22 April 2011

New firesides coming up and Brazilian fans

A lot has been going on behind the scenes these days. Daniel is putting the final touches on his fireside for the ward in Chile. He has done them in Spanish before, but this time, it will also be done over the Internet, using Skype to video-conference. It's scheduled for this Sunday afternoon. Bishop Alvaro Figueroa is our contact in Chile, and he is putting it together. Absent any technical difficulties that could understandably arise, we are looking forward to this one.

In other South American news, we have been sent a site that has Daniel's Metals and Gold Plates online presentation translated into Portuguese. It looks like there is a connection with our Chilean friends. Elson C. Ferreira translated our content into Portuguese for a post on the From Jerusalem to the Americas blog. Like the Spanish one, this was a surprise to us, but we are always pleased with more opportunities to share our research and the book.

Closer to home, Daniel and Jared have a fireside on Sunday, the 1st of May. It will be at 7:00 pm at the Yulupa chapel in Santa Rosa, CA. This is near the area where Jared grew up, so he has friends and family there. We gave a presentation at this chapel a couple of years ago, so it will be nice to get back there. As usual, if you are in the area, drop in and see us.

05 April 2011

Ancient lead plates from Jordan...or not

The lead books have between 5-15 pages
Starting near the end of last month, news sites carried articles about the discovery of a group of ancient codices, or books of lead plates now in Israel, but possibly found in Jordan. Among LDS circles, mailing lists sent out notices of this fantastic find. The claim was that they were Christian writings from the first century AD, the earliest ever found. Since Daniel has written and lectured about various examples of authentic metal plates from antiquity, the Book of Mormon Archaeological Forum asked him to write a review on these plates, which was sent out to their members on 1 April (maybe not the best choice of dates).

Some are about the size of a credit card
This does seem to be exciting news and the few photos that have surfaced on the web look convincing, at least to non-experts. But as Daniel researched the topic further, more doubts and questions appeared. Most experts are claiming them to be outright hoaxes, or at least, taking a very cautious position on the plates. Daniel's initial review sent out by the BMAF was quite positive, but he began to have concerns, so he wrote a follow-up article, which was sent out a few days later. He also performed a computer graphics image comparison of some images on the plates. The second BMAF newsletter sent out shows that even though we hope they are real, there may be good reason to be skeptical. You can read Daniel's comments and see his visual analysis below:

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.