A Noahide and former criminal investigator believes he has deciphered an enigmatic 2,000-year-old message known as the Dead Sea Copper Scroll, concluding that it is a treasure map leading to the hiding place of the lost Temple utensils. But while archaeological experts agree with his theory, the political complications of the region make it unlikely that the treasures will be revealed any time soon.
The Copper Scroll, discovered in 1952 near Qumran on the shores of the Dead Sea, is an archaeological mystery. Though considered part of the famous Dead Sea Scrolls, the Copper Scroll differs in that it was found in situ – on location – and that unlike the other Dead Sea Scrolls, written on papyrus, the Copper Scroll, as its name suggests, was inscribed into a thin sheet of copper. The Hebrew used in the scroll also indicates it was written in a later period than the Dead Sea Scrolls.
There is a great deal of controversy surrounding the Copper Scroll. While the other Dead Sea Scrolls contain religious and Biblical works, the Copper Scroll is simply a list of 64 locations and corresponding amounts of gold and silver.
The predominant opinion states that the gold and silver listed in the scroll was money accumulated from the Bar Kochba Revolt against the Romans after the destruction of the Second Temple. But the expert opinion has a glaring flaw: one of the locations is described as holding priestly vestments.
At first glance, Jim Barfield seems like the most unlikely person to unlock the mystery of the Temple vessels’ hiding place. He is not Jewish, does not speak Hebrew, and is not an archaeologist. But Barfield’s other qualifications enabled him to unravel a mystery that has baffled archaeologists for over fifty years.
In 2006, Barfield set out to discover the truth of the Copper scroll, following in the footsteps of Vendyl Jones, a Texas preacher turned Biblical archaeologist. Jones believed Qumran to be the hiding place for the Temple vessels and spent 30 years searching. Using the Copper Scroll as a guide, Jones discovered a small vial of Persimmon Oil used to anoint kings and high priests and a large quantity of what he believed was Temple incense. Barfield met with Jones, now deceased, and discussed the scroll, taking up the challenge.
Barfield’s motivation is far more than curiosity.
“Like Jones, I am a Noahide,” he explained to Breaking Israel News. “I want to return the Temple artifacts to the Jewish People. It’s time.”
Barfield approached the Copper Scroll as he would an investigation, searching for ruins that matched the ‘clues’ in the Copper Scroll and recording his findings in an investigative reports. Very quickly, he began to find results.
When a young man, Barfield piloted helicopters in the US Army. He used his map-reading skills to triangulate, using the references in the Copper Scroll to pinpoint locations around Qumran. In 2007, he went to Qumran and actually found those locations. In one case, the scroll described steps, 40 cubits long, heading east. Barfield did indeed find stairs conforming to the description. He also discovered the remains of a pool, precisely 40 cubits long, exactly where the scroll said it would be. But lacking government permission, he could go no further.
In 2007, Barfield met with Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) director Shuka Dorfman. Dorfman was unreceptive at first, but as Barfield laid out his proofs, explaining the signposts described in the Copper Scroll, Dorfman became enthusiastic and arranged a meeting with veteran archaeologist Yuval Peleg.
Peleg was also skeptical at first, noting that he was intimately familiar with the site at Qumran. But after reviewing Barfield’s work, he too was overcome with curiosity. He agreed to dig some exploratory holes at the site with Barfield. Less than an hour after beginning shallow test pits, Peleg received a mysterious phone call. Without any explanation, Peleg shut down the dig.
But the effort was not in vain. Barfield took away a small piece of what he thought was mortar from an unusual rock formation in the vicinity of where he believed the cave entrance to be. He reasoned that if the Temple’s greatest treasures were being hidden away for future generations, they would be carefully sealed up to withstand the test of time. Barfield sent the piece of unidentified stone to be tested. The laboratory confirmed that the sample was not natural stone but indeed man-made mortar.
This finding conforms precisely to a description in the Book of Second Maccabees, a second-century Greek text telling of the revolt against Antiochus. The book describes the prophet Jeremiah who, with the help of five men, hid the holy objects of the Temple to protect them from the conquering Babylonians, “sealing the cave carefully” and recording the locations on a copper tablet.
Jeremiah came and found a cave-dwelling, and he brought there the tent and the ark and the altar of incense; then he sealed up the entrance. 2 Maccabees 2:5
Barfield requested to scan the area using a massive metal detector that can detect metal up to 50 feet deep, but his request was denied. While the non-intrusive method of investigation would have laid to rest any doubts as to whether Barfield’s theory was correct, the IAA routinely refuses any requests to investigate the Qumran Area. Though frustrated, Barfield understands their position.
“The way things stand today, if we do find anything of value, whether it is monetary or spiritual, there will immediately be efforts to take it away from Israel,” Barfield explained. “Jordan will claim the land used to belong to them, the Palestinians will claim they were here before the Jews so the Temple vessels belong to them. And the world will believe them. And even Egypt will come along and claim it was gold and silver the Jews took out from the Exodus. By keeping it in the ground, the Israeli government is protecting it.”
For the time being, Barfield’s investigation is stalled, awaiting government permission. Building the Third Temple is an explosive political issue, and finding the actual Temple vessels would thrust that issue into the forefront. With the answer tantalizingly close, Barfield believes public opinion can tip the scales and help defuse the opposition.
Watch Jim Barfield’s journey to reveal the mystery of the Copper Scroll