Tag Archives: David Elkington

Claire Palmer on the Lead Codices and “Intellectual Fraud”

Claire Palmer, an associate of David Elkington, recently published a post on the International Times blog that directly accuses several bloggers (including me) of slander and misconduct, characterizing our treatment of the Lead Codices issue as “The Great Intellectual Fraud of our Time.” A few very selective quotes are shared along with damning interpretations of their motivation and significance. Of interest to me is the initial response Claire posted from Dr. Christopher Tuttle, associate director of ASOR, after the Elkingtons evidently formally complained about their treatment at our hands:

Please feel free to send me a list enumerating the incidents of slander, misrepresentation, and plagiarism on the ASOR blogsites — evidence required, not just allegations. I would be happy to inquire of the ASOR media officers about such instances in an attempt to rectify them if they are substantiated. … I do not approve of any instances of slander, misrepresentation, or plagiarism

Claire gives no additional details about this complaint, except to point out that “nothing was done about the uncommon behaviour demonstrated as ‘academic’ debate.” Evidently ASOR found no evidence to support the accusations. The tone then grows ominous:

What is scary is that these ‘Bibliobloggers’ are now a recognized entity within one of the most powerful organizations in academe – the Society of Biblical Literature.

Getting a section in the SBL means we’re organized, powerful, and corrupt, and all because we’re trying to protect our theology or our careers or the status quo or whatever. She concludes:

Two thousand years (and more) of patriarchal oppression and control are starting to crack under the momentous, unstoppable truth movement currently gaining rapid pace on this planet. The deceit, lies and veils of disinformation are starting to fall and reveal real truth and wisdom which they have tried, with the most destructive and deceptive forces possible, be it bombs or blogs, to suppress.

“. . . truth and wisdom which they have tried, with the most destructive and deceptive forces possible, be it bombs or blogs, to suppress.” Well, that’s an unfair analogy if I’ve ever heard one.


Margaret Barker on the Jordan Codices

Sunday night Margaret Barker appeared on the radio show Coast to Coast AM to speak with Ian Punnett about the Jordan Codices. The interview can be found here, beginning around 21:45 and running to 38:45. Barker has been publicly associated with the codices since Elkington’s initial press release at the end of March in 2011, and during the interview she explains that she first saw photos of the codices about four years ago, meaning she was involved for a couple years prior to the original press release. The blurb on the interview states, “This is the first time any scholar from the academic establishment has spoken out on the Jordan Codices,” which is flatly false. Aside from well-respected university professors from the US and the UK who have commented directly and repeatedly on these codices, I and several other students participate regularly in the “academic establishment.” The mere act of blogging no more invalidates one’s academic credentials than does the act of appearing on a radio show, the fervent assertions of some non-academics notwithstanding.

Barker’s message, broadly speaking, is that metallurgical studies indicate the metal is ancient, and so at least a portion of the hoard is likely to be ancient. This is nothing new, of course. This has been Elkington’s rallying cry since criticisms were first leveled at the antiquity of his codices, and it has been repeatedly pointed out that ancient lead does not necessarily mean ancient codices. Unfortunately, neither Elkington nor anyone acting as his mouthpiece has bothered to acknowledge—much less address—that fact. Instead, attention is diverted away through a number of tactics to which Barker herself appeals in this interview. I’d like to address a couple of them.

First, Barker has trained her focus from the beginning on the iconography of the codices. For her, the “symbolism of them is all linked to the temple in Jerusalem.” This has been the centerpiece of her case for the antiquity of the codices. While some of the iconography on the codices may be interpreted as temple-related, this doesn’t really bear on their antiquity. Temple-related imagery is not iconographic esoterica to which the modern forger has no access. Nor is there any special imagery or arrangement of imagery that is particularly indicative of a first century CE provenance. In fact, the imagery is arbitrarily strewn around on the codices, and as I and others have shown, the vast majority of it is demonstrably modern and unquestionably links every scroll so far made public to the same workshop or craftsman (see here, here, here, or here, for instance).

Barker then goes on to comment on the juxtaposition of the imagery and the “paleo-Hebrew”—not deigning to comment on the single proposed translation offered—stating that “to see images next to a sacred script is really something . . . well, it’s mind-boggling.” Barker had just finished pointing out that this “sacred script” was found on coinage from around the turn of the era, but, ironically enough, she evidently forgot that that “sacred script” happens to appear on that coinage alongside images, and specifically images that coincide with much of the imagery of the codices (see here):

 

Some might argue that this suggests the codices date to around the same time period, and that they are consistent with the iconography of first and second century CE Syria-Palestine, but given the nonsensical and inconsistent use of the script alongside this imagery, not to mention the demonstrable contemporaneity of most of that imagery, the inescapable conclusion is just that these coins acted as inspiration or a model for the forger (see here and here, for instance).

Undergirding much of Barker’s discussion was a thinly veiled derision for those of us who have been perfectly happy to judge the entire hoard of codices as forgeries. The primary concern, if her words are to be taken seriously, is that we have reached our conclusion too quickly. She states, “scholars—real scholars—work much more slowly than the popular press and the bloggers.” She continues, “it is folly to dismiss all these as fakes simply because there are bits we don’t understand. There’s bits in the Old Testament that we don’t understand.” This is a misrepresentation and a red herring. The claim is not that we cannot understand it, the claim is that the codices are demonstrably modern in origin. Sure, we assert that the script itself is nonsensical, but to twist that into “bits we don’t understand” is ludicrous. Not a word of it can be understood, and that is because it is pure nonsense. The “I will walk in uprightness” has been shown to be nothing more than wishful thinking combined with heavy squinting (here). No response has been offered to that criticism. All we’ve heard is Elkington tell me I better go back and hit the books again, since his secret army of scholars insists I and the entire field of Hebrew epigraphy are mistaken.

This raises the more important concern with the asserted need for timidity and caution: what has been shown to be genuine? Absolutely nothing. Why do we need to suspend judgment when every single codex that has been made public has been shown to be linked in its provenance to the codices admitted to be base forgeries? Can they share a photo of a single codex they believe to be genuine? The little early Christian ID card that Elkington showed on BBC has been shown to be a meaningless repetition of a tiny number of arbitrarily arranged letters (here and here). Even the codices tested by Northover have that same modern and fake script on them. What can they show us that demands a second look? Up until now, they have only pointed to metallurgical tests that insist the lead is old. Let us not forget that these are the metallurgical tests that Elkington himself altered in order to obscure doubts expressed therein.

The cry over the last few months has been to get these codices into the public so they may be studied by anyone but the filthy bloggers. While this desire for transparency is certainly one I share, I must point out that Elkington himself has innumerable photos of these codices that could forward our research, but he is refusing to share them. No doubt they are reserved for his forthcoming publication. These blog posts have  done more to disseminate info on the codices than Elkington ever has. Isn’t that what he wants? I don’t think it is. He has refused to be forthcoming from the very beginning, citing an imaginary scholarly standard that demands projects be kept secret until a foreign government gives its blessing for the players to be identified. The reluctance of that government to acknowledge Elkington has apparently crippled his ability to bring information forward. For months and months Elkington has claimed his scholars have been making significant strides in interpreting the codices. What happened to their research? When can we expect it to be made public? Did the Jordanian government magically take it, or have our criticisms made it all burst into flames? I think the answer is clear: there is no team and there are no breakthroughs. There is only the claim that has been repeated since the beginning: the lead is old, so any other criticisms are irrelevant. I for one am disappointed that Barker has thrown her lot in with Elkington and his manipulative methods.


The Economist on the Jordan Codices

The Economist has published an article about the Jordan Codices (HT Tom Verenna). The article broadly promotes suspended judgment and urges testing, wagging a finger at those who find the evidence of their forgery to be conclusive. The response of the blogging community to the codices is collectively characterized as “denunciation and ridicule.” I cannot say that I am pleased with the article’s insight or approach. The call to suspended judgment appears to me to be more an axiom than an informed conclusion.


David Elkington Exposes His Fraud Once Again

David Elkington recently posted a couple photos to the Jordan Codices Facebook page, along with an explanation of the differences between the script found on the Jordan Codices and the Aramaic script, which has sporadically been suggested as one of the various scripts found on the codices. Before posting the photos, a little background:

Several months ago Elkington rejected the notion that Aramaic was on the codices, insisting instead that the codices contained paleo-Hebrew. In a radio interview (see my analysis, with link to the interview, here), he said the following:

A lot of people have said, “Oh, I’ve seen these things on the web, the, uh, language is–is–is–it’s gibberish; it–it makes no sense. It’s a very odd form of Aramaic.” Well, um, actually the news is this: it isn’t Aramaic. The script is a square script, which means it’s Hebrew, and the form of Hebrew that it is, is called paleo-Hebrew, which is very, very ancient indeed, and there are only four or five people in the world who are familiar with it. And we’re working with one of those, uh, professors at the moment, who thinks he’s on the edge of a breakthrough with the language.

Now, as I pointed out in the post linked to above, the entirety of Elkington’s claim is simply untrue. Paleo-Hebrew is simply not a “square script.” The “square script” is the Aramaic script borrowed into the Hebrew language. The script labelled the “square script” is so labelled precisely to distinguish it from the earlier scripts, like the paleo-Hebrew. I challenged Elkington on this live during a subsequent radio interview (starting at 1:57:05 mark here), and after suggesting I needed to return to my textbooks, he attempted to massage the facts a bit the next day with the following post on his Facebook page:

Following his Coast to Coast broadcast, David Elkington did not have the chance to finish addressing the final questioner due to time constraints. He would just like to clarify that the questioner was correct in one point: paleo-Hebrew was initially not a square script. In the 800 years before Christ, Hebrew was a language very much in development coming as it did from an obscure proto-language called Western Sinaitic. However, by the 1st century BC the Hasmonean form of paleo-Hebrew had indeed been made to fit in with the uniform requirements with the Hebrew of the day, thus it was reasonably square. David would like to send his best wishes to the questioner and his thanks for raising this important point.

In other words, Elkington was trying to blur the boundaries of the two categories and suggest “square script” was just a description rather than a technical designation. In other words, he doesn’t mean the “Square Script,” which is what everyone else means, he just means a script that looks kinda squarish. I explain why his damage control is completely false in this blog post. The largest error through all of this is Elkington’s continued conflation of language and script. I am writing in the English language, but I am using the Roman or Latin script. I can also write in the Spanish language with the exact same script. Observe, and forgive my rusty Spanish:

Esto es un ejemplo de un texto espanol escrito en caracteres latinos. Usualmente se utilizan algunos otros caracteres que no pertenecen a la lengua ingles, pero no es necesario para esta ilustracion.

Note, the language is Spanish, but the script is Roman. Elkington consistently confuses the paleo-Hebrew script with a paleo-Hebrew language, which doesn’t exist. The paleo-Hebrew script  comprises only the actual letters used to write in pretty standard Hebrew from the time period. When Elkington insists only a handful of people are familiar with the paleo-Hebrew “language,” he’s simply lying in an effort to poison the well against those who know better. If you can read the Hebrew of the turn of the era in any script—and many, many people can—learning paleo-Hebrew is as simple as memorizing script labelled “Middle” in the chart found below. It’s not difficult, and the notion that only a handful of people can understand it is simply untrue.

On to Elkington’s recent comments. Here are the photos and his explanation:

 

Outsiders have approached the Team to inform them that the language on the codices is either wholly or in part Aramaic, a Syriac language still used to this day in southern and central Syria. Aramaic was the language of Jesus. (For those who would like to hear an example of spoken Aramaic, please note that Mel Gibson’s film The Passion of Christ utilized this very form.) The Team has consulted various eminent experts and can inform the public that there is no Aramaic upon the lead codices as far as we can tell at this time: the language is Paleo-Hebrew. What is curious about this is that Paleo-Hebrew was defunct by the time of the 1st century. Its use therefore by the early Hebrew-Christian communities would seem to indicate a number of factors: one of them being ritualistic and the other being that Paleo-Hebrew dates back to the time of the kings (David, Solomon and so on). Therefore a conclusion could be made that in using this language in the 1st century (rather like the use of Latin for ceremonial reasons today) reference is being made to the restoration of the royal cult and its close connection to the older theology of Israel: all of this before the Deuteronomic reformations of the 7th century BC and on. As one can see from the images, the two languages appear very distinct and are indeed related; however, Paleo-Hebrew in terms of its use is much more square than Aramaic, which in its cursive form is not square.

Now, the first error in this paragraph is the notion that Aramaic is a constituent of the Syriac language. This is backwards. Syriac is a constituent of the Aramaic languages. It is a dialect of Aramaic. Next, the modern Syriac language is neither confined to, nor mostly concentrated in, Syria. Continuing, paleo-Hebrew was used not infrequently in the Dead Sea Scrolls and elsewhere, and does not indicate restoration or any kind of connection to an “older theology.” It has nothing to do, as far as I know, with any Hebrew-Christian communities. It’s just an archaizing script meant to indicate antiquity and thus particular authority or sacrality. The Tetragrammaton, for instance, is written in paleo-Hebrew in some Dead Sea Scroll texts otherwise composed in the square Aramaic script. Finally, the script Elkington illustrates and points to as quite different from the script of the codices is not an Aramaic script, it’s a Syriac script, and particularly the Estrangelo script. Estrangelo is not a “cursive form” of Aramaic, nor are any other Syriac scripts. It is its own script used primarily for the Syriac language. No one, to my knowledge, has ever suggested that the script on the codices is Syriac. Elkington’s claim is a strawman. Steve Caruso’s chart here is the best illustration of what kind of scripts may appear on the codices, as well as the eclectic and amateur nature of the hand:

In sum, Elkington’s comments demonstrably do not come from someone at all informed in Semitic epigraphy. They come directly from Elkington himself. All his claims do. He tries to prop them up with comments from a group of scholars represented entirely and exclusively by Elkington, but he has yet to make a single statement relative to the nature or function of Aramaic or Hebrew that has not been demonstrably false. His group of scholars appears to be a figment of his imagination, concocted only to imbue his claims with an air of authority.


Further Jordan Codices Update

David Elkington has posted fourteen more images of some of the codices. These he says were sent along from Hassan Saeda, and he does not comment on their authenticity. Many of the images below appear to be different shots of the same plate, whether obverse and reverse sides, or just different angles. Note that the codex I’ve designated Codex LXXIV is quite clearly genetically related to our earlier Codex XI, which was shared with Philip Davies and published in the PEQ article from last year. The same image was obviously used to produce the portrait on both codices.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Although the iconography and the script is somewhat different in some of these codices, several of the codices are identical to earlier obvious forgeries, and there are enough consistencies in the script and the composition in all the codices to conclude they all come from the same forger or forgers. For instance, note that the date palm image in Codex LXXXII is exactly identical to the date palms I discuss here. It obviously came from the same die. The script appears to have been manipulated to appear more diverse and “cursive,” but many of the letters are identical to those appearing on the demonstrable forgeries. Codices LXXXIII and LXXXIV obviously used a portion of the same die for the fronds, the circular border, the inferior dividing line, and all the script above that line (!), and just used a different die for the imagery within the circuler border. As an illustration, compare the following three details from the codices:


Lead Codices Update

Not too surprising, but David Elkington has popped up again on Facebook to briefly attempt to stoke the fires of interest in his codices. He posted a series of articles about political unrest in Jordan. Someone asked how the situation would affect the codices and he responded with this:

The Team is indeed concerned by the series of delays that have prevented a formal announcement thus far, due to political turmoil within Jordan and the Middle East; however, we would like to reassure our supporters that there has been considerable work on behalf of the codices behind the scenes that understandably must remain confidential for the moment. Some of the codices are currently undergoing a further series of sophisticated and detailed tests, the results of which will be announced in due course. In the meantime, we will continue to keep our followers informed on any new developments.


New Jordan Codices Photos

David Elkington has released six more photos on his Facebook page of what he describes as “leather pages” from the codices collection. They are below.

Some initial thoughts:

- The edges of the pages are remarkably crisp for two thousand year-old leather
- The pages and the plates were together when the holes were punched
- The plate under page I has the star iconography found on several demonstrably forged plates, and the leather is clearly cut to fit that plate.
- Page II seems to have two layers of material underneath it. This plate is likely the middle layer, given the correspondance with the holes and the menorah image. I don’t know what kind of chemical interactions create that kind of image. Notice the rather intentional border on the right side of the plate
- Page III seems to me to be a lead plate, not a leather page. The script is the same as on the plate that underlies the other page, although it appears engraved rather than cast. The hole on the left is punched right through the text, as it is on the other plate, undermining the notion that the text itself was of any actual value to whoever punched the holes. The erratic arrangement of the text and iconography appears intentional, which is indicative in my mind of a naive attempt at archaizing.
- The crude iconography is the same as on many of the demonstrably forged plates


David Elkington Once Again on the Lead Codices

In a recent post on his Facebook group page, David Elkington has responded in a roundabout way to the charge that he deliberately altered the Peter Northover metallographic report to replace a judgment that the codices exhibited a property inconsistent with their putative provenance with a judgment that they exhibited a property perfectly consistent with that provenance. He states:

Thanks to certain critics of this page, we would like to highlight a correction to a small portion of text found within a transcription of the Oxford (OMCS) metallurgical report. Whilst typing from the original copy (the scanned original is also posted on this site ) a sentence was unintentionally omitted, which has since been corrected. Please note that this has no bearing on the final conclusions of the report.

First, that error was first pointed out about six months ago. It shouldn’t have taken six months for Elkington to acknowledge the error and correct it. Second, it strains credulity to think that the one portion of the report that directly conflicted with Elkington’s broad claims would be conveniently, and accidentally, omitted, especially in light of his repeated appeal to the report’s corroboration of those claims. I discussed the possibility of haplography in the post linked to above (note my assumption was shown to be correct), but if you consider Elkington’s reticence for the last six months and the claim he made on his recent appearance on Coast to Coast that he simply doesn’t have the skills to forge a different report (which was never the charge), it seems highly unlikely this was an accident.

For discussion of the video shot months ago and recently added to Elkington’s Facebook page, see Steve Caruso’s The Aramaic Blog.


In Response to David Elkington

On his Facebook page, which he continues to pretend he does not author, David Elkington has responded directly to the comments I posted the other day in response to his radio interview and subsequent clarification regarding my concern. Someone found my blog and thought my concerns merited sharing on the Facebook page, so they posted them. Here are David’s comments in full:

Dear Daniel, The question you have raised has already been responded to by David both on the show and posted on this site (before the Dr. Barker posting). It is the academic and linguistic assessment of the Jordan Codices team (including expert Jordanian epigraphers). This is very much a work in progress and more will be revealed in the coming months, but we would be very interested to know who has performed this ‘analysis’ particularly in view of the fact that very few people have had physical access to the Codices as well as all of the images of the large collection of artefacts. One of the world’s foremost professors was also challenged on this point and he was very firm on his view. As for a ‘mish mash’, this simply proves the point that the caller does not know what he is talking about, as our professor can read the codices like a newspaper and much has been translated already. As has already been mentioned, paleo-Hebrew came out of the Sinaitic languages, both proto and western. What question must be asked is why it was used in this form in the first century period – not that this is an attempt at ‘archaizing’ something that is supposedly gibberish to a non-expert eye? The answer to this question resides in the very form the Codices take and in this sense there are certain elements shared with the Dead Sea Scrolls. In this the use of language is specific and offers us a further clue – a reference is being made to the language that emerged from Sinai in the second millennium BC however, it is contemporary in form to the languages used in Jesus’ day: the question to be asked is why it is being used in this form? It is all very well to offer up a google search but the answers to these important questions will only be found in obscure academic journals, not on amateur blog sites, which might be good for initial research but not for the more specific and rarer elements needed for detailed answers to historical and linguistic enigmas. The caller claims not to know of Western Sinaitic, therefore we can recommend him to the Palestine Exploration Quarterly – an excellent journal on this very specific question. We will find him a good reference in due course, as his passion for the subject is to be encouraged. More evidence and analysis will be revealed shortly, though Dr Barker’s work offers a good insight into this. The caller makes some good points; however, he is going around the essential points of ‘why’ and ‘how’ instead of ‘where’ and ‘when’ – as he well knows first century Judea was a mish mash of different opinions, languages and Judaisms. And here it is interesting that he has taken a brief posting and confused it in such a way as to create an argument from out of nothing. In essence these are opinions and naturally he is welcome to them, but as stated on the radio show by David, the caller in this instance will be going against the grain of the world’s leading experts on this particular issue. Bon Courage!

I would first note that David continues with his condescending tone. He refuses to acknowledge that I’m well aware of what I’m talking about, but prefers to presume to speak down to me. This is obviously for the sake of appearance. He can’t have his readers believing that he’s been shaken, when anyone with even a modicum of training cannot possibly be fooled by the ruse. I find this to be the second surest sign that these leading experts don’t exist outside of David’s mind. The surest sign is the fact that nothing he says at all aligns with the relevant scholarship.

Now, David did not respond to my concerns from the show or the subsequent post. On the show he just insisted that I was wrong because the greatest scholars ever said it was the square script and it was paleo-Hebrew, and thus I need to return to the textbooks. When he commented on Facebook, he tried to make the argument  that paleo-Hebrew had by the first century CE developed qualities that turned it into the square script, which is demonstrably false. David has not responded in a substantive manner to either of my concerns; he has simply dodged them and hidden behind the invented experts.

If David and his cohorts are not aware of the analyses that have been performed, then they can search my blog, as well as those of Thomas VerennaSteve Caruso, and others. There are numerous analyses out there that show conclusively that the codices are modern forgeries. We do not need physical access to the codices to be able to read the texts that are visible in the photos. I’ve gathered a rather large collection of those photos, and many of them have visible text on them. Elkington has tried to hedge his bets by insisting some of the codices out there are fake, but of those that have text on them, not a one has a single authentic text. They are all utter gibberish, and between the orthography, the iconography, and the other designs on the codices, they can pretty much all be connected to each other. They were all produced by the same group, if not the same person. The most damning evidence is the fact that the small credit card-sized codex that Elkington showed off on his BBC interview (which he has claimed is genuine) is easily analyzed (see the photo below) and is absolute gibberish, just like the others. His explanation of the item as an identification card of sorts is completely fabricated. In fact, the text comprises the meaningless repetition of a series of letters carved into a stamp and then twice impressed into whatever mold was used to create the codex. Following is the codex and Steve Caruso’s helpful charting of the repetitions:

Several things can be noted about this text. First, the text is absolutely and utterly meaningless. It is a meaningless jumble of a limited number of letters, and the stamp that made this pattern is used on multiple other codices, as Steve Caruso was so kind to point out:

It should also be pointed out that the date palm iconography and the other patterns on several of these plates are absolutely identical to the iconography of the copper codices that were shown conclusively to be modern forgeries by Peter Thonemann (see here and here, and here for good measure). They all came from the same forger. Additionally, ever since Thonemann’s analysis has been widely regarded as perfectly accurate, Elkington has claimed he was suspicious of the copper codices to begin with (initially he accused Thonemann of being the wrong kind of expert). You wouldn’t know that from reading his email or his initial responses to Thonemann, though, and he continues to attempt to pawn off their brothers and sisters as genuine. Two conclusions are possible. First, these are all fake and Elkington knew it. Second, these are all fake and Elkington did not know it, but does now. Whichever conclusion you draw, Elkington very obviously knows he is dealing with fake codices, and his “experts” are very obviously not real. There is not an epigraphist or Hebraist alive that would insist these are genuine.

Next, the script is neither paleo-Hebrew nor the square script. Now, some of the letters do appear closely related to the script from the Bar Kokhba coins. For instance, the shin, mem, aleph, and lamed on the following coin appears similar to those of the codices:

There are problems with this, though. The text on the codices is still distinct enough that the scrips cannot be linked. The closest match is the shin, but that’s a simple enough shape to not provide much evidence. The mem is similar, but the superior strokes are much larger on the codices than on the coins. The biggest difference between the letters that do seem similar is found in the aleph and lamed, which are reversed on the codices, a bizarre idiosyncrasy of the codices script (see here). Additionally, the inferior strokes on both letters have exaggerated curvatures that are not characteristic of paleo-Hebrew. One of the main reasons the scripts cannot be identified, however, is the complete absence of several of the Bar Kokhba letters from the codices. The script of the codices is limited to about a dozen characters (far too few for a coherent text). The vav is common on these coins, but it appears nowhere on the codices. The he and the het are also common, but they only appear once on the codices, and that’s in a sequence of letters clearly ripped out of context from another text:

Those are the only real legitimate “Hasmonean paleo-Hebrew” letters in all of the codices, and they’re clearly ripped from another text. They do not at all fit into the context of the code on which they appear. To continue, a completely different style of vav is found on the codices, although in the one reading that Elkington offered from the codices, he identifies the vav as a kaph, which it’s very clearly not (see my discussion here).

These analyses are quite conclusive, and do not require physical access to the codices. If Elkington intends to insist the codices discussed above are really fake ones, then we haven’t seen any of the genuine ones, and he needs to give the public some kind of indication that he has anything at all that is actually genuine. To briefly conclude this section of my response: there is not a single codex that has been revealed publicly that shows indications of anything other than modern forgery. If Elkington has authentic codices, he’s never shown them anywhere.

Regarding Elkington’s claim that his professor has been very firm and is so erudite he can read these texts like a newspaper, one need only point out that he is leaning on the authority of anonymous figures he has repeatedly refused to identify for reasons that have nothing to do with standard academic decorum. That can hardly serve as a legitimate response, and it would be no different if I simply said that I am in touch with an authority who knows far more than any of Elkington’s authorities, and she has confirmed that there is not a single word of actual Hebrew anywhere on any of the codices. You don’t need a leading authority to acknowledge the absence of anything even remotely resembling an actual text, here. That is just a fallacious appeal to authority meant to convince a lay audience that those who are criticizing the codices just aren’t informed enough.

Next Elkington states, “As has already been mentioned, paleo-Hebrew came out of the Sinaitic languages, both proto and western.” This is false, though. There are not two scripts, much less languages, in the background here. Also, Elkington has never before mentioned proto-Sinaitic. He only claimed that “Western Sinaitic” was a “proto-language”:

The most egregious error here is his confusion of the proto-Sinaitic script with an actual language. I stated in a recent comment to an interested party that every time Elkington claims to pass on conclusions from his experts, they turn out to be completely riddled with amateurish logical and factual errors. This is one of them. We’re talking about scripts, not about languages. A commenter from Israel stated the same earlier today. No expert, and certainly not the world’s leading experts, would confuse the two. We’re dealing with scripts, which are comparatively basic. This is one of the more ridiculous aspects of his claim that paleo-Hebrew is only understood by four or five people. It’s simply a matter of memorizing less than 30 graphemes. Any idiot can learn the paleo-Hebrew script, and only a decent grasp of Biblical Hebrew and Aramaic is needed to work through a text putatively written in the first century CE in paleo-Hebrew. Next, Elkington obviously retreated to Google to try to figure out what to say, which is why he came back with the suddenly accurate notion of a proto-Sinaitic script (although he called it a language). He previously only referenced “Western Sinaitic,” which he called a “proto-language.” The story changes with every opportunity Elkington has to check up on his comments on the internet.

Next Elkington confuses Old Hebrew with paleo-Hebrew in his attempt to speak down to me about my assessment. He states, “a reference is being made to the language that emerged from Sinai in the second millennium BC however, it is contemporary in form to the languages used in Jesus’ day.” No, it’s not. The paleo-Hebrew of the turn of the era is vastly different from the Old Hebrew of the second millennium BCE. The former is an archaizing script. It is intended to look really old in a time period when a different script had become commonplace. It would be like me using “ʃ”today  in place of “s,” only using a slightly different version of it.

Next, we find more condescension in his attempt to flippantly dismiss my claims:

the answers to these important questions will only be found in obscure academic journals, not on amateur blog sites, which might be good for initial research but not for the more specific and rarer elements needed for detailed answers to historical and linguistic enigmas. The caller claims not to know of Western Sinaitic, therefore we can recommend him to the Palestine Exploration Quarterly – an excellent journal on this very specific question.

Notice the warning to the lay audience: the answers are in obscure places to which you don’t have access, so you have to listen to me. Don’t listen to “amateur blog sites.” Note that the “amateur blog sites” that have commented critically are managed by a Harvard-trained scholar of Second Temple Judaism and Old Testament pseudepigrapha, a UCLA-trained archaeologist of Second Temple Judaism, an Oxford-trained professor of New Testament, a Durham-trained professor of New Testamentand many other professionals and students (including me).

Next, PEQ is hardly an obscure academic journal, but the journal in general does not deal unilaterally with “this very specific question” (“Western Sinaitic” as a language?). It deals with Syro-Palestinian archaeology in general. Such a broad reference is hardly helpful. It seems an evasive attempt to allay suspicion and nothing more. Additionally, I have direct access to the last ten years of the journal, and I find no occurrence of the phrase “Western Sinaitic” in any article. I also performed a search of the journal’s entire history on another database and found no occurrences of the phrase. Perhaps instead of speaking in broad generalities, Mr. Elkington can point me directly to an article wherein “Western Sinaitic” is discussed as a language. He says he will find me a reference “in due course,” but why the delay? Now, I would not be particularly surprised to see someone using the phrase “Western Sinaitic” 75 years ago (although I’ve been unable to locate such a usage), but it certainly never became a standard designation, which would only further corroborate, in my mind, that much of this information is being drawn from an uninformed perusal of the internet, and not from actual experts who are aware of the modern academic vernacular. Mr. Elkington is certainly welcome to prove me wrong.

Elkington concludes with some confusing statements about ideological pluriformity in first century Judaism, or something along those lines, and then insists I am confused and am going against the world’s leading experts. I don’t believe I am, but as I just said, Elkington is more than welcome to prove me wrong. He can name one or two of these experts. He can have them email me (my email address is on the About Me page). He can produce a discussion of the script that is not riddled with uninformed misunderstandings. He can do any of these things to prove me wrong. I think he will do none of them. He will only continue to try to drum up excitement prior to the publication of his book. This is offensive to me as an academic and a consumer, and because I know there are lots of people out there who feel very strongly about this and are having their emotions manipulated quite callously by Mr. Elkington, I will continue to point out the fraudulent nature of his claims. I suggest anyone else out there with the skills and resources does the same.


David Elkington Again on the Jordan Codices

Somehow my blog completely erased my post. It’s 1:30 am and I’m not going to repeat it all. Long story short: Elkington was on Coast to Coast am for two hours tonight. I called in and was the last caller they took before the show ended. I challenged Elkington on his explanation of the Codices’ script (see here). He told me I would be disagreeing with the world’s leading experts and to go back to my textbooks. I got a little bit of a rebuttal out before they ran out of time. I’m sure the show will be up on the show’s archives and on YouTube within a few days.

ETA: As Joel has mentioned on his blog, David Elkington quickly updated his Facebook page with the following:

Following his Coast to Coast broadcast, David Elkington did not have the chance to finish addressing the final questioner due to time constraints. He would just like to clarify that the questioner was correct in one point: paleo-Hebrew was initially not a square script. In the 800 years before Christ, Hebrew was a language very much in development coming as it did from an obscure proto-language called Western Sinaitic. However, by the 1st century BC the Hasmonean form of paleo-Hebrew had indeed been made to fit in with the uniform requirements with the Hebrew of the day, thus it was reasonably square. David would like to send his best wishes to the questioner and his thanks for raising this important point.
I appreciate David’s kindness, but this is completely false. The script had not been made to fit with any “uniform requirements with the Hebrew of the day.” “Square script” and “paleo-Hebrew” are two separate categories. Those categories are meant to distinguish one from the other. To say the script had changed enough to qualify as a square script would be to say it was no longer paleo-Hebrew. If David means that the letters appear squarish enough in shape to be called a “square script” then he simply has no idea what the categories actually mean.
Every other one of his statements is also false. I have never once seen the phrase “Western Sinaitic” used in reference to a script. Google it. All that pops up are regional designations. There is a script called proto-Sinaitic, and it is a script developed in the Sinai that is an early alphabetic script, but it is not a “proto-language.” Proto-Sinaitic dates to the second millennium BCE, though, not 800 years before Christ. While the Hebrew script itself changes quite a bit in the first millennium BCE (see this book, for instance), the square script was a borrowing, not an internal development. Paleo-Hebrew is also a retroversion of proto-Semitic. It is not more ancient than the square script. It is an attempt to archaize the script, or make it appear really ancient. The paleo-Hebrew of the Dead Sea Scrolls (which is where he gets the term “Hasmonean”) has absolutely nothing to do with the script on the codices. Several analyses have shown the script on the codices is a stylizing of a mishmash of different and often chronologically disparate ancient scripts. That this was done in modernity is not only evidenced by the unquestionable relationships to modern texts and iconography (see here and here), but also by the fact that the scribe reverses the directions of the letters and even uses several different stroke patterns to execute the same letters (see here).
ETA: You can find the entire show last night here. My call begins at the 1:57:15 mark:

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 256 other followers