Tag Archives: Aramaic

More Dishonesty from Jordan Codices

The admin in charge of the Jordan Codices Facebook group has posted four pictures from what it claims are forensic tests of the codices. He states:

This set of photographs are some examples we took during our forensic work on the codices.

It’s my contention that the photos show no such thing. These are publicity photos taken by Elkington himself (or associates) and passed off as scientific. He claims each codex was “numbered and measured for record,” but look at how the numbering takes place in the following two photos:

In the first photo, the vast majority of the codex has been obscured by the portion of torn-off loose leaf notebook paper. What value does this photo have for a researcher? Absolutely none. In the lower picture a smaller piece of loose leaf notebook paper has been torn off to allow for the visibility of the tree image (and the numbering system is different). This is simply not how artifacts are photographed by professionals. Elkington is obscuring those parts of the codices that have text on them so that people who have the ability to analyze the texts for themselves cannot do so. He wants you to see the tree, though, since it’s pretty and it cannot be shown to be unintelligible.

On that Facebook page you can also find an email exchange between Elkington (posing as one of the professors involved, in my opinion) and the BBC complaints department as well as the following comment, which misrepresents and marginalizes the work of Steve Caruso:



EDIT: It should also be noted that one of the photos the Jordan Codices page suggests was taken during “forensic work” is not new to this story (it is the only one without a crudely made number plate):

It also happens to have been a photo David Elkington has been offering for license since this whole story began back in March:

Note how the rings used to bind the plates were cropped out of the Facebook photo, perhaps to avoid showing that this “forensic work” included destroying the original binding of the codex. Including the bowl of pistachio shells (ubiquitous in forensic laboratories the world over, you know) was a bit of a boneheaded move, but it helped bring what appear to be Q-tips partially into the photo. How scientific! In addition to throwing even more doubt on the claims being made, I think this also leaves little doubt that David Elkington himself is behind the Facebook group.





David Elkington’s Take on Paleo-Hebrew

I have been asking some pointed questions of the admin for a new Facebook group called Jordan Codices, but my comments were all recently deleted (so were Steve Caruso’s). I am suspicious David Elkington himself is the one in charge of the group, and I decided to check on the radio interview posted on the page. It’s an interview of Elkington, and in it Elkington makes a number of assertions that I just find utterly ludicrous. For those familiar with Hebrew and the Dead Sea Scrolls, this short excerpt will require a strong constitution. It runs from the 13:51 to the 15:31 marks on this video (the topic of the codices begins at the 7:39 mark):

–       Elkington: Um, we, we’re–we’re–we’re performing more analysis now on the translation and the decipherment of the language. 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.

–       Interviewer: Wow.

–       Elkington: Some of it’s translatable, but a lot of it is still yet to be, uh, deciphered.

–       Interviewer: Ok, but paleo-Hebrew would date to a specific time that would, at least in my understanding, would come a long time before–before Christ and the Hebrew of the–of the first century as we­–as we know it. Is that not true?

–       Elkington: Yeah, that’s very true. That’s a very astute observation, if I may say so. Um, the use of paleo-Hebrew is extraordinary. It would be rather like you and I using Latin today.

–       Interviewer: Right, exactly.

–       Elkington: It would really make no sense to the large majority of people, but what, actually, it shows, is paleo-Hebrew may well have been the language of Moses, um, Moses on the mountain collecting the ten commandments. So, therefore, the use of it states that it really is like an official temple language, and that they’re using the original words of God, which makes this all the more extraordinary.

First, scholars have been pointing out it seems to be a meaningless mixture and adaptation of scripts, not just that it is “a very odd form of Aramaic.” Next, a “square script” does not indicate Hebrew, and his claim that the script is paleo-Hebrew actually precludes it being a “square script.” Next, there are far, far more than four or five people in the world who are familiar with paleo-Hebrew. This is the most stunning and flagrant lie of the entire interview. Further, though, the use of paleo-Hebrew actually does not indicate great antiquity, since paleo-Hebrew is actually a comparatively modern adaptation of the Old Hebrew script used specifically in texts considered particularly sacred or important. Multiple manuscripts from the Dead Sea Scrolls were written entirely in paleo-Hebrew, and the Tetragrammaton appears in several regular manuscripts in paleo-Hebrew. The Bar Kokhba coins, struck during the revolt of 132–136 use a paleo-Hebrew script that is very similar to that of the codices (except the codices reverse several letters, confuse others, and are missing others). The Samaritan Pentateuch preserves a heavily adapted version of the paleo-Hebrew script. The use of paleo-Hebrew is not particularly unusual. Lastly, the notion that paleo-Hebrew indicates anything at all about Moses is utterly asinine. Even if these texts were from the turn of the era (and they demonstrably are not), that would not bear in the least on the language of Moses.

Feel free to log whatever other observations you want to about this excerpt or the rest of the interview (which I could not finish), and feel free to spread this information as far and wide as possible. This dishonesty, dilettantism, and manipulation should not be allowed to be perpetuated any further, especially in light of Elkington’s quite obvious avarice (how much do you want to bet the release of the translations, etc., will always be dated to just the other side of the publication of his book?).

Steve Caruso’s Analysis of the Codices at LiveScience

David Meadows has let me know that there is an article up at livescience.com (here) which describes the growing consensus among scholars that the lead codices are forgeries. Steve Caruso’s great analysis of the production of the script on the codices features heavily in the article.

Steve Caruso on the Script of the Lead Plates

Steve Caruso over at Aramaic Designs has a great chart up laying out comparisons of all the characters he can identify on the plates. He notes Palmyrene, Old Aramaic, and Nabataean forms and points out there are indicators it is not the work of a professional scribe.  Take a look.

David Taylor’s Imperial Aramaic Course

HT Steve Caruso. David Taylor is offering a course in Imperial Aramaic at Oxford and is putting PDFs of the associated handouts, assignments, and texts online. Have a look.

Creating Vocab Lists on Accordance

I know most of the people out there with Accordance are far more advanced than I am with the program, and this is old hat for you, but I thought I’d share something I found helpful. I am taking Aramaic from Marty Abegg and I think he knows the program better than anyone. He doesn’t pass out vocab lists for vocab quizzes (a professor from Northwestern Baptist Seminary told him not to), but he showed us a convenient way to produce one with Accordance (given the vocab comes from readings and not from a vocab publication). You start by doing a search for a range of words. This is done by pressing command+shift+A and then command+shift+R. This gives you the following search:

You enter the range of text from which you want the vocab:

This will highlight in red all the vocab from that range (minus pronominal suffixes and things of that nature):

Then you click on the little graph symbol that’s on the left side of the toolbar and click on Analysis in the dropdown menu:

This opens up an extension on the window on the right with each word in the range in a convenient list with roots and definitions (that are mostly correct):

You can highlight this list and export it as an RTF file by going to File – Save Text Selection. Pretty neat, huh? Next class we’ll be learning how to combine individual modules to create custom modules for searching or viewing. How exciting.

The Miqra’ Group

(HT Charles Halton) The Miqra Group is a new blogging group that aims to read the entire Hebrew Bible (in Hebrew and Aramaic) in two years. It comes out to 15 pages a week with BHS and 16 if you use the Reader’s Hebrew Bible. Their reading schedule is here. I think it sounds like a great idea.