Prof’s mystery texts
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 tiny books, barely the size of a credit card, are made of lead sheets.
Some are bound on more than one side, making their secured content all the more intriguing.
The fact that many of the books are sealed has led to speculation they are a collection of codices referred to in the Bible’s Book of Revelation.
They were discovered in a cave that might have been one of the hiding places of persecuted Christians, who fled Jerusalem and crossed the River Jordan during the siege of the city in 69-70 AD.
“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.”
The texts are at the centre of a battle between Jordanian authorities, archaeological experts and an Israeli Bedouin farmer, Hassan Saeeda.
The Jordanian government believe Hassan smuggled the texts out of Jordan, where they legally belong.
“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.”
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