Can you believe it’s been ten years since the IAA (Israel Antiquities Authority) seized the James Ossuary from Oded Golan, claiming it to be a forgery? Well, if you haven’t heard (and you probably haven’t), the artifact has finally returned to its owner and all charges of forgery dropped. However, this was under the radar, so-to-speak, because the IAA had made an agreement with Golan to keep their major (and extremely expensive) blunder out of the press. However, Hershel Shanks of the Biblical Archaeology has released some notes about the recent “hush-hush” on the whole affair. You can read all about it here.
Today, Google and the Israeli Antiquities Authority / Israel Museum officially launched the Digital Dead Sea Scrolls site. This is a watershed in DSS studies. By making these hi-res (If you’re thinking like 20-50 megapixels, think again. Try a whopping 1200 megapixels. Whoa…!) multi-spectrum images freely available to the public online for the first time ever.
With the launch of this site I believe that DSS studies will take off like a parabola curve. This site is making available to both scholars and laymen alike what has previously never been accessible to more then a select few specialists. It’s been over 60 years since their discovery and they are finally making their way to the public arena. I’m sure Hershel Shanks is dancing a jig right about now.
Right now they are offering 5 of the most important (and complete) scrolls, but I’m sure more will follow. Currently available is: The Great Isaiah Scroll, the War Scroll, The Temple Scroll, The Commentary on Habakkuk Scroll and the Community Rule Scroll. They even have English translations of the text as you scroll over the different sections. You can zoom in incredibly close and see the fine details of the text and the scroll. It is quite impressive. Be sure to check it out!
Let’s face it. The “discovery” of the 70 some odd lead codices, said to be of either Christian or Kabbalistic origin have been THE BUZZ on the internet the last few days. But why? Because they are (for the moment) an inexplicable archaeological mystery, steeped with intrigue and sensationalism… Just the type of stuff from which our favorite movies are made. Their discovery has had the Yahoo! News, BBC and now the Christian Science Monitor all jump on the band wagon, reporting on this discovery, adding to the credibility of the find.
But many scholars & laymen alike are having serious doubts about their authenticity, and asking some good questions which should give us pause. A recent post from the rogueclassicist catalogs a lot of these in his latest post entitled, “Lead Codices Silliness.” Although I disagree with him on one or two points, I think he does a great job at bringing the assessment back to reality, rather than leaving it to the realm of melodrama. One thing he mentions in passing is an allusion to a report concerning the recent & alleged discovery of Atlantis. Just last week it was reported by the Jerusalem Post that Hartford University Prof. Richard Freund claims to have not only found the lost, sunken city of Atlantis, but that it turns out to actually be the biblical city of Tarshish (remember Jonah?).
So how do the lead codices connect to Atlantis, you might be asking? Really, only in one way – sensationalism. Although we have seen a great resurgence in biblical archaeology in the last decade or so, we have also seen the crazies come out of the closet and try to capitalize on the renewed interest. When we can claim that Atlantis has been found through the use of Google Earth, we can easily create all kinds of outlandish claims in other arenas within the archaeological realm.
Lastly, it looks like all of this is starting to come to a head. Aaron Eby (Boundary Stones, Biblical Kosher, etc.) recently posted a new link to PaleoJudaica exposing a previous copper codex belonging to David Elkington as an absolute fake, and are related to the Jordanian cache of codices. What a shame. How many scandals does it take to get these guys to wake up?
Will anything from these ever be more than a fraud? Let’s keep hoping…
Today, I came across a followup on Yahoo! News regarding the 70 credit card sized lead codices which were found in Jordan and thought to be of Christian origin. Many are quick to call this discovery equivalent (or even superior) to the Dead Sea Scrolls. While the jury is still out on just how important (and more importantly how authentic) these codices are to the archaeological and religious world, they are garnering an extremely high interest.
I happened to look at my Google Analytics report for today, and my site visits looked like a parabola. As of 5:00pm today my blog had received over ten (10) times my normal visits, 90% of which hit my site because they were looking for information on the lead codices. My highest entry page was my post on the lead codices, which raised the question as to whether they were Kabbalistic in origin as some have reported, or Christian as most seem to be favoring.
Anyway, back to the followup. According to this article, the codices seem to find an affinity with first century Christianity. It states,
Philip Davies, emeritus professor of Old Testament Studies at Sheffield University, told Pigott he was “dumbstruck” at the sight of plates representing a picture map of ancient Jerusalem. “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,” Davies explained. “There are walls depicted on other pages of these books, too, and they almost certainly refer to Jerusalem.
Quite a description. But is it too good to be true? Only time will tell. I would love to hear your thoughts…
In Israel, a new archaeological “discovery” of sorts is buzzing and making bold claims that they may be the next “Dead Sea Scrolls.” They include a collection of scrolls as well as 70 lead codices (ancient scripts bound in book form, rather than as scrolls). However, we have conflicting reports on the nature of these “newly found” artifacts. They are owned by “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.” Although there is still a lot of skepticism surrounding these artifacts, there are some strong voices that are willing to attest to their authenticity, wanting to avoid another possible Shapiro Affair.
Christian or Kabbalistic?
Right now we seem to either have two camps on the theory of origins and contents of these manuscripts. However, this may be a result of the various text which may be present among the collection. According to one source, these manuscripts “could hold a contemporary account of the last years of Jesus.” According to another source, they appear to be Kabbalistic with references to Bar Kochba and Shimon bar Yochai, and “the nature of the content indicates a magical incantation style of writing.” Both reports confirm that the manuscripts are not just comprised of Hebrew or Greek text, but images and symbols which are in need of deciphering. Some of these codices are also said to be sealed and have created speculation that they may possibly be “secret writings referred to in the apocryphal Book of Ezra.”
How can these theories be so divergent? Just look at the early theories surrounding the Dead Sea Scrolls, and all of the controversy and imagination that has lead to cloak & dagger speculation in the last half a century, including John Allegro’s laughable “The Sacred Mushroom and The Cross.” When indecipherable manuscripts come to light, it seems sensational imagination rules the roost.
One legitimate reason for the diverse interpretation may simply be there are multiple types of documents contained within the cache, not dissimilar to the Oxyrhynchus Papyri. The different scholars are merely examining two different texts, which contain seemingly polar information. The quick evidence I see for this is the one article’s description of the codices, compared to the photo made available in the other article (the photo I have included at the top of this article). In the first article, the codices are described as being “tiny credit-card-sized volumes.” However, in the photo you can see that this particular codex is much larger than this.
Either way, we will have to wait and see what turns up by way of translation and authentication. Either way, it will be an exciting journey. Hopefully, the reports will be out sooner than later, and the texts of these discoveries will find their way to the public much sooner than the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Cairo Geniza Fragments or the Oxyrhyncus Papyri.
Update: Further Reading
I have just been made aware of these other (and more extensive) articles on this discovery:
Also, here is another (better) image of a codex: