Five years ago, in an area of Jordan, well known for as a place where Jews took refuge in ancient times, after anti-Roman uprisings around the end of the first century AD, a flash flood washed away part of a hillside. What came to light was a large slab, , man-made, that appeared to be acting as a seal, and when it was levered to one side, a small cave was revealed. Within were a series, on the cave walls, of small edxcavations, and within each hole was an artifact.
Less than a hundred miles away from Qumran, home of the now famous Dead Sea Scrolls, and close to other caves known to have been hideouts during the Bar Kobha anti-Roman revolt of 132AD, this area has enormous importance to biblical scholars, being the heart of the area where they believe Judaism and Christianity split into separate faiths. The artifacts found comprised of a cache of 70 lead booklets, some no bigger than modern credit cards, one of them having an unclear image of a male face on the cover.
Speculators think that this may indeed be a vague image of Jesus Christ himself, especially as the head appears to bear an indistinct crown of thorns, atop a face framed by long hair and a flowing beard, though the two thousand years for which the book has been hidden in this Holy Land cave have taken their toll. This tiny booklet is sealed on all sides, with representations of a human head on front and back, and a fingerprint can be seen in the lead impression, presumably of the person creating the books, one of which, amazingly, seems to carry the phrase, one of very few so far deciphered, Saviour of Israel.
The Dead Sea Scrolls comprised of rolled papyrus, containing earliest-known versions of Hebrew Bible books, and other texts, but lead codices have long been associated with the rise of Christianity. Those in this find varied in size from 3in x 2in to 10in x 8in, each containing eight or nine pages, apparently cast, images on both sides, bound with lead-ring bindings. It has proved possible to open them with care, and unlike the Dead Sea Scrolls, the booklets seem a to consist of pictures, instead of text,
This is probably because there were, at that time, many different languages in use, so images would have better served universal understanding. Some of these codices were sealed, never meant to be opened, and scholars believe that they could contain the words spelling out the name of god, Yahweh or Jehovah, which names devout believers of the day could never speak out loud. The Book of Revelations actually does mention a sealed book containing Holy script.
These remarkable artifacts are now in the possession of Arab businessman Hassan Saida, owner of a haulage firm, who steadfastly refuses to part with them, even though offered tens of millions of dollars. He did allow them to go to Switzerland and the UK for testing, and their authenticity is no longer in doubt, though exactly how this man obtained them, and what his motives are for guarding them so secretively is unclear, though it is speculated that he believes them to be possessed of magical power.
The interest in these objects is enormous by any standards, but Saida is resolute in hanging on to them for himself. Should that ever change, as many devout Christians are praying will be the case, then followers of this religion may finally get to gaze upon the face of the man they refer to as the son of god.