Sunday, July 6, 2008

Resurrection Tradition Etched in Stone?

The New York Times reports some interesting news from Jerusalem about an ancient stone tablet found near the Dead Sea that is believed to be related to the famous scrolls and dates to the 1st Century BC. The tablet, nicknamed “Gabriel’s Revelation,” has two columns of text written on it, but the stone is broken and the text is faded in some areas. However, some scholars believe the text in question refers to a pre-Christian era Jewish tradition of a messiah dying and rising again on the third day. The “messiah” on the tablet may refer to a man named Simon, but scholars are unsure about this.

This might be a shock to many in academia, who have long held that Jesus’ prophecies of His death and resurrection (Mark 8:31; Mark 9:31) must have been added by later followers since no resurrection tradition existed in 1st Century Judaism. Now some are saying that Jesus and His followers adopted an already existing tradition of a suffering messiah who would rise from the dead after three days. According to a professor of Biblical studies at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, the death referred to is for Israel’s redemption, not for the sins of individuals.

More will be written on this amazing find, which was actually discovered at least a decade ago but is just now being publicized. I doubt this will bring anyone around to the New Testament interpretation of Christ’s death or inspire belief in His literal resurrection. After all, “Faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the Word of Christ” (Romans 10:17). But at the very least, maybe Christ’s prophecies of His death and resurrection will finally be attributed to Him by unbelieving scholars. Who knows? God could use this to cause some to hear the Word of Christ and come to saving faith. It will be interesting to see how all this plays out.