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1,500 years old Ten Commandments tablet heads to auction in Texas

A stone tablet thought to be about 1,500 years old with a worn-down chiseled inscription of the Ten Commandments will be sold next month at auction, with a stipulation that the buyer must put it on public display, an auction house said on Friday.

1,500 years old Ten Commandments tablet heads to auction in Texas
The Yavneh 10 Commandments Stone, ca. 300-830 AD [Credit: Heritage Auctions]
The two-foot (61 cm) square slab of white marble weighs about 200 pounds (90 kgs) and is believed to be the oldest existing stone inscription of the commandments, Dallas-Based Heritage Auctions said. Opening bid is $250,000 for the stone, which the current owner likes to point out is not the original.

The tablet is inscribed in Samaritan script with the principles which are fundamental to Judaism and Christianity. It was probably chiseled during the late Roman or Byzantine era, between 300 and 500 A.D., and marked the entrance of an ancient synagogue that was likely destroyed by the Romans, Heritage said in a statement.

Translated from the Samaritan dialect of Hebrew, the line-by-line inscription runs as follows:

1. Dedicated in the name of Korach
2 . I will call you to remember for goodness forever
3. God spoke
4 . all these words
5 . saying I am the Lord
5 . your God you shall not have
7 . for yourself other Gods
8 . besides me; you shall not make
9 . for yourself a sculptured image or any likeness;
10 . for I the Lord
11 . your God am an impassioned God;
12 . Remember the Sabbath day
13 . keep it holy; honor
14 . your father and your mother;
15 . you shall not murder; you shall not commit adultery;
16 . you shall not steal; you shall not bear [false witness] against your neighbor
17 . you shall not covet; you shall erect
18 . these stones that
19 . I am commanding you today
20 . on Mount Gerizim rise up to God

It was discovered in 1913 during an excavation for a railroad line in Israel, said Rabbi Shaul Deutsch, founder of the Living Torah Museum, in Brooklyn, New York, which obtained the tablet in 2005.

An Arab man, possibly a construction worker, acquired it and set it in his courtyard, where it remained for three decades, Deutsch said.

The museum, which contains a large collection of artifacts of Jewish life and history dating back to antiquity, is shifting toward a more hands-on focus to attract younger visitors and decided it was time to sell the artifact.

"The sale will provide us with the money to do what we need to do. It’s all for the best," Deutsch said in a statement.

The tablet was acquired in 1943 by an archeologist, who owned it until his death in 2000. Deutsch was able to acquire the tablet for a temporary period through an agreement with the Israel Antiquities Authority and then purchased it outright after a legal settlement, Heritage officials said.

Source: Reuters [October 21, 2016]

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