A stone tablet pre-dating Jesus with inscriptions suggesting resurrection is making news. Written using ink on stone, and dating to some time between late first century B.C.E. and early first century C.E, the tablet is written like a scroll in two columns. Though it was discovered a decade ago, the news worthiness came from the research of Hebrew University scholar Israel Knohl who claimed that the tablet mentions a messiah who will arise after three days. Does this shake the foundation of Christianity and as Time Magazine asks, was Jesus’ resurrection, a sequel?
Some letters in the tablet are not clear and hence the translation is vague, but it seems to be written by someone named Gabriel in the style of prophecies. The first column is about the destruction of evil within three days, followed by a promise that God will soon appear. The tablet also mentions a war that led to bloodshed in Jerusalem.
This was the time when Jewish rebels were trying to overthrow the Roman monarchy following the death of Herod and there was an expectation that a messianic figure would restore the Davidic monarchy. One such messianic leader was Simon, who the first century historian Josephus wrote, burned the royal palace at Jericho and destroyed many other royal residences, till he was beheaded by Gratus, an officer of the royal troops.
Prof. Knohl reads line 80 of the tablet as, “In three days you shall live, I, Gabriel, command you” and believes this to be a reference to Simon written by his followers.
The tablet is proof that Jewish people were familiar with the concept of a messiah who would be resurrected. This revelation is not new because there are such predictions by the Hebrew prophet Hosea and in the Dead Sea Scrolls.
This tablet emphasizes two concepts. First, the traditional Jewish view was of a triumphant messiah who would be a descendent of David and not one who suffers. But the one mentioned in the tablet is that of a suffering messiah who resurrects after three days and this exact motif was chosen by later Christian writers. Second, the messiah mentioned in the tablet died for Israel and not for people’s sins.
Several scholars have believed that this suffering messiah motif was not an original creation of the Christian communities.
Several scholars, myself included, along with Michael Wise, Michael Fishbane, and Israel Knohl, have argued for some years now that the“Suffering Messiah” ideas, reflected in our Synoptic Gospels, were not creations of the Christian communities after Jesus’ death, nor even unique to Jesus himself, but in fact were ideas current within messianic varieties of Judaism reaching back into the 2nd century BCE or earlier.[Knohl’s Gabriel Text Interpretation Makes the NYTimes]
These two concepts, Prof. Knohl says, change our view of Christianity.
“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.”“
His mission is that he has to be put to death by the Romans to suffer sohis 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 ofJesus 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.[Ancient Tablet Ignites Debate on Messiah and Resurrection]