Tag Archives: Jordan Lead Codices

Book Review: What Are the Jordan Codices?

What Are the Jordan Codices?Fresh on the heels of an announcement from the UK about a new Centre for the Study of the Jordanian Lead Books, the Elkingtons have published a third book defending the legitimacy of the Jordan codices, this one entitled What Are the Jordan Codices? The Mystery of the Sealed Lead Books. The articles contained in the book, with one exception, actually constitute a virtually untouched reprinting of the articles from the Elkingtons’ previous publication, The Case for the Jordan Lead Codices. Among some of the editorial changes is the inclusion of my own name where Jennifer Elkington had previously referred obliquely to me as “one particular student.” The anonymous author from the previous book has also now included his name under the title of his paper.

The largest change, however, is the addition of an article written by Dr. Samuel Zinner that draws from a larger paper he has recently published on academia.edu that argues the Jordan codices are indeed modern, but are not forgeries. Rather, they are carefully crafted early modern Zionist “lag baomer” amulets. Zinner’s analysis is creative and thorough, although I believe he skirts around many of the issues that complicate the question of the codices’ origins and the involvement of the Elkingtons. See the full paper for the details of his argument (which are much too detailed to address here).

What Are the Jordan Codices? is, as with the previous volumes, an attempt to arrogate academic legitimacy to the thoroughly unacademic machinations of David Elkington and some compatriots. The articles penned by the Elkingtons and their psychologist colleague uses absolutely horrific personal attacks on me and several other scholars as a smokescreen to obscure and evade their own manipulations and dishonesty, all while accusing us of ad hominem.

I am happy to see that perhaps the codices will hopefully see the light of day so that they can be more directly and thoroughly studied. I still think, however, that the vast preponderance of evidence securely supports the conclusion that the codices are modern productions intended for sale and profit. I am more than happy to be proven entirely wrong, though. Despite the claims of the Elkingtons, I have never attempted to suppress the study or availability of the codices. In fact, as I have pointed out before, I have publicized more photos of the codices and analysis of their iconography and text than Elkington ever has. I would publicize any and all photos and reports and studies that he makes available. Unfortunately, and as anticipated, he saves those details for paying customers.

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.

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

A Preliminary Translation of the Jordan Codices is Offered

Of course, the codices are forgeries and there’s nothing intelligible on them at all, but the Lead Codices page on Facebook is making the claim that translators are furiously working to establish the proper “context” in order to “get it right.” They’ve offered the following translation as a teaser:

Now keep in mind the person putatively responsible for translation is a professor emeritus at a “leading university,” and is, according to Elkington (see here), one of four or five people in the world who can read paleo-Hebrew. Here is the text being referenced (between the wreath and the menorah – and it does not quote Prov 10:9):

This text under this menorah appears several times in the codices. The admin of the Jordan Codices Facebook page (whom I believe to be Elkington himself) is insisting the text above reads as follows:

אלך בתם

Now, before my comments were all deleted from the Facebook page (see them all here), I repeated the transliteration of this text as “elek batom,” and the Jordan Codices admin corrected me, explaining that it was specifically Elek ba tom, “not batom”:

This isn’t good Hebrew, though. “Ba Tom” uses as the preposition what’s called an inseparable prefix, namely the letter beth (ב). In order to mean “in uprightness/perfection” it cannot be separated from the word (hence, “inseparable” prefix).

This reading understands the following letter as an aleph:

This letter appears all over the codices, though, facing both directions and in many different styles, and it shares the most consistent similarities with an archaic style of yod (see Steve Caruso’s analysis of the script here and his chart here). There are very few styles of aleph that at all resemble this letter in  either direction.

The next letter appears to be a reversed lamed, which agrees with the Lead Codices admin’s transcription. The following is asserted to be a kaph, but again, the style is much more consistently aligned with another letter, namely waw/vav:

The next letter also is problematic. The admin for the Facebook group says it is a beth, but it bears striking resemblance to the mem on the end of the text, and is therefore more likely a nun (which is only a slight modification on the mem):

Again, the form of the letter does not correspond with the reading. The top loop of the beth is always closed. Taken together, in order to assert the Facebook admin’s reading, we would have to posit some of the most rare forms of these letters, gathered from disparate places and times (there is no single script where each of these forms appears). If we did accept the identification of these graphemes, then we would expect other texts to be intelligible where their current identifications render them unintelligible. This is not the case, though. For instance, the top three lines of text on the following image are no further clarified (the portions that are legible, anyway):

It reads as follows with the Facebook admin’s reading:

. . . לגלשאגתלאלגלגבשאגתל . . .
. . . מבתבלאגתלגשבתבלאגתבב . . .
. . . מסרשאלגבבמסרשאלגת . . .

A small collection of letters are simply being nonsensically repeated (with the occasional accidental word appearing). It is difficult to make out in the photo above because of the blurring, but the first roughly half of the bottom three lines are repeated in exactly the same shape and orientation in the second half of the text. Whatever mold or die was used to create the first half of each of the three lines was simply used again for the second half. Philip Davies’ recent PEQ editorial, available for free here, mentions this repetition and calls the lettering “mostly purely decorative.” This rather conflicts with Elkington’s claim to have the world’s top paleo-Hebrew mind reaching a breakthrough in translation (unless, of course, Elkington doesn’t think Davies is one of the five who can read it!). Davies, who tries to avoid coming down too definitively in one direction or another, also states the following:

One respected academic colleague has identified the words ‘lk btm (‘I will walk uprightly’). Though I personally have been unable to verify this reading, that may yet confirmed by others.

The same style and limited pattern of letters appears in the text on the left side of this codex:

It would appear to read (following Elkington’s reading):

. . . שאגתל
. . . בלאג
. . . שא
. . . אגל
. . . אגתל
. . . לאגת
. . . שאלג
. . . גלגב
. . . בל
. . . אש
. . . גג

Or something close to this. Again, a very limited set of graphemes are just being repeated over and over. The possibility of fudging an actual sentence into this text does not serve to alleviate the problems with the rest of the texts. They’re simply gibberish, and David Elkington is spreading lies by insisting there are only a few people on the planet capable of understanding the text. It bears repeating that the stylized palm tree on the plate above is absolutely identical to the same tree on the copper codex exposed as a crude forgery by Peter Thonemann.

In conclusion, I disagree with the reading offered by the admin of the Lead Codices Facebook page and I would venture to guess that there is no eminent professor emeritus behind it. It makes much more sense to me that someone forged the codices (which has already been established for several codices) and just indiscriminately copied down a bunch of letters. Someone else came by and with a rudimentary grasp of Hebrew and a lexicon was able to squint hard enough to make sense out of a portion of it. I believe the Facebook page and the idea that an announcement is imminent from the Jordanian government are attempts to drum up hype so that Elkington’s book can sell more copies whenever it actually manages to hit stores. Unfortunately, as Jim West has pointed out, by promulgating this story, even to falsify Elkington’s claims, we do him a favor. I think, however, it’s more important to expose this hoax than to try to prevent a profit from being made. I’m prepared to be wrong about this, but up to this point I’ve not seen any indication that such is the case.

For all the known photos that have been put online, see here.

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?).

Jordan Lead Codices on Facebook

As Joel Watts pointed out a couple days ago, an anonymous person who claims to be part of the “team” investigating the Jordan Lead Codices has begun a Facebook group dedicated to them. As you might expect, the page presupposes the antiquity of the texts on the codices and asserts that the only people on the planet who are capable of reading the script (totaling five in number) are producing translations as fast as they can. “Stay tuned!” they advise.

The most recent update is the claim today that the plate shown in this post is a forgery produced by Hassan Saida, the very Bedouin from whom the “authentic” codices came. Here is the post in full:

Approximately two months ago, Hassan Saida, the Israeli Bedouin who smuggled the Jordan Codices into Israel, telephoned to inform the team that he and his cohorts had made 500 forgeries of various of the codices and put them into the Jerusalem market.   We didn’t think too much of it as he tells lots of tales; however, one of team members was sent these two photographs by someone who purchased them in Israel. To those who have seen the real McCoy, these were obvious forgeries.   However, even comparing them to the posted photographs, the difference is all too apparent.   Below are some observations made by one of the metal experts assisting the team.  We expect more will materialise in due course.

1.  The holes are too clean.

2.  The beige ‘corrosion layer’ looks like it has been sprayed on and then cleaned off.

3.  The holes have raised edges and looks like they have been punched hard all together against a die with a slightly larger diameter.  Not like the originals.

4.  The drawing on the tree is too fine and crisp – the detailing seems wrong – it is almost like they have been cast onto a harder material than the originals.  It is also possible that these have been pressed and then distorted – the best indication would be a view of the reverse of each sheet and seeing if there is variation in the thickness of the metal from casting.

5.  The edges look like they have been cut round the pattern very closely – particularly the dots – not the same as the previous ones which were not cut cleanly around a pattern.

6.  The format looks wrong – too long and thin.

7.  The seals – look like they have been struck at the ends – like coins.  I didn’t see any of that before.

8.  The background colour looks like it has been blowtorched – it is less rusty looking than most of the originals

9.  They do not have the same build up of accretions of scale and calcium.

10.  There is little or no evidence of wear or pressure based slow distortion – although there are a few damaging marks.  Some of the wear may have been introduced on the mould.  Unlike the originals, which looked like they were cleanly cast and then deteriorated over a long time.

11.  The seals have been put on after the corrosion layer has been sprayed on and cleaned off.  There should be layers of corrosion sealing them in to the surface.

12.  The wires look hammer beaten – not a bad representation.

13.  There are a few areas where the ‘blue’ of the lead shows through.

I can’t see the backs but your sealed books were sealed a very long time ago and opened up to clean and shiny lead – I bet these don’t.

I wonder if there are any rotational tool marks or bypass shear ‘seams’ along the edges where they have been cut.

The handwriting is very different and looks a bit too random.  I haven’t attempted to look at the symbols – although they are more ragtag.  I would say that a different person did the drawings from the script – they just look different.

The 8 pointed stars have 12 or 16 points.  Some of the other symbols are slightly different and may have a completely different meaning or interpretation.

I would also reckon on the metal still being malleable.  Not hard, flakey and cracking.  I expect they also smell and taste different.  These may have been dipped in acid and coloured with mineral pigments.

OK, I might be taken in if I hadn’t seen all your photos.  But they don’t look right to me.  A good mishmash of some of the symbols and text on the photos you and others have published on the Internet.

Several things are problematic with this development, as other bloggers have already noted. In addition to these concerns, though, it seems off to me that the metals expert quoted in the post is ostensibly commenting authoritatively on the script as well, stating that the symbols “may have a completely different meaning or interpretation” (as if forged symbols mean something different), and that the “handwriting is very different and looks a bit too random.” There is no tree and there are no symbols on the plate in the photograph, though. The post states two photos were provided the “expert,” but only one appears on Facebook. Perhaps there is another we’re not being shown.

Is this an attempt to account for the exposure of other codices as modern forgeries? If so, it falls well, well short of explaining the numerous genetic relationships shared between the script and iconography of the Thonemann codices and the others being promoted as genuine (see my discussion here and here). It also produces a rather unique codex that has little relationship to the other demonstrable forgeries. I can’t say the “team” involved in the promulgation of this hoax is impressing me with their craftiness.

EDIT: The Facebook page now has the second photo, with the symbols on it. Note that much of the script on this codex is actually quite similar to the script on the majority of the other codices that are being promoted as genuine (so are the rectangular patterns). THe iconography is much different, but I would argue it is intentionally so:

More Jordan Lead Codices Photos and Info

Shortly after beginning my coverage of the Jordan Lead Codices topic on my blog, a comment appeared on this post from someone identifying themselves as Ilan Shibli and purporting to be one of the Bedouins involved with the original acquisition of the codices. He stated:

The Books were orginally “discovered ” by a Bedouin from Shibli who worked with Hassan Saida. He bought them from a Jordanian Taxi Driver he was friendly with. Later the two Bedouins Paid vast sums of money to Elkington and Feather and the like to get the works authenticated. During this time not one of them tried to hand the works to any authority. On the contrary they obtained an export license under false pretences. ( the books already being in Europe) When a dead end was reached and not willing to hand over more money to the publicity seeking Elkington the Bedouins stopped all contact and hence his own campaign ” to do the right thing started” He was NEVER THREATENED! just IGNORED
many serious far more discreet scholars have seen the works and the real finder and owner is more than happy to supply photos free of charge and to be interviewed.
There is NO secret or conspiracy
The books ( and there are not 70!) are made of ancient metal and what is of interest more than content is the fact they ARE ONE OF THE FIRST BOOKS TO BE PRINTED

I’ve been in sporadic contact with this person since then. He appears to claim to be located in Israel, although his IP information (which is not always perfectly accurate) locates him in Great Britain, and some of his emails have come from a Blackberry. I asked for evidence that he had access to codices that were not already accessible online. He sent along, over the course of several days, the following photos (all of which are to be credited to Ilan Shibli):

These photos give us a much better look at the script used on the codices. For the best analysis of that script see Steve Caruso’s blog, especially this post. I’ve already discussed the iconography of the lower register in the first photograph (here), but the iconography in the upper register is also found scattered among a bunch of other plates. See the following, for instance:

This is obviously another cast image that was reused on a number of plates. The writing below the menorah in the image is meaningless, as far as I can tell. That the images on these plates are modern productions is, in my opinion, pretty much beyond dispute. Dr. Northover’s analysis supports an ancient provenance for the lead, but as others have pointed out, and as he stated in a note to me, there is quite a bit of ancient lead lying around, and the composition of the lead does not necessarily indicate the antiquity of the codices.

(Elkington is offering a number of other photos for purchase on various websites around the world. Some of the sites offer bigger preview photos than others. Some of the higher quality previews are available here.)

Back to Mr. Shibli. I later sent a few questions to help clarify some of the background of the codices. Following are my questions:

– How did you originally come to possess the codices, and were you told where they came from?
– When and how did Mr. Elkington become involved?
– Did you give Elkington any or all of the codices, and if so, how long did he have them?
– Did Elkington arrange for the metallographic analysis with Dr. Northover at Oxford or did someone else?
– How much money did Elkington end up charging for his services?
– Who is currently in possession of the codices?
And this is the response I received:
1. As I said before we trade Hay and Horses on the Jordanian Border. We met and befriended a taxi driver and the story started from there. In fact as you have probably guessed it I was the one who first made the contact and first got the books. Hassan later got involved.
2.We had been knocking on doors in Europe some v eminent discreet researchers and we met through our friend in Jericho a Palestinian women working for the PLO, she made us all sorts of promises to buy the books and inlfated value etc. she introduced us  ( against the advise of the reputable European Contacts) to a Nick Fielding and in Turn  Robert Feather and David
This was in 2008/9. We hosted their visit to Israel and told them the truth about everything including the facts the books ( some of them were already – innocently in Europe) They came up with the idea to fabricate various stories and to invent export licences. We were a bit confused but naively went along with things. David made out he was the third wheel just there to take photos
3. We gave them one book for analysis and paid them well over £5000 – infact in total  close to £10,000 to send off for testing etc
4. Meanwhile other translators and researchers continued to work for free and still are discretely
5. Elkington until Hassan took the book back had  access the books as did the other for over a year but it was Robert Feather ( we discovered later- a ” devout Jew’ who was hiding ” treasure in his house!  Not once did Elkington inform the Jordanians and not once did feather alert the israelis
as they kept demanding money and we were getting no where, we just parted company hence the surprise to see how he ” popped up again” He has been out of the picture for around 2 years/. We heard some chinese whispers that if he was not ” let back in’  he would go ” denounce us” but we told him to go ahead/ So far nothing had been proved  just the age of the metal. We travelled previously quite legitimately not hiding anything. We truly had no idea what they were
Meanwhile other books appeared and Hassan ” bought them” Ellkington made his own trips to Jordan
6. We are currently in possession of the Lead Codices as we always have been in Israel
Ilan also sent me a copy of a report that analyzed the codices, reportedly produced by David Elkington. It can be found here. I cannot fully vouch for the story presented above, and I don’t know anything more about Mr. Shibli than what he has told me (and what my computer tells me about where his computer is), but the photos provided should show that this individual has unique access to the codices, or at least photographs of them. Take that for what it’s worth.
EDIT: Another thing Mr. Shibli stressed on several occasions that should be noted is that he has never tried to make any money off of the codices or their photos. He has provided them free of charge to those who ask, provided he is credited.