Thursday, August 03, 2017

Comprehensive report on the Jordanian lead codices

THE CENTRE FOR THE STUDY OF THE JORDANIAN LEAD BOOKS has published its comprehensive report on the metal codices, by Samuel Zinner, on its website. You can download the pdf file here: Son of the Star: Bar Kokhba and the Jordanian lead books. It's a big file, so be patient with the download.

[UPDATE: I have now reviewed the report in a series of four posts. The series begins here.]

The abstract of Dr. Zinner's report is as follows:
In this report, Samuel Zinner examines the controversial ‘Jordan codices,’ addressing the complex ethical and legal issues involved in undocumented, non-provenanced artefacts. There is much to be wary of in enthusiasts’ and naysayers’ claims, both of whom fall prey to emotionalism. Aligning his position with that of André Lemaire, Zinner cautiously leaves open the possibilities of ancient authenticity (for a core group) and an elaborate pre-modern fake, carefully weighing the evidence for each. Zinner demonstrates that at least some of the artefacts are modern copies of older exemplars.

If ancient, the Jordanian artefacts are apotropaic grave objects designed to afford protection to the deceased and information relevant for their afterlife. Their contents would date from the immediate post-Bar Kokhba period to the time of Julia Domna and beyond (ca. 136-217 CE). Ancient or modern, the artefacts’ contents retrospectively view Jewish history from the Maccabees to Bar Kokhba principally through the prism of the latter’s revolt and its demise.

The artefacts’ main inspirations were ancient Jewish and Greco-Roman coinage, which naturally suggested to their creators the choice of a metal medium. The sheet format was dictated by apotropaic grave precedents such as Orphic tablets. With some exceptions, each Jordanian ‘book’ consists of a large image-text design that has been arbitrarily cut down to smaller-sized individual sheets subsequently bound together in order to retain the separate leaves’ association. ‘Book’/‘codex’ is not the most fitting terminology for these artefacts. The closest comparative parallels are the Martin Schøyen/Würzburg ancient Greek alphabet copper plaques, the Orphic lamellae, the Gnostic lead book in the National Museum at Rome, and the Mandaeans' lead books.
Samuel Zinner studied ancient and modern languages, literatures, and histories, and museum and archival studies at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln where he received his PhD in 2002. His coursework included intensive studies in Shem-Tob’s Hebrew Matthew gospel and in ancient Jewish, Christian and Greco-Roman texts. Other areas of concentration included modern German and Russian literatures, poetics, linguistics, philology, and cryptography. His training in modern European history involved research in Holocaust and genocide studies, ethnic cleansing, and indigenous issues. He is author of several monographs and essays that have appeared in English, German, and Russian.
It is lengthy: over 1100 pages, although that includes many images. It addresses the issues that need to be addresed and does so thoughtfully and in great detail. Rather than coming to a final conclusion, Dr. Zinner explores the evidence for what he understands to be the full range of possibilities.

I have read the (long!) introductory sections and the conclusion and have read and skimmed some of the core chapters. That took up most of a day of my vacation. I'm not ready to comment yet, but I will post some comments once I have time to look at it a little more and to digest the material.

I should also note that the Lead Book Centre has published a number of films on the codices. I will respect their wish that the videos not be embedded, but you can go to their YouTube site here to view them.

Background here and many, many links. Cross-file under Fake Metal Codices Watch. I acknowledge that various elements of the current discussion may point to some of the codices being something other than fake, but I remain to be convinced. I will have more to say in due course. In any case, I continue to include this cross-file rubric so that readers can search it to find all my posts on the subject.

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