A remarkable discovery that if true could be perhaps the most significant find in Christian archeology ever -- dozens of lead manuscripts that could include clues to the last days of the life of Jesus Christ.
According to a report on Yahoo! News, the ancient manuscripts are known as "codices." They were found in a cave in a remote area of eastern Jordan five years ago -- the same area where early Christian believers may have settled after the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem in 70 AD. There are 70 in all, their lead pages about the size of credit cards.
They contain a number of images and textual allusions to the Messiah, as well as some possible references to the crucifixion and resurrection. Some of the codices were sealed, prompting yet more breathless speculation that they could include the sealed book, shown only to the Messiah, mentioned in the Book of Revelation. One of the few sentences translated thus far from the texts, according to the BBC, reads, "I shall walk uprightly"--a phrase that also appears in Revelation. "While it could be simply a sentiment common in Judaism," BBC writer Robert Pigott notes, "it could here be designed to refer to the resurrection."
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British archaeologists are currently trying to authenticate the codices. Since biblical archaeology has been victimized in the past by hoaxes, experts are treading lightly. Initial tests are promising, however. Based on the corrosion of the lead, it's believed the codices are indeed 2000 years old.
But biblical scholars are not withholding their enthusiasm. Philip Davies, emeritus professor of Old Testament Studies at Sheffield University, told the BBC he was "dumbstruck" by a page that shows a map of ancient Jerusalem.
"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," Davies said. "There are walls depicted on other pages of these books, too, and they almost certainly refer to Jerusalem."
David Elkington, an ancient religion scholar who heads the research team investigating the find, told the Daily Mail that "it is a breathtaking thought that we have held these objects that might have been held by the early saints of the Church."
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But there are doubters. New Testament scholar Larry Hurtado said since these codices are miniature, they were likely intended for private use. This would likely place their date of origin closer to the 3rd century.