Images: Heritage Auctions
Thou shalt not covet the world's oldest stone inscription of 10 Commandments, which sparked a massive bidding war earlier this week, starting at $250,000. The earliest known intact stone copy of the Biblical text was then reportedly sold for US$850,000, on the condition that the owner publicly exhibits the ancient tablet.
"The tablet's significance is testament to the deep roots and enduring power of the Commandments that still form the basis of three of the world's great religions: Judaism, Christianity and Islam," said David Michaels, director of ancient coins for Heritage Auctions. "Its surface is worn, battered and encrusted in places, but running a gloved finger over it does produce, in some people, a particular thrill of touching a piece of Bible history."
The stone was first uncovered over a century ago in 1930 at the excavation site for a railroad station near Yavneh, Israel. The "national treasure" of Israel is believed to be the only existing intact tablet version of the Commandments.
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According to Michaels, the tablet’s home was thought to be destroyed by the Romans or the Crusaders many centuries ago, where it was subsequently lost beneath the rubble until its discovery near Yavneh.
The two-foot-square marble slab, which weighs an impressive 115-pounds, was inscribed in Samaritan, which is an early Hebrew script. Only nine out of the ten Biblical Commandments from the Book of Exodus are listed in the stone, leaving out "You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in Vain". The final Commandment encourages a worship on Mount Gerizim, which the Samaritans consider a holy mountain.
"Some of the letters of the central part of the inscription are blurred -- but still readable under proper lighting -- either from the conditions of its burial or foot traffic while it was resting in the courtyard," said Michaels.
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