The headline in Haaretz says “Papyrus With Earliest Hebrew Mention of Jerusalem Likely Fake, Experts Say.”
The article itself shows that this is a lie.
It quotes two experts, neither of whom say that it is “likely” to be fake.
The first one, is Professor Aren Maeir of Bar-Ilan University:
Maeir said there were too many unanswered questions about the papyrus. “How do we know it isn’t a forgery intended for the antiquities market?” he demanded, adding that forgers could have deliberately “sacrificed” this document in order to prepare the way for selling other papyri that they would “discover” later.
The fact that carbon-14 dating proved the papyrus’ age is insufficient, he added. “After all, there are well-known cases in which writing was forged on an ancient ‘platform,’” he said. “It’s very possible that only the papyrus itself is ancient.
“In my humble opinion, the need for additional tests is glaring, especially if a government agency is publishing this and giving it a seal of approval. Why wait for the arguments and only then do the additional tests? They should have done them first.”
Maeir is not saying that the papyrus is “likely fake,” just that authorities should have done more testing and vetting before announcing it.
The other expert is from the US:
Prof. Christopher Rollston of George Washington University also voiced skepticism, writing on his blog that he believed the document was a forgery.
“The fact that the papyrus itself has been carbon dated to the 7th century BCE certainly does not mean that the writing on the papyrus is ancient,” he wrote. “In fact, it really means nothing. After all, ancient papyrus is readily available for purchase online (check the web and see!), thus, no modern forger worth his or her salt would forge an inscription on modern papyrus.”
But Rollston did not write on his blog that the document was a forgery. He enumerates many ways for motivated forgers to use ancient papyri and even to forge ancient inks, thereby invalidating any modern methods of dating texts. He concludes:
In short, to those wishing to declare that the letters on this papyrus inscription are ancient, I would say: ‘Not so fast!’ Ultimately, I believe that there is a fair chance that although the papyrus itself is ancient the ink letters are actually modern…that is, this inscription is something that I would classify as a possible modern forgery.
Rollston is writing a book on modern forgeries of ancient Biblical-period texts, so he is an expert on forgeries. However, he has not examined this scroll itself; his caution comes from seeing other examples of sensationalist finds that ended up being forgeries. He is saying to be cautious, not that the papyrus is “likely” to be forged.
Haaretz, after making this false claim, then buries the responses from the scholars who actually studied the texts at the very bottom of the article, where the critics are answered:
Ahituv, however, rejected the critics’ arguments. First, he said, the papyrus was folded up when it was found, which makes forgery seem unlikely. “Would a forger buy an ancient, dry, fragile papyrus, write text on it that’s typical of the seventh century, and then fold it up and tie it with a cord and thereby endanger all his work?” he demanded.
The text itself also suggests it’s not a forgery, he continued. He and his colleagues read the text as “[me-a]mat. ha-melekh. me-Na’artah. nevelim. yi’in. Yerushalima,” meaning “From the king’s maidservant, from Na’arat, jars of wine, to Jerusalem.”
But both “Na’artah” and “Yerushalima” are very rare words, and thus unlikely to occur to a forger, “even if he’s an expert in Bible,” Ahituv said. “If I were a forger, I’d choose a more impressive text,” he added.
Ganor also rejected the criticisms. “We tried in every possible way to check the papyrus,” he said. “We used the methods used to check the Dead Sea Scrolls. If someone has an additional method, he’s invited to apply it. We, as a country, were obligated to get our hands on this, and I’m certain it’s authentic.”
There is nothing wrong with asking the Israel Antiquities Authority to be more cautious before publicizing bombshell finds. But Haaretz is simply lying in its headline claiming that the papyrus has already been debunked. Which tells you a lot about Haaretz’ journalistic integrity.
(Of course, idiot anti-Israel bloggers are seizing on the Haaretz headline as proof that the papyrus is fake.)
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