Set of 70 Metal Tablets May Have the Earliest Written Account and Depiction of Jesus
When a set of 70 bound metal tablets was unearthed in Jordan in 2008, questions about the artifacts validity arose. However, researchers have now analyzed the codices and say they are genuine and may date to about 2,000 years ago. Furthermore, one of the metal tablets could have the earliest depictions of Jesus.
The Daily Mail reports that the tablets were discovered “in a remote part of Jordan to which Christian refugees are known to have fled after the fall of Jerusalem in 70AD.” When they first came to light in 2011 the content within the texts created a great deal of controversy. Many people said that the documents had to be fakes.
The bound metal tablets. (Jordan Codices)
And that’s not surprising, as the documents provide details that are sure to disturb some people’s belief system. According to the Elkingtons, a couple who have been fighting for the manuscript’s recognition, the text says that Jesus was restoring a 1000-year-old tradition from King David’s time – not creating a new religion. Moreover, the text says that Jesus worshipped a God that was both male and female.
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Now, Professors Roger Webb and Chris Jeynes at the University of Surrey's Nodus Laboratory from the Ion Beam Center have tested one of the tablets and confirmed that it is “compatible with a comparative sample of ancient Roman lead coming from the excavation site in Dorset.” [Via Science World Report] Webb and Jeynes’ analysis of the radioactivity arising from polonium indicates that the lead in the codex is over 100 years old.
One of the lead codices found in Jordan. (Jordan Codices)
However, Science world Report claims that the crystallization analysis of the codex also showed researchers that it is between 1800-2000 years old. Those experts have said:
"While there may be variations in decay and corrosion that depend upon the environmental conditions in which the objects were stored or hidden, there is a strong underlying theme of decay from within the metal. It is oxidising and breaking down at atomic level to revert to its natural state. This is not witnessed in lead objects that are several centuries old and is not possible to produce by artificial acceleration (e.g. through heating). This provides very strong evidence that the objects are of great age, consistent with the studies of the text and designs that suggest an age of around 2000 years.”
When researchers analyzed the text itself they found that the language used in the script is Paleo-Hebrew. However, as Professor Roger Webb has pointed out, “If the lead is old, the writing is old. But there is no guarantee that what is written on them is true.” The metal tablets have numerous eight-pointed stars and mention the names of the apostles Peter, John, and James, as well as Jesus Christ.
Part of the codices. (David Elkington)
As a result of the current media frenzy on this topic, Dr. Rowan Williams, former Archbishop of Canterbury and now Master of Magdalene College, Cambridge, has called for “a fresh examination of the Jordan Codices.”
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The renewed interest in the codices is the result of the efforts of two British authors, David and Jennifer Elkington. They received the metal tablets for testing by permission of the Department of Antiquities in Amman, Jordan.
David Elkington told Christian Today that they had a corrosion expert study the image of Christ on the metal tablet, and without a doubt, it is genuine. He described the image, “His face is surrounded by a halo and he appears every inch the Nazarene. The Codex was sealed on all sides and then placed in lead box before being sealed away in the cave in Northern Jordan.”
The metal tablet which may be a portrait of Jesus. (David Elkington)
With the new test results in hand, Elkington is still asking that the tablets receive a fair trial, he said: “Any remaining doubts must now be answered by proper excavation of the site in Jordan and carried out by proper archaeologist with impartial objectives."
Webb and Jeynes seem to concur with the author on this point:
“All charges of fakery and forgery raised by bloggers and some scholars should now be dismissed to allow proper study and preservation of the sites in which these items were discovered. This will provide additional evidence that should enable more accurate dating and better interpretation of the meaning and purpose of the items.”
The archaeometallurgist and former Director of Antiquities in Amman, Dr. Ziad Al Saad has declared the discovery of the Jordan codices as one of the most important finds in that country. He said: “These manuscripts are a part of Jordan's heritage and global heritage, and we hope to share it soon with the rest of the world.”
The tablets seem to be gaining some ground in the area of recognition, but you’ll have to wait and see what the researchers next move will be in discovering more about these controversial codices.
One of the metal tablets. (David Elkington)
Top Image: The Jordanian codex loaned to the Elkingtons for testing. Source: David Elkington