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recently discovered Jehoash inscription – is it really a fake?
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“The most profound use that can be made of the Bible is not to treat it as a law book, but to seek to hear and act in accordance with its prophetic voice, a prophetic voice that is disturbing and unconventional, and which can never be content with the world as it is.” (John W. Rogerson in An Introduction to the Bible, Penguin, 1999 )
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The Jehoash inscription is piece of black sandstone, 27 centimetres long, 22 centimetres wide and 7 centimetres thick, which was allegedly found near the walls of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem and was first shown to an expert in 2001. The fifteen lines of Hebrew text record
contributions of silver for repairs to the Temple by Jehoash, king of the southern kingdom of Judah (835-796 BCE) and this very closely parallels the biblical records in 2 Kings 12:4-16 and 2 Chronicles 24:4-14.
jehoash inscriptionOn the surface, this is an incredible find as it is the first royal inscription of an Israelite king ever found. As such, it supports the historicity of 2 Kings as it provides evidence that what the Old Testament says us about Solomon's Temple is true. If genuine, this inscription poses a problem for the biblical minimalists who question the historicity of the bible and hold that that there never was the bible and hold that that there never was ‘Golden Age’ of the Jews and that the biblical accounts of Israel under David or Solomon are, at best, a huge exaggeration. Moreover, if the inscription is genuine it may even have modern political implications for relations between Muslims and Jews in Jerusalem. Currently both Jews and Muslims claim the mount as their holy place, but Muslims claim there was never a Temple built by Solomon on the Temple Mount as the Bible says and Jews are only allowed to worship at the Western (or ‘Wailing’ Wall) – a small part of the Temple Mount. Strong evidence that the Jews did have a Temple there would surely undermine the Muslim claims and create even more tension between the two groups.

However, it is also a very controversial find, principally because the details relating to its excavation are unclear and because its owner wishes to remain anonymous, although the piece has been linked with a well-known antiquities collector named Oded Golan.

Some geologists from the Israel Geological Survey who have examined it say that it is authentic and that the chemical composition and coverage of the patina (a thin film caused by age that covers the surface of ancient objects and which is often analysed in order to help determine the age of an object) is convincing.  Some even explain the tiny globules of gold and carbon particles found in the patina as the result of the burning down of the Temple in 586 BCE.  On the other hand, some eminent specialists in the study of writing and inscriptions, such as Frank Moore Cross (of Harvard)– and Edward Greenstein (of Tel Aviv University) say that the shape of some of the letters and the style of the language suggest it is a forgery!

The Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) announced at a news conference in June 2003 that the Jehoash was clearly a fake, but not everyone is convinced by the IAA’s investigations or the conclusion. Some continue to argue for its authenticity and suggest that even the most skilled of forgers would not have been able to produce the Jehoash inscription. Indeed Biblical Archaeology Magazine offered a prize of $10,000 to anyone who could demonstrate the necessary skills. Anyone taking up this challenge will have to submit their forgery by November of this year. The debate over the authenticity of the Jehoash inscription is sure to continue …

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