Tag Archives: epigraphy

I Support Christopher Rollston

If you’ve been following the news, Christopher Rollston (one of the world’s foremost epigraphers and paleographers) is facing losing his job because he wrote an op-ed in the Huffington Post about the marginalization of women in the  culture and context of the Bible.

As countless academics have stepped forward and said, this piece was nothing revolutionary, or even controversial (it is widely accepted that during the era the Bible, there were different values in comparison to the modern day when it came to women and their place in society). It was also written for a popular publication in the appropriate tone for a popular publication, not for scholars or in a manner presented to the field.

However, regardless of this, Emmanuel Seminary is proceeding with disciplinary action against Rollston, who is tenured, as one of their “six figure” donors is apparently withholding their financial support because Rollston’s article offended them, and the Seminary is (apparently) hoping to use the exception for religious institutions to terminate employees in certain positions who do not adhere to the spirit of the institution’s confession of faith.

I find this troublesome on many levels.

First, I do agree that a religious institution, under the law, has the right for certain members of its ranks to keep to a particular confession. This is the same mechanism that allows Christian, Jewish, Muslim, etc. organizations to hire only Christians, Jews, Muslims, etc. as leaders and religious staff without being sued for religious discrimination. This protection, quite reasonably, does not extend to other staff like janitors, workmen, contracted companies, etc. as it is not essential for the mission of such an organization.

However, the problem here was not that Chris went against a particular confession of faith, which he did not. He was simply stating the consensus on the sociological issue for his field in a manner suitable for laymen via a popular magazine. What this appears to be, with less and less doubt as more details come to the forefront, an inter-personal dispute between him and fellow colleagues, and unnamed donors, which is one of the very things that tenure (as an academic institution) is supposed to protect against.

This all said, I support Christopher Rollston.


(h/t to Joel Watts for the image.)

The Lead Codices: Character Sheet

So I’ve gone over each clear picture of the Lead Codices I’ve been able to get my hands on, and I’ve compiled a table of every readable glyph with more to follow.

In summary:

  • Only 8 characters are shared amongst all plates thusfar. This is rather odd, given the number of characters on each plate.
  • Assuming it’s Aramaic, it seems to be a mix of Old Aramaic, Palmyrene, and Nabatean forms, not a single known and well-established script. There may even be a bit of Samaritan influence. Where some mixture of scripts has occurred in ancient documents under rarefied circumstances (such as with the tetragrammaton amongst some of the Dead Sea Scrolls), this mix is unprecedented. Also if we were to ponder about an “Old Palmyrene” or “Old Nabatean” we’d more expect to see “Imperial” forms mixed in, not Old Aramaic forms. To me, this seems like someone was trying to make this look older but blundered the script (like others have done recently…).
  • There are a number of features in the stroke order that indicates that these were not written by a professional scribe (see the examples with numbers for each stroke). Scribes were taught very carefully what order to write characters in along with their shape, and it is this consistency that we are able to apply some of the principles of epigraphy to date inscriptions in the ancient world. This is a “stroke” against its authenticity that needs to be weighted with everything else.
  • The “Christ Head” and “Palm” plates were made by the same person / at the same time, and seem to have repetitive gibberish as the letter variety is very slim and the distribution of letters doesn’t look like a natural Semitic language. Specifically on the “Palm” plate, the well-defined “words” aren’t known words in any Aramaic dialects I am familiar. These are *big* strokes against their authenticity.
  • The “Menorah” and “Crusty Menorah” plates were made by the same person / at the same time. There are a few funky things with the distribution, but there are more “letters” than the previous pair. Several letters on the prior pair appear to be “flipped” in comparison. I would not be particularly surprised if we find these were copied from somewhere, albeit badly (badly enough that I still cannot make anything sensible out).
  • This is certainly not the script used on the Madaba bilingual inscription where the Greek was lifted from. That script was distinctly Nabatean. However, looking at the “Aramaic” script on the Greek plates (look at the top of the image) we find it matches the above script neatly (a *HUGE* stroke against their authenticity, as the Greek plate was proven to be a forgery). I’ve tried a number of times to align the text on the plates to the Madaba inscription in hopes to use it as a “Rosetta Stone” to decipher the rest of the script (i.e. match up known Nabatean characters to this script’s odd variations) but so far to no avail.

Again, to reiterate: On a scale of 1 to 5 where 1 is fake and 5 is genuine, all signs point to 1.

UPDATE APR 11: I’ve cleaned up this post a bit and expanded the bullet points.


The Manuscript Revealed!: Barack Obama’s Ancient Aramaic Birth Certificate

Born in Babylon? The jig is up! Read on…

I must admit that I am surprised at my readership. Although I can imagine a number of individuals (you know who you are) realizing the absurdity of the document and hesitating to admit it. 馃檪

What you are looking at is the physical echo of a daydream, late one evening when I thought to myself:

Well, what if I took that YouTube video that has been circulating and smashed it together with the Kenyan birth certificate debacle?

In the wee hours of the night, refusing sleep, after translating and typesetting (both sloppliy), cutting and crinkling, the “artifact” was born:

The “ancient” document, itself, is a birth certificate for Barack Obama, placing his point of origin in Babylon at around 516-515 BCE.

Originally, I planned on sending a copy of it hand-inked on actual papyrus to the President, himself as a belated birthday gift, along with a cover letter explaining everything that went into it… but I figured that it might not be in good taste… (and at the same time might get me on some lists… or not but who knows? If there are I’m probably already on them. 馃檪 ).

In either case, I hesitated and decided to share it on here with everyone else instead, so that ancient language buffs may enjoy a bit of a chuckle.

(Incidentally, if you’re interested in a copy of it, send me an email.)


The Manuscript Revealed!: A Transcription

I’ve taken the time to “transcribe” a good portion of the document, and I’m “curious” as to what some of my more academic readers out there think. 馃檪

驻转讙诐 诪讜诇讚讗 讬讜诐 讜讗转专 诪讜诇讚 砖转讛 讘讬专讞讛 砖转讬转讬 讘砖谞转 砖转讬转讬
讝讬 讚专讬讛讜砖 诪诇讻讗 讘讘诇
砖诐 讘专讱 讛住讬谉 讗讜讘诪讛 转谞讬谞讗
讗讘 砖诐 砖谞谉 讗转专 诪讜诇讚 驻诇讞 讘专讱 讛住讬谉 讗讜讘诪讛 讻 拽谞讬讗
转诇诪讬讚讗 讗诐 砖诐 砖诐 讘转讜诇讛 讗转专 诪讜诇讚 住讟谞诇讬 讞谞讛 讗讜讘诪讛
讚讜谞讛诐 讬讞 拽谞住住 讬讜诐 驻转讙诪讗 砖讘注 讘讬专讞讛 砖转讬转讬 讘砖谞转 砖转讬转讬
讝讬 讚专讬讛讜砖 诪诇讻讗注诇 讘讬转 驻拽讬讚讗 诇讞讜讚

And then the final paragraph which I’ll type in later (but 20 points to whomever does it before I do).

Comments? 馃檪
UPDATE ABOUT 6聽YEARS LATER: If you haven’t “gotten” the joke here, please read this post. 馃檪

The Manuscript Revealed!

Above is a photo of the entire document that I had discussed in:

“Barack Hussein Obama” Mentioned in Ancient Manuscript?

Before I say any more: Does anyone notice anything interesting about it? 馃槈

(Give it a click to see a much larger version.)


UPDATE ABOUT 6聽YEARS LATER: If you haven’t “gotten” the joke here, please read this post. 馃檪