Re: [asa] Tablet ignites debate on messiah and resurrection

From: Steve Martin <steven.dale.martin@gmail.com>
Date: Mon Jul 07 2008 - 15:03:01 EDT

This current discussion reminds me of Tom Harpur's claims in "The Pagan
Christ <http://www.tomharpur.com/books/books_thepaganchrist.asp>". Tom is
a former Anglican priest who was part of well-known Evangelical Anglican
parish here in Toronto but moved well outside the bounds of Christian
orthodoxy long, long ago; in some ways, you can think of him as Canada's
version of Spong. Harpur's claims are that the Christian church invented
much of its early history and that the death and resurrection of the Son of
God is based on an ancient Egyptian Myth. (Actually I think there are
other ancient myths eg. Norse where divine entities die for humanity - my
response: so what?) I still haven't got around to reading the Pagan Christ
(it is still sitting on my shelf - well down in the reading queue), and the
reviews I've read haven't made me either bump it up in the queue or cause me
any serious faith concerns.

This tablet story may be interesting. As Jack alludes, I'll be very
interested in hearing NT Wright's response to this. However, I'm not sure
this story should concern us that much concern either. Some other comments
on the story:

   -
   http://fireandrose.blogspot.com/2008/07/tabletgate-crisis-for-christian-faith.html
   -
   http://www.firstthings.com/blog/2008/07/06/pre-christian-tablet-says-messiah-will-rise-in-three-days/
   -
   http://evangelicalinerrancy.blogspot.com/2008/07/ancient-pre-christian-tablet-prophecy.html
(commenting
   on the first things response)

thanks,

On 7/7/08, David Opderbeck <dopderbeck@gmail.com> wrote:
>
> Ben Witherington's take:
>
> http://benwitherington.blogspot.com/2008/07/death-and-resurrection-of-messiah.html
>
>
> On Mon, Jul 7, 2008 at 1:02 PM, Christine Smith <
> christine_mb_smith@yahoo.com> wrote:
>
>> Hi all,
>>
>> Thanks for the interesting post Moorad :)
>>
>> Two questions on archeological dating techniques
>> mentioned here:
>>
>> "Yardeni, who analyzed the stone along with Binyamin
>> Elitzur, is an
>> expert on Hebrew script, especially of the era of
>> King Herod, who died in 4
>> BC The two of them published a long analysis of the
>> stone more than a
>> year ago in Cathedra, a Hebrew-language quarterly
>> devoted to the
>> history and archaeology of Israel, and said that,
>> based on the shape of the
>> script and the language, the text dated from the late
>> first century BC
>>
>> A chemical examination by Yuval Goren, a professor of
>> archaeology at
>> Tel Aviv University who specializes in the
>> verification of ancient
>> artifacts, has been submitted to a peer-review
>> journal. He declined to give
>> details of his analysis until publication, but he
>> said that he knew of
>> no reason to doubt the stone's authenticity."
>>
>>
>> I assume the "chemical examination" referred to would
>> be a form of carbon dating, yes? If so, and also with
>> respect to the linguistic techniques referenced, what
>> kind of error/uncertainty would be expected with such
>> techniques? Can we really definitively say that the
>> writing would date from late first century BC, rather
>> than early/mid first century AD (i.e. how confident
>> can we be that this didn't stem from the time of
>> Christ's teaching and ressurrection?)
>>
>> Thanks for the clarification :)
>> In Christ,
>> Christine (ASA member)
>>
>>
>> --- "Alexanian, Moorad" <alexanian@uncw.edu> wrote:
>>
>> >
>> http://www.iht.com/articles/2008/07/05/africa/06stone.php
>> >
>> > Tablet ignites debate on messiah and resurrection
>> > By Ethan Bronner
>> >
>> > Saturday, July 5, 2008
>> >
>> > JERUSALEM: A three-foot-tall tablet with 87 lines of
>> > Hebrew that scholars believe dates from the decades
>> > just before the birth of Jesus is causing a quiet
>> > stir in biblical and archaeological circles,
>> > especially because it may speak of a messiah who
>> > will rise from the dead after three days.
>> >
>> > 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.
>> >
>> > The tablet, probably found near the Dead Sea in
>> > Jordan according to some scholars who have studied
>> > it, is a rare example of a stone with ink writings
>> > from that era - in essence, a Dead Sea Scroll on
>> > stone.
>> >
>> > It is written, not engraved, across two neat
>> > columns, similar to columns in a Torah. But the
>> > stone is broken, and some of the text is faded,
>> > meaning that much of what it says is open to debate.
>> >
>> > Still, its authenticity has so far faced no
>> > challenge, so its role in helping to understand the
>> > roots of Christianity in the devastating political
>> > crisis faced by the Jews of the time seems likely to
>> > increase.
>> >
>> > Daniel Boyarin, a professor of Talmudic culture at
>> > the University of California at Berkeley, said that
>> > the stone was part of a growing body of evidence
>> > suggesting that Jesus could be best understood
>> > through a close reading of the Jewish history of his
>> > day.
>> >
>> > "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," Boyarin said.
>> >
>> > Given the highly charged atmosphere surrounding all
>> > Jesus-era artifacts and writings, both in the
>> > general public and in the fractured and fiercely
>> > competitive scholarly community, as well as the
>> > concern over forgery and charlatanism, it will
>> > probably be some time before the tablet's
>> > contribution is fully assessed. It has been around
>> > 60 years since the Dead Sea Scrolls were uncovered,
>> > and they continue to generate enormous controversy
>> > regarding their authors and meaning.
>> >
>> > The scrolls, documents found in the Qumran caves of
>> > the West Bank, contain some of the only known
>> > surviving copies of biblical writings from before
>> > the first century AD In addition to quoting from key
>> > books of the Bible, the scrolls describe a variety
>> > of practices and beliefs of a Jewish sect at the
>> > time of Jesus.
>> >
>> > How representative the descriptions are and what
>> > they tell us about the era are still strongly
>> > debated. For example, a question that arises is
>> > whether the authors of the scrolls were members of a
>> > monastic sect or in fact mainstream. A conference
>> > marking 60 years since the discovery of the scrolls
>> > will begin on Sunday at the Israel Museum in
>> > Jerusalem, where the stone, and the debate over
>> > whether it speaks of a resurrected messiah, as one
>> > iconoclastic scholar believes, also will be
>> > discussed.
>> >
>> > Oddly, the stone is not really a new discovery. It
>> > was found about a decade ago and bought from a
>> > Jordanian antiquities dealer by an Israeli-Swiss
>> > collector who kept it in his Zurich home. When an
>> > Israeli scholar examined it closely a few years ago
>> > and wrote a paper on it last year, interest began to
>> > rise. There is now a spate of scholarly articles on
>> > the stone, with several due to be published in the
>> > coming months.
>> >
>> > "I couldn't make much out of it when I got it," said
>> > David Jeselsohn, the owner, who is himself an expert
>> > in antiquities. "I didn't realize how significant it
>> > was until I showed it to Ada Yardeni, who
>> > specializes in Hebrew writing, a few years ago. She
>> > was overwhelmed. 'You have got a Dead Sea Scroll on
>> > stone,' she told me."
>> >
>> > Much of the text, a vision of the apocalypse
>> > transmitted by the angel Gabriel, draws on the Old
>> > Testament, especially the prophets Daniel, Zechariah
>> > and Haggai.
>> >
>> > Yardeni, who analyzed the stone along with Binyamin
>> > Elitzur, is an expert on Hebrew script, especially
>> > of the era of King Herod, who died in 4 BC The two
>> > of them published a long analysis of the stone more
>> > than a year ago in Cathedra, a Hebrew-language
>> > quarterly devoted to the history and archaeology of
>> > Israel, and said that, based on the shape of the
>> > script and the language, the text dated from the
>> > late first century BC
>> >
>> > A chemical examination by Yuval Goren, a professor
>> > of archaeology at Tel Aviv University who
>> > specializes in the verification of ancient
>> > artifacts, has been submitted to a peer-review
>> > journal. He declined to give details of his analysis
>> > until publication, but he said that he knew of no
>> > reason to doubt the stone's authenticity.
>> >
>> > It was in Cathedra that Israel Knohl, an
>> > iconoclastic professor of Bible studies at Hebrew
>> > University in Jerusalem, first heard of the stone,
>> > which Yardeni and Elitzur dubbed "Gabriel's
>> > Revelation," also the title of their article. 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.
>> >
>> > When he read "Gabriel's Revelation," he said, he
>> > believed he saw what he needed to solidify his
>> > thesis, and he has published his argument in the
>> > latest issue of The Journal of Religion.
>> >
>> > 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 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, 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,
>> > 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 Yardeni and Elitzur,
>> > but 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.
>> >
>> > Two more hard-to-read words come later, and Knohl
>> > said he believed that he had deciphered them as
>> > well, so that the line reads, "In three days you
>> > shall live, I, Gabriel, command you."
>> >
>> > To whom is the archangel speaking? The next line
>> > says "Sar hasarin," or prince of princes. Since the
>> > Book of Daniel, one of the primary sources for the
>> > Gabriel text, speaks of Gabriel and of "a prince of
>> > princes," Knohl contends that the stone's writings
>> > are about the death of a leader of the Jews who will
>> > be resurrected in three days.
>> >
>> > He says further that such a suffering messiah is
>> > very different from the traditional Jewish image of
>> > the messiah as a triumphal, powerful descendant of
>> > King David.
>> >
>> > "This should shake our basic view of Christianity,"
>> > he said as he sat in his office of the Shalom
>> > Hartman Institute in Jerusalem where he is a senior
>> > fellow in addition to being the Yehezkel Kaufman
>> > Professor of Biblical Studies at Hebrew University.
>> > "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
>>
>> === message truncated ===
>>
>>
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>
>
>
> --
> David W. Opderbeck
> Associate Professor of Law
> Seton Hall University Law School
> Gibbons Institute of Law, Science & Technology

-- 
Steve Martin (CSCA)
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Received on Mon Jul 7 15:03:30 2008

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