Is this the first written mention of Jesus? 2,000-year-old lead tablets found in remote cave ARE genuine, claim researchers


And more…

More on the Jordan lead codices
MORE TESTS: Is this the first written mention of Jesus? 2,000-year-old lead tablets found in a remote cave ARE genuine, claim researchers (Libby Plummer, Daily Mail).

This article presents some extravagant claims about the contents of the lead codices and their importance for Christianity, Judaism, and even Islam. We’ve heard some of this before and some of it is new. Much of it sounds fanciful. This is a good time to remind ourselves that in the five and a half years since their existence was first announced, not a single peer-review publication on them has been published. Any scholarly discussion of them has yet to begin. Now if someone wishes to defend some of the claims in this article by publishing the evidence in a peer-review publication, I and others will be happy to have a look and evaluate the evidence presented and the arguments for the claims. Unless that actually happens some day, I have no interest in re-engaging with the revival of those claims in the media.

That said, one passage in the article does merit some comment:

Now tests conducted by Professor Roger Webb and Professor Chris Jeynes at the University of Surrey's Nodus Laboratory at the Ion Beam Centre, confirm that the tablet is compatible with a comparative sample of ancient Roman lead unearthed from an excavation site in Dorset.

The experts said that the codex they tested 'does not show the radioactivity arising from polonium that is typically seen in modern lead samples, indicating that the lead of the codex was smelted over one hundred years ago'.

They went onto explain how the testing suggests that the artefacts are indeed 2,000 years old.

'While there may be variations in decay and corrosion that depend upon the environmental conditions in which the objects were stored or hidden, there is a strong underlying theme of decay from within the metal,' said the researchers in a press statement.

'It is oxidising and breaking down at atomic level to revert to its natural state.

'This is not witnessed in lead objects that are several centuries old and is not possible to produce by artificial acceleration (e.g. through heating).

'This provides very strong evidence that the objects are of great age, consistent with the studies of the text and designs that suggest an age of around 2000 years'.

The codex was leant to the Elkingtons by the Department of Antiquities in Amman for testing.

Further crystallisation analysis indicates that the codex is likely to be between 1800-2000 years old.

As presented here, this information does sound interesting. The researchers say that the the lead of the codex they studied had to have been smelted over one hundred years ago and that the internal corrosion indicates that the object is more than several centuries old, perhaps considerably more. It is also claimed in the article (not in a quotation from the researchers) that “crystallization analysis” shows it to be “likely” that the codex is between 1800-2000 years old.

To place the claims about the tests in context, I note that the web page of the Centre for the Study of the Jordanian Lead Books has some new posts at its About page that give some further information about the codices and about the tests that have been undertaken on them. Most of the information on the tests is in 2. What are the Jordan lead Books?, although some is in 6. Epigraphy of the Jordan lead Books.

In summary, these indicate that most of the tests on the codices are “consistent with” the lead being ancient (i.e., in the vicinity of 2000 years old). One test gave “inconclusive” results, whatever that means. And one dated the lead to “the earlier part of the High Medieval Period” (apparently the 1100s-1200s CE) and another did find polonium in a codex, suggesting a “nuclear-age dating” of it. This, however, we are told, may apply only to the patina rather than the lead core and is regarded by the testers as inconclusive.

In other words, the situation is rather more complicated than as presented in the Mail article. The tests have produced a range of inconsistent results, although reportedly trending toward the lead being ancient — which we already knew — and perhaps indicating that the manufactured objects are old. Exactly how old is unclear. The inconsistent results so far show well enough that materials testing doesn’t necessarily give us conclusive results. The details matter and the full details of all the materials tests on the codices need to be released so that we can see what exactly they show, with what level of confidence they show it, and what range of possible interpretations arises from the evidence they provide.




continued from above:

As I have pointed out before, we have already been here with materials testing of a supposedly ancient artifact (the Gospel of Jesus’ Wife), which turned out to be a now-uncontested forgery. At the moment we have a media report and some summaries on a website. The people who have commissioned the tests need to release complete, unedited scans of all the lab test reports. (There seem to be quite a few tests.) The results need to be evaluated by outside experts and digested for their implications in peer-review publications.

Long-term PaleoJudaica readers may recall that when this story broke in March of 2011, the Israel Antiquities Authority had already examined some of the codices and concluded that they were unremarkable forgeries. And the IAA was not impressed by the Oxford tests that indicated that some of the lead was ancient. Ancient lead is easy to obtain. I would be very interested in hearing what the IAA had to say about the lab reports for the new tests. Release them and let’s find out.

Cross-file under Fake Metal Codices Watch. I acknowledge that it is possible that some of the current test results may point to some of them being something other than fake, but I remain to be convinced. And in any case, I continue to include this cross-file rubric so that all my posts on the subject can be accessed together.

Background here and many links.



And more and more…etc…

Sunday, November 06, 2016
New tests on the Jordan codices
FAKE METAL CODICES WATCH: ‘Lead Sea Scrolls’ row reopened (Richard Brooks, Sunday Times [of London]*). A report of some new materials tests on those lead codices:

The debate has been given new impetus after tests on one of the books at Surrey University’s Ion Beam Centre found the lead was at least 150 years old and could date back 2,000 years.

Professor Roger Webb, the centre’s director, said that while the metal was difficult to age, lead less than 150 years old was slightly radioactive and emitted alpha particles but “the page of the book we tested had no alpha particle emissions”.

It is not clear why this is news. Back in 2011 when the discovery of the metal codices was first announced, one had already been tested at Oxford and shown to have been manufactured from ancient lead. That does not by any means exclude the possibility that they are forgeries. More on that below.

I was already aware that some new tests on the lead of the codices had been undertaken, but the results that had been reported to me are a little different from what is indicated above, so they may have referred to other tests. I understand that a number of tests have been done.

If anyone involved with the tests thinks they are of any real interest for the study of the Jordanian lead codices, they should release full scans of the lab reports, so we can see exactly what they say and outside specialists in ancient metallurgy can evaluate their claims. Complete scans please, not excerpts and not retyped transcripts.

Meanwhile, this article seems particularly interested in the fact that Rowan Williams, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, “has called for a fresh examination” of the codices and has said, “‘The books are well worth a second glance. If I were a forger, I would frankly forge something more mainstream.’”

I have the greatest respect for Dr. Williams as a premier theologian and church leader, but his opinion as reported here does not count as a specialist evaluation of the codices — nor does he claim that it does.

It’s fine to call for a reexamination of the codices, but to make this worthwhile, we need some new evidence that makes some kind of difference. Indeed, when I heard the news of the lab reports some time ago, I went back over all the evidence I have available about the codices to see if I wanted to change my mind on anything. Having done so, I remain fully convinced that they are not ancient artifacts (i.e., they are not two thousand years old or anywhere near that). My judgment is that the evidence against their being ancient is decisive and compelling. Most of the evidence is fully covered in archived past posts on the subject and I see no need to rehearse it again here.

If some of the lead codices turn out to have been manufactured a century or a century and a half or so ago, that does not exclude forgery. Forgers were around in the nineteenth century and some of them were pretty good for the time. And if the codices are forgeries, which I think very likely, they are not all that good.

I do not rule out the possibility that some of them could be that old, but I have seen no definitive evidence yet that requires them to be that old, and some of the evidence points toward some of them having been manufactured more recently. That is about as specific as I can be at present.

Back in 2015 an independent scholar named Samuel Zinner posted a draft article on that argued that the codices are modern amuletic art objects that were misunderstood when rediscovered as either ancient objects or forgeries. I am skeptical about this, but I encouraged him to try to publish the article in a peer-review journal so that other specialists in that area could evaluate his argument. (It is outside my areas of expertise.) The essay has been removed, but has not yet been published. Still, I am open to the possibility that he could be correct. But I cannot see how the codices could be ancient artifacts.

The Times article also quotes the views of Classicist Peter Thonemann of Oxford University and New Testament scholar Mark Goodacre of Duke University. Both were involved in the early discussion of the codices and neither thinks they are genuine ancient artifacts. The reporter also asked for and received a statement from me, but he did not use it. I have used a few bits of it in this post.

As for the tests, materials testing can be an important tool for evaluating the authenticity of unprovenanced artifacts, but modern forgers are very sophisticated and know to use ancient materials, etc. Materials tests initially seemed to support the antiquity of the infamous Gospel of Jesus’ Wife papyrus, yet it has now definitively been shown to be a modern forgery. The new test results on the codices may turn out to be of interest, but I want to hear more about them and hear what independent specialists in ancient metallurgy make of them.

If there are people who want skeptical specialists to change our thinking on the metal codices, they need not only to release the lab reports, but also to make the full archive of photos available to art historians specializing in Jewish iconography and to palaeographers specializing in ancient Hebrew scripts. Their research should then be published in peer-review journals. I have been calling for years for this to be done. This is how scholarship advances, not through popular reports in the media.

I am prepared to listen to any scholarly case for what the codices are and to rethink my understanding of them if the evidence requires it. But I remain skeptical at present that they are anything but forgeries.

Background here, with many links going back to March of 2011.



Ok last one:

Lead codices proved to be 2,000 years old – may have been made by Jesus himself!

by admin | Dec 1, 2016 | General | 0 comments

That bastion of quality journalism, the Daily Mail, has a gushing article about the infamous lead codices. Positioned beside images of starlets falling out of their bikinis, and ranking considerably below the real hot news of the Victoria’s Secret fashion show, the Mail gives us the inside information on Jesus. It has now been scientifically proven that the dinky books made from lead are genuine, dating from 2000 years ago. It seems that they include the very book with seven seals that Jesus was accustomed to carrying around and that is featured in the Book of Revelation. Indeed, it is possible that Jesus made the books himself because he was a skilled metal worker. The books have now been decoded revealing the secrets of Christianity including the lost Episode 2 of the expulsion of the money changers from the temple. This shows that Jesus aimed to reinstate the true temple worship from the days of Solomon based on the “divine feminine”. And he certainly was not going to let any Gentiles into his church!

A careful read of the article shows that the real content is a new analysis of the lead carried out by the University of Surrey. The scientists conclude that based on radioactivity, the codices must be at least 100 years old. Also, the atomic structure shows oxidisation and decay which demonstrates that the lead is probably ancient and at least several hundreds of years old. The key statement is this:

‘This provides very strong evidence that the objects are of great age, consistent with the studies of the text and designs that suggest an age of around 2000 years’.

In other words, the dating of two thousand years old actually comes from an analysis of the text and images. The scientific work is not inconsistent with this dating but seems to give a very wide range of potential dates although this range is narrowed considerably by another statement – ‘Further crystallisation analysis indicates that the codex is likely to be between 1800-2000 years old.’ It is not clear from the Daily Mail article whether this crystallisation analysis has been carried by the University of Surrey or by some other potentially less reputable source.

So who has made the studies of the text and designs that provides the dating? The article claims that ‘experts’ have dated the codices to within a few years of Jesus’ ministry, which is remarkably precise. These must be formidable experts indeed! So it is shame that the article does not actually tell us who they are. It was certainly not the Dead Sea Scrolls expert Hugh Schonfield, who the article says was nominated for the Nobel peace prize, because he died in 1988. Nor would it appear to be Philip Davies from Sheffield University who is reputed to have remarked to colleagues that he thought the codices were genuine. No, it seems that the very names of these experts have to be kept secret. Perhaps they are in hiding from the Evil Evangelicals who will stop at nothing in their attempts to discredit the codices.

Or perhaps the ‘experts’ are the very couple David and Jennifer Elkington who have been peddling the tablets around since 2011. Except that it cannot be them because they have no relevant expertise at all.

The whole episode is remarkably reminiscent of the ‘Gospel of Jesus’ Wife’. That was ‘proved’ to be genuine by scientific tests but turned out to be a crude forgery. In that case, an ancient blank scrap of papyrus had been written on by the forgers. It is possible that the lead in the codices is indeed old having been taken from something like a lead coffin, and reused to make the codices. The references to Hugh Schonfield may prove to be relevant. The codices would seem to conform to his view of Christianity with a dash of added feminism. If they were forged, then perhaps his works were the inspiration for the forgers, whoever they may be.



And finally, I will post this to end my deluge (of sorts):



If the lead is 2,000 years old or so, that doesn’t tell me anything. It could still be a forgery. It was not common, but it was not unusual in the ancient world to make coffins out of thin sheets of lead. I read about one, for example, that was of the Roman era, found in Britain. And, of course, Romans made pipes and conduits, even the lining of aqueducts out of lead. Easy enough to punch sheets out of something like that by someone who knew lead could be dated.


closed #27

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