A newly translated Hebrew text claims to reveal where treasures from King Solomon's temple were hidden and discusses the fate of the Ark of the Covenant itself….Students of the Book of Mormon might not be too surprised to learn of this evidence pointing to a possible ancient Hebrew tradition of writing on metal. They also won't be surprised to learn of an ancient tradition of hiding such writings or the concept of angelic guardians of sacred writings and treasures.
The newly translated text, called "Treatise of the Vessels" (Massekhet Kelim in Hebrew), says the "treasures were concealed by a number of Levites and prophets," writes James Davila, a professor at the University of St. Andrews, in an article in the book Old Testament Pseudepigrapha More Noncanonical Scriptures Volume 1 (William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2013).
"Some of these (treasures) were hidden in various locations in the Land of Israel and in Babylonia, while others were delivered into the hands of the angels Shamshiel, Michael, Gabriel and perhaps Sariel …" writes Davila in his article.
The treatise is similar in some ways to the metallic "Copper Scroll," one of the Dead Sea Scrolls found near the site of Qumran in the West Bank. The Copper Scroll also discusses the location of hidden treasure, although not from Solomon's Temple….
The structure of the story is confusing. In the prologue it states that Shimmur the Levite (he doesn't appear to be a biblical figure) and his companions hid the treasures, "but later on the text mentions the treasures being in the keeping of or hidden by Shamshiel and other angels," Davila said. "I suspect the author collected various legends without too much concern about making them consistent."
Similarities to the Copper Scroll
The Copper Scroll, which dates back around 1,900 years, and is made of copper, shows several "striking parallels" with the newly translated treatise, Davila said.
The treatise says that the treasures from Solomon's Temple were recorded "on a tablet of bronze," a metal like the Copper Scroll. Additionally, among other similarities, the Treatise of the Vessels and Copper Scroll both refer to "vessels" or "implements," including examples made of gold and silver.
These similarities could be a coincidence or part of a tradition of recording important information on metal.
"My guess is that whoever wrote the Treatise of Vessels came up with the same idea [of writing a treasure list on metal] coincidentally on their own, although it is not unthinkable that the writer knew of some ancient tradition or custom about inscribing important information on metal," wrote Davila in the email, noting that metal is a more durable material than parchment or papyrus. [emphasis mine]
- H. Curtis Wright, "Ancient Burials of Metal Documents in Stone Boxes: Their Implications in Library History," The Journal of Library History, Vol. 16, No. 1, Libraries & Culture I (Winter, 1981), pp. 48-70. See also the related and expanded document, H. Curtis Wright, "Ancient Burials of Metal Documents in Stone Boxes," By Study and Also by Faith, vol. 2, ed. Stephen Ricks, (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1990). There is also a PDF available at BYU.edu if you want to see a photograph in the printed version.
- John A. Tvedtnes, The Book of Mormon and Other Hidden Books: Out of Darkness Unto Light (Provo, Utah: FARMS, 2000). This includes the chapter, "Angels as Guardians of Hidden Books."
- William J. Hamblin, "Sacred Writing on Metal Plates in the Ancient Mediterranean," FARMS Review, Vol. 19, Issue 1 (2007), pp. 37-54.
- John A. Tvedtnes, "Inscribed Gold Plate Fits Book of Mormon Pattern," Insights, Vol. 28, Maxwell Institute (2008).
- "Book of Mormon Evidences" at JeffLindsay.com.
Special thanks to Catherine Taylor for bringing this story to my attention.