“Archaeological” fraud doesn't help the Bible or the Book of Mormon!

How to Tell the Ohio Moses Stone is Phony!

 Ohio Moses Stone

The Ohio Decalogue Stone, rounded at the top and squarer at the bottom in stereotypical stone tablet fashion. The characters are not standard Hebrew, but telltale substitution blunders reveal what the hoaxer didn’t want you to know: that the source of the inscription is contemporary - from a Hebrew Bible.  


Messages of foreboding in what appears to be a form of ancient eastern writing are seen at Disneyland’s Indian Jones attraction - the Temple of the Forbidden Eye. How can you tell the messages in “Marabic” are foreboding? Because they're in English – with a decoder you can read them!


Of course Disney imagineers were not the first to make up an alternate alphabet for an established language! The Ohio Decalogue Inscription is a 19th century example.

Suppose you want to engrave the Hebrew Ten Commandments in stone. Carving the letters found in printed Bibles could be very difficult! You might think of changing the Hebrew alphabet (aleph-bet) so the characters are easier to carve! Like this:

Ohio Decalogue DECODER

From An Annotated Transcription of the Ohio Decalogue Stone, J. Huston McCullough (August, 1992)

On the extreme right in the table above, are the contrived characters of the Ohio Decalogue Stone. These letters are matched with the long established aleph-bet found in today’s Hebrew Bibles. The standard Hebrew aleph-bet has been in use since the return of the Jewish people from Babylonian exile. Take a look the standard Hebrew letters heading Psalm 119 (King James translation). These symbols are not the same as the ancient symbols that the psalmists David and Asaph used. Standard Hebrew letters have replaced the Phoenician like letters that very ancient Hebrew texts were originally written in.

The Hebrew of Lehi’s and Jeremiah's time was written with Phoenician-like letters - letters like those carved on the rather plain Tennessee Mound Tablet, also known as the Bat Creek Stone. Mormons especially, should pay attention to this fact! The standard Hebrew alphabet used in Bibles today is post Lehi! Standard Hebrew would not have been familiar to the Book of Mormon patriarch, let alone the improvised writing on the Ohio Decalogue Stone.

The 10 Commandments in Paleo Hebrew

The 10 Commandments, written in the plain but very ancient Hebrew familiar to Lehi

The Decalogue of Lehi’s day, and earlier, was written in Phoenician like letters - letters which would have been much easier to engrave than post exilic Hebrew letters in use today.

Evidently, the fabricator of the Ohio Decalogue inscription wasn't familiar with the ancient and more original Hebrew aleph-bet. Had he known ancient Hebrew he wouldn't have seen a need to make up a substitute alphabet. Memo to charlatans: If you’re not going to make a stone inscription of the Ten Commandments in ancient Hebrew, your better off copying the text from a source like the Greek Septuagint. Then at least you can make the plausible claim that the stone was carved by Hebrews from a later time period – e.g. Greek speaking Jews from Alexandria or maybe even Christians.

But the hoaxer decided to invent a substitute aleph-bet. He proceeded to edit the biblical text of the Ten Commandments, keeping the main parts, and counting the number of letters in the string to be carved. Since the made-up letters conveniently occupied square spaces of about the same size, the hoaxer did a little figuring to determine the size of stone needed to accommodate the whole text. He took into consideration the length of the string of letters, and the standard sized space that he wanted for each letter. He also added in the space needed for a graven image. He wanted to use up all the available surface of the stone; front, back, and sides, so folks would be really impressed with the craftsmanship and the text’s exact fit!

This brings up an important point: If you’re going to plan things so that you use up all the available writing space on the stone, you’d better not leave out important Hebrew characters like “et” (את) which indicates a verb’s direct object, but which has no meaning or translation in English! Sure you can read the Bible in English, but if you leave out something seemingly “meaningless” like את it would be a noticeable mistake in Hebrew! If you plan all the letters to fit perfectly on the stone and you stupidly leave out את or other letters, someone who truly knows Hebrew will probably get suspicious of the inscription! Actually the Ohio Moses Stone does ignore an “et” as well as other letters, and yes the text all too cleverly fits the stone’s writing surface. Oops!

Let's say you correctly transfer the Hebrew from the Bible to your improvised alphabet, how will you clue in the curious to the fact that the stone is really inscribed with Hebrew verse - they may not recognize your substitute alphabet? Hey, I have an idea: There could be a big cameo (graven image) of Moses centered on the stone’s face, with his recognizable Hebrew name inscribed like rays above his head! You could even replace the hard to carve standard Hebrew “mem” (מ), beginning the Law givers name, with a character that looks just like a common Latin “m”. See table above. Someone learned is sure to catch on that the stone is inscribed with holy verse when they plainly discern the name of the Law giver!

In fact, why not make the name of Moses lead into the inscribed verse? Hmmm, there’s a problem here! The Hebrew Bible verse doesn't begin by recognizing Moses, but by recognizing God! Well that’s easy to fix! Even an amateur with some basic resources like a Hebrew dictionary, can eventually pick out the part that reads “I am the LORD your God” (Shemot (Exodus) 20:2). This part could be cut from the start of the verse and stuck at the end of the verse, so it flows into the verse that follows! Yep, that works, even if it does seem rather Gentile minded to credit Moses with delivering Israel.

Here then is the intended text behind the Ohio Decalogue inscription, rearranged and edited from available Hebrew Bible verses. [1] Understand that this is the text that the scribe tried to convert into the simplified, but contrived alphabet shown in the table above. Don’t expect the Hebrew to flow word for word in the same order as the English translation. The standard Hebrew in its authentic syntax is accompanied by portions from the Authorized King James translation (KJV) on the right:

  מֹשֶׁה                       Moses                                           


                        אֲשֶׁר which

                  הוֹצֵאתִיךָ have brought thee

                       מֵאֶרֶץ out of the land of

                     מִצְרַיִם Egypt,

                       מִבֵּית out of the house of

                    עֲבָדִים ׃bondage.

                        אָנֹכִי I


                       יְהוָה the LORD

                      אֱלֹהֶיךָthy God,

OOPS! Commentary on the Ohio Decalogue transcription of verse 2:

When it came to converting the Hebrew expression הוֹצֵאתִיך, which means “have brought thee”, the Moses Stone scribe foolishly mistook the letter ו for a ד. These Hebrew letters may look similar to some folk, but someone who actually reads and writes Hebrew would know the difference instantly. The real problem here is that the invented Moses Stone symbol that the scribe substituted for ד does not look at all like the substitute symbol for ו. Do you see the problem? See for yourself. Check out the table above and make the comparison.

So if the substitute alphabet was really used as an archaic writing system, how could the writer possibly have confused the two letters, which were made to look so very different in the Ohio alphabet? Understand that these letters sound very different when spoken. The mess-up here leads to non-sense? This mistake isn’t just a spelling error mind you! It is plain to see how the blunder took place: The scribe was actually trying to convert letters, albeit naively, from a standard Hebrew text (where they look similar) into a made-up alphabet where the corresponding letters were made to look different! Keep your eye out for this type of blunder – it happens again and again in the Moses Stone transcription. See source [2] for the transcription.                  


                         לֹא no

                  יִהְיֶה־לְךָThou shalt have

                    אֱלֹהִים gods

                    אֲחֵרִים other

                  עַל־פָּנָיַ ׃before me.

OOPS! Commentary on the Ohio Decalogue transcription of verse 3:

The Hebrew word “elohim” (אֱלֹהִים) in verse 3 (KJV) is badly mutated on the Moses Stone. UNFORGIVABLE! The scribe was apparently insensitive to this very important Hebrew word for “GOD” or “gods”. It is as if he saw in the Hebrew letters הִי in אֱלֹהִים a single Hebrew letter מִ. Not only that, the scribe confused the Hebrew letter ם in אֱלֹהִים with the Hebrew letter ח. Oblivious to the actual Hebrew word he was attempting to transcribe, the scribe made out “elmh” (אֱלמח) – which is nonsense! See source [2] for the transcription.


                        לֹא not

                 תַעֲשֶׂה־ Thou shalt make

                        לְךָ unto thee

                      פֶסֶל any graven image,

                     וְכָל־ or any


OOPS! Commentary on the Ohio Decalogue transcription of verse 4:

Bad edit job here! The Moses Stone leaves the sentence incomplete, leaving off at וְכָל־. If the intent of the scribe was to abbreviate this commandment, he should have left off at פֶסֶל. The scribe did not understand everything he was copying. He may have gotten confused because the sequence of Hebrew words in the verse does not correspond one to one with the accompanying English translation. He may not have known for sure where to truncate the verse. See source [2] for the transcription.



                תִשְׁתַּחְוֶה Thou shalt bow down thyself

                       לָהֶם to them,


                  תָעָבְדֵם serve them:


OOPS! Commentary on the Ohio Decalogue transcription of verse 5:

Here the Moses Stone exhibits more confusion! The scribe saw תִשְׁתַּחְוֶה as חִשׁתַּחְוֶח, which makes no sense! The scribe did not understand the meaning of the composite Hebrew expression that translates, “Thou shalt not bow down thyself” (לֹא־תִשְׁתַּחְוֶה) and made two wrong substitutions. The scribe also mistook the ת in תָעָבְדֵם for a ח – more nonsense! See source [2] for the transcription.  




                         לֹא  not

                         תִשָּׂThou shalt take


                        שֵׁם־the name of

                        יְהוָהthe LORD

                     אֱלֹהֶיךָ thy God

                        לַשָּׁוְאin vain;


OOPS! Commentary on the Ohio Decalogue transcription of verse 7:

Verse 7 vainly puts a י in place of the ו in the Tetragrammaton (the sacred ineffable name of Deity - the Eternal). Did the scribe mistake the divine name in verse 7 for a יִהְיֶה; like the one he correctly transcribed in verse 3? Hmmm! What if Israelites in ancient American changed the spelling of the divine name? How then do we account for the fact that the divine name from verse 2 was correctly transcribed on the stone? The misspellings are not consistent on the stone! See source [2] for the transcription.


                        זָכוֹר Remember


                         יוֹם  day,

                       הַשַּׁבָּתthe sabbath

                    לְקַדְּשׁוֹ ׃to keep it holy.

OOPS! Commentary on the Ohio Decalogue transcription of verse 8:

As with other verses, the Moses Stone transcription of verse 8 is definitely based on the Masorah (the available Hebrew text from which the KJV Old Testament was translated). Here the scribe labored to put a ח where there should be a ה in הַשַּׁבָּת, “the Shabbat”. The scribe apparently didn’t know that the attached letter “hey” (ה) means “the” (i.e. “the Shabbat”), whereas attaching a look-alike “het” (ח) to “Shabbat” (instead of a “hey” ה) is meaningless! The scribe also leaves out the ק in לְקַדְּשׁו. The fact that the misspelled and poorly edited text fits the stone’s surface isn’t so remarkable after all. See source [2] for the transcription.



                       יָמִים days

                       תַּעֲבֹדshalt thou labour,

                      וְעָשִׂיתָand do

                         כָּל־ all

                  מְלַאכְתֶּךָ thy work:

OOPS! Commentary on the Ohio Decalogue transcription of verse 9:

The scribe failed to pluralize “day”. The Moses Stone reads, “Six day ….” See source [2] for the transcription.






                        כַּבֵּד Honour


                       אָבִיךָ thy father

                       וְאֶת־ and

                         אִמֶּךָthy mother:


OOPS! Commentary on the Ohio Decalogue transcription of verse 12:

 Here the dishonorable transcription leaves out the Hebrew direct object indicator “et” (אֶת־) in “Honor et thy father…” But wouldn’t you know, the transcription keeps the אֶת־ in “…and et thy mother”. In this case there is an “and” (וְ) attached to the “et” like so: וְאֶת־. To the English speaking scribe “and” meant something! Maybe the scribe thought the whole וְאֶת־ indicated “and”. The scribe may have had a hard time understanding the significance of אֶת־ in the first instance, and for that reason left it out. [3] See source [2] for the transcription.  


                         לֹא not

                     תִּרְצָחThou shalt kill.

OOPS! Commentary on the Ohio Decalogue transcription of verse 13:

Here the Moses Stone transcription murders the language by confusing the standard Hebrew “tsadi” (צ) in תִּרְצָח for an “ayin” (ע). If the scribe had planned better (short of actually learning Hebrew), he could have made these letters look more similar in the phony alphabet – to cover up this kind of blunder! As it is, someone who knows Hebrew can tell that the scribe was transcribing from a standard Hebrew text, and that the he didn’t really know the letters very well much less the words. The transcriber also mistook the ח at the end of תִּרְצָח for a ת. The scribe had a hard time telling the difference between ח, ת, and ה, all of which make different sounds. If Disney imagineers had made comparable transcription errors in “Marabic”, paying guests, passing the time in line would have complained! See source [2] for the transcription.


                         לֹא not

                      תִּנְאָףThou shalt commit adultery.

OOPS! Commentary on the Ohio Decalogue transcription of verse 14:

Here the transcriber adulterated the transcription by confusing the “nun” (נ) in תִּנְאָף for a “lamed” (ל). See reference [2] for the transcription.


                         לֹא not

                       תִּגְנֹבThou shalt steal.  


                         לֹא־ not

                       תַעֲנֶהThou shalt bear

                      בְרֵעֲךָ against thy neighbour.



OOPS! Commentary on the Ohio Decalogue transcription of verse 16:

The false inscription confuses the letters נה in תַעֲנֶה for the letters לח. See source  [2] for the transcription.


                         לֹא not

                      תַחְמֹדThou shalt covet

                        בֵּית house,

                       רֵעֶךָ thy neighbour's


                       תַחְמֹ thou shalt covet


                        רֵעֶךָthy neighbour's

                      וְעַבְדּוֹnor his manservant,

                     וַאֲמָתוֹ nor his maidservant,

                       וְשׁוֹרוֹnor his ox,

                      וַחֲמֹרוֹ nor his ass,

                          וְכֹלnor any thing



                        לְרֵעֶךָthy neighbour's.

OOPS! Commentary on the Ohio Decalogue transcription of verse 17:

Blundering his way to the end, the scribe mistook the ד in the first תַחְמֹד for a ך. It’s easy to see how these Hebrew letters could get confused, but the specious Moses Stone replacements for these letters are very different looking! Which begs the old question, how could this possibly be a simple spelling error? It can’t be!

The next תַחְמֹד appears to be transcribed correctly! At least there is the benefit of a doubt here, because the first and last letters are worn. The expression רֵעֶךָ בֵּית on the Moses Stone is unintelligible! The scribe inanely put ועך ביו.

The scribe also mistook the “raysh” (ר) in “thy neighbor” (רֵעֶךָ) for a “vav” (ו). Again it is easy to see how someone who is looking at standard Hebrew could confuse these letters – not knowing the language! But the Moses Stone substitutions for these letters look so very different that the blunder cannot be chalked up to a simple writing error! The scribe isn’t consistent in repeating his mistake! The same expression, “thy neighbor”, is correctly transcribed in the phony alphabet at the end of the verse (as also in verse 16) – proving that this is not some standard spelling change in an ancient language.

The inscription drops the וֹ in the middle of וְשׁוֹרוֹ. This at last, is a forgivable oversight. Even so, the Ohio Moses Stone was definitely not crafted by one fluent in Hebrew. See source [2] for the transcription.

There are egregious, telltale transcription errors in almost every verse!

Conclusion: The Ohio Decalogue is a hoax. It is not the work of an ancient American Israelite. But why on earth would anyone undertake such a work? Actually, the stone fits all too well the American “Mound Builder” mythopoeic interests of the 19th Century. More than Mormons had an interest in convincing the world that the American Indians descended from lost tribes of Israel. There were other hoaxes of this type foisted on the American public! Regrettably, “archaeological” fraud besets the study of the Bible and the Book of Mormon.


[1]      LDS Scriptures with Advanced Study Aids CD-ROM, transliterate Hebrew / English of Shemot (Ex.) 20:2 – 17.

[2]     J. Huston McCullough, “An Annotated Transcription of the Ohio Decalogue Stone”, August, 1992.

[3]      Brown-Driver-Briggs-Gesenius Hebrew-Aramaic Lexicon, אֵת, 853-854, pp. 84-86.

Vincent Coon וִינְסֶנט כּוּן Copyright 2012


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