Israeli police break ancient tablet

Associated Press, Mar 17, 2003
By LAURIE COPANS, Associated Press

JERUSALEM – An ancient stone tablet some experts believe may date to the 9th century B.C., providing rare confirmation of biblical narrative, Kings II, 12:1-6, 11-17, could be fake.

The tablet was shown to the public for the first time at a news conference at the Ministry of Education and Culture on Monday. Its existence was first reported in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz six months ago.

The collector, Oded Golan, has refused to say where he got the tablet. He has denied he owns it, but is suspected of trying to circumvent Israeli antiquities laws for waiting so long to report its existence.

Ganor said the tablet was probably found by Muslims digging under the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem’s Old City last year. Jews believe the mosques sit on the ruins of the first and second Jewish Temples, and revere as their holiest site a nearby wall believed to have surrounded the sanctuaries. Muslims say nothing existed on the hill before the mosques.

If the tablet is found to be authentic, it “would prove the existence of the temple,” said Education and Culture Minister Limor Livnat.

Hershel Shanks, editor of the Washington-based Biblical Archaeology Review, said the tablet, if authentic, would be “visual, tactical evidence that reaches across 2,800 years.”

The inscription on the tablet details renovations of the Jewish Temple called for by King Joash in the Old Testament.

The king tells priests to take “holy money … to buy quarry stones and timber and copper and labor to carry out the duty with faith.” If the work is completed well, “the Lord will protect his people with blessing,” the last line of the inscription reads.

The tablet would have been placed in the temple as proof that work was carried out as instructed in the Old Testament, Guez said.

Muslim authorities have denied the tablet was found during the construction of an underground mosque there. Israeli archaeologists contend the work there destroyed artifacts when truckloads of earth were dumped nearby.

The case mirrors that of a stone box, or ossuary, believed to have contained the bones of the biblical figure James, who some Christians believe was Jesus’ brother. The box, whose existence was made known in November, was owned by Golan, and cracked when it was shipped to a museum in Toronto, Canada. The Antiquities Authority is studying it to determine if it is authentic.

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