[editorial note: Philip had identified modern images prior to the great online debates]
For Philip’s latest comments (including responses to the latest blog debates), see Jim West’s Biblical Studies e-list.
The following is a general introductory summary by Sheffield Prof. Emeritus Philip Davies on the now famous lead codices (some images are available here):
Having long been involved in the Dead Sea Scrolls (and in the campaign
to force the publication of many of them) I was approached by a
British scholar who had been given access to some finds in a
Jordanian cave (just like the Scrolls!). Most of them are lead books,
some sealed, covered with letters in the archaic Hebrew script, and
ancient Jewish symbols – menorahs (7-branched candlestick),
date-palms, stars, bunches of grapes. But there is also a portrait
of Alexander the Great, of a crocodile, and possibly a depiction of
the crucifixion outside the walls of Jerusalem. I have now looked at
about a hundred images, some of which I have shared with colleagues
around the world, and I am certainly hoping to make sense of them. I
have handled one. They are probably not a hoax or a forgery, but
their exact origin remains mysterious. As well as decorative
lettering, there is also some writing that looks as if it ought to
mean something. So far it can’t be deciphered, but it may be in code.
The urgent problem at the moment is to ensure that the originals
remain accessible. Scientific tests need to be done on these to try
and establish date and origin, but the present possessor (who may or
may not be legal owner) is considering selling them privately for as
much money as he can. My colleagues and I are helping the Jordanian
Department of Antiquities to recover them and enable them to be
properly examined, conserved and displayed.
It is an exciting and mystifyng collection, but I think the time is
too early to speculate about what they mean. The only scientific
tests so far conducted suggest they are not of recent manufacture.
Obviously I hope they are very old, but whatever their origin they
should be able to tell us things we did not know before. I plan to
continue studying these with my academic colleagues around the world,
in the hope that we can begin to make some sense of these curious