Lost Ark of the Covenant: Solving the 2,500 Year Old Mystery of the Fabled Biblical Ark

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The Lost Ark of the Covenant is the real-life account of an astounding quest—professor Tudor Parfitt's effort to recover the revered artifact that contained the Ten Commandments, sacred to Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.

This holy object disappeared from the Temple when the Babylonians invaded Jerusalem in 586 BC and was lost—apparently forever.

According to the biblical account, the Ark was built at the command of God, in accord with Moses's...

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Overview

The Lost Ark of the Covenant is the real-life account of an astounding quest—professor Tudor Parfitt's effort to recover the revered artifact that contained the Ten Commandments, sacred to Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.

This holy object disappeared from the Temple when the Babylonians invaded Jerusalem in 586 BC and was lost—apparently forever.

According to the biblical account, the Ark was built at the command of God, in accord with Moses's prophetic vision on Mount Sinai. The Ark, believed to be the throne of God, was carried by the Israelite high priests in the wilderness during their harrowing search for a homeland. When the Babylonians destroyed Jerusalem, the Ark entered the domain of legend. The mysterious disappearance of arguably the most important religious artifact in history led to a plethora of theories about the location of the Ark. Its whereabouts unknown, adventurers risked their lives and fortunes for over two millennia in attempts to discover this sacred treasure.

With painstaking historical scholarship, groundbreaking genetic science, and hair-raising fieldwork, Parfitt, who the Wall Street Journal calls "a British Indiana Jones," debunks the previous myths and reveals the shocking history of the Ark and its keepers. From Israel to Egypt, Ethiopia, and the ruins of Great Zimbabwe, the journey leads to places Parfitt could never have imagined. He encounters a cannibalistic tribe in Papua, New Guinea.

He is ambushed and shot at in Africa. And he narrowly escapes being kidnapped by Islamist outlaws in the wilder reaches of Yemen.Throughout his search, he is aided by a motley crew of kabbalistic mystics, Muslim holy men, charlatans and crooks, tribal elders, and scheming politicians.

The Lost Ark of the Covenant is a vivid and page-turning account of the culmination of two decades of research by an acclaimed scholar and adventurer. In the end, legend becomes reality as an unknown history comes to light, and with it our understanding of this lost treasure is changed forever.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
Most serious Bible students know that Ark of the Covenant was the hallowed vessel that contained the stone tablets bearing the Ten Commandments, as well as other sacred objects. The Ark disappeared during the Babylonian Conquest of Israel in 586 B.C. and has never been found. However, rumors have continued to swirl about the fate of this sacred relic, reports linking it to locales in England, Ireland, Egypt, and Ethiopia. In this book, Tudor Parfitt, the author of The Lost Tribes of Israel and Journey to the Vanished City, follows the trail of the Ark to what he believes to be its current resting place. An Indiana Jones–like adventure with religious implications.
Library Journal

Deemed "the British Indiana Jones" by the Wall Street Journal, Parfitt is both scholar (Sch. of Oriental & African Studies, London) and adventurer (his African quest for Israel's "lost tribes" was profiled on 60 Minutes). This real-life account reads like a story one might hear in a bar: a gripping, self-aggrandizing yarn that one is never sure how fully to believe. Parfitt describes his plying of drunk native priests for the mysteries of their cult, occasionally strays into casual boasting of his "voluptuous, salsa-dancing Latin American girlfriend" who "made love like no other woman in the world," and displays cinematic flair à la All the President's Men with his mantra, "Follow the priests." Each stage of his quest is predicated on scant evidence and "could have been" logic but then culminates in a surprise ending that may fall flat for movie buffs but largely redeems Parfitt as a scholar, revealing that he has all along ultimately been aware of the "unorthodox" and conjectural nature of much of his account. Recommended.
—Darby Orcutt

Daily Mail
"It’s worthy of a Spielberg epic: an intrepid British don’s 20-year mission to find the Lost Ark of the Covenant."
Time Magazine
"Parfitt’s passionately crafted new theory, like his first, could eventually be proven right…"
The Times
"Parfitt’s scholarly, fascinating work explains and explodes a pervasive myth."
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780061371035
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 2/26/2008
  • Pages: 384

Meet the Author

Tudor Parfitt's life's work has been tracking down the lost tribes of Israel in Africa and Asia. As professor of Jewish studies at London's prestigious School of Oriental and African Studies and Fellow of the Oxford Centre of Hebrew and Jewish Studies, he has written widely on the history of the Jews of Africa and Asia. In 2006, he was appointed Distinguished Visiting Fellow at Harvard University. He has traveled widely through remote areas of Africa and Asia and divides his time between London and the Templar region of the South Aveyron.

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Read an Excerpt

The Lost Ark of the Covenant
Solving the 2,500-Year-Old Mystery of the Fabled Biblical Ark

Chapter One

The Cave

It was a time of drought.

In 1987 my home was a grass hut in a dried-out tribal area of central Zimbabwe in southern Africa, completely cut off from the outside world. I had been doing fieldwork on a mysterious African tribe called the Lemba. This was part of my job. At the time I was Lecturer in Hebrew in the Department of Near and Middle Eastern Studies at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) in the University of London and for a while now this tribe had been my main academic subject.

How had I spent my time in the village? In the blistering heat of the day I would wander over the hills near the village and poke around the remains of the ancient stone-building culture, which, the Lemba claimed, was the work of their distant ancestors. With my little trowel I had discovered a few bones, pieces of local pottery, and one or two iron tools of uncertain age. Not much to write home about. Then I would read, write up my notes, and spend much of the night listening to the elders' narratives.

The Lemba harbored an astonishing claim to be of Israelite origin, although the presence of Israelites or Jews in central Africa had never before been attested. On the other hand, since early medieval times there had been rumors of lost Jewish kingdoms in darkest Africa. What I had heard was that the tribe believed that when they left Israel they settled in a city called Senna—somewhere across the sea. No one had any idea where in the world this mysterious Senna was located and neither did I. The tribe hadasked me to find their lost city, and I had promised to try.

What I knew about the 40,000-strong Lemba tribe in 1987 was that they were black, they spoke various Bantu languages such as Venda or Shona, they lived in various locations in South Africa and Zimbabwe, they were physically indistinguishable from their neighbors and that they had a host of customs and traditions identical to those of the African tribes among whom they lived.

They appeared to be completely African.

But, on the other hand, they also had some mysterious customs and legends that did not appear to be African. They did not intermarry with other tribes. They did not traditionally eat with other groups. They circumcised their boys. They practiced the ritual slaughter of animals, using a special knife; they refused to eat pigs and a number of other creatures; they sacrificed animals on high places like the ancient Israelites; and they followed many of the other laws of the Old Testament. The sighting of the new moon was of cardinal importance for them as it is for Jews. Their clan names looked as if they were derived from Arabic or Hebrew or some other Semitic language.

During the months I had spent in the village trying to unveil their secrets, I never found the absolute proof—the smoking gun, demonstrating that their oral tradition, which linked them with ancient Israel, was true. I never found an inscription on stone, a fragment of a Hebrew prayer, an artifact from ancient Israel. Not even a coin or a shard of pottery.

Before arriving in Zimbabwe I had spent a couple of months with the large Lemba communities in the neighboring country of South Africa. Here the leaders of the tribe had given me a good deal of information. I had hoped to build on this in Zimbabwe and asked the local Lemba chief to facilitate my research. Chief Mposi called a meeting of the elders of the Lemba clans and, tempted by my promise to try to find their lost city of Senna, they formally agreed to permit me to research their history.

But subsequently they did not tell me nearly as much as I had hoped they would. They were tight-lipped about anything to do with their religious practices. It was only my willingness to sit around late into the night, until my whisky had loosened the old men's tongues, that had enabled me to hear something of their remarkable cult.

The following day they would regret their nocturnal indiscretions and mutter that the clan elders shouldn't have authorized my research, that white men had no business meddling in their affairs, and that I should stop trying to penetrate the cloak of secrecy that veiled their religious rites.

Others tried to frighten me into leaving by telling me lurid tales of what had happened to previous generations of researchers who had wandered too far down forbidden paths. One of them had been forcibly circumcised after daring to walk on Dumghe, the tribe's sacred mountain. Another had wandered too close to a sacred cave at the base of Dumghe, and had been stabbed with a traditional assegai and badly beaten. He had narrowly escaped with his life.

As my hopes of finding the critical clue regarding their true identity began to die, so did the crops in the fields around the village. It had not rained at all for months. There was some thick muddy liquid at the bottom of the boreholes. Every morning the women brought water in rusty old oilcans balanced on their heads. When that was gone, there would be nothing left to drink. Except beer from the bottle shop, for people with money. And there weren't many of those.

This morning, early, before the sun had risen, the chief had called for a rain ceremony. The chief's messenger had arrived just as the household was beginning to stir. The cooking fire was being blown into life and water was being heated for tea and the washing water, which was brought every morning to my hut by the daughter of my gentle host, Sevias. The messenger told Sevias that his presence would be required that evening. This was a last desperate throw of the dice.

The Lost Ark of the Covenant
Solving the 2,500-Year-Old Mystery of the Fabled Biblical Ark
. Copyright © by Tudor Parfitt. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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Table of Contents


1 The Cave 1
2 The Sign of His Kinship 23
3 Protocols of the Priests 45
4 The City of the Dead 81
5 A Key to the Past 99
6 Opposites Are One 121
7 The First Cataract 149
8 Legends of the Queen of Sheba 177
9 The Tomb of Hud the Prophet of God 199
10 The Moses Gene 233
11 The Fire of God 247
12 The Sacred Fire Pot 279
13 Watchdogs of the King 313
14 The Dust of Its Hiding Place 335 Epilogue 367 Index 373
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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 5 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 20, 2008

    Don't Bother!

    This is the worst book I've read in three years. It's slap-dash research wrapped in bad writing. The author does, indeed, find 'the arc' -- but, regrettably, it's carbon-test proven to be 2,000 years too modern. This author should stick with cookbooks. And his editor at Harper will undoubtedly be looking for a new career, too. DON'T WASTE YOUR MONEY. If you want much more useful information on the topic, see 'Raiders of the Lost Arc' one more time.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 18, 2008

    Brilliant

    A beautifully written, fast paced adventure/travel book as good as anything in this line, about the author's adventures tracking down his history of the Ark of the Covenant. Following the rabbinic idea that there were two arks - an ark of war and a ceremonial thing - as in Raiders of the Lost Ark - he follows a multitude of clues and traces its passage through time and space until he gets to darkest Africa. I saw the History Channel doc based on this - not bad - but the book is so much better. Unlike anything else in this genre - he actually finds something - you're not left wondering outside some decrepit church where a toothless monk won't let you see the goods. His science is impeccable - but his story-telling prowess is second to none. Just fabulous. Beware - you will not be able to put this down!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 14, 2008

    Channel 4 documentary review - UK

    Interesting documentary based on this book broadcast on Channel 4 in UK on 14th March '08. Didn't buy into his idea of the Ark as a drum... if you want an alternative exciting view on the location of the proper, gold covered Ark of the Covenant, go to the Wyatt Research Centre, where Ron Wyatt [now deceased] shows how the location of the Ark is crucial to linking the Old and New Covenants in the Bible - mind blowing stuff!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 10, 2008

    Simply fabulous!

    A really well written academic detective book which reads like a thriller. Impossible to put down once you've started. The clues lead you on, on the edge of your seat, until the extraordinary conclusion.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 6, 2008

    Exciting, but not too convincing

    I am surprised that no one else has reviewed this book yet. So, as unqualified as I my be, I have decided to do so. 'Lost Ark of the Covenant' is a page-turner containing new ideas about the whereabouts of the Ark of the Covenant. While it may be an exciting travel book, the factual information seems a little iffy. I have trouble believing what Mr. Parfitt thinks to be the Ark actually is. I'll grant its amazing that the Lemba of southern Africa have the 'Moses Gene' and I don't doubt that they did come from Yemen and possibly Israel before that. But the idea that their 'ngoma' or wooden drum is the Ark seems a little far fetched to me. Additionally, the author's premise that the Ark actually was an early 'weapon of mass destruction' seems a little more than unlikely. Another thing about the book that bothered me was that Mr. Parfitt never tells whether or not the Gogodala of Papa New Guinea are of Jewish descent or not. He did the DNA testing. Why not include the results in the book, positive or not? This only leaves the reader frustrated. Some events in 'The Lost Ark' seem to work out too perfectly. Additionally, it seems to me that he disregards some Ark locations too quickly (eg. It can't be under the Temple Mount because people have been looking there for so long.) While I don't believe Parfitt's theory, I still had a hard time putting the book down. The real-life adventure was exciting, and the history (most of it) piqued my interest. I would certainly recommend reading this book. Perhaps Mr. Parfitt can convince you of his theory and I am just a stubborn reader. I'm not sure why this book hasn't made a bigger splash. It seems that recently every year around March/April there is a new biblical mystery/conspiracy in the news (Da Vinci Code, Tomb of Jesus, etc.) I have a feeling this may be this years, but so far 'The Lost Ark' hasn't reached the limelight.

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