Stela of Ashurnasirpal II from 900 BC. Similarities to the Decalogue Stone are apparent. From Wikipedia by Geni. CC-BY-SA GFDL
By B.L. Freeborn © 2013,
updated Nov. 2018
Bradley T. Lepper, Ph.D. is the most anti-Newark Decalogue Stones voice of our time. He seems to be stuck in 19th century rhetoric and cannot see beyond the limited arguments of the past. Many arguments for/against the authenticity of the stones both then and now bring to light the politics of the era during which they were found. Lepper is stuck in the period and regurgitates the arguments of the past quite thoroughly. If you are looking for a review of past arguments then read his paper published by the Johnson-Humrickhouse Museum (present home of the stones)1. His article “The Newark Holy Stones” in Timeline2 is a repetition of these exact same beliefs. Or for no expense at all these articles can be summed up in total as:
They are fake. Proven fakes! Because I said so!
You may see this for yourself at these free sources:
In the second link, pause to look at his sources. Yes, all his sources are himself.
Perhaps it is time to recall a thing or two about archaeology.
The typical way to examine these stones usually contains an overview of the political environment in Ohio during the time period and then it deteriorates into an impossible who-dun-it. Lepper has forever committed himself to this one view. Let us look at another aspect of the historical time period that archaeologists then could not comment on because they did not have a crystal ball to see what was to be unearthed in their own newly developing field.
The Keystone was found in late June 1860 and the Decalogue Stone in November of the same year. The Civil War was just around the corner. What else was happening?
Frenchman Paul Emile Botta on the banks of the Tigris in the area of Mosul discovered Ancient Assyria in 1843 to 1846. He had unearthed a summer palace near the ancient city of Nineveh. Up until this time the oldest civilization known was that of Egypt. The only source of information on the ancient world at that time was the Bible. It was a newspaper sensation! He had happened on a city complete with monuments and written records in undecipherable cuneiform. The discovery of Nineveh would follow. This is a mere fourteen years before the Keystone would be found. It was twelve years after that in 1872 when George Smith labored over cuneiform texts and read the story of Gilgamesh for the first time in modern history. It would be some years before he would find the story of Ut-napishtim, one of the precedent versions of the tale of Noah. It was not until 1880 until the stela of Lagash would be unearthed. It would be some forty years before the Tower of Babel would be discovered.3
It is an image described as being that of Nimrod that Henry Layard discovered a few years prior to the stones’ discovery that Lepper uses in his article to compare to the image on the decalogue. Because they are both Caucasian men in profile under an arch, he concludes it is fake. Pardon me, but if it is authentic would it not show a Caucasian man in profile under an arch just as in the above image?
The Rosetta Stone was discovered in 1799. Thomas Young began to decipher the hieroglyphic version of the stone and published his discoveries in 1816. Jean Francois Champollian continued deciphering hieroglyphic Egyptian and published in 1822 only to be greatly opposed. Indeed as Cyrus Gordon summed it up “As a rule, innovation is welcome only when it is confined to surface details and does not modify the structure as a whole.” 4 Opposition to Champollian’s work did not end until 1866 when he was proven correct by another discovery. This was 34 years after his death and two years after David Wyrick, the discoverer of the Newark stones, took his own life. The Johnson-Bradner stone was discovered a year later. Into this level of archaeological science were these stones brought to the light of day. With this level of knowledge were they judged valid or fake.
Is everything known today about the ancient world so that a true assessment can be made? Of course not! Ugarit would lie beneath the soil undiscovered until 1929. Decipherment of their language moved quickly building on previous work and by 1930 it was solved. Is Ugarit an important language? Yes! It is used today to help define words in its relative language Hebrew. All of this was un-imaginable in 1900 let alone 1860.
An entire empire was rediscovered in the late 1800’s. Excavation began at Bogazköy, Turkey (Hattusa) in 1906. Archaeologist Hugo Winckler found a royal archive with 10,000 tablets.5 These tablets are still being translated. Work on this language continues at the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago. All of this ongoing work has revealed a vast and powerful empire that reigned for 600 years until its collapse in 1178 BC. It had been forgotten but for a whisper.
It will be sometime before this vast library is completely translated. What is Lepper going to do if one of those documents refers to great earth monuments built on a distant continent in a great valley far to the west in one of their distant colonies? What if another stone in a script similar to the Ohio Hebrew appears in the future at a “legitimate” dig?
Frank Moore Cross, Harvard University Professor of Near Eastern Languages, is of the opinion that the Decalogue Stone is a “grotesque forgery that cannot be taken seriously.” Please recall Cyrus Gordon (1908 – 2001) was not so adamant and thought they were Samaritan mezuzah stones (prayer stones that are put over the door) as opposed to phylacteries (prayer stones worn on the arm).
We have also not looked at Altman’s opinion as of yet either. In other words – don’t leap with Lepper just yet. We have a few other opinions to peruse and then those promised numbers ….. !
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- Lepper, Bradley T., Newark’s Holy Stones: the Resurrection of a Controversy, “Newark “Holy Stones”: Context for Controversy,” Johnson-Humrickhouse Museum, 1999.
- Lepper, Bradley T., Gill, Jeff, The Newark Holy Stones, “Timeline,” Ohio Historical Society, Vol. 17 (3), 2000.
- Ceram, C.W., “Gods, Graves, and Scholars: The Story of Archaeology,” New York: Bantam Books, 1951.
- Gordon, Cyrus, “Forgotten Scripts,” New York: Dorset Press, 1987.
- Wikipedia: Hittites. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hittites
- Wikipedia: Ashurnasirpal_II. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Ashurnasirpal_II_stela_british_museam.jpg