Finally a Good Look at the “Lead Codices” Script

Lots and lots and lots and lots and lots has been going on around these “Lead Codices” among the Biblioblogs and media (and unfortunately, the latter just isn’t comparing notes with the former).

After a bit more digging here and there I finally was able to come across a picture with some of the writing on it clear enough to “read” at the Examiner (shown above).

If it was in Hebrew in “code” (as the media claims), this alphabet is completely out of place from where the codices are “supposed” to come from, not to mention that some of the letter forms are simply wrong (what appears to be gimel and lamed to me is flipped compared to other letters such as mim and nun).

UPDATE: Here’s an illustration of what I mean:

(Feel free to use the above image however you like, but I’d appreciate a link back here in case anyone has any comments and so its context remains intact. 🙂 )

On a scale of 1 to 5 where 1 is fake, and 5 is genuine, on consideration of the script alone, I’d give it a 1.

FURTHER UPDATE HERE: Daniel McClellan via Mark Chan realized that the inscription that the fake Bronze Codices came from a bilingual funerary inscription in Greek and Nabatean.

However upon examination I’ve determined that the Nabatean portion of the inscription does not match any of the text on any of the good quality pictures on the plates revealed thusfar (although I’m still running comparisons).

As such I am issuing a “Nabatean Script Watch” if any new photographs emerge so that Bibliobloggers keep an eye for any similarities to the above inscription. 🙂


12 thoughts on “Finally a Good Look at the “Lead Codices” Script

  1. Steve, I’ve been going over the script as well, and if you check out these two codices, which seem to have the same text and appear to be by the same hand, you’ll see the gimmel and the lamed, as well as the yod, switched around to the proper direction:

    From this post:

    In that post I compare the iconography on all the available images and show they’re all by the same person (or persons) who executed the plates exposed by Thonemann as forgeries. From what I can read, it seems the forger learned a lesson from that event and decided to just use gibberish. It’s easier to claim it’s secret code than to explain how the text perfectly matches a portion of an inscription on display in a museum.

  2. Daniel,

    Thanks for the images and your very thorough article!

    The more I see, the more things look fishy. In the images you’ve shared here, I cannot help but notice the yods with “curly” tails. I have *never* seen an example of that anywhere else but these plates. In Old/Paleo-Hebrew, Yod is always written with clean angles (in stone, on parchment, on coins, on sherds, always).

    Another interesting thing lies with lamed, in that on these plates it’s rarely written with a properly ascending stroke. Even on coins where space is scarce, the ascending stroke of the lamed, when written across the top, tends to reach the very edge of the coin (often directly through edge designs) where other letters don’t. In contrast, the lameds on these plates tend to be quite low and small, without a true ascender.

    All in all: Ugh. 🙂


  3. I’m just curious, since these plates are metal, would they not have been made in the same way coins are made using a die or mold with a backwards mirror image on the die? What it looks like to me is that whoever produced the die got a little confused and wrote the gimel and lamed correctly on the die and not the mirror image. So when the plate was made, the mirror image ended up on the lead plate. What appears to be a yod in the bottom right corner also appears to be backwards, but it you reverse the image of this plate the yod looks perfect.

  4. You folks make some good points, but for the sake of argument, couldn’t these inconsistencies be attributed to the fact that the followers of Jesus were generally poor and mostly illiterate, and so used an easily alterable medium like lead, and made several errors in its inscription? Also, they would have been small since the followers of Christ were persecuted. No one was carrying giant billboards claiming Christ as the Messiah. Even Peter denied him.

    Howard’s point about the gimel, etc. appearing in reverse makes sense too. Even on official coins I’ve seen entire inscriptions appear this way. Sometimes, though, it is just a couple of letters.

    I’m just curious so I ask. Obviously, anything coming out of the Israeli antiquities market is suspect. But the strange medium, mistakes in writing and odd size don’t convince me it is false. I hope some legitimate scholars can thoroughly study all of them and try and determine their authenticity.


  5. This well may be a fraud, but your post makes me wonder just how much of an Aramaic expert you are. Do you know that there are many different paleo- Hebrew and Aramaic scripts? You assume that one letter is a backwards lamed and another a backwards gimel. They look much more to me like forms of the Nabatean nun and aleph respectively, as does the whole script of this particular item, (notice that in the so-called gimel there is always a line in the bottom right which is transitory to later Palmyrene and Syriac alephs which would be uncharacteristic even of a backwards gimel). I’m sure you must have this book–look at Noldeke’s table of the Syriac written-character in his Compendious Syriac Grammar. The fact that these codices supposedly came from Jordan would lead me to think it should rather be closely related to ancient Nabatean and Palmyrene scripts and not simply Hasmonean, as the news-media has reported. Really, unless you can identify a specific word and say that it is mispelled, you shouldn’t claim to know–you can’t even read the alphabet let alone consider whether such would then be coded like some of the DSS.

  6. Anonymous,

    Perhaps you missed that the majority of this exercise was to investigate if it was in “Paleo-Hebrew” script (i.e. taking a deeper look at the report as reported).

    So allow us to review:

    1) Last time I checked, Hebrew wasn’t written in Nabatean or Palmyrene script, hence why they do not feature in the immediate discussion. 😉

    2) That aside, the letter forms here are not Palmyrene. Take a look at this beautiful example: Note the distinctive forms for alef, yod, mim and tau. Nothing at all close to what we’re looking at here.

    3) Concerning Nabatean forms, I can see that there are a few potential similarities with some of the letter forms (perhaps a qof and a waw). But it’s not consistent. If you examined what I was pointing out as “gimel” in the context of the whole plate, they are obviously not alefs (the “transitory line” you refer to in one example is part of a *line of three pips*, where in the other it’s part of the letter *next* to it, left out due to the cropping). However, those forms appearing next to distinctive Old Aramaic/Hebrew forms (where already well-developed and established Nabatean forms *existed*) is a huge red flag that screams for skepticism.

    It’s a mish-mash jumble.

    Now with all due respect, please don’t rely upon the “cliffs notes” of paleography (i.e. those convenient little cleaned-up tables in reference books) to question someone’s expertise, and when you do question someone’s expertise, do it with your real name (unless you have something to lose). 😉


  7. I personally do not know what language it is, nor could anyone know unless they could first read the script it is written in. There is no pure script of any kind, whether Hasmonean, Nabatean, Palmyrene or others. There are only many variations with family resemblances, some of them drifting into each other. That is why you should look at Noldeke’s book: because it provides many examples of Palmyrene, and Nabatean, and Hasmonean, etc. Nonetheless, it is surely a better reference than a photograph of one inscription, one style of Palmyrene, which you found on wikipedia. The item does look dubious to me, but you cannot tell what language it is simply by comparing it to how you think a script should have been written; that would be doing violence. Here is another example: look at what one might have first thought to be a backwards Hasmonean yud; maybe one should think again–it looks almost exactly like a Nabatean shin.

  8. Steve, I thought you might be interested. I think we may have identified the source of some of the more bizarre letters on those plates. The inscription Thonemann identified as the source for the Greek text on a coulpe of the codices has an Aramaic portion as well that has matching backward yods and lameds. I have a line drawing here:

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