"Angels can fly because they take themselves lightly." – G. K. Chesterton

As of April 7, 2011, this appears to be a hoax. D’oh!

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The internet is abuzz with talk about what might (or might not) be an enormous discovery in Jordan.  Seventy books printed on lead plates may have ties to very early Christian groups in the Middle East.  If these are genuine, they could be one of the biggest discoveries of all times and give us much greater certainty about what the first Christians believed.

If these are genuine. Aye, there’s the rub. Because biblical archaeology attracts hoaxes the way a compost heap attracts flies. Do you remember the James ossuary? How about the Jesus family tomb? And who could forget Secret Mark? This stuff flies fast and furious, both from those who want to prove the gospels true and those who want to disprove them. (Though generally more from the later category than from the former.) It also attracts big money. Both the Jesus Tomb hoax and the supposed Lost Gospel of Judas were bankrolled by the media, the former by the Discovery Channel and the later by National Geographic. Where big money goes, truth does not usually follow.

Even if the lead codices are not an out-and-out hoax, it remains to be seen whether they are truly as revolutionary as some are saying. Dating on metal objects is hard, since they don’t contain carbon. It could be that these codices come from several centuries after Christ. It could be that they are not related to Christianity at all. The only evidence on that score is a drawing that appears to show a cross and an empty tomb on a map of Jerusalem.

At the same time, we shouldn’t rush to reject the possibility that they are very early Christian documents. One thing that many people have brought up is that writing on lead plates was most common in the second and third centuries. While that’s true, we do have samples of metal codices from the early first century as well. A picture of a menorah on one of the plates suggests that they date from before the final split between Judaism and Christianity, which was c. 90 A.D.

So all in all, I’m cautiously optimistic about this discovery. Here’s the article for those who wish to read more.

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Comments on: "Possibly huge archaeological find in the Middle East" (1)

  1. I find each of these discoveries relating to biblical archeology fascinating. While it is very important to find out when such artifacts are from I feel a more important question is what is the significance? For example, when someone claims to have found the spot where Jesus was buried or any other physical “proof” of biblical events what does this mean for Christians? While I am not strictly a Christian I feel as though such discoveries are exciting, should not be a way of “proving” the faith. If one believes in the Bible then they shouldn’t be so desperate for evidence that their beliefs are justified. Still, it’s exciting no matter what significance one places on this. Thanks for posting the link!

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