Sunday, April 03, 2011

EARLIEST CHRISTIAN WRITING FOUND IN NORTHERN JORDAN BETWEEN 2005 AND 2007

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. They could, just possibly, change our understanding of how Jesus was crucified and resurrected, and how Christianity was born.

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.

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.

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." 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.

"[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."
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.

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.

1 Comments:

Blogger James F. McGrath said...

I'm not sure where some of this information came from, but there has been extensive discussion of these "finds" on the blogs of a number of Biblical scholars and other interested parties - Jim Davila and Mark Goodacre, to name just a couple - and the evidence is mounting that they are fakes. I thought you would want to know.

8:13 PM  

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