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Mythology/Religion

‘In three days, you shall live’ – Gabriel’s Revelation

Ancient Tablet Ignites Debate on Messiah

In July of 2008 a flurry of academic journals and news sources reported a new archaeological artifact that might “shake our basic view of Christianity”—especially about first-century messianic expectations and the resurrection accounts.

The find was a large stone tablet on which was written eighty-seven lines of Hebrew text in ink, but much of the text was missing. The message of the text, thought to be composed just before the time of Jesus, is being called Gabriel’s Revelation. A scholar named Israel Knohl created headlines about this artifact by filling in some of the missing text with words that line up with his idea that the notion of a suffering and dying messiah who rises on the third day was part of the consciousness of Judaism before Christianity emerged and is therefore the source of the stories about Jesus.

Gabriel’s Revelation is a Hebrew apocalyptic text written on the face of a thick stone tablet measuring three feet by one foot. One would expect the inscription to be engraved into the stone, but the message here was painted onto a smooth surface of the tablet using ink. The text is arranged in two columns with a total of eighty-seven lines. The arrangement of the text is very much like that on a scroll; hence some scholars have been calling it a “scroll on stone.”

The tablet was cracked into three pieces in its journey through the centuries, but all the pieces are accounted for. The Hebrew lettering on the tablet, however, did not fare so well. It is a very poorly preserved artifact and a good deal of the text is either gone or indecipherable—but this is, of course, a key reason for the mystery and the current controversy surrounding it. Paleographic analysis (that is, a study of the script and materials of writing) place the date of composition from the late first-century BC to the early first century AD—the same general time frame that has been assigned to the Dead Sea Scrolls. In both appearance and apocalyptic tenor, the Gabriel Tablet appears to have more than a little in common with these other ancient Hebrew texts from the Qumran community.

Although scholars are comfortable with the date range of the writing on the tablet, they really have no idea who wrote it or anything about its provenance. The tablet surfaced about a decade ago in the possession of a Jordanian antiquities dealer. It was then purchased by David Jeselsohn, an Israeli collector living in Zurich, who kept the artifact at his home. Although a knowledgeable antiquities patron himself, Jeselsohn did not know the importance of the coffee-table-sized stone occupying three square feet of his living room.

Eventually he showed it to Ada Yardeni, an expert in ancient Hebrew scripts, paleography, and epigraphy from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. Dr. Yardeni, in collaboration with Binyamin Elitzur, recognized the text as the work of a professional scribe and clearly from the first-centuries time frame already mentioned based on “the shape and the form of the letters.” According to a New York Times report, chemical analysis of the artifact done by a renowned expert in archaeological dating, Yuval Goren of Tel Aviv University, confirmed the proposed date range from paleography. The question of the basic time-frame of composition seems for the most part closed, but where it was and who had it for 2,000 years is still wide open.

After spending some quality time with the Gabriel Tablet, Yardeni and Elitzur published an article in 2007 in the Hebrew language periodical Cathedra. In that article they offered their best attempt at a transcription of the lines of ancient Hebrew. Their own English translation was published on the Web site of the Biblical Archaeology Review and shows all of the missing and illegible parts according to their expert analysis. This is important because these two textual scholars were most concerned with reconstructing and reading the actual text and less concerned with broader interpretation or how it might “shake the very foundation of Christian history.”

It was in Cathedra that Israel Knohl, an iconoclastic professor of Bible studies at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, first heard of the stone. Mr. Knohl posited in a book published in 2000 the idea of a suffering messiah before Jesus, using a variety of rabbinic and early apocalyptic literature as well as the Dead Sea Scrolls. But his theory did not shake the world of Christology as he had hoped, partly because he had no textual evidence from before Jesus.

Mr. Knohl is part of a larger scholarly movement that focuses on the political atmosphere in Jesus’ day as an important explanation of that era’s messianic spirit. As he notes, after the death of Herod, Jewish rebels sought to throw off the yoke of the Rome-supported monarchy, so the rise of a major Jewish independence fighter could take on messianic overtones.

In Mr. Knohl’s interpretation, the specific messianic figure embodied on the stone could be a man named Simon who was slain by a commander in the Herodian army, according to the first-century historian Josephus. The writers of the stone’s passages were probably Simon’s followers, Mr. Knohl contends.

The slaying of Simon, or any case of the suffering messiah, is seen as a necessary step toward national salvation, he says, pointing to lines 19 through 21 of the tablet — “In three days you will know that evil will be defeated by justice” — and other lines that speak of blood and slaughter as pathways to justice.

To make his case about the importance of the stone, Mr. Knohl focuses especially on line 80, which begins clearly with the words “L’shloshet yamin,” meaning “in three days.” The next word of the line was deemed partially illegible by Ms. Yardeni and Mr. Elitzur, but Mr. Knohl, who is an expert on the language of the Bible and Talmud, says the word is “hayeh,” or “live” in the imperative. It has an unusual spelling, but it is one in keeping with the era.

Lines 80 and 81 read as follows (of course, ellipses, brackets, and question marks indicate missing and unreadable text):

80. In three days li[ve], I, Gabri’el …[?],

81. the Prince of Princes, …, narrow holes(?) …[…]…

Israel Knohl rendered the same two lines this way:

80. In three days, live, I Gabriel com[mand] yo[u]

81. prince of the princes, the dung of the rocky crevices []… ..[]

Mr. Knohl believes the sentence can be reconstructed as follows: “Leshloshet yamin hayeh, ani Gavriel, gozer alekha” (“In three days, live, I, Gabriel, command you”). The archangel is ordering someone to rise from the dead within three days. To whom is he speaking?

The answer appears in the following line, Line 81: “Sar hasarin” (“Prince of Princes”). The sentence reads: “Leshloshet yamin khayeh, ani Gavriel, gozer alekha, sar hasarin” (In three days, I, Gabriel, command you, prince of princes.” Who is the “prince of princes”?

The primary biblical source for the Gabriel Revelation is the narrative in the Book of Daniel (8:15-26), in which the Archangel Gabriel reveals himself to Daniel for the first time. Gabriel describes a “king of fierce countenance.” This king “shall destroy them that are mighty and the people of the saints… he shall also stand up against the prince of princes” (Daniel 8:24-25).

The author of the Gabriel Revelation seems to be interpreting the biblical narrative as follows: An evil king arises and virtually destroys the Jewish people, the “people of the saints.” He even manages to overcome and slay their leader, the “prince of princes.” This is the leader who will be resurrected in three days.

“This should shake our basic view of Christianity,”…“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.”

Ms. Yardeni said she was impressed with the reading and considered it indeed likely that the key illegible word was “hayeh,” or “live.”

Moshe Bar-Asher, president of the Israeli Academy of Hebrew Language and emeritus professor of Hebrew and Aramaic at the Hebrew University, said he spent a long time studying the text and considered it authentic, dating from no later than the first century B.C.

Mr. Knohl said that it was less important whether Simon was the messiah of the stone than the fact that it strongly suggested that a savior who died and rose after three days was an established concept at the time of Jesus. He notes that in the Gospels, Jesus makes numerous predictions of his suffering and New Testament scholars say such predictions must have been written in by later followers because there was no such idea present in his day.

But there was, he said, and “Gabriel’s Revelation” shows it.

“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.”

 

Notes

Gabriel’s Revelation: http://www.equip.org/articles/gabriels-revelation/

Ancient Tablet Ignites Debate on Messiah and Resurrection: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/07/06/world/middleeast/06stone.html?_r=4&hp=&pagewanted=all&

Was Jesus’ Resurrection a Sequel?: http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1820685,00.html

‘In three days, you shall live’: http://www.haaretz.com/weekend/week-s-end/in-three-days-you-shall-live-1.218552

 

About elpidiovaldes

Human, All Too Human.

Discussion

8 thoughts on “‘In three days, you shall live’ – Gabriel’s Revelation

  1. I don’t see anything that has the potential to shake my understanding of the New Testament in this.

    Posted by somepcguy | March 27, 2013, 16:43
    • Your comment is to vague to even attempt a response. Either you have a particular view on the NT that has nothing to do with its history or you don’t understand the NT at all. Which is it?

      Posted by elpidiovaldes | March 28, 2013, 20:01
      • What about the article I replied to is likely to shake someone’s understanding of the New Testament? It suggests that the idea that the Messiah would suffer and die and rise again after three days was a concept that was around in the first century BC.. What is novel about that, In Luke we are told that on the road to Emmaus Jesus explained from Scripture how these things had to happen, yet the two disciples did not recognize Him. If His teaching about His death and resurrection was a revolutionary concept about the Messiah, why did they not recognize Him just from that?

        Posted by somepcguy | March 28, 2013, 20:40
      • Why would you (or anyone) assume that the authors of Luke were actually writing fact? They have total creative control over how the story is told, not to mention a vested interest in the way it is told. You’re point is very weak and hardly serves as evidence for the subject of this post.

        It basically comes down to whether you think Jesus is real or myth. Like I mentioned in my previous comment: If the historicity of the NT has nothing to do with your faith, then you should not see anything that would shake your understanding of the NT. Keep believing your myth.

        However, if you’re inclined to question the facts in the NT, then this has to shake your understanding of the NT. It becomes just another story in the long list of dying and resurrecting heroes. Please see Easter and the Dying Man-God Motif for a further explanation.

        Thanks

        Posted by elpidiovaldes | April 3, 2013, 16:56
      • I believe that the NT is historically accurate. There is nothing in what you wrote that causes me to question that belief. Considering that the NT is some of the best documented literature from the ancient world, why would I question its historicity? It is certainly as historically accurate as the Biography of Alexander the Great. I checked out your Easter link and am not familiar with all of the stories you reference as being precursors to the account of Jesus’ Resurrection. However, I do know that all of the accounts of Mithra which match up with the Gospel accounts were written AFTER the Gospel accounts (2nd to 4th Century AD). The writings of Mithraism that predate Christianity bear very little resemblance to the NT writings, whereas the writings of Mithraism from after the establishment of Christianity begin to bear a remarkable resemblance to the NT writings. This fact suggests that Mithraism borrowed from Christianity, not the other way around.

        Posted by somepcguy | April 3, 2013, 17:19
      • You’re joking, right? Let me help you out, please pay attention:

        Not only did Jesus himself write absolutely nothing, but the authors of the gospels are roughly at least one generation removed from the original eyewitnesses. They did not reside in Palestine and had no firsthand acquaintance with the events they describe.

        The one gospel for which the strongest case can be made that it was written by the man whose name it bears, Luke, acknowledges that its author was not himself an eyewitness of the events he portrays (Luke 1:1-2).

        Then there is the small problem of the numerous Christian Councils who in the span of 2,000 years fought over what should or should not be included in the NT and the teachings of Jesus. These were arbitrary decision made by mortal and very flawed men.

        To make your position even worse, all other historical records of the time are silent about the life of Jesus. The brief mentions of Jesus in the writings of Josephus, Tacitus and Suetonius have been generally regarded as not genuine and as Christian interpolations.

        In other words, there is no contemporaneous evidence outside of the New Testament to attest to Christ’s advent and ministry – or even his existence.

        The silence is singularly outstanding, in consideration of the repeated assertions in the gospels that Christ was famed far and wide, causing a fracas with the local and imperial authorities, and, upon his death, creating astonishing and awesome miracles and wonders the world had never seen before, including not only an earthquake and the darkening of the sun and moon, but also dead people rising from their graves and visiting people in town! (Matthew 27:50-53) – Can you say “night of the living dead”!?

        These “great crowds” and “multitudes”, along with Jesus’s fame, are repeatedly referred to in the gospels, including in the following:

        • Matthew 4:23-45, 5:1, 8:1, 8:18, 9:8, 9:31, 9:33, 9:36, 11:7, 12:15, 13:2, 14:1, 14:13, 14:22, 15:30, 19:2, 21:9, 26:55
        • Mark 1:28, 10:1…etc
        • Luke 4:14, 4:37, 5:15, 14:25…etc
        • 1 Corinthians 15:3-7

        One would think that if all these things happened, someone somewhere would have written about them or otherwise recorded them for prosperity. But, inspecting the literary, historical and archaeological record of the time produces nothing. The dearth of evidence is not for want of suitable reporters, as during the first century the following historians and writers depicted life in and around theMediterranean, including in some of the very places that Jesus and his disciples purportedly move about:

        Aulus Perseus (60 CE)
        Columella (1st cent. CE)
        Dio Chrysostom (c. 40 – 112 CE)
        Justus of Tiberius (c. 80 CE)
        Livy (59 BCE – 17 CE)
        Lucanus (fl. 63 CE)
        Lucius Florus (1st – 2nd cent. CE)
        Petronius (d. 66 CE)
        Phaedrus (c. 15 BCE – 50 CE)
        Philo Judaeus (20 BCE – 50 CE)
        Phlegon (1st cent. CE)
        Pliny the Elder (23 – 69 CE)
        Plutarch (c. 46 – 119 CE)
        Pomponius Mela (40 CE)
        Rufus Curtius (1st cent. CE)
        Quintilian (c. 35 – 100 CE)
        Quintus Curtius (1st cent. CE)
        Seneca (1 BCE – 65 CE)
        Silius Italicus (c. 25 – 101 CE)
        Statius Caelicius (1st cent. CE)
        Theon of Smyrna (c. 70 – 135 CE)
        Valerius Flaccus (1st cent. CE)
        Valerius Maximus (fl. c. 20 CE)

        Oddly enough, not one of these writers recorded any of the amazing and earth-shaking events reported in the gospels, even though this period was (as you so correctly stated) one of the best documented in history and although some of these authors lived or traveled in the same small area in which the gospel story was set. Neither Jesus nor his disciples are mentioned by any of them – not a word about Christ, Christianity or Christians!

        Just for fun, let’s bring in the Dead Sea Scrolls. The Scrolls appear to be the library of a Jewish sect and was hidden away in caves around the outbreak of the First Jewish Revolt (66-70 CE). They were most likely written by the Essenes during the period from about 200 BCE to 68 CE and none of the scrolls found to date refer to Jesus, nor do they mention any of His follower’s described in the New Testament.

        Sorry my friend, there is no easy way to put this, but it’s all a lie. I recommend that you read some Carl Jung, Joseph Campbell and other scholars in the field of comparative region to get a better sense of what really happened.

        BTW, The worship of the Indo-Persian god Mithra dates back centuries to millennia preceding the common era. The god is found as “Mitra” in the Indian Vedic religion, which is over 3,500 years old, by conservative estimates. By around 1500 BCE, Mitra worship had made it to the Near East, in the Indian kingdom of the Mitanni, who at that time occupied Assyria. Mitra worship, however, was known also by that time as far west as the Hittite kingdom, only a few hundred miles east of the Mediterranean, as is evidenced by the Hittite-Mitanni tablets found at Bogaz-Köy in what is now Turkey.

        Thanks,

        Posted by elpidiovaldes | April 4, 2013, 14:10
      • You are badly informed about the NT documents. The earthquake and darkening of the sun ARE recorded in other documents from the time. Of course when you reject the accounts of those people who chose to follow His teachings you find very little evidence for His existence. How logical would it be for someone who witnessed these events to NOT become a Christian? So, the only records we have of these events are from people who believed the teachings of Christianity and you think this reduces the credibility of those witnesses? How trustworthy would you consider someone who had witnessed these things and thought “Oh just another day, no reason to believe anything these people are preaching”? I will not continue to argue with someone who has chosen to disbelieve. The evidence suggests that Jesus did indeed live.

        Posted by somepcguy | April 4, 2013, 17:02
      • Sorry buddy, you can’t get away that easily. I’m going to have to ask you to provide some evidence. I have obviously provided the names of historians and plenty of examples, but you have chosen to ignore them. Unless you can provide some insight into the points below, I’m afraid you got nothing to stand on:

        1) Authors of the gospels are roughly at least one generation removed from the original eyewitnesses. They did not reside in Palestine and had no firsthand acquaintance with the events they describe.

        2) The brief mentions of Jesus in the writings of Josephus, Tacitus and Suetonius have been generally regarded as not genuine and as Christian interpolations.

        3) The silence of the Dead Sea Scrolls on Jesus and his ministry.

        4) The odd silence of basically every historian in the Mediterranean which lived around Jesus’s time.

        Jesus is a myth. The literary, historical and archaeological record of the time produces nothing. Thanks for playing. Have nice day,

        Posted by elpidiovaldes | April 4, 2013, 19:32

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