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.Now don't get me wrong, this sounds like a fascinating find. What the stone contains is a fragmentary apocalyptic prophecy from the first century BC, which draws on the model of late Old Testament prophecies such as Daniel, Zechariah and Haggai. Some of the scholars involved have dubbed it "Gabriel's Revelation". The difficulty is, the text is fragmentary in a couple of key places. However, it appears to describe the Angel Gabriel providing a revelation either to or about a messiah who suffers for the people of Israel. One scholar has argued that, based on his interpretation of some hard to discern words, it may hint at this messiah dying and rising 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....
“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,” Mr. Boyarin said.
Two more hard-to-read words come later, and Mr. Knohl said he believed that he had deciphered them as well, so that the line reads, “In three days you shall live, I, Gabriel, command you.”The thing is, I'm not really clear why this is considered big news, unless you start out by ascribing to the theory that all references in the New Testament to Christ's death and resurrection were added in long after their original composition. In other words, unless you figure Christianity is hogwash to start with.
To whom is the archangel speaking? The next line says “Sar hasarin,” or prince of princes. Since the Book of Daniel, one of the primary sources for the Gabriel text, speaks of Gabriel and of “a prince of princes,” Mr. Knohl contends that the stone’s writings are about the death of a leader of the Jews who will be resurrected in three days.
He says further that such a suffering messiah is very different from the traditional Jewish image of the messiah as a triumphal, powerful descendant of King David.
“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.”
As it stands, Christians interpret a number of passages in the Old Testament as prophesying Christ's suffering, death and resurrection, so it's hardly going to surprise a Christian audience if you find evidence that Jews in the hundred years before Christ believed that a messiah would eventually suffer, die and rise after three days.
Very, very interesting stuff (both religiously and as a matter of history), but I'm not clear why it's supposed to shake anybody.