imageThe Books of Lead, images of Christ on Byzantine coins that are so familiar to shroud scholars, the legend of Abgar and the Veronica. The only thing missing is all of the controversy about the true political meaning of “Sing a song of sixpence, A pocket full of rye. Four and twenty blackbirds, Baked in a pie.”

Speculation run amok, a cooked up“I think I see” fringe pie? Dennis Price, British classical scholar, sometimes archaeologist, actor, musician, jouster and author of The Missing Years of Jesus which seeks to convince us that Jesus visited Britain, an idea that Philip Gardiner calls the “most controversial theory since the Da Vinci Code,” now thinks . . .

. . . the implications of all this are staggering if the Books of Lead turn out to be genuine and if the face on the cover of one of them turns out to be that of Jesus. It would mean that all the much-derided legends are true and it would also mean that the famous image on the Shroud of Turin is not, as is currently supposed by millions, that of Jesus. On the other hand, what better material could a forger work from than what is thought to be the earliest portrait of Jesus, as commissioned by King Abgar? All this, however, is far from being the end of the matter. (emphasis mine)

He also seems like a genuinely nice guy (go to his website, Dead Of Night Productions). But how does he get to this thinking on the shroud?

imageThe photograph [to the right with a larger version below the fold] was released to the world on Saturday, April 2nd, 2011, and it shows the cover of one of the 70 or so “Books of Lead” that have recently come to light. I have no idea if these artefacts are genuine or not, and the media are being cautious in their coverage and assessment of them, which is understandable after notable hoaxes such as that of the Hitler Diaries in recent times.

. . . Of course, I was fascinated to learn of such a thing, but the strange face instantly captured my attention for other reasons. If the portrait is indeed that of Jesus, then to my eye, it reveals a powerful disposition and an almost aggressive personality, which is at odds with the many bland mediaeval depictions of this man. However, these formidable traits are most certainly in keeping with the flesh and blood character I studied at length when I wrote my book “The Missing Years of Jesus“, a study of where this young man was between the ages of 12 and 30, a period that is apparently unaccounted for in the Bible.

All the evidence that I’ve seen and collated leaves me in no doubt that the most famous person the world’s ever known spent his teenage years and early adulthood in what is now the West of England and South Wales, so when I learned of these “Books of Lead”, I couldn’t help wondering if they contain material that proves my theory right, but I’m far more interested in learning the truth of any given matter than in trying to sway the opinions of others.

imageWell, the contents of the Books of Lead are a matter for speculation, but I found the face on the cover mesmerising on account of its latent power, and also because I was certain I had seen it somewhere before. I discussed the matter with a friend of mine, a retired engineer living in South Dakota by the name of Dan Johnston, who immediately pointed out the uncanny resemblance between the face on the cover of the lead book and the face of Jesus as depicted on a gold Byzantine coin from the late seventh century.

As you can see, this image is markedly different from the highly stylised portraits of Christ from medieval times, because it shows a rugged face, full of character, that is remarkably similar to the face on the cover of the Lead Book. Now, one thing that’s particularly intriguing about the face on the gold Byzantine coin is the fact that, as Dan Johnston reminded me, it’s based on what’s come to be known as the Veil of Veronica, pictured below, as depicted by Hans Memling (1430 – 1494).

The legend of Veronica was extremely well-known in mediaeval times, and it spoke of a woman who had wiped the sweat from the face of Jesus as he made his way to Calvary or Golgotha to be crucified, after which his features became imprinted on the cloth and it acquired miraculous powers. In turn, this legend is supposed to have originated from another account involving the historical King Abgar of Edessa, who was said to have written to Jesus asking him to visit and cure him of an illness.

The story of this legend is a convoluted one, but perhaps the most interesting aspect of the whole story is that King Abgar is said to have included a court painter named Hannan as a member of his delegation, who then painted a portrait of Jesus and returned it to his master. Many doubts have been expressed about this legend, which is hardly surprising given its varied history, but as you can see from the photo of the tenth century image below, the face of Jesus on the cloth or portrait known as the Mandylion is that of a rough, forceful and unkempt character, very much like the image on the cover of the Book of Lead.

Convoluted, certainly. Read The Earliest Portrait of Christ – New Information and New Ideas | Mindscape magazine

Did I mention that Neil Jeffries, a writer for Classic Rock magazine wrote, “I’ve met everyone from Alice Cooper to Ozzy Osbourne, but no one can tell a story like Dennis Price. Strange tales pour out of him, like rain from a leaden sky….”?

Yep! But are the books of lead real? And I see at least four and twenty other possibilities if they are real.