April 11, 2011

The Authenticity of the Lead Codices: Scholars Disagree

According to a growing number of scholars, scores of lead codices revealed to the public last month as possibly the earliest Christian writings may be nothing more than modern forgeries. The latest and most vocal doubts have come from Dr. Peter Thonemann, a specialist in ancient Greek at Wadham College in Oxford, who was sent pictures of the codices by their most ardent defender, archaeologist and Biblical scholar David Elkington.

After reviewing the images of the codices, Thonemann is very suspicious and believes the credit-card sized books were probably made within the past 50 years. “The image they are saying is Christ is the sun god Helios from a coin that came from the island of Rhodes,” said Thonemann. “There are also some nonsense inscriptions in Hebrew and Greek.” The Israel Antiquities Authority, among others, had earlier voiced its concern that the books contained “a mixture of incompatible periods and styles without any connection or logic.”

Archaeologist and biblical scholar, David Elkington believes, however that the 70 lead and copper books, or codices, found in Jordan could be among the earliest Christian documents, predating the writings of St Paul.

Mr Elkington hit back at Dr Thonemann yesterday: “He’s not a biblical scholar, he’s a Greek classicist. Dismissing the provenance of the books on the basis of two low resolution photographs by e-mail is out of order. We welcome healthy debate but it is not very helpful for anybody to dismiss it on such little evidence.”

Read more here.

Dozens of photos are now online here.

Jim Davila provides a concise and compelling summary of the case against the authenticity of the lead codices here.