I mentioned a few days ago the find of a stash of lead books, supposedly from the time of Christ, in Jordan.
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.
Elkington, however, may not be a reputable scholar, at least according to blogger Clayboy here.
Today Jim Davila gives a damning email from Peter Thonemann, of Wadham College, Oxford, here. It turns out that Elkington approached Thonemann last year, asking for information about one of the codices, on copper. And he got it; clear evidence of forgery. Unfortunately it seems that Mr. Elkington did not heed the warning.
On 15 September 2010, I received the following email out of the blue from a certain David Elkington …
“… one of the copper codices that brings me to you. … It has an inscription in Greek along the top. A putative investigation has failed to find the meaning, dialect or type of Greek used and we are seeking to find an expert who might help in determining what it says. Would you have the time and the knowledge to be able to help?”
I received on the 13 October the following three photographs of this ‘copper codex’ from Mr Elkington … I replied later that same day…
“The text was incised by someone who did not know the Greek language, since he does not distinguish between the letters lambda and alpha: both are simply represented, in each of the texts, by the shape Λ. The text literally means ‘without grief, farewell! Abgar also known as Eision’. This text, in isolation, is meaningless. However, this text corresponds precisely to line 2 of the Greek text of a bilingual Aramaic/Greek inscription published by J.T. Milik, …
‘For Selaman, excellent and harmless man, farewell! Abgar, also known as Eision, son of Monoathos, constructed this tomb for his excellent son (i.e. Selaman), in the third year of the province’.
This is a stone tombstone from Madaba in Jordan, precisely dated to AD 108/9, on display in the Archaeological Museum in Amman.
The text on your bronze tablet, therefore, makes no sense in its own right, but has been extracted unintelligently from another longer text … The longer text from which it derives is a perfectly ordinary tombstone from Madaba in Jordan which happens to have been on display in the Amman museum for the past fifty years or so. The text on your bronze tablet is repeated, in part, in three different places, meaningless in each case.
The only possible explanation is that the text on the bronze tablet was copied directly from the inscription in the museum at Amman by someone who did not understand the meaning of the text of the inscription, but was simply looking for a plausible-looking sequence of Greek letters to copy. He copied that sequence three times, in each case mixing up the letters alpha and lambda.
This particular bronze tablet is, therefore, a modern forgery, produced in Jordan within the last fifty years. I would stake my career on it.
And Jim adds:
At least one of David Elkington’s metal codices (a copper one) is a forgery. It seems very unlikely indeed, therefore, that any of them are genuine.
Which sums up my feelings too.