|The lead books have between 5-15 pages|
|Some are about the size of a credit card|
Recently, an announcement was sent out about a collection of supposedly ancient lead codices from the Middle East. They are being considered seriously by some as authentic ancient artifacts from that region, but they may be a clever forgery instead. The books have pages that are engraved with what appear to be simple images of Jewish and Christian iconography, as well as coded Hebrew writing that could be messianic in nature, according to those behind this announcement. However, only a handful of phrases have been ‘translated’ and few released photos show much actual text.
Beyond this tantalizing bit of information, however, many of the details and backstory of this discovery are questionable. The most popular news reports claim that they date to the first century of the Christian era, making them almost 2000 years old. Jewish supporters associate them with the Kabbalah, while New Testament enthusiasts believe these codices contain the earliest know examples of Christian literature. It is also possible that they are genuine, but date to a much later era.
But as more details become available, doubts and inconsistencies arise. More recent photos show various sizes of books, much larger than the initial credit card-size. Some reports list 70 codices found, others as few as 20. And the legal issue remains: were the books found only a few years ago in Jordan, or have they been passed down in an Israeli family for a century? The fact that many reports came out around the 1st of April added to the speculation that the whole incident was a hoax. As an example, one website had a quote from Jordanian expert Aloof Lirpah (read the name backwards).
Perhaps the most damaging evidence against the plates’ authenticity lies with their most vocal advocate, British scholar and author David Elkington, who spoke about them on the radio show Coast to Coast on 2 April. He has other such finds in his possession, including what purport to be ancient bronze plates from the same region. However, because of typos in the ancient Greek text they contain, they have been unequivocally denounced as fake by experts. Even worse, one of these bronze plates contains a palm tree image that very closely matches up with a palm tree motif on one of the lead plates, leading to the almost inescapable conclusion that they were cast from the same mold. If this one lead plate is a modern creation, are all the rest fakes as well? Not necessarily, but this is a strong mark against them. More seasoned and experienced experts are now taking sides against the plates.
|On the overlay, the lighter background is the lead plate; the dark lines are the bronze plate.|
Extreme caution is warranted, and only time will tell what the truth is behind these enigmatic artifacts. The Dead Sea Scrolls’ authenticity was doubted at first, and we could be looking at a similar situation with the lead codices. It is also very possible that they could be another in a continuing line of modern forgeries. That would be disappointing, but we are in no worse position for recognizing and accepting the truth. The validation of the lead codices as genuine artifacts would be encouraging for Book of Mormon supporters, but if they do turn out to be fakes, other legitimate examples of ancient records are widely known and accepted. Even if they are faked, what were those responsible trying to copy? Forgeries are usually patterned after known items. The very fact that hoaxers unconcerned with LDS issues might be creating these kinds of relics demonstrates a greater acceptance of ancient metal plates.