Update: Lead Plates Feature Casting From Forged Bronze Plates

Update links on the topic:

Jim Davila at PaleoJudaica.com has posted a more complete version of the correspondence here. It features a number of interesting links on the topic, as well as Peter Thonemann's own recent commentary on the topic.

Jim's further ruminations on the question "if one is fake are others necessarily fake?", which are similar to my own below, can be found here.

Original update post {g}:

As Bill Kesatie reported here on the Cadre Journal a few days ago, a collection of "70 or so 'books', each with between five and 15 lead leaves bound by lead rings, was apparently discovered in a remote arid valley in northern Jordan somewhere between 2005 and 2007." (The quote is from a related BBC article referenced by Bill; please see the link above for other related links in his original post.)

Yesterday, March 31st, an email began circulating around (which has been verified by Daniel McClellan on his site here), written by Peter Thonemann at Oxford, to the owner of the plates, responding to a query about their legitimacy.

Dr. T's email can be found at the link above. But the gist is that the bronze covering on one of the plates in the collection (or what is presumably the same collection) has been sloppily copied by someone who doesn't know Greek from the second line of a bilingual Greek/Aramaic tombstone inscription that can be found in on display in the Archaeological Museum in Amman.

As Dr. T wrote to the owner at that time:

"The text on your bronze tablet, therefore, makes no sense in its own right, but has been extracted unintelligently from another longer text (as if it were inscribed with the words: ‘t to be that is the question wheth’). The longer text from which it derives is a perfectly ordinary [mid-second century] 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."

There is no way this bronze tablet could be authentic, unless it is an authentic ancient forgery! (Which isn't impossible.)

What does this have to do with the lead tablets?

1.) The same guy who learned the bronze tablet was definitely a forgery (whether an ancient one or not), is next year promoting a group of lead sheets which might or might not be part of the same group;

2.) And one of the images on one of those lead sheets, exactly matches the tree engraving on the bronze tablet (which was definitely forged.)

It isn't impossible, of course, that both sheets happened to use an identical ancient art-supply tree-stamping when they were being made, even if they had nothing else at all to do with one another. And then just happened, by coincidence, to be collected together by the same collector. It is also technically possible that we have an ancient forger stash where an unused forgery (the bronze plate) uses an artistic stamp the forger pulled off a lead sheet he got from somewhere else.

But the easier explanation for now, seems to be that the person who forged the bronze plate took the same stamp and used it to make an identical artistic mark on the lead plate which the owner of both plates is now marketing as being (perhaps?) a genuine item.

We'll pass on any further updates as we run across them. Right now, the evidence is swinging against the lead plates being anything worth writing home about, so far as the history of 1st century Christianity or even Judaism (or even Palestine!) is concerned.


BK said…
Good stuff, Jason. Disappointing, but I wasn't sold on the idea that they were authentic from the outset. But let the truth come out....
Jason Pratt said…
It might be just as well. From a purely historical perspective, getting some more 1st century info would be interesting and maybe academically useful; but we know from the material we do have that there were, let us say, variant groups with different understandings of Jesus out there.

Finding anything new wouldn't add much (other than perhaps deductive confirmation that a group of people in the 1st thought such-n-such about Jesus, God, Judaism, salvation, etc.) While on the other hand people are likely to lose their minds trying to make whatever is found count as decisive religious testimony about whatever.

I have to confess to some selfishness: I would really rather not bother with the brouhaha that, thanks to human nature, would inevitably erupt. {wry g}

The scholar in me would rather be studying the material without having to fend off waves of "EVERYBODY PANIC" or "EVERYBODY REJOICE AND CONVERT NOWWWWWWW!!!!"

(I mention this for sake of self-critical introspection; from the perspective of convenience I would rather the material be fraudulent, and so I might be oversympathetic or credulous to arguments or data, possibly forged themselves, indicating as much.)

lead plates said…
Awesome Posting …! I’ve saved this because I found it notable. I would be very interested to hear more news on this. Excellent!

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