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The Hunt for Ancient Treasure - The Mystery of the Copper Scroll

The Hunt for Ancient Treasure - The Mystery of the Copper Scroll
The Hunt for Ancient Treasure - The Mystery of the Copper Scroll

The Hunt for Ancient Treasure - The Mystery of the Copper Scroll

Video from CBN News

"The search for billions in silver and gold begins with a 2,000-year-old treasure map." from video introduction

The Copper Scroll Project has received extensive crticism. Here is an overview of the project and the criticisms of it.

The Copper Scroll Project

The Project’s Inception

"Oklahoma winters are bitterly cold, especially the predawn morning of the 21st of December 2006. Sitting at my desk wrapped in a blanket I turned on my computer and waited. Realizing my research into the era of Jeremiah was complete, I hesitated. Staring at the flickering monitor Vendyl Jones came to mind. This, I thought, was a perfect time to try something different, something that haunted me since meeting the Texas gentleman months prior. The old guy, love him or hate him, had some interesting things to say about a strange set of copper scrolls from Qumran; details that inspired me to reconsider its role in Biblical history. In all my years of studying the Dead Sea Scrolls, that scroll seemed a waste of energy; it made no sense and honestly, bored me to tears.." from their website:

The Copper Scroll Project Part 1

The Copper Scroll Project: In Search of the Ark of the Covenant

The Ark did indeed disappear, but not following World War II, as Hollywood portrayed, and not into a top-secret warehouse. There is much dispute among scholars and researchers about when, and by whom, it was removed from the Temple. Some believe it was taken to Babylon, following the Jewish-Babylonian War, which culminated in 586 B.C. with Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar II plundering and destroying Jerusalem, slaying most of the Israelites, and taking most of the survivors into captivity. Others hold that the Ark is in Aksum, Ethiopia, or that it is buried in a tunnel under the Temple, or that it is in a cave beneath Golgotha (also known as Calvary), the hill on which Jesus Christ was crucified. At any rate, it has been “missing” for well over two millennia, its location known only to God.

Jim Barfield believes it is in Qumran, the area of the Judean Desert where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found. In 1952, a fragile scroll made of copper was discovered in a cave above the Dead Sea at Qumran. The Copper Scroll is materially unique in that it was written on thin, hammered copper, rather than the less-durable papyrus or parchment, which were the materials used for all of the other scrolls. Jim Barfield, founder and director of The Copper Scroll Project, believes he has found in the enigmatic Copper Scroll the key to the location of the cave where the Ark of the Covenant is hidden, along with the Tabernacle in the Wilderness and the Altar of Incense. The Copper Scroll, he believes, also shows the locations of 56 additional sites where vast hoards of sacred treasures are buried — including tons of Temple items made of gold and silver from the Temple of Solomon.


The clues provided in the Copper Scroll, Barfield says, are reinforced by the ancient account of the prophet Jeremiah (Jeremias) in the Second Book of Maccabees, which recounts that Jeremiah removed the Temple treasures from Jerusalem before the city fell to Nebuchadnezzar. The account in II Maccabees reads.." from the article: The Copper Scroll Project: In Search of the Ark of the Covenant

Was the Copper Scroll Project an Abuse of Archeology?

There has been much criticism of The Copper Scroll Project as sensationalist archaeology.

Sensationalist Archaeology is nothing new and is in fact is alive and well on cable TV and youtube. The public is gullable and are all to willing to believe relics/objects will prove an imagined faith claim. And unsubstantiated claims by amateur archaeologists are not a new phenomenon. Today the media is filled with exgerated and obtuse films and fake documentaries as they attempt to capture eyes and hearts in an effort to make money.

Television documentaries, blogs, and self-produced dissemination have been monopolized by entertainment companies who are all looking to make money by peddling popular misinformation.

Was the Copper Scroll Project one of those instances of "sensationalist archaeology"?

On the Insignificance and the Abuse of the Copper Scroll

"By Robert R. Cargill, Ph.D. Center for Digital Humanities UCLA July 2009

The Copper Scroll has perplexed scholars and fueled the minds of fringe theorists for decades. It is not that the scroll is "mysterious;" we know what it says and what it purports to be: a list of buried treasure. Rather, the Copper Scroll is so anomalous among the Dead Sea Scrolls that scholars have relegated it to a realm of triviality bordering on insignificance. This 30 cm tall document etched on thin sheets of copper, rolled up, and oxidized by centuries of exposure to the environs of the Dead Sea was discovered in Cave 3 near Qumran in the West Bank. But while it was discovered along with hundreds of other documents that have collectively come to be known as the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Copper Scroll remains the mother of all anomalies.

Most of the Dead Sea Scrolls are written on parchment, with a few written on papyrus. But the Copper Scroll is etched on metal – unique among the documents discovered near the Dead Sea. Its language is unlike the literary Hebrew found in other Dead Sea Scrolls, and better resembles the Hebrew used much later in the Mishnah, the Jewish law code compiled around 200 CE. It also differs in palaeography (the script used to write the letters), orthography (the way words are spelled), date (50-100 CE), message (a vague map describing buried treasures), and genre (a list) from all other Dead Sea Scrolls.[1]

Scholars aren't quite sure what to do with the Copper Scroll. Milik concluded the Copper Scroll was placed in Cave 3 around 100 CE, after the other scrolls were abandoned in the other caves. Others like Lancaster Harding and Cross believe the Copper Scroll to be the folklore of Qumran. Still others believe it describes actual treasure belonging to the residents of Qumran. I join the scholars who conclude that the Copper Scroll describes articles from the second Jerusalem Temple (most likely legendary) supposedly hidden after its destruction in 70 CE, in keeping with later date of its composition. The Copper Scroll was most likely placed in Cave 3 long after the rest of the Dead Sea Scrolls were placed in their respective caves. And while it was discovered during the excavations that produced the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Copper Scroll should not be considered part of this collection because its author(s), script, style, language, genre, content, and medium are otherwise unattested among the Dead Sea Scrolls.

Because of this irregularity, amateur treasure hunters and even some scholars regularly appeal to the Copper Scroll in a seemingly perpetual effort to promote sensational fringe theories, raise money, and bring attention to their far-fetched claims. Sensationalists prey on the ambiguous and everyone loves a treasure hunt; the Copper Scroll is both.

The most recent dilettantish foray into Copper Scroll-related nonsense is "The Copper Scroll Project,"[2] led by Vendyl Jones disciple Jim Barfield, a retired arson investigator with a self-proclaimed "limited knowledge of Hebrew" and "no archaeological experience."[3] And yet, Barfield claims, "There's little doubt I've broken the code on the Copper Scroll,"[4] as if scholars had not already translated the document a half-century earlier. Not unexpectedly, Barfield never reveals what he claims to have "discovered," yet circularly argues that since several "rabbis, historians, theologians, and archaeologists" have seen his research and have not disagreed with him, he must be right.[5] Barfield naïvely concludes, "One of my greatest advantages I believe is that, uh, my lack of education in this area."[6] And yet, the group has set up a 501(c)3 non-profit, tax exempt fund for raising $148,000 they claim is needed to carry out their investigation.[7]

So with (an admittedly illegal) metal detector in hand,[8] a snazzy (but now broken) website,[9] a Facebook page,[10] and regular YouTube video updates (produced by Barfield's son),[11] Barfield keeps his "supporters" updated on their progress, which has curiously come to a halt in recent weeks. It seems that the Israel Antiquities Authority, who Barfield claims provided the permit for their excavation, has stopped returning their calls, and is no longer interested in working with them. Perhaps this is due to the fact that the Copper Scroll Project leaders have been making deliberately misleading claims about their role in the excavation. Or, perhaps it is due to a network of archaeologists, scholars, and bloggers working behind the scenes asking why the IAA would take money from posers like Barfield and the Copper Scroll Project.

Regardless of the reason, a few details have come to light regarding the Copper Scroll Project. An IAA representative familiar with the group says that they do not possess a license, are not permitted to dig, and are paying money to watch as observers. With only "observation" status,[12] they do not lead, coordinate, or participate in any excavation. They merely watch an IAA licensed excavation and document it on video. Thus, claims that they are leading an excavation are simply untrue. Ironically, claims by Barfield that the IAA excavators are "not digging to the required depth" are actually true. Because Barfield has no say over the excavation, the IAA digs as they wish and where they wish, and allow Barfield and company only to observe the excavation and report their findings to the public. That was, at least, until the IAA saw the claims Barfield was making. It appears the IAA now wants nothing to do with the Copper Scroll Project, fearing perhaps that their association with a fringe, prophecy-obsessed group of Messianic Christians with no archaeological experience might harm the department's credibility. Perhaps this is the reason that the Copper Scroll Project's April 26, 2009 YouTube update overdubs the name of the IAA "archaeologist" they claim was assisting them in the original update.[13] It certainly must explain Barfield 's most recent exasperated claim that, "Information and correspondence from Israel has stopped. Why, I can't tell you, but my email has not been answered since we left Israel in May."[14].." from the article: On the Insignificance and the Abuse of the Copper Scroll

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