Lead Codices discovered in Jordan could be earliest Christian texts

From http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-12888421

Clearly we will have to wait for a great deal more uncovering and interpretation, as well as what will probably be a protracted ownership battle, but this could be fun…

Of course, they could also be a hoax, completely unrelated to Christianity or contain nothing of interest…

Neato, if you hear more about this, please post.

Really cool. I’m looking forward to reading more about this.

Most comment I can find seems to be skeptical to cautious…

1st of april tomorrow…

Lead leaves I could buy, but lead rings? In my experience lead is pretty soft 9which is why writing on it might be easily done), and wouldn’t be a really good material for rings. It’d have to be alloyed with more than a trace of something else.

The first published articles appear at thebeginning of March, so I doubt that it is an April Fool’s joke.

Lead is a bastard for reacting with other metals. It would be tough to use anything but lead for the binding material. Even a lead alloy would corrode in short order if left in contact with pure lead.

I suspect the use of the word ring is a slight translation error. I can’t remember where, but I’ve seen bronze sheets bound with copper ribbon, basically just copper beaten flat and used to bind the sheets together via holes in the top. Imagine tying some perforated foolscap papers together by passing shoelaces through the holes and you’ve got a pretty good idea of how it works. I’m guessing the lead “rings” are the same deal. Basically lead ribbon.

I’d agree that some caution is warranted given how many archaeological finds related to early Christianity have turned out to be hoaxes. (Jesus family tomb, James sepulchre, Secret Mark, etc…) Nonetheless this has the potential to be quite exciting. Thanks for bringing it our attention.

I read an article yesterday which had some more pictures – here it is.

That they appear to be ‘lost’ at the moment however does ring some alarm bells.

But James Cameron proved that was real! :stuck_out_tongue:

It would be incredibly cool, if true, but I’m a little skeptical. Hopefully I’ll be proven wrong.

How common were lead books in the first century? I’ve never heard of that before.

Don’t worry, it’s been taken away to a a safe location to be studied by top men.

Have you worked with lead? In ribbon form it’d be only slightly better than paper. It rips and tears extremely easily, even when it’s not thin. And i suspect that only small amounts of added metals won’t change that. Copper ribbon I could see, but not lead. Unless those rings, ribbons, or whatever are some kind of pewter alloy, this still seems pretty weird.

Who? :smiley:

Top. Men.


Well, there was a copper scroll included in the Dead Sea Scrolls, and repousse was used to imprint the text on that, I am not an expert in decorative motifs of the early Christians in that time period, but the pictures show a pair of what could be palm or olive branches, a starburst, in the bottom of the 3 pictures of the books might be a menorah, upper right picture seems to be a grape vine. The only thing I would wonder about was christians using a menorah symbol, but at the time they were just a sub cult of judaism so that might still be a symbol in use. The funny ‘furry cross’ on the upper left picture I honestly can’t identify, as it really is not clearly a cross, nor anything else and I can’t find it in any of my books on symbolism.

Lead was an amazingly common metal in that time period - used in coins, cooking and food storage vessels, in building as pipes and poured into stonework to bind it together. They did do repousse work on silver, gold and copper so I don’t see why someone might not do it on lead scrounged up - it was really cheap. I could see someone taking a length of discarded pipe, cutting pieces off and pounding it into a workable sheet to repousse on. I don’t see why they wouldn’t perhaps do it for a document if they didn’t have access to vellum or papyrus based paper [both of which could be expensive and most early christians were the lower end of the social spectrum in many cases] We do come across devotional inscriptions on wood, scratched on potsherds, scratched on stone and painted and embroidered on fabric.

I am somewhat interested in it being a codex instead of a scroll, the copper item in the dead sea scrolls was as i mentioned a scroll. The codex was derivative of the wax tablets used by romans, which did tend to be held together by rings so I would consider the form of the artifact plausable. Rummaging around, it does appear that christians prefer the codex form over scroll form so it is getting more and more plausible. I am just really iffy about the sheets of lead. But as I said, I can see a christian laborer using a piece of cast off lead, a good smooth rock surface, and a good smooth hammering rock and a bronze stylus to create sheets of lead and make a codex.

*the article mentions that that patina appears to date the item, but chemically speaking there are ways to patina metal so I would prefer a good forensics lab have a go at them first to confirm the age.

Pictures of the codices:

They are indeed bound by rings, and the article says the codices are lead. The rings are pretty darned thick, and it doesn’t say if they’re lead, too.There appear to be several different sets of plates.
This article has more pictures, and says they’re bound with “wire”:

Cal, do you know if that coloring on the plates would be typical? I’ve seen some Roman lead plates that were found underwater, but I assumed had been cleaned. They had the common dark gray color of lead.