Leonardo"s Notebook by Mattheus Mei

I have been impressed with the urgency of doing. Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Being willing is not enough; we must do.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Will Gabriel's Revelation revolutionize Christology?

Leshloshet yamin khayeh, ani Gavriel, gozer alekha, sar hasarin: In three days, live, I, Gabriel, command you prince of princes.

The NYTimes has a piece about a stone tablet that was discovered a decade ago in the Transjordan and which happened to be rediscovered a few years ago in the basement of a Swill collectors attic.

This stone of course is no insignificant find as it contains text from the first century BCE, text that may elucidate the minds of modern scholars on the nature 1st century Jewish belief and custom, and has significance to scholars of Christianity as well because of the implications of the above quote.

From chemical testing and other scholarly works which are pending and those which have been available since last year there suggest at least one thing, that there is little doubt about the authenticity of the tablet and its "aging." The only questions looming for academics is if they can determine that the information on the tablet is sect specific, such as many of the Dead Sea Scrolls are presumed to be or if they offer insights into transsectarian beliefs and practice of 1st century Judaism.

For some scholars though it is already answering at least one question which is whether or not the idea of a catastrophic messianism was a peculiar ideology to the early Christians or a part of the wider Jewish theology. The dating of the tablet and it's text lend credence to the latter says Israel Knohl,

...it is connected to the Jewish revolt in the Land of Israel following the death of King Herod in 4 B.C.E. This Jewish insurrection was brutally suppressed by the armies of Herod and the Roman emperor Augustus, and the messianic leaders of the revolt were killed. These events set the slain Messiah Son of Joseph tradition into motion and paved the way for the emergence of the concept of "catastrophic messianism." Interpretations of biblical text helped to shape the belief that the death of the messiah was a necessary and indivisible component of salvation. My conclusion, based on apocalyptic writings dating to this period, was that certain groups believed the messiah would die, be resurrected in three days, and ascend to heaven...
Mr. Knohl and other scholars disagree on who the messianic figure in the text referenced to is, Mr Knohl asserting that this stone being found in the Transjordan is very much in line with the rebellion of messianic figure named Simon in 4BCE, others being more cautious in because of the lack of text and missing text and illegible text.

The Times though concludes their article with a powerful statement
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.”

His concept of course has always been a concept shared by the church, that Jesus' salvific act was meant for the redemption of Israel, and that it was later divinely revealed and handed down to be an open act of love for all mankind, or at least that's what the rest of the New Testament outside of the Gospels suggest.

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Gashwin said...

Um. This is interesting for sure, but I'll want to read a lot more, and not just something that any secular MSM outlet produces.

"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." Someone needs to go back and read the Catechism a bit more. The fulfillment of the law, as well as the redemption of Israel was very much at the heart of Jesus' mission.

As to historicity, a little time spent with Tom Wright's Magisterial Three Volume, "The New Testament and the Kingdom of God" puts the whole thing in a new light. Forgiveness of sins and the redemption of Israel are intimately related concepts.

Finally --- if this is correct, then it absolutely undercuts the revisionist view that because there was no precedent for a suffering Messiah who would die and rise in Judaism, then these ideas must have been interpolated by the later Gospel writers. Well, guess what, this was a part of Jewish Messianism in the Second Temple period.

Of course, this betrays a huge philosophical fallacy, that goes well beyond the limits of history, when it suggests that there really can be no genuinely new ideas.

Which is a load of hogwash.

Gashwin said...

Umm, that's Tom Wright's "The New Testament and the Question of God." Mea culpa. The three volumes are: 1) The New Testament and the People of God and 2) Jesus and the Victory of God and 3) The Resurrection of the Son of God.

St. Elizabeth of Cayce said...

Literalist question here:

Maybe I'm missing something. If there was a precedent in Jewish thinking for a Messiah who would suffer and rise three days after death, then would that not be yet another way that God would have worked to prepare those in His chosen people who would listen for the salvation available from Jesus after His resurrection? It would fit in with the other suffering servant prophecies from Isaiah and the Psalms.

3000 people, mostly Jews, many of them "tourists", believed Pdeter's report on the day of Pentecost and acceptsd yhis risen Messiah. If this stone helps demonstrate the existence of yet another prophetic preparation given to those people, how does this create a problem?

(Cynic moment) Unless some scholar somewhere is saying that the resurrection story was made up and now we know whose belief system it was invented to fit...

Answers welcome...

Mark said...

The last sentence of the NYTimes article was italicized in my head too. Ding!

But why make only a literal interpretation of the New Testament?

Perhaps the last sentence should read:

To shed blood is not only to bring redemption to Israel but also for the sins of people.

Here are two parallel stories, one literal - the revolt and the rise of Israel - and one figurative - the catastrophic messiah shedding blood for our sins.

The suffering messiah was, if Gabriel's Revelation is authenticated and agreed on, an established archetype in the century before the Christian Era, and the Jesus story is an overlay on this existing archetype.

Mattheus Mei said...

St. Liz, good call it does fit in! what scholars are coming to realize is that the notion in the new testament is of course not a novelty, but, somewhat of an historical schema of the Israelites of the 1st centuries of both the common era and previous era, or at the very least that such ideas, if not shared by all Jewish people, were held by various groups and were recognizable concepts.

It's funny because the Times article also says “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,” I tend to fill that most people will relate to the latter, although I'm sure there are anti-semitic Christian groups who may feel the former.

I'm agreeing with you Gashwin, this definitely undercuts the entire precept of the modern historical Jesus movement outside of folks like LTJ and NT Wright - I guess it really throws a monkey wrench at folks like John D Crossan and the likes. Oh and the italicised part about the last supper, I'm quoting the Jewish Historian Israel Knohl who has no concept of Catholic teaching or at the very least, very little.

To Mark: Yes! We see the archetypal model already established in the Jewish mindset, again if it's not something fervently held to by all the Jews of the time, most if not all would have been aware of such beliefs of certain sects - a crude comparison but think of modern Christianity, just because I'm not a presbyterian doesn't mean I'm not peripherally aware of the theology of Calvinism. I wouldn't go so far to say though that just because the archetype existed somehow that takes value away from the Jesus movement and make the assertions of the gospel any less true.

gclmobile said...

Exactly. I found the "interpretation" almost funny. I mean, another prediction of a suffering Messiah OBVIOUSLY adds more support to the Christian belief that Jesus WAS the Messiah. You have to go out of your way to say: "well, people were already talking about a suffering Messiah who would die and be raised in 3 days, so that means Jesus "adopted" this belief." No, it means he WAS the suffering Messiah! DUH.

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.,




Gashwin said...

Put up a post on this with links to coverage in the Catholic blogosphere.

Robert said...

Oh my... gclmobile, you hit it on the head. Those making such comments obviously don't know Christians believe.

First of all, Christians will not be shocked or even slightly bothered. And as for the later, does not every Christian believe in the same messiah predicted by the prophets in the old testament "the same books that make up the Torah"? So, Christians have been enjoying this comfort ever since Jesus Christ died and rose from the dead 3 days later.

As for Christianity not being the originators of the concept... Why on earth does any one care? Why don't they look at all the prophecies he did full fill based on the fortelling of the prophets of the old testament and run a analysis and story on it. Then their might be some "Shock".

Christians will only find this news exciting and be glad of it. It won't matter if it's proven true or not. If true, they can say "SEE!" If false, their faith will continue to guide them.

Anonymous said...

Retired professor, Stan Seidner contends that it reflects the Apocalyptic beliefs of the day, many which are found in the Dead Sea Scrolls, as antecedent and predictive writings of Christianity. He also suggested the use of infra-red technological applications, similar to what had been utilized on Dead Sea Scroll Material in the recent past. Challenging Knohl's "Two Messiahs" theory, Seidner noted that, "Knohl’s reliance upon what he calls, the 'Glorification Hymn,' in support of a first Messiah’s relationship with King Herod, failed in its Carbon 14 testing. It predates Herod’s ascendency to the throne by at least twelve years and as much as one hundred and fifty six." However, he does agree with Knohl's interpretation of the inscription,"to rise from the dead within three days." Stanley S. Seidner, "The Knohl Hypothesis and 'Hazon Gabriel,'" June 3, 2009.

Anonymous said...

For Jewish scholars, such as myself, it is a source of frustration Dr Seidner's critique is not accessible on the Web. If someone can forward a PDF to me -- stephanpickering@redshift.com -- this will be most appreciated.
Reb Knohl has released his analyses: Messiahs & resurrection in 'The Gabriel Revelation' (Continuum), 122pp
Shalom welitra'ot.
STEPHAN PICKERING / Chofetz Chayim ben-Avraham