Saturday, July 5, 2008

A Dead Sea Scroll On A Stone


Archaeologists have discovered a large stone tablet that is causing some controversy, because it may have predicted a messiah who will be raised from the dead after three days.

(Actually, "discovered" isn't the correct word, since the tablet has been in the collection of an Israeli/Swiss antiquities dealer for about ten years.)

Here's more from the 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.

I've posted the entire Times article here, for future reference. If you're wondering "What are The Dead Sea Scrolls?", they're the only known Biblical writings from earlier than the first century B.C. They were discovered in the late 1940's in the caves of Qumran, near the Dead Sea. Hence the name.

This particular "Dead Sea Scroll on stone" lends a bit of credence to the theory that various prophetic statements were projected onto the life of Jesus after his death. On the other hand, many Christians will see the inscription on this tablet as one more prophecy that Jesus fulfilled.
Academic papers will soon be published. Then books will be written. Sermons will be preached. Theories will be formulated and denounced. Blog posts will be commented upon.
Regardless of what the original stonemason intended, we'll all find a way to absorb this latest archaeological find and make it fit what we already believe.
Addition from Sunday morning, July 6th,
Click around the net and you'll see that the atheists, agnostics, and skeptics are pointing to this tablet as proof that the death, burial, and resurrection stories were out there before Jesus was born.
Christian sites see the tablet as proof of fulfilled prophecy.
I believe we could travel back in time to Jerusalem 33 A.D., and shoot a video of the resurrection or the non-resurrection. Regardless of what was on the tape, people would see what they wanted to see. Changing your mind on a big issue is too painful.

8 comments:

Anton said...

Did Jesus take on the role, or was he the character? That IS the question.

It is a cool find though.

The Whited Sepulchre said...

Anton,
That's a great way to look at the question.
Or you could ask, "are the gospels merely a posthumous attempt to make the life of a renegade rabbi fit the role?"

Steve said...

The better question is, "where can we find the original text / translation?"

Does all the commentary and discussion on this have to be relegated to reinterpretations of what a NYT author has revealed?

RLM said...

I am stunned by the complete absence of real scholarship here...I am only reading bias and obvious agendas. The entire old testament canon is filled with messianic prophecies, even of death and resurrection, particularly in the Psalms, Isaiah, and in Daniel. To claim that this stone somehow "shakes up" our understanding of Christianity is ludicrous. Read Isaiah 53 and Daniel 9, as well as Psalm 22. A messiah who would die and be resurrected runs throughout the canon, it is not an invention of first century Christians. Please, do some research of older (not contemporary) Jewish 'scholars' and you will see a suffering, dying, and even resurrected messiah. Jesus rebuked his early followers many times for not believing in these prophecies in the old testament canon. This stone (if authentic) is merely a reflection of prophecy that already existed in Jewish scripture.

Anonymous said...

If a "renegade rabbi", "character", or any person could just raise from the dead to fit or fulfill these writings, that must be the One. Can anyone just make themselves resurrect from the dead? Some people don't allow themselves to believe, and still would not believe if it happened right in front of them. It's kinda like that veil that the bible tells us about.

The Whited Sepulchre said...

Steve,
So far, that is the case. I've not been able to find a transcript of what is actually on the tablet. From what I understand even a "translation" might be extremely controversial, since the NYT article leads the reader to believe that it can be interpreted as a contemporary event or as a prophetic document.

RLM,
Precisely. You (and I) are conditioned to look at Isaiah 53 as a prophecy. But if you look very, very closely, you'll see that it's written in the past tense. It refers to something that has already happened. Daniel 9:25-27 is vague enough to refer to almost anything. The 22nd Psalm was obviously the source material for parts of the crucifixion narrative. But nowhere in that Psalm does it say "this is a prophecy".

I have read quite a bit of research. (Been doing it my whole life.) And the scholars who, to me, make the most sense and who aren't trying to conform to a doctrinal bias tend to write that the prophetic words and works of Jesus were superimposed on his life after his death. The Jewish tradition had become stale, Jesus had preached a new and different path, and casting Jesus as a fulfillment of Messianic prophecy was a way to give further validation to his teachings.

For instance, if I were to write of my great-great grandfather returning from the Civil War and turning his cavalry sword into a plow and fashioning his bayonet into a pruning hook, that's not a fulfillment of the prophecy in Isaiah 2:4. That's just me trying to pump some biblical symbolism into my family history. I believe that the Gospel writers, with good intentions, did the same thing with the life of Jesus.

And your comment that "This stone (if authentic) is merely a reflection of prophecy that already existed in Jewish scripture" confirms my point in the original post. This stone tablet isn't going to change anyone's mind about anything.

Museum Ethics Controversy said...

I would submit that this "ancient tablet" is probably another sensationalist scam, as is clearly indicated by the facts

(1) that no specific information is available on its provenance and

(2) that no details are provided on carbon dating of the ink.

As such, this "news" brings to mind the faked Lost-Tomb-of-Jesus "documentary" designed to make a profit off of people's fascination with the "real" Jesus, as well as the larger scandal of the biased and misleading way the Dead Sea scrolls are being presented in museum exhibits around the world, with an antisemitic expression appearing on a government-run North Carolina museum's website. See, e.g.,

http://spinozaslens.com/libet/articles/dworkin_ethicsofexhibition.htm

and

http://blog.news-record.com/staff/frontpew/archives/2008/06/dead_sea_scroll.shtml.

Anonymous. said...

whatever it is . its tru jesus is real and hes not just a fairyTale . pray and u well see . trust jesus and he will show you the truth . and you well know he is the messiah.