Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Fake metal codices watch: Davies interview

FAKE METAL CODICES WATCH: The Sheffield Telegraph interviews Philip Davies on the codices, repeating much hype and silliness from earlier media coverage, albeit with a small dose of caution:
Prof’s mystery texts

Published on Wednesday 20 April 2011 08:43

Tiny books could be most important find since the Dead Sea Scrolls

A PROFESSOR from Sheffield has been asked to help authenticate dozens of mysterious texts being talked about as the most important find since the Dead Sea Scrolls.

Philip Davies, The University of Sheffield’s emeritus professor of biblical studies, is one of a handful experts from across the world asked to investigate the 70 ancient texts, found in a cave in Jordan.

For some the find forms what could be one of the most important discoveries in Christian history - but others doubt their authenticity.

The interesting part is the quotation from Philip:
“It is extremely exciting and a very curious case - it’s not normal for books to be bound on both sides,” said Philip. “They may be sheets of secret signs and people may have prayed over them.”

Tests suggest the scrolls date back to at least the first century AD but one of the books has a carved image of Christ with depth - an artistic feature not associated with anything as early as the first century AD.

“That looks too modern in style for my liking,” said Philip.

“I think some of them may be authentic, and as yet I can’t work out what sort of a hoax they might be.”


“At the moment the codices are hard to reach so it’s difficult for any of us to actually see them at first hand,” said Philip.

“At the moment there is every reason to be extremely cautious.”
Some thoughts:

First, can someone please publish those "[t]ests" that supposedly "suggest the scrolls [sic] date back to at least the first century AD"? Until they have been peer-reviewed by specialists in ancient metallurgy, I am not going to take them seriously.

Second, "what sort of hoax they might be" is an interesting question that is worth following up. If someone intended to make money from them, this turned into an epic fail once the Jordanian Government took an interest. It would be helpful to know when they were forged and, if possible, who did it and why.

Third, that "carved image of Christ" has a suspicious similarity to the "Mona Lisa of the Galilee" mosaic. And there are other, similar problems with the iconography and script of the codices (see here, here, here, and here).

Fourth, as for "I think some of them may be authentic," I'll take the liberty of quoting myself (with an added link):
So just because one of the codices is a fake, does it mean they all are? Let's see. Some guy makes a major epigraphic discovery. So what does he do? He goes out and finds a forger and has the forger make up some very similar fakes and salts the real cache of codices with them. You believe that?
I'm all for keeping an open mind until the evidence is in, but in this case we are past the point of being extremely cautious. The evidence is compelling that this supposed cache of ancient texts is fake.

On a more positive note (so to speak), the fakeness of the codices did get some coverage in the MobyLives column of the Melville House Publishing Co. yesterday: Newly discovered Christian codices both timely and fake. It's not major media, but it did make it into Google News.

Background here.