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Golden Plates on Display in Bulgaria

The world's oldest multiple-page book — in the lost Etruscan language —has gone on display in Bulgaria's National History Museum in Sofia. And something about that book has particular interest for Latter-day Saints. As is evident from the photograph, this book was created on metal plates that are bound together with metal rings similar to the original source documents that became the Book of Mormon. The book dates back to 600 B.C., which is roughly the time that Lehi and his family left Jerusalem. The small manuscript, which is more than two and a half millennia old, was discovered 60 years ago in a tomb uncovered during digging for a canal along the Strouma River in southwestern Bulgaria. It has now been donated to the museum by its finder, on condition of anonymity. Reports say the unidentified donor is now 87 years old and lives in Macedonia.The authenticity of the book has been confirmed by two experts in Sofia and London, museum director Bojidar Dimitrov said quoted by AFP.

The six sheets are believed to be the oldest comprehensive work involving multiple pages, said Elka Penkova, who heads the museum's archaeological department. There are around 30 similar pages known in the world, Ms Penkova said, "but they are not linked together in a book". The Etruscans —one of Europe's most mysterious ancient peoples —are believed to have migrated from Lydia, in modern western  Turkey, settling in northern and central Italy nearly 3,000 years ago. They were wiped out by the conquering Romans in the  fourth century BC, leaving few written records. The long debated  question about bound metal records existing in the Middle East 2500 years ago as claimed by the Book of Mormon can now be put to rest. Critics should take note and check that item off their list of objections to the authenticity of the Book of Mormon.

Here's more below from the following website: http://maxwellinstitute.byu.edu/publications/insights/?vol=23&num=5&id=357

Etruscan Gold Book from 600 B.C. Discovered
John A. Tvedtnes


Insights Volume - 23, Issue - 5Provo, Utah: Maxwell InstituteThe views expressed in this article are the views of the author and do not necessarily represent the position of the Maxwell Institute, Brigham Young University, or The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
 

The Bulgarian National Museum of History in Sofia, Bulgaria, recently placed on public display an ancient book comprising six pages of 23.82-karat gold (measuring 5 centimeters in length and 4.5 centimeters in width) bound together by gold rings. The plates contain a text written in Etruscan characters and also depict a horse, a horseman, a Siren, a lyre, and soldiers. According to Elka Penkova, who heads the museum's archaeology department, the find may be the oldest complete book in the world, dating to about 600 b.c.

The content of the book suggests that it was made for the funeral of an aristocrat who was a member of the Orpheus cult.1 The Greek philosopher Pythagoras spread the beliefs of the cult (which originated in Thracia) in southern Italy and among the neighboring Etruscan tribes. According to Penkova, about 30 pages from Etruscan books are known from elsewhere, but only in single sheets. The Bulgarian find is the only complete version.

An 87-year-old Bulgarian man from Macedonia, who wishes to remain anonymous, donated the book to the museum. He had discovered the treasure in a tomb unearthed 60 years ago when he was a soldier working on the construction of a canal along the Strouma River in southwestern Bulgaria. According to Bozhidar Dimitrov, director of the museum, the find has been authenticated by experts in Sofia and London. Bulgarian professor Valdimir Georgiev is working on a translation of the text.

The find is significant to Latter-day Saints because the book was prepared about the time Lehi and his family left Jerusalem2 and generally fits the description of the Book of Mormon plates given by Joseph Smith in his letter to John Wentworth:

These records were engraven on plates which had the appearance of gold, each plate was six inches wide and eight inches long, and not quite so thick as common tin. They were filled with engravings, in Egyptian characters, and bound together in a volume as the leaves of a book, with three rings running through the whole. The volume was something near six inches in thickness, a part of which was sealed. The characters on the unsealed part were small, and beautifully engraved. The whole book exhibited many marks of antiquity in its construction, and much skill in the art of engraving. (History of the Church, 4:537)

While the size and number of plates comprising the two documents differ, it is interesting that both sets of plates were of gold3 and were held together by rings. (For a news report of the book, see http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/2939362.stm.) ! contributed by John A. Tvedtnes

Notes

  1. For a discussion of Orphic gold plates buried with the dead, see C. Wilfred Griggs, "The Book of Mormon as an Ancient Book," BYU Studies 22/3 (1982): 259-78; republished in Noel B. Reynolds, ed., Book of Mormon Authorship: New Light on Ancient Origins (Provo, Utah: BYU Religious Studies Center, 1982;
  2. The Etruscan find makes it likely that the brass plates of Laban were also held together by rings, though the Book of Mormon is silent on that subject. These brass plates may have been what influenced Nephi and later Mormon to keep their records on metal plates.
  3. It is likely that the plates used by Mormon for his abridgment of the Nephite records were gold alloyed with another metal, perhaps copper. As we have noted, Joseph Smith wrote to Wentworth that the plates had "the appearance of gold." Similarly, the Eight Witnesses declared that the plates had "the appearance of gold; and as many of the leaves as the said Smith has translated we did handle with our hands; and we also saw the engravings thereon, all of which has the appearance of ancient work, and of curious workmanship" (Book of Mormon, Testimony of the Eight Witnesses).