Friday, November 14, 2008

Jehoash Inscription: Five Scholars Claim Authentic

The Jehoash Inscription is a total fraud and everyone knows that, according to some people.  Apparently these five scholars didn’t get the memo, as they conclude that the inscription is authentic.  The Bible and Interpretation has the article.  Here is the abstract:

A gray, fine-grained arkosic sandstone tablet bearing an inscription in ancient Hebrew from the First Temple Period contains a rich assemblage of particles accumulated in the covering patina. Two types of patina cover the tablet: a thin layer of black to orange iron-oxide-rich layer, a product of micro-biogenic processes, and a light beige patina that contains feldspars, carbonate, iron oxide, subangular quartz grains, carbon ash particles and gold globules (1 to 4 micrometers [1 micrometer = 0.001 millimeter] in diameter). The patina covers the rock surface as well as the engraved lettering grooves and blankets and thus post-dates the incised inscription as well as a crack that runs across the stone and several of the engraved letters. Radiocarbon analyses of the carbon particles in the patina yield a calibrated radiocarbon age of 2340 to 2150 Cal BP. The presence of microcolonial fungi and associated pitting in the patina indicates slow growth over many years. The occurrence of pure gold globules is evidence of a thermal event in close proximity to the tablet (above 1000 degrees Celsius). This study supports the antiquity of the patina, which in turn, strengthens the contention that the inscription is authentic. 

This isn’t the last word, but that’s the point.  Scholars must be allowed to study this inscription without desperate-sounding people trying to silence those they disagree with.

The best indication of the inscription’s authenticity that I know and understand (which doesn’t include archaeometric evidence) concerns the “obvious” linguistic error in the inscription.  It doesn’t make sense that someone brilliant enough to do so many things right on this inscription would make such an obvious mistake.  Maybe, just maybe, we don’t know everything about how Hebrew was used in the 8th century.

The Bible and Interpretation has published much more on this inscription in previous years.

UPDATE (11/17): The more scientific version of this article was mentioned previously here.

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