“So… I was told to listen to Two Nice Jewish Boys podcast 140… and well… I’m not saying anything!”
Two Nice Jewish Boys: Episode 140 – The Real Indiana Jones and Israel’s Buried Treasures
George Lucas and Steven Spielberg are undoubtedly two of the 20th century’s best and most influential directors and screenwriters. Rarely did these two collaborate, but the first time they did, they brought to life one of the greatest adventure series of all time – Indiana Jones.
What is it that draws us to Indiana Jones and his archaeological adventures? Is it the quest for hidden treasures? Is it the thrill of uncovering the secrets of our long lost past? Or is it the ridiculously life-threatening situations into which he inevitably stumbles? Probably all of the above. And more.
But for some people, watching Indiana Jones isn’t enough. Jim Barfield is a firefighter and a criminal investigator from Oklahoma, with a passion for the Bible, and a fascination with the Dead Sea Scrolls, particularly the Copper Scroll, which unlike the other dead sea scrolls, is not a literary work, but rather a list of places. But not just random places, places where supposedly, buried in the ground are various items of gold and silver. In other words, a bonafide treasure map.
So in a sense, today on the podcast we’re joined by a real-life Indiana Jones. Here to tell us the story of the Copper Scroll is Jim Barfield.
An award-winning investigator discovered the secret to the most treasure laden and mystifying map in history. Artifacts from the Tabernacle of Moses, sacred possessions from Jerusalem’s Temple and massive treasures listed on the Copper Scroll chill prophecy experts, electrify historians and enrage the financial elite. The potential of this mysterious and illusive discovery also holds the most frighteningly unpredictable influence on Middle Eastern and world stability. After a 2400 year absence, the moment the world lays eyes on “the Ark of the Covenant,” the universe will change.
By SHELLEY NEESE–
The Ark of the Covenant has not been seen since the destruction of Jerusalem by Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar. 2600 years, however, has not been long enough to kill the curiosity or exhaust the imagination of the many who ponder the Ark’s fate. The burning question is how something so holy and central to Jewish worship could disappear without explanation. The Babylonian’s detailed list of stolen Temple items makes no mention of the Ark; the Bible offers no resolution on whether the Ark was stolen, lost, or destroyed. The Copper Scroll is the first archeological discovery that sheds light on the issue and could even lead to the Ark’s recovery.
The Copper Scroll is an anomaly in the Dead Sea Scroll Collection. Found in 1952, like the other scrolls, the Copper Scroll was found in a cave near the ruins of Qumran and was thus attributed to the Essenes. As its nickname implies it is a scroll written on thin copper sheets. Unlike the rest of the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Copper Scroll has no literary or religious content; it is an inventory of sixty-four obscure locations where gold, silver, and other treasures are said to be hidden.
Most scholars would deny any direct connection between the Copper Scroll and the Ark. Admittedly, the Ark is not directly mentioned in the Scroll. However, there is a common scholarly assumption that the contents that are listed in the Scroll came from the Jewish Temple. The Copper Scroll describes a hoard of precious metals and coins estimated to be worth around two billion dollars today. The only place in ancient Israel that would have had access to so much wealth was the Temple treasury. Jews in the land and in the Diaspora had brought substantial wealth to the Jewish temple through regular free-will offerings.
In addition to temple tithes, the Scroll refers to other movable temple items like ‘dedicated vessels,’ ‘consecrated’ items, and priestly garments. Temple vessels are referred to in at least three sections of the Scroll and priestly ephods are named once. According to Copper Scroll expert B. Pixner, the fourth section of the Scroll references the Breastplate of the High Priest. In the twenty-sixth section of the Scroll, the scribe uses the same Hebrew word for “pitcher” that is almost exclusively used for the Qalal, the urn which held the ashes of the Red Heifer. Albert Wolters, a professor of Religion and Theology in Ontario who focuses on the Dead Sea Scrolls, makes an argument that the proper translation for the last hiding place of the Copper Scroll reads “the Cavern of the Shekinah.” Shekinah when used in the Bible designates the Divine Presence as it inhabits the Tabernacle (Exod. 40:35) and the Temple in Jerusalem.
There seems to also be a more cryptic reference in the Scroll to the Ark. According to the translation of John Allegro, the first person allowed to study the Copper Scroll, the text opens with: “In the desolations of the Valley of Achor, under the hill that must be climbed, hidden under the east side, forty stones deep, is a silver chest, and with it, the vestments of the High Priest, all the gold and silver with the Great Tabernacle and all its Treasures.” Mishkan is the Hebrew word used for the Wilderness Tabernacle, the Tabernacle that the Israelis carried during the forty years of wandering and the contents of which were later transferred to the Ark.
The prevailing opinion in Copper Scroll studies is that, like the rest of the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Copper Scroll dates between 150 BCE and 70 CE. Logic would follow that the Scroll is referring to second Temple treasures secreted away before the Roman invasion. If this theory stands, then the Copper Scroll likely has no connection to the Ark since the Ark was absent from the Second Temple.
A less popular—but no less interesting—theory is that the Copper Scroll treasure is from the First Temple and was removed by Temple guardians before the Babylonian invasion. The scroll would likely have been hid in a cave during the Babylonian exile. The idea that the Copper Scroll could be a precursor to the Dead Sea Scrolls has some credibility given its unique Biblical language. The Scroll’s script and word construction has eluded many paleographers (experts in ancient script) because it is unlike any of the other Dead Sea Scrolls or texts from the suspected period of production. Some passages have paleographic dates around 70 CE, but other passages date back 700 years earlier.
Vendyl Jones—an explorer who has devoted thirty years to studying the Copper Scroll—and Jim Barfield—a retired fire marshal who believes he has cracked the code on the Copper Scroll (see my Copper Scroll articles from the last two issues)—believe the Second book of Maccabees and two other extra-Biblical texts give the background to the Copper Scroll.
II Maccabees tells the story of the prophet Jeremiah receiving a divine warning about the Babylonian invasion to come. Jeremiah took the sacred Temple treasures—including the Wilderness Tabernacle, the Ark and its contents, and the Qalal—and hid them in a hollow cave near Mount Nebo (Deut. 34:1). After Jeremiah sealed the entrance his followers complained they could not find the site. Jeremiah replied “the place shall be unknown until God gathers His people together again and shows His mercy.”
In 1922 an eighteenth century writing called Emeq HaMelekh written by Rav Hertz, an authority on oral Torah, was found in Amsterdam. In Emeq HaMelekh, Hertz goes into detail describing the mission directed by the prophet Jeremiah to hide the Ark and other sacred things. Hertz wrote that seven years before the destruction of Solomon’s Temple, five holy men “concealed the vessels of the Temple and the wealth of the treasures that were in Jerusalem.” Once the guardians hid the objects they inscribed the inventory and secret locations on a Luach Nehoshet (copper plate). Emeq HaMelekh warns that the Temple items will “not be discovered until the day of the coming of Moschiach, son of David.”
As his source, Hertz cited in his introduction a Tosefta Mishnayot (Rabbinic writing) which was unknown to modern Talmudists until twenty years ago. In 1990 proof of the Tosephta Mishnayot surfaced in an 8th century genizah (document deposit) recovered from Cairo, Egypt. Though the genizah document predated Emeq HaMelekh by a thousand years, it gave the same story as Rav Hertz about the Temple rescue operation, named the same five holy men, and referenced the copper plate.
Could the Copper Scroll now sitting in a museum in Jordan be the Luach Nehoshet? The possibility is tantalizing. Excluding Jones and Barfield, however, few Copper Scroll experts have given the connection any merit—mostly because archeologist frown upon using ancient literary texts to aid in finding artifacts.
Even still, outside of a Hollywood movie studio, never before has there been a treasure map that held this kind of promise and suspense. The Copper Scroll may be our closest witness to the Ark’s fate. Watch Raiders of the Lost Ark one too many times and you can not put down the sneaking suspicion that if the Ark is ever meant to be found it will be the Luach Nehoshet—not Prof. Indiana Jones—that leads us to it.
Jim Barfield believes the Ark of the Covenant 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.
Written by William F. Jasper
Readers of the Old Testament are familiar with the Ark of the Covenant, the sacred golden chest carried by the Israelites during their wanderings in the desert and finally placed in the temple built by King Solomon. The 1981 adventure/fantasy film Raiders of the Lost Ark by Steven Spielberg and George Lucas introduced a Hollywood version of the Ark to a much larger global audience outside the Jewish and Christian traditions. That movie ends with the Ark disappearing in a large crate, along with thousands of other similar crates, into a huge U.S. government warehouse.
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:
You shall also find it set down in the dispositions made by the prophet Jeremias, that he bade the exiles rescue the sacred fire, in the manner aforesaid. Strict charge he gave them, the Lord’s commandments they should keep ever in mind, nor let false gods, all gold and silver and fine array, steal away their hearts; with much else to confirm them in their regard for the law. And here, in this same document, the story was told, how a divine oracle came to Jeremias, and he must needs go out, with tabernacle and ark to bear him company, to the very mountain Moses climbed long ago, when he had sight of God’s domain. A cave Jeremias found there, in which he set down tabernacle and ark and incense-altar, and stopped up the entrance behind him. There were some that followed; no time they lost in coming up to mark the spot, but find it they could not. He, when they told him of it, rebuked their eagerness; Nay, said he, the place must remain ever unknown, till the day when God brings his people together once more, and is reconciled; then, divinely, the secret shall be made manifest. Then once again the Lord’s majesty shall be seen, and the cloud that enshrines it; the same vision that was granted to Moses, and to Solomon when he prayed that the great God would have his temple on earth; Solomon, the master of wisdom, that in his wisdom offered sacrifice to hallow the temple he had made.
Utilizing the copper scroll, the Book of Maccabees, and other ancient sources, Barfield has created a map of Qumran depicting where he believes the 57 Temple treasure sites are. In 2009, he was able to put his theories from the copper scroll to the test. With the help of a member of the Israeli Knesset, he and his team were allowed to conduct a survey of four of the sites utilizing advanced scanning detector technology that allowed them to see 50 feet below the surface of the ground. According to Barfield, their detector showed “massive amounts” of nonferrous metal objects in precisely those locations. This, he says, is an exciting confirmation to him that they are on the right track. He is confident that the objects depicted by the detector are indeed the much-sought-after Temple treasures. Most exciting of all, he says, were the detector readings for the cave location where he believes the greatest treasures, including the Ark of the Covenant, are hidden. That’s where the detector gave off the biggest readings for nonferrous metals, indicating to him they had found the Ark and the other most important gold and silver Temple objects.
Jim Barfield has been to Israel 15 times in the past 11 years in efforts to advance the Copper Scroll Project’s mission, which he says is to “Help the Nation of Israel recover the items of the Copper Scroll.”
Barfield was not surprised that his initial approaches to Israeli authorities and archeologists were met with skepticism. Besides being an outsider, without the archeological credentials and experience of other noted authorities in this field, there are tremendous political sensitivities and rivalries involved that complicate any excavation effort. “The political and religious ramifications of this are huge,” he told The New American in a recent telephone interview. “The Palestinians certainly don’t want anything like this that would confirm Israel’s historical claim” to the area.
In addition to the Palestinians, there are also influential Israelis who are opposed to the project. Some are opposed to it because they fear a discovery of this sort would lead to increased Arab-Israeli tensions and an increase of attacks by the Palestinians against Israelis. Other Jews, says Barfield, particularly the wealthier, non-religious classes, see it as a threat because they fear it would lead to greater religious fervor among the Jews and a clamor to build a third temple, which they oppose.
Our video interview with Barfield embedded above was conducted in 2016. However, because of political instability in Israel at the time and security concerns, he asked us not to post it at that time. Since then, he says, the Copper Scroll Project has made enormous strides. “On our last visit to Israel — in September last year — we had a very good meeting with a top Israeli archeologist and a high official in the Israeli government,” he told The New American. The official from the Israeli government, when presented with all of Barfield’s evidence, became very interested and supportive.
Jim Barfield has worked on the Copper Scroll Project for more than a decade. He has experienced many delays, setbacks, and roadblocks, as well as more than his fair share of detractors. He freely admits to getting impatient and discouraged at times. However, he firmly believes that, ultimately, God is in control of world events, and he intends to remain faithful to what he believes is God’s calling for him in this historic effort. The Ark of the Covenant will be revealed “in God’s good time,” he says. “It might not be Jim Barfield whom He uses to reveal it, but that’s not what’s important — I’m not important. What’s important is that I faithfully carry out His will for me, as I understand it.”
We, at The New American, take no position on the validity or accuracy of the findings and claims of Jim Barfield and the Copper Scroll Project. Whether or not he has truly discovered the Ark of the Covenant will likely only be revealed by time — and a shovel. However, we were intrigued enough with the subject to do this interview and report. We believe our readers may find it intriguing, if not fascinating, especially in light of the recent developments concerning President Trump’s focus on Jerusalem.