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.
Not buying it.
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.
Still not buying it.
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.
Barker’s an expert on Enochic stuff that’s for sure, but she’s not an epigrapher. So I’m still not buying it and she isn’t even selling it.
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.
As much as I respect Philip, if he has even been correctly quoted, I’m still not buying it. And these days I think total skepticism is warranted given the skills of forgers.
A bevy of tests need to be administered, the ‘script’ needs to be deciphered and translated, and the materials must be independently authenticated as ancient before we can even begin to talk about some astonishing discovery. And even then, since the little objects were ‘found’ and no archaeological context for their discovery is available, they will nonetheless always remain tainted as untrustworthy. Without provenance, without context, there is no meaning. This is true of both texts and artifacts.
With thanks to Joel for the tip.
UPDATE: There’s reason for my skepticism. It’s rubbish.