Iconic books are texts revered as objects of power rather than just as words of instruction, information, or insight. In religious and secular rituals around the globe, people carry, show, wave, touch and kiss books and other texts, as well as read them. This blog chronicles such events and activities. (For more about iconic books, see the links to the Iconic Books Project at left.)

Friday, June 24, 2011

The Ezekiel Plates

The Jerusalem Post reported that the Israel Museum is trying to date the mysterious Ezekiel Plates. These 66 stone tiles containing the entire Hebrew text of the book of Ezekiel were reportedly found in the traditional tomb of Ezekiel in Iraq.
... each marble or black basalt tile is about 12 inches square and contains raised lettering on one side in an ancient Hebraic script, with no spaces between the words. Examples of such raised lettering are known from the distant past, though most ancient stone tablets had the words etched or chiseled into the stone.

... the tiles were supposedly found over 100 years ago when visitors to the traditional tomb of Ezekiel in the small Iraqi town of Kfar al-Kafil, located about 50 miles south of Baghdad, noticed a stone tile had fallen off the inside of the burial chamber. Oddly, its back side contained an ancient lettering which had been deliberately hidden, facing the wall. Other tiles were removed and similar inscriptions were found on their back sides as well.
An explanation for this tomb inscription may be provided by the Talmud:
... there is an old Talmudic tradition that Israel's prophets and other great sages were often buried with copies of their writings. One such Talmudic legend held that the original book of Ezekiel was buried with the prophet in his tomb and was left there to be revealed in the last days.
That may not help in dating the text. But it does suggest that the Ezekiel Plates may be examples of eschatalogical texts that were created to be buried until a future or last age (see my previous blog entry, Burying Iconic Books).

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