New Biblical Controversy?


After my post on Bradley LaShawn Fowler, and his fight with Zondervan and Thomas Nelson, my reads have more than doubled, so I guess people like the controversial religious topics. SO, I figured I would spend a few minutes of my lunch to fire this one off.
This one comes from a video I found on CNN. You can watch it by clicking the link. If you would rather read, here is the transcript:
 

Reporter: This is a land where ancient stones often inflame modern passions. And this stone, a stone tablet to be precise, is raising blood pressure in the world of biblical scholarship. The tablet contains an 87 line Hebrew passage, an apocalyptic message from the angel Gabriel, dating back to the decade before the birth of Jesus.

David Jesselsohn: {section in Hebrew}  In three days, you will be resurrected, I Gabriel [command you]

Reporter: Swiss/Israeli collector, David Jesselsohn bought the tablet from a Jordanian antiquities dealer several years ago. But the significance of its message was not immediately clear.

David Jesselsohn: You can understand every word, but not the context. Are they speaking about the future or about visions … about  mystical experiences? So it’s not so easy to understand it.

Reporter: But Israeli scholar, Israel Knohl, found confirmation of his research that the concept of death and resurrection predate Jesus.

Israel Knohl: The idea that comes out from this document is that only the shed blood of the Messianic leader will move God to come and redeem his people.

Reporter: This flies in the face of the Christian belief that Jesus was a unique figure, beyond time and place. And other biblical scholars beg to differ.

Ben Witherington:  I absolutely do think Professor Knohl goes too far in his conclusions … and he’s noted for creative reading into ancient Jewish texts anyway … I think that what one can say at the most is it may refer to a Messianic figure that comes alive at the command of an arcangel like Gabriel.

Reporter: But Knohl contends Jesus was the product of his Jewish environment, imbued by its beliefs and by the unrest wracking a land under Roman occupation. The yearning for a Messiah, a deliverer, he argues, was alive and well before Jesus.

Israel Knohl: They wanted to be independent – to be liberated from Rome. So we can see that they lived in a very intense expectation for God to come and reveal himself and fighting the enemies and liberating them.

Reporter:  Tablet owner, David Jesselsohn, believes the concept of a pre-Jesus death and resurrection lends historical credence to the Christian narrative.

David Jesselsohn: If it is embedded into Judaism of the time, it makes much more sense. It gives it much more credibility that this idea of a Messiah who is walking on the earth and been killed and even resurrected. If this was an idea within Judaism, even before Christ, it makes the whole idea of Jesus more credible.

Reporter:  The tablet was reportedly found among the barren hills and valleys on the Jordanian side of the Dead Sea. And, barren though this land may be, it continues to yield fertile material for heated scholarly debate. Ben Wedeman, CNN, in the Judean desert.

There really is not much controvery, except that which is being written into the story, ala media outlets like the New York Times:
 
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.
 
But this is not new. Biblical scholars have long stated that evidence of a tradition of a dying Messiah was present in the Old Testament works, making it a Jewish tradition. It has also been stated that this concept was not the most prevalent tradition, which is evidenced by the small amount of literature found supporting this idea (one stone tablet, if correct, and a few prophetic verses). The more common view of Messiah was conquering hero. Now that we have found a more direct link, it adds color the landscape, but it does not change the story, or say anything about its validity or lack thereof.
 
What I see suggested by Knohl, in other sources (see here), is this is a link between Judaism and Christianity. This is a known quantity. If the stone is authentic, it shows that there was not only a tradition of a suffering Messiah (see Isaiah 53), but that the idea of a three day burial was already established in an apocolyptic or prophetic work, as in this cite from the article.
 
"This is evidence that the idea of a suffering messiah, put to death and coming back to life after three days was known to at least a group of Jews," Knohl told the gathering at the Israel Museum in Occupied Jerusalem.
 
So far this has been a big yawn.
 
Peace and Grace,
Greg
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