The Jordan codices, which tabloids are already calling call the Jesus diaries, could yield wonderful revelations. Perhaps they contain new information about the life and beliefs of early Christian disciples who fled eastward around the time of the first century war in which the Jerusalem temple was destroyed. We cannot yet know whether these metal plates are a new Dead Sea scrolls epiphany, a Turin shroud conundrum, or even a Hitler diaries job. I leave that judgment to others more qualified in archaeology than me.

Assuming the plates’ authenticity, what would I look for in them? Clear policy statements from Jesus about human rights? Or economics? War and peace? Race? Apostolic ministry and gender? How about a definitive statement on sexual orientation? Convenient as these might be, the gospels already contain plenty of clues about principles to help untangle those subjects. People who quarry the gospels for narrow fundamentalist soundbites usually end up with something incompatible with Jesus’s first principles.

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