Early Christian Lead Codices: Artifacts Are Forgeries

By | April 12, 2011

 

lead-plates-face-of-jesusSeventy metal books allegedly discovered in a cave in Jordan have been hailed as the earliest Christian documents. Dating them to mere decades after Jesus’ death, scholars have called the “lead codices” the most important discovery in archaeological history, and leading media outlets have added fuel to the fire surrounding the books in recent weeks.

“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,” reported the BBC. [Image]

Slowly, though, more and more questions have arisen about the authenticity of the codices, whose credit-card-size pages are cast in lead and bound together by lead rings. Today, an Aramaic translator has completed his analysis of the artifacts, and has found what he says is incontrovertible evidence that they are fakes.

“I obtained photos of all the text that was available, and spent the past week looking over them,” said Steve Caruso, a professional Aramaic translator and teacher who is consulted by dealers of antiquities to analyze inscriptions on ancient artifacts.

“I noticed there were a lot of Old Aramaic forms that were at least 2,500 years old. But they were mixed in with other

forms that were younger, so I took a closer look at that and pulled out all the distinct forms that I could find,” Caruso told Life’s Little Mysteries. “It was very, very odd — I’ve never seen this kind of mix before.” The youngest scripts he identified, called Nabatean and Palmyrene, date from the second and third centuries, proving the documents could not possibly have been written during the dawn of Christianity, Caruso said.

Even the oldest scripts were written by someone who didn’t know what he was doing, the new analysis shows. “There were inconsistencies in how they did the stroke order, which you would never have seen. Scribes had very specific ways of doing things,” Caruso said. Furthermore, several characters appeared “flipped” — a mistake that would imply they were hastily copied rather than original. …

“I was a little bit surprised that they did take on as much media coverage as they did,” Caruso said. “The media took the press release hook, line and sinker without doing serious investigation. If they had they would have found that David Elkington, who brought them to the forefront, is in the fringe of academia.”

Some good photos and good timing probably gave the artifacts a boost. “I think there were a lot of really, really good photos, and the whole thing seemed convincing on the surface. People are looking for something to write about in the Easter season and this is something that would make great news.”

Fake Christian relics are relatively common, Bowes said. “Modern people’s urge to find material evidence from the first two centuries of Christianity is much stronger than the actual evidence itself. …via Exclusive: Early Christian Lead Codices Now Called Fakes | Christian Artifacts Are Forgeries | Life’s Little Mysteries.

I wonder if the forger was the real “eerily familiar” face of Jesus in the forgery.

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