do justice to your otherwise obvious intellectual abilities. However, I agree absolutely with you that the first DM story was highly defective and The Sunday Telegraph of 3rd April was virtually a joke conjured up by Olga Craig and Rebecca Lefort who would be better off writing the gardening column!
    Robert Feather

  17. I do not know if these lead codices are the real deal and what I think we all need to remember is that none of us do. The IAA and Robert Feather alike both have no clue no matter how much “faith” they have in their convictions.
    Either way, it does not matter to me. Even if they are true, so what? It is just yet another religious writing from early Christians. Remember that even if these codices turn out to be from the first century, many of the books in the Bible predate that time. They are nothing special and definitely don’t make Christianity any more believable.

    So please Christians stop spouting off crap about how Jesus is coming and these codices are a sign from God. They are a sign that a flood happened or some grandpa is a pack rat or some forgerer is very good. Some books that are younger than most of the Bible even if real are nothing all that special. Just an interesting archeological find.

  18. @Robert Feather: I find it very strange that a scientist who is so busy proving these codices authentic would take the time to comment on one article out of many on one website out of many. It sounds more like a fan masquerading as Dr. Feather and using a few facts and a great deal of embellishment, not to mention a touch of flattery, to convince this article’s author and its readers that Dr. Feather is not as much of a crackpot scientist as he sounds.

  19. I don’t have my copy of Renfrew and Bahn with me, but as far as I know, C14 dating only works on organic matter.

    As for the books listed, why the hell does a metallurgist presume he has anything to contribute by bumbling into a field he has no qualification to poke his nose into?

    On the BBC article, my heart sank when I read the by-line “Robert Piggott”, who appears to be one of Auntie’s resident morons. My first thought when I read it was they would turn out to be second century.

    1. you are correct carbon dating only works on organic matter. They will have to use other methods such as examining the Patina to try and estimate the age.

  20. A note to people who post on the Internet:

    Generally, I’m amazed by the absolute lack of restraint that people practice when they share their thoughts publicly on the Internet. Is it because they use aliases that they think it’s perfectly fine to tee off on other people, literally as if they’d put the person’s head on a golf tee and smacked it with a Calloway driver.

    If anyone who practices this kind of insolence thinks she or he would really do that in real life… like… “Yeah, I’d say that to his face! Sure…”… she or he is bullshitting her or himself.

    Politesse is healthy for the soul. I’m done with my preaching. Reading these posts, erudite as they may be, is absurd.

  21. Maybe ironically and maybe intended, but the parallels with the Da Vinci Code continue to stack up. The supposed portrait of Jesus, the “Lead Jesus,” as it were, is none other than the “Mona Lisa of the Galilee.” See the images posted on my blog site. If the image contained in the “codex” really is Jesus, than so is the Galilean Mona Lisa, which would also imply that s/he had fabulous taste in jewelery.


    1. Update: I’ve posted more detailed and conclusive photos to my blog. I think they leave little room for doubt as to the provenance of the Lead Jesus image in the alleged “codice.”

  22. As far as I can tell, most of the discussion leading to the conclusion that the lead plates are forgeries is based on Thonemann’s analysis of the copper plates he received a year prior to the enveiling of the lead ones. While not irrelevant, the fact that these are forgeries does not necessarily imply that the lead ones are. My analysis that the plate containing the image of Jesus is a forgery is conclusive evidence that at least one of the plates is of recent provenance, a fact supported by McClellan’s analysis of the script. Where evidence is available to points to certainty rather than probability, it makes more sense to go with the certain knowledge. There is no room for doubt. The supposed image of Jesus is replicated from the photo of the Mona Lisa. Replicate my findings for yourself or wait a bit and I will post more detailed images to my blog. Right now, I’ve got classes to teach.

    As far as I can tell, then, there is one piece of incontrovertible evidence that one of the lead plates is a forgery, and that evidence is posted to my blog. The rest is probabilities.

  23. While compiling more detailed evidence in support of my claim that the image of Jesus on the lead plate is copied from a photo of the Mona Lisa of the Galilee, I discovered that there are two photos of the mosaic taken from the same angle but depicting different women. When superimposed on one another with varying degrees of transparency, the first Mona seems to morph in to a man with a beard before morphing into the second Mona. I have no idea what this means or how to explain it. It’s quite intriguing, though, to say the least.

  24. – the ‘code’ content aspect is suspicious
    Why, I don’t know: is suspicious because we believe an other history, or suspicious because we have study this for many decades and conclude that? We know only few words from those lead plates, it’s impossible to determine an ultimate statement

    – the subject matter is suspicious
    Why, I don’t understand from this article, excuse my ignorance, I’m only a PhD in Archaeology, not in Epigraphy or ancient texts

    – the material and method of manufacture is suspicious
    Why is suspicious? Is real or not the examination at Oxford and Dubendorf? If real, you must retire your statement, if not real is more than suspicious

    – the story of the find is suspicious
    Correction: the story told by the newspapers, the story of the Israeli Bedouin. This is more correct, because we do not know the “history of the find”

    – some of the people involved are suspicious (I’m sure things might be said about all those involved, but I don’t have time to dig)
    It’s not a real valid argument, only a point of view

    – the opinions of the IAA and Andre Lemaire are pretty much being ignored at this point in the story’s development
    True, but IAA and Lemaire is not The True

    It’s puzzling that every time we talk about Christ, everything that does not agree with the establishment is insulted and declassified. We need a scientific argumentation, scientific analysis, not only opinion, opinion, opinion, point of view, Photoshop and journalist. We need a scientific analysis only. In this story, the unique scientific analysis is provide by Oxford and Dubendorf: only if it’s not true it’s possible to agree with your statement, in other case, your point of view is not based on fact but only on opinion.

  25. I’m at least glad that at this point they’ve pretty much been debunked.

    The motifs were taken from well-known forgeries and coins, the writing on the plates is an “alphabet soup” of anachronistic writing systems trying to look older than it is, and Elkington’s book has mysteriously disappeared from ISBN listings.

    If only the mainstream press would print an update on this… but who knows what the press will do now?


    1. I’m neither standing with the Elkingtons, nor with any Consensus or pressure group. I just want to make my point that texts has been written on lead before and after first century AD. One can’t change this fact even if he or she doesn’t have much confidence in my academic credentials.
      For details of other Leaden Books please consult:
      1. An Inquiry into the Nature and form of the books of the ancients… 1873 London Pp 28-35
      2. Septuaginta-Studien. II. 1904 Pp.14-17
      3. The Gnostics and their Remains. London Pp.147-153
      4. Une Excursion Gnostique en Italie.Paris 1852. Plate I tillplate.xii
      5. The Septuagent in context. Brill 2000. Pp.267-268
      6. Ancient Jewish Magic. Pp.114 and 144-146 etc.
      7. Curse Tablets and binding spells from the ancient world.Oxford. 1992

      And what about Job 19:24.

      1. just for clarification, i’ll reiterate my objection that these are *cast* lead … not incised. i still wait to see any evidence of such things …

    2. If those are an “alphabet soup”, the maker is a very stupid, but stupid stupid maker… It’s impossible obviously: if I create a modern artifact, naturally I copy a right text, not a soup alphabet… And, if the Oxford and Dubendorf examinate those codices whitout any evidence of modernity, for now we are in front of an ancient codices. Christian, not christian, ebrew, not ebrew, coptic, not important: anciente, not modern. Are the analysis real or unreal? This is the problem, not the coins…
      The motifs still unconvinced, and I write this because I’m a PhD in Archaeology and focus on methodology and scientifically facts.
      The mainstream press go out, but we are a scientist, not a journalist, we follow the scientifically fact, not the newspapers opinion and mistification.

      Peace & Happy Easter,

  26. I’m sure we’ll end up with a “Church of the Lead Codices” – so many people are desparate to believe they’re genuine! As to Philip Davies, he has on a number of occassions made the mistake of dabbling in paleography/epigraphy and said some very silly things that very quickly were shown to be such.

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