The Christian Science Monitor and other news sources are carrying stories about the alleged discovery of ancient Christian texts recently in Jordan. The Monitor seems to want to believe, but goes for journalistic balance:
Written on lead in Hebrew and Aramaic, the secretly coded books — or codices — were hidden for centuries in a remote Jordanian cave until a traveling Bedouin found them some five years ago, according to a statement released last week by British Egyptologist David Elkington. Depictions of crosses on the lead-bound leaves, coupled with metallurgical analysis, suggest to Mr. Elkington that these might be early Christian texts that pre-date even some letters in the New Testament.
Others aren’t so sure. All evidence to date suggests Christians didn’t use the cross as a symbol until the 4th century, according to Hershel Shanks, editor of Biblical Archaeology Review. The use of codices also dates to a later period, he said, and metal analysis has yielded no precise dating in this case.
Oh, by the way, reputable scholars can’t study the codices, because they are allegedly in the possession of an Israeli Bedouin, oh and they’re written in a code that no one can understand — but they must be Christian because of the illustrations, which are of menorahs and crosses (and no, I’m not making this up).
One reputable scholar, April DeConick, offers lots of reasons for doubt on her blog (along with links to lots of other scholarly blogs). Wikipedia, on the other hand, appears even less skeptical than the Monitor, with a brand-spanking-new, gosh-wow entry on “Jordan Lead Codices” that sounds as though Elkington himself wrote it.
I’m just trying to avoid the obvious jokes about weighty reading.