The Book of Daniel

The Book of Daniel

In 2012, Scott received an email from a man named Daniel who claimed to have a book that was around 2,000 years old.  His claim certainly caught our attention and eventually Scott was able to persuade him to send a couple of photographs.  The book looked old and appeared to be made of animal skin.  We could make out what looked to be two figures on the cover – a man and a woman facing each other.  Between them was a circular shape with three small rounded hoop shapes with two small lines above and below them.  He also sent a couple of pages from the inside of the book that had characters drawn in black ink.  A couple of the characters looked to Hebrew letters, but most of them we couldn’t make out.  Our curiosity was certainly piqued, but Scott was in midst of filming the first season of America Unearthed and lost touch with Daniel, although he couldn’t forget about his old book.

Over the next several years Scott heard from Daniel periodically and told him he wanted to see his book in person someday. Daniel said he would like that, but we never seemed to be able to connect. Daniel reached out again in 2020 in the midst of the Covid pandemic and despite the challenges with travel and in-person meetings, we made plans to meet in New Jersey to finally see his book in person! Our friend and research colleague, Steve St. Clair, reserved an office space in a building where Steve, Scott, and Janet met with Daniel and his friend to finally examine the book. Steve brought camera equipment to record the meeting, including Scott’s collecting a piece of the leather along with samples of the ink to be tested for C-14.

Daniel was very friendly and could not have been more cooperative and helpful. When the moment came with Steve rolling, we couldn’t have been more excited to finally examine the ancient book. Daniel unfolded the cloth wrapped around his prized possession and put the roughly cell phone-sized book into Scott’s hands. It was even more beautiful in person and as he carefully examined the cover with his hand lens, he realized the male and female figures along with the round symbol on the cover, had been burned, or branded, into the leather. He was also surprised when he counted there were 26 pages in the book which seemed intentional since two times the sacred number of 13 equals twenty-six.

As Scott paged through the book, he noticed the 3-5 lines of text were bordered by series of black ink dashes. On most of the pages the border dashes on the side of the book where it was bound together with leather stitching, the border dashes often disappeared into the binding.  This indicated the pages were individual sheets with the text written on each sheet prior to being bound into the book as opposed to the book being bound first, and then the text being written.

There were a couple of pages that were blank, and Scott decided to take a sample from one for the C-14 test.  He used a pair of scissors to cut a thin strip of leather from one of the blank pages and placed inside a plastic sample bag.  He also took a sample of the ink from one of the blank pages that had border dashes but no text.  As Scott readied the marker to label the bag, he thought about what to call the book.  There wasn’t a title and even if there was, we couldn’t read it.  Scott looked up at Daniel and it came to him.  Let’s call it the “Book of Daniel!”

Dayro d-Mor Mattai is located atop Mount Alfaf in northern Iraq and is 20 kilometers from Mosul. It is recognized as one of the oldest Christian monasteries in existence and is famous for its magnificent library and considerable collection of Syriac Christian manuscripts. Did Daniel’s book come from a monastery like this?