An Israeli-European group of scientists recently used X-ray imaging technology on an ancient, Hebrew tablet believed to have a hidden message that dates back to biblical times.
Upon further analysis since its initial discovery from Mount Ebal during the 1980s, a curse was engraved inside the 13th-century-B.C. lead tablet, The Jerusalem Post reported.
Several scientists who collaborated on the peer-reviewed research published the find in the Heritage Science journal in May.
The inscription read: “You are cursed by the God YHW,” the last three letters referring to Yahweh or the Hebrew name for God. It is believed to be the oldest known Hebrew text.
The tablet could not be opened without destroying it, which is where the X-ray tomographic measurements came in handy, allowing the scientists to read what was written on the ancient artifact.
The published research revealed the excavated tablet was found near two altars, one of which is speculatively connected to Joshua 8:30, in which Joshua built an altar on Mount Ebal to renew ancient Israel’s covenant with the Lord.
“The folded lead defixio, the subject of this paper, probably derived from the fill of the altars,” the academic article read.
Scott Stripling, one of the article’s authors, announced the news over a year before the paper was published, a decision that would cast doubt on its authenticity.
BREAKING NEWS: Dr. Scott Stripling just announced the discovery of a lead “curse tablet” containing a Hebrew inscription “centuries older than any known Hebrew inscription from ancient Israel.”
This is huge news for the field of biblical archaeology!https://t.co/MpNtrPHJxw
— Armstrong Institute of Biblical Archaeology (@ArmstrongIBA) March 24, 2022
Though the 3,200-year-old tablet was a major discovery among the scientists who found it, other experts were less convinced, according to The Times of Israel.
Archaeologists and epigraphical experts particularly took issue with the inscription itself after Stripling reassured skeptics the proto-alphabetic letters were there. Some academics claimed they couldn’t see the letters at all.
“The published images reveal some striations in the lead and some indentations (lead is, of course, quite soft and so such things are understandable), but there are no actual discernible letters,” said Christopher Rollston, an ancient Near East scholar.
“This article is basically a text-book case of the Rorschach Test, and the authors of this article have projected upon a piece of lead the things they want it to say,” he said.
Rollston added that the “article is very short on facts and very long on boundless speculation.”
Aren Maeir, an Israeli archaeologist, simply said, “I don’t accept all the interpretations that were suggested in the article, and I plan to publish a different opinion in an academic journal.”
Stripling responded to these accusations, saying he knew other experts would have different interpretations of the tablet.
“They can argue it’s a resh instead of a vav, because some are clear, some are not,” he said, referring to the names of two Hebrew letters. “We expect a healthy exchange of ideas.”
If the interpretation of Stripling and his colleagues is true, the tablet would prove the Israelites were literate much earlier than expected. However, it remains uncertain who is correct in this situation.
“It’s potentially a huge breakthrough for us on several levels, historically, archaeologically, epigraphically, and theologically,” Stripling said.
“Do we have evidence of a much earlier presence of Israel than we’ve had proof of in the past? Many of us believe that Israel was already there at the end of the Late Bronze Age, but we haven’t had absolute proof. So if we’re correct with the reading, then the ramifications are really large.”
This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.