When a the Jordan Lead Codices hit the news in March of 2011 there was a flurry of hyperbole, hysteria, and then dismissal. First it was claimed that the codices dated from the “1st century AD … and that they might predate the writings of St. Paul and that “leading academics” believed they might be as important as the Dead Sea Scrolls.
However, the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) quickly burst that bubble when they reported that the codices were:
inauthentic and worthless, saying the books are a “mixture of incompatible periods and styles without any connection or logic. Such forged motifs can be found in their thousands in the antiquities markets of Jordan and elsewhere in the Middle East”. It added that Professor André Lemaire, an epigrapher and director of studies at the École pratique des hautes études, said the inscriptions he has seen make no sense and that it was “a question apparently of sophisticated fakes”.
Added to the doubts about the codices is that they were being flogged by a man named David Elkington, who has the academic credibility of using a horseshoe crab’s choice of food dish to determine the validity of string theory versus loop quantum gravity. Elkington is either a huckster or a “true believer”, but in neither guise is he an expert qualified to add to discourse on this issue.
Thus, the codices mostly disappeared from public discourse by 2012 and were relegated to the same boneyard of fakery that Piltdown Man resides in.
Then the plot, like gravy and my thighs, thickened.
In December of 2016 the University of Surrey issued a press release stating that the tablets were NOT modern forgeries because they have””:
no detectable Lead 210 isotope … the lead in the codices is more likely to be over 100 years old. A hundred years ago the Dead Sea Scrolls had yet to be discovered, and yet to change scholarly understanding of this period. On a scholarly level, such a forgery would require the very latest academic research … Evidence gathered since 2008 from 12 laboratory tests as well as hundreds of detailed photographs and detailed microscopic examination of several artefacts provides a wealth of data regarding the corrosion of the metal, accretion of patina on the surface, and confirms that they are genuine artefacts that are many centuries old. Comparison with lead samples of known ages from churches, roofing and other archaeological sites provides strong evidence that at least some of these objects are over a century old. Additional evidence drawn from study of the alphabet characters, designs and content (where it has been decoded) strongly supports the fact that these objects are real and merit considerable further study. All charges of fakery and forgery raised by bloggers and some scholars should now be dismissed to allow proper study and preservation of the sites in which these items were discovered.
This begs the question — what if the codices have been dismissed as a hoax for the same reason Piltdown Man was embraced as real?
You see, the Piltdown Man “proved” 1) humans developed big brains before bipedalism and 2) that these smart humans evolved in Britain in contrast to the “ape-like” people in Africa. Scientists were as steeped in the cultural imperialism, racism, and sexism that surrounded them as all other humans and therefore most anthropologists wanted desperately to show the inherent superiority of the “white man”. PARTICULARLY the Anglo white man. The Piltdown Man was loved because he was the answer to their racist prayers.
The Jordan Lead Codices are the exact opposite. They depict a Jesus trying to not only reform Judaism into a socioeconomic equalizing force, but as a Rabbi trying to bring back the most ancient and pure form of Judaism … one which included the worship of God with both a masculine and feminine aspect. Just as a coin is a singular object with two sides called heads or tails, the oldest version of God may have been a single deity with dual representations called Yahweh and Asherah.
Its still being debated who, or what, Asherah was for the ancient Hebrews. Archeologists aren’t 100% sure if she was a goddess, the feminine hypostasis of Yahweh, or just a site/object associated with Yahweh worship, and other scholars are just as divided about the actual meaning of Asherah. I explain in The Jezebel Effect:
Asherah has long been dismissed from Judeo-Christina dogma, but archeological evidence shows her presence throughout Israel and the ancient Near East. Modern scholars postulate that the worship of Asherah may have occurred alongside Yahweh in the official Judahite religion, or even that Asherah could have been a “female hypostasis of Yahweh” (Ackerman, 1993:392). An archeological site in eastern Sinai, called Ajrud, found evidence of the cult of Asherah being linked to Yahweh from the time of Ahab’s rule, in that there were inscriptions reading, “I bless you by Yahweh of Samaria and by his Asherah/asherah”, “by Yahweh of the South and by his Asherah/asherah”, and “I bless you by Yahweh of the South and by his Asherah/asherah” (Ackerman, 1993:393-394).
The goddess Asherah was associated with trees and groves, and was often “symbolized by a wooden pole or the image of a tree” (Dever, 2005:102). She was so strongly connected to trees and tree images (especially oak, palm, tamarisks, almond, terebinthes, and poplar) that the biblical mentions of planting trees near altars, shrines, or holy places, as well as the multiple mention of burials taking place near or under sacred trees, may be contextual remnants of her worship (Kien, 2000: 159-160). The menorah, the seven-branched candlestick used in some Jewish religious observances still in the modern era, appears to be modeled after the stylized “Tree of Life” that represented Asherah (Cohen, 2010:47).
The goddess was also represented by certain animals, such as the snake, lion, and ibex. In 2 Kings 18:1-4 Hezekiah was lauded for breaking “into pieces the bronze snake Moses had made, for up to that time the Israelites had been burning incense to it.” Asherah moreover appears to have had greater prominence in the southern kingdom of Judah (Ackerman, 1993:398-401). Inasmuch as Asherah was linked to depictions of lions, could the goddess be the original reason for the lion symbol of the tribe of Judah?
There are also several passages in the Bible that suggest the worship of Asherah via her sacred trees. For example, when Jacob’s father-in-law tried to trick him after promising him every spotted member of his flock, “Jacob … took fresh-cut branches from poplar, almond and plane trees and made white stripes on them by peeling the bark and exposing the white inner wood of the branches. Then he placed the peeled branches in all the watering troughs, so that they would be directly in front of the flocks when they came to drink. When the flocks were in heat and came to drink, they mated in front of the branches. And they bore young that were streaked or speckled or spotted” (Genesis, 30:37-39). Why would Jacob use poles made from poplar and almond trees to work his sympathetic magic if it were not to call on Asherah, the feminine half of the God of Abraham, for aid? When Joshua reaffirmed the covenant between Yahweh and the Hebrews, he recorded it “in the Book of the Law of God. Then he took a large stone and set it up there under the oak near the holy place of the Lord. “See!” he said to all the people. “This stone will be a witness against us. It has heard all the words the Lord has said to us. It will be a witness against you if you are untrue to your God” (Joshua, 24:26-27). The stone and oak are both thought to symbolize Asherah in ancient Yahwistic practice.
Acceptance for Asherah worship was also implied by what wasn’t said in sacred text. When Jehu overthrew Ahab’s son and became king of Israel, a religious structure built by Ahab to honor Asherah was left unscathed, which “suggests it was perceived as appropriate within official Yahwism” (Ackerman, 1993:394). In 1 Kings Chapter 18, four hundred and fifty prophets of Baal were slaughtered in Kishon Valley but there is no mention of an execution for the four hundred prophets of Asherah that had accompanied Baal’s followers (Dever, 2005:211). Why would the prophets of Asherah, who were associated with Jezebel’s court, be spared if they were not legitimate practitioners of Yahwism? It seems peculiar that devotion to Asherah was “not widely condemned in the prophetic literature, especially if her worship was so closely connected to that of Baal” (Hadley, 2000:23). The lack of prophetic criticism for the worship of Asherah is a strong indication that devotion to her was once a normal part of Yahwistic piety.
The idea that there was a Queen of Heaven who was the same as the Lord came under attack when a particularly rigid sect of patriarchal believers rose to power among the ancient Israelites.
The early biblical figures that condemned the presence of Asherah in the Yahwist religion were those conservatives who embraced deuteronomistic theology. Unfortunately, for the followers of Asherah, it was the deuteronomistic theologians who would shape much of later Jewish doctrine. Complete monotheism “only became significant during the Babylonian exile [of the Jews] and was transplanted back to Judah on the return from exile. The Deuteronomistic History is in large part and attempt to backdate this monotheism to an early period when it was not truly present” (Cohen, 2010:43). As a result of deuteronomistic editing, the idea that God has both a male and a female aspect was not just removed from the orthodox belief system, the very concept of it was lost to believers because it never existed in the first place. The veneration of Asherah was repackaged as having always been counter to the will of Yahweh and having never been an acceptable part of Yahwism … The anti-Asherah factions of the fundamentalist Hebrews quickly discovered that there was no “better way to give the cult symbol the stamp of Yahwistic illegitimacy than to associate it with Baal and his cult” (Olyan, 1988:13-14). The condemnation of Asherah worship is sometimes coded as “harlotry” associated with rituals that took place in shade of certain trees (Dever, 2005:214). Other biblical texts, such as some of those in Deuteronomy, were not so subtle in their disdain for Asherah (Dever, 2005:214). For example, Deuteronomy 16:21, 22 commanded that followers should “not set up any wooden Asherah pole beside the altar you build to the Lord your God, and do not erect a sacred stone, for these the Lord your God hates.” The sacred stone of the verse is a massebah, the same kind of pillar that was erected to honor Yahweh in earlier texts, such as Exodus 24:4 and Joshua 24:26-27. However, massebah could serve as a representation Asherah as well as Yahweh, and the deuteronomists wanted no such reminders of her. Over time, the worship of Asherah became sociologically linked with idolatry and paganism.
You can image what a bombshell it would be to modern Christian/Judeo theology, especially theology that relies on the assumption of women’s “place” in sociopolitical, religious, and economic structures, if Jesus and his early followers were shown to be devotees to God in the dual aspect of Yahweh/Asherah. This would likewise cause consternation within Islam because Jesus is acknowledged as one of the 5 major prophets speaking on behalf of God. If Jesus said God was as much our Heavenly Mother as our Heavenly Father, then all religiously based gender rules are going to need an overhaul. There are many, many people who will dismiss the Jordan Lead Codices as a ginormous hoax regardless of any evidence simply because this idea – that everything we think we know about the God of Abraham and the teaching of Jesus needs to be reexamined and rewritten with gender equality in mind – would cause the knee-jerk revulsion felt toward anything that overthrows or threatens cultural norms.
I am not saying the Jordan Lead Codices are real relics from the life of Christ OR that they a well-done hoax; this isn’t my field of expertise and I am waiting to see what further data can be gleaned before I throw my hat in the ring. What I am saying is that IF these things are shown to be legitimate it will cause a massive paradigm change and there WILL be people including scientists who are theoretically “evidence based” — who refuse to embrace them regardless of what kind of proof is offered rather than relinquish the previous paradigm.
There is no such thing as an unbiased opinion or “pure” research. As long as humans are part of the analytical process, facts will not always be completely factual and even when they ARE factual the data is nevertheless still vulnerable to unplanned, unintentional skewing. This issue includes me and my interpretations of facts.
Welcome to the postmodern certainty of uncertainty!