Jordan ‘Lead Codices’ Redux

There seems to be a lot of conversation again about the lead codices.  So for those new to the conversation, there are some important links.

The video on why the codices are believed to be fakes produced in a workshop in Amman can be found here:

The two academically published articles on the codices and why they are probably fakes can be found at Bible and Interpretation here (to my knowledge these are the most thorough discussions and contain multiple links to roundups, academic interpretations, and are the only articles academically published on the subject):

You’ll also want to check out the Biblioblog Reference Library, as they have a whole section devoted to the codices. The website is very useful since it contains all sorts of information and useful multimedia so you can see the evidence for yourselves on why these are probably fakes and why most academics don’t trust them. See here:

Jordan Lead Codices: Another Stamp Found

Upon investigating the leaf from one of the “500 fakes” I noticed this stamp:

And I knew immediately that I had seen this stamp before on this “authentic” lead codex here:

And as it turns out, the iconography is identical (note also that the helmet with plume and cheek straps from the Herod the Great prutah is on this “authentic” codex and also on the “fake” codex seen here).  Here is a comparison:

And here is a better comparison:

Once again proving that the same stamps were used to create the “authentic” codices and the “500 fakes”.

Jordan Lead Codices: Case Closed as “Genuine” Forgeries?

And so we are once again brought back to these codices.  Elkington and company will not stop pretending, it seems.  This time they might have unintentionally admitted to their forgeries:

Approximately two months ago, Hassan Saida, the Israeli Bedouin who smuggled the Jordan Codices into Israel, telephoned to inform the team that he and his cohorts had made 500 forgeries of various of the codices and put them into the Jerusalem market.   We didn’t think too much of it as he tells lots of tales; however, one of team members was sent these two photographs by someone who purchased them in Israel. To those who have seen the real McCoy, these were obvious forgeries.   However, even comparing them to the posted photographs, the difference is all too apparent.   Below are some observations made by one of the metal experts assisting the team.  We expect more will materialise in due course.

Steve Caruso notes:

Interesting thing about the above image that came with the release: If it is based off one of the codices, it does not resemble any of the codices released thusfar. At first glance, this one is in a much more obvious Hebrew/Aramaic-flavored script rather than the seemingly “Paleo-Hebrew/Aramaic/Coptic” mix of the others. (Something that their “metal expert” noticed as well. I wish I had a name to put to their words.)

via The Aramaic Blog: Lead Codices: “Genuine” Forgeries?.

And Joel Watts:

David Elkington is not letting this die – as now the Bedouin who first smuggled out the ‘Lead Codices’ is telling everyone that he has created 500 forgeries. Of course, the ‘real’ lead codices is what David has… Do you know the mental mind-flips it takes to state that that guy who is telling everyone that he has made 500 forgeries is now lying and that your copy is the only real copy?

Jim Davila aptly notes:

I think the evidence presented so far is adequately explained by positing that someone in modern times made the fake metal codices, apparently using ancient metal, at least for some of them. If anyone wants to demonstrate that among the now admitted sea of fakes is a genuine ancient inscription, I refer them to my list of conditions that need to be fulfilled here. Take your time, but don’t expect me to hold my breath.

Dan McClellan writes:

Is this an attempt to account for the exposure of other codices as modern forgeries? If so, it falls well, well short of explaining the numerous genetic relationships shared between the script and iconography of the Thonemann codices and the others being promoted as genuine (see my discussion here and here). It also produces a rather unique codex that has little relationship to the other demonstrable forgeries. I can’t say the “team” involved in the promulgation of this hoax is impressing me with their craftiness.

In truth, this seems to me like a part of the bigger lie here.  What better way to validate your claims that these aren’t forgeries than to release real forgeries?  As if to say, “See?  These are the actual forgeries, and we are so incompetent we created terrible forgeries, so these others must be real!” or something to that effect.  In the end, however, Elkington and company have only revealed their hand: they have admitted to having the means and the shop to fabricate, and in a short amount of time, lead codices.  Just because this batch turned out to be crappier than their earlier versions does not make the originals any more authentic or ‘genuine’ than the 500 they admit are forgeries.  The only thing it means is that their workshop has not yet been discovered and they have not yet been held accountable for their lies.

UPDATE (8/23/11, 11:49AM EST):

The Facebook page for the codices has uploaded a new image of a fake:

Just from an initial glance, the iconography on this admitted forgery is identical to the iconography on the ‘genuine’ codices.  That is to say, the same stamps were clearly used.  The menorah, the Bar Kokhba imagery from coins, the palm tree, even the script, is clearly the same.  This further validates my position that the original ‘genuine’ codices were produced by he same shop which replicated these 500 fakes.

See this image from this front tablet:

This is clearly seen in other tablets.  See the same image from this post a few months ago:

Steve Caruso made this animated image of the “fake” codex image over the “original” codex image, and as you can see, the two are identical:

Even the lettering around the stamp is the same (because the script is part of the stamp).  This seals it then, so to speak.  These are fakes and so are the ‘originals’.

Also the interested reader should check out the dedicated page at the Biblioblog Reference Library here.

UPDATE (8/23/11, 4:35PM EST):

Steve Caruso and Dan McClellan were removed from the Jordan Codices Facebook page; both were politely inquiring about the codices in the images and clearly were censored by a nervous hand.  In other news relating to Elkington, the conman himself went on the air today and made some extremely dilettantish comments, showing one and all how little he really knows or, conversely, how good of a liar he is (transcript courtesy of Dan McClellan):

For those of you who didn’t listen to Elkington’s interview on that Coast to Coast radio show, I went ahead and transcribed a couple minutes of it that I found particularly ludicrous (specifically 13:51 – 15:31):

–       Elkington: Um, we, we’re–we’re–we’re performing more analysis now on the translation and the decipherment of the language. A lot of people have said, “Oh, I’ve seen these things on the web, the, uh, language is–is–is–it’s gibberish; it–it makes no sense. It’s a very odd form of Aramaic.” Well, um, actually the news is this: it isn’t Aramaic. The script is a square script, which means it’s Hebrew, and the form of Hebrew that it is, is called paleo-Hebrew, which is very, very ancient indeed, and there are only four or five people in the world who are familiar with it. And we’re working with one of those, uh, professors at the moment, who thinks he’s on the edge of a breakthrough with the language.

–       Interviewer: Wow.

–       Elkington: Some of it’s translatable, but a lot of it is still yet to be, uh, deciphered.

–       Interviewer: Ok, but paleo-Hebrew would date to a specific time that would, at least in my understanding, would come a long time before–before Christ and the Hebrew of the–of the first century as we­–as we know it. Is that not true?

–       Elkington: Yeah, that’s very true. That’s a very astute observation, if I may say so. Um, the use of paleo-Hebrew is extraordinary. It would be rather like you and I using Latin today.

–       Interviewer: Right, exactly.

–       Elkington: It would really make no sense to the large majority of people; but what, actually, it shows, is paleo-Hebrew may well have been the language of Moses, um, Moses on the mountain collecting the ten commandments. So, therefore, the use of it states that it really is like an official temple language, and that they’re using the original words of God, which makes this all the more extraordinary.
But Elkington is quite wrong and rather ignorant.  Let’s break this down a bit.  First, the paleo-Hebrew script is not necessarily that ancient.   For example, such script was used on coins during the Bar Kokbha rebellion (132-135 CE) on coins:

You’ll note, as I have, and Dan McClellan has, and Steve Caruso has, that the script on this coin is identical in many instances to the script on the codices.  In addition, there are other possible types of script as well.  It seems like Coptic (and above), Greek, and possibly other ancient scripts are also on many of these codices.  And there are a lot of scholars out there who are familiar paleo-Hebrew.  Even none-scholars, like educated amateurs, with an adequate grasp of the subject, can translate it.
Dan McClellan remarks (echoing my comments above):
First, scholars have been pointing out it seems to be a meaningless mixture and adaptation of scripts, not just that it is “a very odd form of Aramaic.” Next, a “square script” does not indicate Hebrew, and his claim that the script is paleo-Hebrew actually precludes it being a “square script.” Next, there are far, far more than four or five people in the world who are familiar with paleo-Hebrew. This is the most stunning and flagrant lie of the entire interview. Further, though, the use of paleo-Hebrew actually does not indicate antiquity, since paleo-Hebrew is actually a comparatively modern adaptation of the Old Hebrew script used specifically in texts considered particularly sacred or important. Multiple manuscripts from the Dead Sea Scrolls were written entirely in paleo-Hebrew, and the Tetragrammaton appears in several regular manuscripts in paleo-Hebrew.
Finally, David Meadows takes note with the recent (anonymous) metallurgical testing done on the codices and found this gem:
This in turn suggests that the lead has been re-melted and could well contain a mixture of lead from different sources together with lead from the copper alloy.  In contrast, the lead from the wire has overall much lower levels of impurities, with copper at only 100 ppm, and is much more likely to have come virtually direct from an ingot.
To which Meadows points out:
Later mention is made of the recycled nature of the lead in the sheets … that’s one point that needs to be mentioned if it hasn’t already.
At this point there can be no more disagreement.  These need to be called out for the fakes that they are.
Additional links:
UPDATE (8/27/11; 6:26PM EST):
I have posted up some new finds from Steve Caruso and Dan McClellan here!  Take a look, as it may just be the final nail in the coffin on these codices.
UPDATE (8/30/11; 1:30PM EST)
Steve Caruso and Dan McClellan have posted up some great material today, absolutely fascinating, and it must be shared.
First, Steve Caruso posted up defining evidence that the script on the codices come from the same stamps.  Here are his images:
And this stamps appearance on other codices:
Steve aptly notes:
We can see that in some of the larger plates that they are staggered in such a way to look like a unique sequence of text. This staggered pattern directly demonstrates that there is no attempt to preserve word order of the text itself. To do so, one would have to wrap each individual line until the sequence of characters was complete and this is how it appears on genuine inscriptions, no matter how messy, as it is the recording of the semantic content that is the focus of the exercise.Because of this regularity and pattern, it demonstrates that the “stamps” are the casting unit rather than the “text” itself that is in them.

Go read it all to see the other interesting things he says and more examples of the script!
Dan also posted an excellent blog today with fun images which, again, show quite definitively that we’re looking at fakes.  Dan tracked down the coin which the face of Alexander the Great appears (and is also a known fake–go figure!):
Dan writes:
The use of a number of stamps has been suggested in the past based on the frequent repetition of the menorah, the two different styles of trees, etc. See also the two different versions of the “Christ” face…
You can see the mold was manipulated somewhat after the stamp impression was made and before the casting was done. The images are not identical, but come from the same stamp. I cannot agree that this impression comes from a Mona Lisa image, though. This would require the forger created a three dimensional copy of the Mona Lisa image for the stamp. It would have been much easier to us an existing stamp image, and the helios coins are obviously the closest match (although I have not found an exact match). In the copper codex that was falsified by Peter Thonemann the stamps were just fake ancient coins. Earlier Robert Deutsch felt he identified the exact fake for the chariot scene…
Definitely check out what both Dan and Steve have to say.  Again, I reiterate my statement earlier.  There can be no doubts left against the conclusion that these codices are fakes.
Finally, check out the recent ignorant comments left by Elkington, the man who is pushing these fakes as the real deal.

Analysis of Possible Coptic in New Images

I’ve taken a number out of the Steve Caruso book and came up with a simple analysis sheet.  These images come from the new pictures which Jim West put up on his blog.  Click to enlarge.

See background here, here, and here.

Possible Coptic Script on the Lead Codices?

Steve Caruso chimed into the discussion with some interesting insights (as usual), and he posits that some of the script on the lead codices (recently supplied by Jim West) might be Coptic.  So I took a look (Caveat: I am not proficient in Coptic, but I’ve studied enough Coptic to have an amateurish grasp of it).  I leave it to the experts to tell me how I did (Marvin Meyer, if you’re reading, or April DeConick, leave a note or two) and offer any additional comments.

(Edit: Steve Caruso alerted me to this file [shown below] examining Coptic script in earlier pictures of the faux codices)

I had noted to myself some similarities to Coptic before but dismissed it when it became clear the tablet iconography were but modern casts.  Returning to Jim’s posted pictures I did see some similarities to Coptic.  Of course there is the shai (Ϣ) and ti (t), and also what might be a fai (Ϥ), but they are all backwards…that is, they are facing the wrong direction.  And this is among other characters I am not familiar with.  I am not sure if this represents an additional instance where the inscriber/forger was simply unfamiliar with Coptic and because of his method of copying, copied them backwards or if this is due to something else.  Either way, there is one important thing to remember: These are also on the same tablet with images which appear to be taken directly from the coins provided by Robert Deutsch (via Jim West’s blog)…

And of course, I share Steve’s frustration and curiosity, and what better way than this?

Background here (post from earlier) and here (Bible and Interpretation article).

Just When You Thought it was Over…

There is yet more coming out on the Lead Codices.  Jim West highlights, with the help of Robert Deutsch, more photos of the lead codices, just released, with the coins the images were forged from (yes, more coin iconography!).  And yesterday a new article from the JT came out about the 14C dating:

Preliminary lab results indicate that a collection of metal books unearthed in northern Jordan may indeed represent the earliest Christian texts ever discovered, according to experts.

According to the Department of Antiquities (DoA), initial carbon tests to determine the authenticity of lead-sealed metal books billed as the greatest find in biblical archaeology since the Dead Sea scrolls have been “encouraging”.

“We really believe that we have evidence from this analysis to prove that these materials are authentic,” DoA Director Ziad Saad told The Jordan Times.

The tests, carried out at the Royal Scientific Society labs, indicate that the texts may date back to the early first century AD, at a time when Christians took refuge from persecution on the east bank of the Jordan River.

But as I’ve said time and time again, along with others, old lead is common and doesn’t prove the iconography is ancient–just the metal.  The evidence against their authenticity is pretty daunting.  But there are problems with this which again establish quite clearly the lie behind the veil…as Jona makes it quite clear, 14C testing is done on organics (re: biological), not inorganics (like lead).  Even Wikipedia gets it right:

Carbon-14, 14C, or radiocarbon, is a radioactive isotope of carbon with a nucleus containing 6 protons and 8 neutrons. Its presence in organic materials is the basis of the radiocarbon dating method pioneered by Willard Libby and colleagues (1949), to date archaeological, geological, and hydrogeological samples.

For additional information on dating techniques, though there might be errors (because its on Wikipedia) so consult an actual archaeologist, you can get a quick overview of archaeological dating methods here.  You can also check out this article on dating methods in archaeology from about.com.  From the about.com page:

Although I am hardly a chemist or a physicist, and so will leave the detailed explanations to those who are better at it than I (for example, Anne Marie Helmenstine’s page in About Chemistry), essentially radiocarbon dating uses the amount of carbon 14 available in living creatures as a measuring stick. All living things maintain a content of carbon 14 in equilibrium with that available in the atmosphere, right up to the moment of death. When an organism dies, the amount of C14 available within it begins to decay at a half life rate of 5730 years; i.e., it takes 5730 years for 1/2 of the C14 available in the organism to decay. Comparing the amount of C14 in a dead organism to available levels in the atmosphere, produces an estimate of when that organism died. So, for example, if a tree was used as a support for a structure, the date that tree stopped living (i.e., when it was cut down) can be used to date the building’s construction date.

And any number of books could be accessed to prove this point over and over.  Here are just two:

  • Robert L. Kelly and David Hurst Thomas, Archaeology (Cengage Learning, 2009), 133-136.
  • Herbert D. G. Maschner and Christopher Chippindale (eds.), Handbook of Archaeological Methods (Rowman Altamira, 2005), 307-336

Finally I get to use the background in inorganic chemistry I’ve gained from working in a lab for the past year and a half.  The thing with archaeology is you’re digging it up, so there are bound to be organic traces (contaminants, actually) in everything.  But this really comes down to, say, the actual inorganic metals (like those excavated from a mine).  So you could theoretically test the organic contaminants for 14C but you’re not going to get an accurate reading since it is, after all, contaminants and there is simply no way to now where those contaminants came from and it is only possible (again theoretically–not practically) to test if someone perhaps held it with their hands or scraped off skin cells or something, and even then you’d have to test relatively quickly and the longer something is in the ground, the more improbable it is that you could adequately test it.  And again, these are contaminants on the metal itself and could have come from anywhere.  Since the provenance of these codices are unknown and sketchy it muddies the issue even more.

And testing the metal itself will do absolutely nothing since inorganics can’t contain 14C (it has to, after all, be something that contains carbon).  Now it might be possible to date the lead using other methods and lead does contain different isotopes than other inorganics (so testing for Uranium decay in the lead might actually be useful), but that wouldn’t validate the ‘authenticity’ (whatever that might mean) of the codices as a whole (iconography, status as ‘relics’ for example), it would only validate the age of the lead itself.  And we already know that the ones we’ve seen are modern fabrications.

Jim Davila also weighs in on this new article by the JT (snippet here):

1. The claim is that the new metal codices in the hands of the Jordanian Government are part of the same cache as those announced back in March. I take them at their word, but no proof has yet been advanced.

2. What’s this about “carbon tests” and “carbon dating” on metal plates? Carbon-14 dating is applied to organic material. Is there organic material, such as leather scroll, associated with these plates? Or, more likely, has someone made a careless mistake here?

3. Assuming the latter, it appears that the current tests indicate that the metal of the plates is ancient. It has been known for a long time that the fake metal codices may be made of genuinely ancient metal. The first report, on 3 March, in the Jewish Chronicle (cf. here), reported this:

Undeterred, Mr Feather instead cites the findings of Peter Northover, a metals analyst at Oxford University. Conducting tests on two samples of metal from one book, Dr Northover concluded that their composition was “consistent with a range of ancient lead,” and that it was clear from the surface corrosion that the book was “not a recent production”.

The IAA remains unconvinced, arguing that the metal could have been taken from an ancient coffin while the messages could have been fabricated later.

This test was done privately and has not been published. The IAA has replied adequately: such ancient metal is available and could be used for such forgeries, so the new test does not tell us anything very interesting.

Artifacts and the Media: Lead Codices and the Public Portrayal of History

I have a new article published at Bible and Interpretation.  Here are some snippets:

Two months ago an article hit the media streams hard and fast, announcing that new artifacts had been discovered by a Bedouin containing the earliest known Christian writings, possibly even the words of the figure of Jesus himself.1 With a headline like that, anyone with even a modicum of academic interest in the historicity of the figure of Jesus would have looked over the article for any mention of a peer reviewed journal where they could read about the discovery, any translations of the script, or any dating methods used. To their dismay, they would have found nothing of the sort.

More scandalous is the complete lack of journalistic integrity, honest research, and thorough fact-checking. These codices might never have been heard of if the authors of the reports for BBC and Fox News (among others) had just checked with the academic community before publishing the “find”. At the very least, the journalists might have used less authoritative language, expressed more caution, and exposed the controversy rather than simply stating, as if doing so made it fact, that these codices were “the earliest Christian texts” and that they held “early images of Jesus.”

via The Bible and Interpretation – Artifacts and the Media: Lead Codices and the Public Portrayal of History.

Many thanks to those involved in the email group for their useful contributions not only to this article but to the investigation into these lead codices as well.  Everyone dedicated a lot of time and effort over the past few months and it has definitely paid off.

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