After Smugglers Tried To Sell This Ancient Bible, Undercover Agents Discovered Its Astonishing Value

In the Turkish city of Tokat, three men arranged to meet who they believed were potential buyers of the ancient item they had in their hands. The trio surely must have been talking about its phenomenal value, and exactly what they wanted in return for it. However, before long, three men were in handcuffs, busted for smuggling.

Tokat is a city that’s located in the northern-central area of Turkey, around 250 miles from the country’s capital, Ankara. The area is a historical and cultural gem of a place that provides a glimpse into past lives in this region of Anatolia.

Tokat contains various ancient sites and historical buildings of great importance, such as the 12th-century Garipler mosque. Most of these landmarks date from the Ilkhanate, Seljuq and Ottoman eras, going back as far as the tenth century A.D. Today it’s a popular tourist destination, with a population of over 130,000.

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And while the city may be well known for being important both historically and culturally, more recently it’s attained notoriety for a far less pleasant reason. In fact, Tokat has gained something of a reputation as a hub for smugglers.

Significantly, in early 2015 anti-smuggling police discovered an old painting, completed in oils, during a vehicle search in the city. But this wasn’t just any old oil picture being transported in a somewhat suspicious way.

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In fact, the piece was believed to be the work of a globally respected master artist, one Vincent van Gogh. The work – “Orphan Man, Standing” – included one determining feature. A legend bearing the Dutch genius’ name was found on the painting’s reverse-side.

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There was also a stamp from the New York Metropolitan Museum on the reverse of the item, as well as reference to the state art collection of Germany, located in Berlin. All of this means that, once the painting was taken to the Tokat Gaziosmanpasa University for assessment, it was deemed to be the real thing.

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Later that same year, police managed to uncover even more important artifacts in another undercover sting. The police successfully recovered the antiquities after a number of actions designed to capture the suspected smugglers.

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The authorities swooped in after being tipped off about a trio of suspected criminals trying to off-load their stolen goods. In total, the police arrested and detained a group of ten would-be smugglers. But the items the police discovered would have surely left them astonished.

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The police also recovered jewelry and over 50 historic coins of varying shapes and sizes during the operations. But it was another item from the haul which was really of deep historical significance.

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That item is a Bible that could be as many as 1,000 years old. And while the cover of the book has some damage, many of the remaining 50-odd pages are in pretty good condition. If you bear in mind how old the artifact actually is, that’s impressive stuff.

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However, the tome has clear discoloration and shows sign of decay on the outside. But inside, many of the pages reveal beautiful – if faded – imagery. In fact, religious symbols and pictures are visible, many made with delicate sheets of gold.

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A video of the artifact, produced by the Turkish Anadolu Agency, shows that the ancient tome contains one clear image of a cross. Another illustration appears to be a mother, perhaps Mary, cradling a child close to her face.

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In addition, images that could depict Jesus Christ and other figures from Christianity also feature in the tome. Despite its age, from the video we can see that all the images appear on one side of the book, while the text only appears on the other.

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Moreover, the entire book is in the ancient language of the Assyrians. While popular at the time, this speech system has been out of use for millennia. However, while the exact origins of the book are unknown, the mysterious tome looks set to play an important role in history.

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That’s because it could provide vital clues about Christianity. More specifically, it could increase our understanding of how the religion developed during it’s early history. Beginning during the first century A.D., Christianity spread fast through the Classical world – meaning the Ancient Greeks and Romans.

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Indeed, the Assyrians – alongside the Romans and Greeks – were some of the first cultures in the world to become Christian. It’s thought that this move to a new religion took place around the first and third centuries A.D.

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So, perhaps this Bible may offer some idea as to when exactly the Assyrians became Christians. And, while the fate – or origin – of the captured smugglers is unknown, it could be that the trio were, in fact, connected to the Islamic State.

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In fact, in 2015 Iraq’s deputy antiquities minister, Qais Hussein Rasheed, told The Washington Post that the militant group, “Steals everything they can sell, and what they can’t sell, they destroy. We have noticed that the smuggling of antiquities has greatly increased since [they arrived in Iraq in 2014].”

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Alongside Israel and Kuwait, Turkey is a transit hub for smugglers, and antiques often end up there after removal from Iraq. So, maybe the holy book arrived in Tokat the same way? Hopefully further study of the ancient tome may answer this question and also offer up further clues about Christianity’s history.

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