Are These Ancient Books the Diaries of Jesus Christ? MESSIANIC MYSTERY OF METAL TEXTS
Byline: MATT ROPER
UNTOUCHED and unread for almost 2,000 years, their compact, corroded metal pages could unlock the secrets of Christianity.
The last people to have leafed through this ancient collection of books, whose discovery five years ago has only just been announced, had probably walked and talked with Jesus Christ.
Perhaps the Messiah himself read - or even wrote - these tiny books, which some historians are calling the most important archaeological find ever.
The secrets they contain have yet to be revealed. But one thing is certain - little has caused so much excitement among both archaeologists and religious scholars as this hoard of around 70 books, found in a cave in a remote part of Jordan.
Incredibly, the texts would have remained hidden from the world but for a freak flash flood which exposed two niches inside the cave - one of them marked with a menorah (candlestick), an ancient Jewish symbol.
Each no bigger than a credit card, the books, or "codices", contain between five and 15 leaves cast in lead and copper and bound with wire. Their pages are inscribed with messages in Ancient Hebrew - most of which is in code - plus images and symbols that could refer to Jesus, the Crucifixion and the Resurrection.
Some of the books remain sealed, prompting speculation that they are the lost codices hinted at in The Bible's Book of Revelation. Others hope they constitute a "lost gospel" about the life of Jesus.
A few are even wondering whether they are the diaries of Jesus himself.
Carbon dating showed a piece of leather found with the books was just under 2,000 years old, placing it within Christ's lifetime. And metallurgical tests on one of the codices indicate they could date from the first century AD.
So, at the very least, they are among the earliest Christian documents, predating even the writings of St Paul.
Father Jerome Murphy O'Connor, professor of New Testament at Jerusalem's Ecole Biblique, is hoping the books will shed new light on the life of Christ from those who knew him best.
He said: "I would like a detailed report on the missing years of Jesus, to fill in the silence between him being found in the temple aged 12 and meeting John the Baptist at the age of 30. That's what I would like the books to reveal.
"They are made of lead, which is so unique they could be genuine - you only fake things to fit into a pattern, so that is in their favour. Jesus might have been able to write, but everyone is suspending judgment here until we know more.
"They could prove to be immensely important, both to Christianity and Judaism. But everything depends on the content, which we don't yet know. …