Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Inscribed lead plates update

INSCRIBED LEAD PLATES UPDATE: Richard Bauckham points me to this BBC article: Jordan battles to regain 'priceless' Christian relics. It has a new photo, but it's pretty useless. There is also some new information, mostly here:
Mr Elkington says the relics feature signs that early Christians would have interpreted as indicating Jesus, shown side-by-side with others they would have regarded as representing the presence of God.

"It's talking about the coming of the messiah," he says.

"In the upper square [of one of the book covers] we have the seven-branch menorah, which Jews were utterly forbidden to represent because it resided in the holiest place in the Temple in the presence of God.

"So we have the coming of the messiah to approach the holy of holies, in other words to get legitimacy from God."

Location clues

Philip Davies, Emeritus Professor of Old Testament Studies at Sheffield University, says the most powerful evidence for a Christian origin lies in plates cast into a picture map of the holy city of Jerusalem.

"As soon as I saw that, I was dumbstruck. That struck me as so obviously a Christian image," he says.

"There is a cross in the foreground, and behind it is what has to be the tomb [of Jesus], a small building with an opening, and behind that the walls of the city. There are walls depicted on other pages of these books too and they almost certainly refer to Jerusalem."
Book found in Jordan The books were bound by lead rings

It is the cross that is the most telling feature, in the shape of a capital T, as the crosses used by Romans for crucifixion were.

"It is a Christian crucifixion taking place outside the city walls," says Mr Davies.
Before I get excited about this iconography I would like to see clear pictures of it and get the views of those who specialize in such things. Contra the comment attributed to Mr. Elkingon, ancient representations of seven-branched menorahs are not uncommon and are a signature feature for Jewish provenance of inscriptions. Examples are here, here, and here (Wikipedia Commons).

Background here.