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New York Times on Hazon Gabriel – Resurrected Messiah Before Jesus

Posted by NT Wrong on July 6, 2008

The New York Times has picked up on the Hazon Gabriel (“Vision of Gabriel”) tablet, and in particular the interpretation being offered by Israel Knohl in “By Three Days, Live”: Messiahs, Resurrection, and Ascent to Heaven in Hazon Gabriel.” The Journal of Religion 88 (Apr 2008):147–158).

“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.

If such a messianic description really is there, it will contribute to a developing re-evaluation of both popular and scholarly views of Jesus, since it suggests that the story of his death and resurrection was not unique but part of a recognized Jewish tradition at the time.”
New York Times

The writer of the article is quite aware that the interpretation of the tablet as concerning a messiah who would resurrect after three days is still some way from being affirmed. In particular, the gaps in the text require readers of the tablet to reconstruct the missing words, as discussed in my previous post. Moreover, because of the broken and uncertain context, it is uncertain who is saying “live!” to who, even if “live” can be properly restored in the gaps. So, even in the long term, the measured conclusion may be that we just cannot tell what the tablet originally said. Time will tell.

Still, if the tablet does talk about an anointed one (messiah) who will rise from the dead, it is very significant for our interpretation of beliefs in Jesus in the first century AD. The tablet is dated before Jesus’ birth, in the late 1st century BC.

“Daniel Boyarin, a professor of Talmudic culture at the University of California at Berkeley, said that the stone was part of a growing body of evidence suggesting that Jesus could be best understood through a close reading of the Jewish history of his day.

“Some Christians will find it shocking — a challenge to the uniqueness of their theology — while others will be comforted by the idea of it being a traditional part of Judaism,” [Dr]. Boyarin said.”
New York Times

“”This should shake our basic view of Christianity,” [Israel Knohl] 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.”
New York Times

Although, the idea of an anointed king who serves at the side of the High God and returns from the dead after three days is one that can be traced back at least to 1200 BC in Syria-Palestine.

Future developments are afoot:

“A conference marking 60 years since the discovery of the scrolls will begin on Sunday at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem, where the stone, and the debate over whether it speaks of a resurrected messiah, as one iconoclastic scholar believes, also will be discussed.”
New York Times

“There is now a spate of scholarly articles on the stone, with several due to be published in the coming months.”
New York Times

“A chemical examination by Yuval Goren, a professor of archaeology at Tel Aviv University who specializes in the verification of ancient artifacts, has been submitted to a peer-review journal. He declined to give details of his analysis until publication, but he said that he knew of no reason to doubt the stone’s authenticity.”
New York Times

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