Margaret and I have had a pretty decent exchange over the codices over the past few days. Margaret is a pleasant and knowledgeable person with a lot of useful information. She writes the following:
Of course you may publish this. I wish the newspapers were as courteous as you are. I have just been reading all sorts of things [!], including a major piece about myself in our local paper about which I was not consulted at all. It was all cobbled togther from blogs etc, and then proudly declared to be copyright when there was not an original line in it.
I cannot vouch for the formal/ relevant ‘qualifications’ of anyone involved in this apart from certain of my scholarly colleagues whom I have known for years. And not all scholars are either ‘right’ or honourable.
‘Backdoor and vague’, as you call it, is one of those curiosities. Any firm statements are said to be premature, anything less precise is vague. How does one win?
I have used the Scrolls fiasco as a warning of what happens when a certain type of scholar gets hold of something. The result there was that fellow scholars had to wait for 50 or so years for full publication. Philip Davies had personal experience of this, not being allowed even to see what was thought to be the missing part of the text he was studying for his PhD. With these metal books which may or may not be genuine, that will not happen, and the time scale will not be measured in years.
And you may publish anything from this piece too.
I responded with the following email:
My concern though is that there seems to be more to this than just what you and Philip have been consulted about. The issue with Thonemann, for example, is deeper than simply duplicated tablets. Thonemann raises an important problem with at least one of the tablets; that is to say, the text is lifted directly from an inscription from a tombstone in a museum. The translation has absolutely no context beyond this. So it is quite clear that at least one of the tablets is indeed a modern fake. That might not mean all of them are (I think I saw some lead curse scrolls in a picture featured on the daily mail…two unwound scrolls of lead with pierce marks in them), but that does call into question some of the involvement of others outside the field.
And do not mistake me for an elitist. Just so you have some background, I am an undergrad who is still working on his BA in the field, so I am not one to cast a shadow on those uncredentialed. I have the pleasure of having some very amazing friends and thankfully will soon be published through CIS with Thompson in December. But I am concerned that many whose opinions I respect might be caught up in an elaborate scam they might not know all the details about. This has happened before (I reference Speiser’s Nuzi Tablets here and also the recent fiasco with the James Ossuary that took forever to get through).
Yes, I am aware of all this. I was invited to comment on the images in the pictures I was shown, and I have seen a couple of metallurgists’ reports.
If the very worst comes to the very worst, I can confirm that they were good fakes!
Due to health problems, I have been unable to travel and see any of these exciting things/places/ people for myself, and so have had to rely on photos.
I hope this is not just an Indiana Jones story, but it might be. The tablet copied from a tombstone in a museum is a fake almost certainly, but it and others similar might have been added to the ‘find’ and then used as a decoy for the authorities who would then release the others as all fakes. I was all too aware of the anitiquities market being rather too interested! Things, however, keep coming into my mind. Why did St John emphasise that the sealed book opened in Revelation was a little book??
What worries me is that this business has brought to the surface some very unpleasant currents in contemporary scholarship.
The debate will continue.
I will of course keep everyone posted on additional information, as it becomes available, and with the permission of those expressing their views. I am glad to see that Margaret, like Philip, has come to accept the possibility that we are indeed talking about fakes. This shows that there is still a huge level of uncertainty. That Margaret has only seen photos also leads to the conclusion that there has, as of yet, not been any thorough examination of the codices by an authority–not even those who have been cited, falsely, in news reports.
Filed under: Ancient Near East, Archaeology, Belief, Biblioblogging, Early Christianity, Life, Minimalism, Scholarship Tagged: | christianity, curse tablets, David Elkington, Dilettante, jesus, Jesus tablets, Jordan, Judaism, lead tablets, Margaret Barker, messianic tablets, Paul Elkington, pseudo-archaeology, pseudo-christianity, pseudo-scholarship, Robert Feather