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On Behalf of David and Jennifer Elkington
SECRET HOARD OF ANCIENT SEALED BOOKS FOUND IN JORDAN
One of the biggest and best preserved hoards of ancient sealed books, which had been secretly hidden for centuries, has been discovered in Jordan. Early indications are that some of the books could date from the first century CE/AD and may be among the earliest Christian documents, predating the writings of St Paul. Leading academics consider that the find might be as pivotal as the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls in 1947. The hoard consists of up to 70 ring-bound books (codices) made of lead and copper. Many of them are sealed on all sides. Scrolls, tablets and other artefacts, including an incense bowl, were also found at the same site. Some of the lead pages are written in a form of archaic Hebrew script with ancient messianic symbols. Some of the writing appears to be in a form of code. There is likely to be considerable academic and political debate about the collection’s authenticity, meaning and interpretation. But now there is also a race against time to safeguard the collection’s future. Having been originally discovered some 5 years ago in a remote cave within a militarized zone by Jordanian Bedouin, the hoard was subsequently acquired by an Israeli Bedouin, who illegally smuggled them across the Border into Israel, where they remain hidden under his protection. However, legal advice has confirmed that the find qualifies as treasure trove under Jordanian law, and is rightly the property of the Kingdom of Jordan. The Jordanian Government is now working at the highest levels to repatriate and safeguard the collection. The British team leading the work on the discovery fears that the present Israeli ‘keeper’ may be looking to sell some of the books on to the black market, or worse - destroy them. The collection appears to be of mixed provenance. But initial metallurgical tests indicate that some of the books made of lead could date from the first century CE/AD, based on the form of corrosion which has taken place, which experts believe would be impossible to achieve artificially. Sealed books were used by early Christian writers as a code for secret teaching; they were heavily persecuted and needed to protect their knowledge. Until now, no such book has ever been found. The codices were discovered in an area to which Christian refugees are known to have fled after the fall of Jerusalem in 70CE/AD, and where important documents from the same period have previously been found. The existence of a significant, hidden collection of sealed codices is mentioned in the Christian Bible’s Book of Revelation and in other biblical books.
The team involved in bringing the find to the world’s attention has been led by David Elkington, a British scholar of the early Christian period and of ancient religious history. David has been supported by his wife Jennifer and a small team of leading international academic experts, including Dr. Margaret Barker, Co-founder of the Temple Studies Group and former President of the Society for Old Testament Study, and Professor Philip Davies, Emeritus Professor of Biblical Studies at Sheffield University and an authority on the Dead Sea Scrolls. David and Jennifer Elkington informed the Kingdom of Jordan about the find at an early stage and, following more recent briefings, are now working with the Department of Antiquities in Amman in order to safeguard its future. Much further investigation will be needed to confirm the authenticity, meaning and full significance of the find. It is intended that an educational foundation will be created to promote long-term research into this find and related discoveries, to enable greater understanding of the fragmented - often conflicting - origins of Christianity, for the benefit of the whole world. Preparations are being made for a documentary film about the discovery, in conjunction with a leading television network, and the publication of a book. In announcing the find, David Elkington said: “It is an enormous privilege to be able to reveal this discovery to the world. But, as ever, the find begs more questions than it answers. The academic and spiritual debate must now commence, and this needs a calm and rational environment to be most productive. So it is vital that the collection can be recovered intact and secured in the best possible circumstances, both for the benefit of its owners and for a potentially fascinated international audience”. Dr Zaid Al Saad, Director General of the Department of Antiquities of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, said “The Department is delighted to be working with David and Jennifer Elkington in order to recover and safeguard this important collection, to enable it to be fully researched, authenticated and understood. We much appreciate David and Jennifer’s work to date”. Commenting on the discovery, Dr Margaret Barker said: “The Book of Revelation tells of a sealed book that was opened only by the Messiah. Other texts from the period tell of sealed books of wisdom and of a secret tradition passed on by Jesus to his closest disciples. That is the context for this discovery. So if they are forgeries, what are they forgeries of?” Professor Philip Davies said: “My own scrutiny suggests to me and to several of my colleagues that the form of the archaic Semitic script corresponds well to what was used in the era 200BCE-100CE. The codex format of the documents is also known to have been adopted by Christians from about the first century CE. However much of the writing appears to be in code and many of the images are unfamiliar. The possibility of a Hebrew-Christian origin is certainly suggested by the imagery and, if so, these codices are likely to bring dramatic new light to our understanding of a very significant but so far little
understood period of history”. ENDS Notes to Editors 1. David Elkington has been shown many of the artefacts by the current possessor of them, who wished to understand their significance, and was allowed to photograph some of them in their present location for research purposes. But he makes no claim of ownership, which, based on the legal advice he has received, rightly rests with the Kingdom of Jordan. Given the controversy and competition which the discovery of ancient artefacts always promotes – both academic and commercial – David is keen to ensure that the find can now be properly and professionally investigated, in a safe and secure place, with the full support of the Kingdom of Jordan and with the benefit of access to the world’s leading experts. David has worked to date entirely on a voluntary basis, with the support of many friends, alongside the generous help of many leading experts in this field. 2. BCE and CE are increasingly used by classical scholars in place of the more colloquially used terminology of BC and AD respectively. 3. Particular observations from the codices include: • The codices show many symbols of the Feast of Tabernacles, Sukkot, which was associated with the enthronement of the ancient Davidic kings in Jerusalem, and later with the coming of the Messiah. There are clear images of the menorah (the seven branched lamp), leafy branches and etrogim, the large citrus fruits used at Tabernacles. There are also fruiting palm trees, well known from coins of the late second temple period and the time of the Bar Kochba war. There are blocks of paleo-Hebrew script, which could be from the Hasmonean period, 2nd-1st century BCE, but the experts consulted to date believe these to be in code. Further information will be released in due course once the security of the artefacts has been assured. David Elkington is the author of ‘In the Name of the Gods’, the highly acclaimed academic thesis on the resonance and acoustical origins of religion. David is primarily an Egyptologist, specializing in EgyptPalestinian links that have inevitably drawn him into the field of Biblical studies. He has lectured at universities all over the world and written many papers on ancient history and linguistics.
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Dr. Margaret Barker is an independent Old Testament scholar, a former President of the Society for Old Testament Study, co-founder of the Temple Studies Group and author of 14 books in this field. The Archbishop of Canterbury created her a Lambeth Doctor of Divinity for her temple research, which illuminates the origins of Christianity. Professor Philip Davies is Emeritus Professor of Biblical Studies at the University of Sheffield, author of numerous books and articles on the Dead Sea Scrolls and early Judaism. Educated at the Universities of Oxford and St Andrews. A former President of the Society for Old Testament Study and a former President of the European Association of Biblical Studies. For Further Information contact: Hilary Baker Mobile: +44 (0) 7971 006600 For Images contact: Rex Features Tell: [ +44 ] 20 7278 7294 a.www.rexfeatures.com
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