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Archaeological Stone: Gabriel’s Revelation

July 6, 2008

UPDATE: Ben Witherington weighs in on the find.

The NY Times released an article today that discusses the impact of a new archaeological find, a large stone that bears hebrew script describing a messianic figure who would die and rise again three days later. If authentic, this will provide unique 1st C B.C. Jewish evidence for messianic death-resurrection:

A three-foot-tall tablet with 87 lines of Hebrew that scholars believe dates from the decades just before the birth of Jesus is causing a quiet stir in biblical and archaeological circles, especially because it may speak of a messiah who will rise from the dead after three days.

Ironically, Jewish scholars are saying this should shake the foundations of Christianity; however, it seems to me that in only strengthens the already Jewish-rooted faith:

“This should shake our basic view of Christianity,” he said as he sat in his office of the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem where he is a senior fellow in addition to being the Yehezkel Kaufman Professor of Biblical Studies at Hebrew University. “Resurrection after three days becomes a motif developed before Jesus, which runs contrary to nearly all scholarship. What happens in the New Testament was adopted by Jesus and his followers based on an earlier messiah story.”

It is unclear to me how this should shake the foundations of the Christian faith. After all, Jesus himself referred to the Jewish prophet Jonah’s experience of being in the belly of a whale for three days as a type of his own death-resurrection (Luke 11;29-32). Jesus called it the “sign of Jonah” which pointed to Jesus as something “greater than Jonah.”

Another Jewish reading:

“His mission is that he has to be put to death by the Romans to suffer so his blood will be the sign for redemption to come,” Mr. Knohl said. “This is the sign of the son of Joseph. This is the conscious view of Jesus himself. This gives the Last Supper an absolutely different meaning. To shed blood is not for the sins of people but to bring redemption to Israel.”

The apostles claimed very similar things; however, in their account of Jesus death the connect Jesus death with redemption for Israel, through the forgiveness of sins, which was also extended to the Gentiles:

Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.” 37 Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” 38 And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. (Acts 2:36-38)

If this stone is authentic, then I see no reasons why Christians should be alarmed. Rather, it is further evidence of Augustine’s maxim: “The New is in the Old contained but the Old in the New explained.” What we need is a whole Bible theology, not just a Jewish or Christian reading, an Old versus New testament approach.

7 Comments leave one →
  1. July 6, 2008 8:26 pm

    The “Jewish” interpretation of this find is just another example of how creative the human mind is and how adept we are at finding excuses to believe what we want to believe and live the way we want to live.

    This was driven home for me while reading “The Question of God” by Armand Nicholi, which compares the beliefs and lifestyles of Freud and C.S. Lewis. Both astutely observed many of the same things. But there interpretations of the data were completely different.

  2. July 6, 2008 9:41 pm

    I can certainly see where they are coming from, bent on a nationalistic messiah not a cosmic one; it certainly fits with Jewish political history from the Maccabees onward. However, their interpretation is speculative, i.e. that Jesus co-opted another messiah story and made it his own. It still begs the question: Why isn’t Jesus the actual fulfillment of this Jewish hope?

    Yeah, Nicholi’s book was intriguing. We brought him in to speak at GCTS while I was there. Not the greatest speaker, but an insightful book on two towering figures.

  3. July 7, 2008 2:48 am

    There is an article on the first 30 years of the life of Jesus of Nazereth at this site :- showing from the Hebrew Bible that Jesus of Nazereth was the TRUE Messiah.

  4. Laura permalink
    July 7, 2008 1:57 pm

    I read this article and had to re-read many parts because I, too, was missing how this should “shake the foundations of Christianity.” The only reasoning I could find was in the line where Mr. Knohl says “His mission is that he has to be put to death by the Romans to suffer so his blood will be the sign for redemption to come,” and then later, “To shed blood is not for the sins of people but to bring redemption to Israel.” So my understanding is that he is saying Jesus was not the Savior, but in fact a sign that the savior would come. I think his logic is missing a step, or maybe it just wasn’t explained in the article, but I don’t see where in the text this is actually implied.

  5. terence wilson permalink
    July 11, 2008 2:19 am

    as an atheist i dont care who is right but for anybody remotely interested in any genuine scholarship on the issue will know jesus was a fundamentalist jew.The christianity bit was made up by vested interests centuries later.

  6. September 30, 2008 6:30 pm

    I’d really like to see the Hebrew words that have been recovered in as close as possible position to their actual positions on the scroll rock. However, I haven’t been able to find anything but other people’s rendition of what it says.

  7. David permalink
    June 16, 2009 2:41 pm

    Retired professor, Stan Seidner contends that it reflects the Apocalyptic beliefs of the day, many which are found in the Dead Sea Scrolls, as antecedent and predictive writings of Christianity. He also suggested the use of infra-red technological applications, similar to what had been utilized on Dead Sea Scroll Material in the recent past. Challenging Knohl’s “Two Messiahs” theory, Seidner noted that, “Knohl’s reliance upon what he calls, the ‘Glorification Hymn,’ in support of a first Messiah’s relationship with King Herod, failed in its Carbon 14 testing. It predates Herod’s ascendency to the throne by at least twelve years and as much as one hundred and fifty six.” However, he does agree with Knohl’s interpretation of the inscription,”to rise from the dead within three days.”

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