The find of scrolls and 70 lead codices - tiny credit-card-sized volumes containing ancient Hebrew script talking of the Messiah and the Resurrection - has excited biblical scholars. Much of the writing is in code, but experts have deciphered images, symbols and a few words and the texts could be 2, years old. A 16th century painting depicting Jesus's death.
The texts found in Jordan, if genuine, would be among the earliest Christian writings. The 70 codices are said to contain passages in ancient Hebrew about Jesus and the Resurrection Margaret Barker, former president of the Society of Old Testament Study, is wary of confirming their authenticity but added that if genuine then the books could be 'vital and unique' evidence of the earliest Christians Some academics are sceptical about the discovery because there have been numerous hoaxes and sophisticated fakes produced over the years.
Many of the codices are sealed which suggests that they could be secret writings referred to in the apocryphal Book of Ezra - an appendage to some versions of the Bible. Texts have been written on little sheets of lead bound together with wire.
The treasure trove was found five years ago by an Israeli Bedouin and may have been around since the 1st century, around the time of Jesus's crucifixion and Resurrection. A number of experts have examined the writings, including Margaret Barker, a former president of the Society for Old testament Study with a renowned knowledge of early Christian studies.
She told the Sunday Times how the intrigue surrounding the artefacts was similar to the black market secrecy with the discovery of the Dead Sea scrolls.
The artefacts were found in a remote cave in the north of Jordan. One archeologist has allegedly received death threats.
The scrolls consist of 30, separate fragments making up manuscripts of biblical texts and religious writings from the time of Jesus. The fragile parchment and papyrus fragments have been the subject of intense study for more than half a century by an international team of scholars who are still trying to understand the significance of some 30 per cent of the texts which are not included in the Bible or any other previously known religious writings.
The scrolls include the earliest known copy of the Ten Commandments, an almost complete Book of Isaiah and many of the Psalms. Some of the texts were damaged by well-intentioned restoration attempts since the s that included the use of Sellotape, rice paper and perspex glue. But she said if the material is genuine then the books could be 'vital and unique' evidence of the earliest Christians. He is believed to have obtained them after they were discovered in northern Jordan.
Two samples were sent to a laboratory in England where they were examined by Peter Northover, head of the materials science-based archaeology group.
The verdict was inconclusive without more tests, but he said the composition was 'consistent with a range of ancient lead. He has told colleagues privately that he believes the find is unlikely to have been forged, say the Sunday Times The remote desert caves in Israel which yielded The Dead Sea Scrolls. They were found between and hidden in pottery jars. Experts say the intrigue surrounding the artefacts is similar to the black market secrecy associated with discovery of the Dead Sea scrolls Share or comment on this article: Most watched News videos.