Recently, a discovery was made that may, in a way, turn out to rival the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls in its significance for the history of Christianity. That discovery has been popularly dubbed ‘the Gabriel Stone’, and it just may turn out to have roughly the same effect on liberal religion departments that another, much larger stone had on the dinosaurs: extinction. My fingers are crossed.
Let me back up though. In 1985, a group of about 150 self-proclaimed religious scholars assembled with the intent of analyzing the earliest Christian writings to uncover the historical Jesus. Among the members of the Jesus Seminar, many of them seem to (quite unashamedly) believe that God doesn’t intervene in the world, and some are skeptical of even the existence of God. Inevitably then, the picture they paint of the true, historical Jesus is quite different from the Jesus one encounters in the New Testament. For a good explanation and defense of this position on Jesus, just download Thomas Sheehan’s Historical Jesus class from the Stanford iTunes U page. It’s free. Anyway:
At the heart of the Jesus Seminar’s picture of the historical Jesus is the belief that Jesus did not think of himself as the divinely-ordained Messiah, did not see his death as playing a saving role for humanity, and did not think of himself as divine in any sense. This picture of Jesus is largely supported, so says the Jesus Seminar, by the fact that there was absolutely no belief during Jesus’ day in a dying messiah, a resurrection of a single person, or a messiah whose death would bring about the salvation of the world. And, since these ideas didn’t exist in Jesus’ day, they must be inventions of the early church. So reasons the Jesus seminar. That’s important for the rest of this, so you might want to reread it to get it at the front of your mind. This ‘liberal’ (what a dumb term) picture of Jesus has nearly completely taken over university religious departments.
Well, enter the Gabriel Stone. Recently Israeli-Swedish artifacts collector, David Jeselsohn, had a piece of his private home collection examined by a scholar of ancient Judaism. What they discovered may start a revolution in religious thought, and one that may utterly destroy the Jesus Seminar’s conception of Jesus, along with the current picure of Jesus fed to most every student of religion in secular (and most ‘religious’) universities. Why?
Well, the Gabriel Stone, basically a large sheet of rock with several columns of Hebrew writing on it, documents a prophecy supposedly spoken by the angel Gabriel to an ambiguous Messianic figure who is facing execution. Now, execution would surely be taken as special kind of slap in the face by any messiah figure, since the messiah was supposed to be the one who would defeat the evil powers of the world (esp. the ones ruling over Israel) and establish Israel as God’s shining kingdom. Execution for Messiah by pagan authorities just isn’t normally thought of as part of the program. And this is the exact point made by most ‘liberal’ Jesus scholars who say that, since no one before Jesus believed that Messiah would die at the hands of his enemies, then the Christian idea that Jesus (the Messiah) was executed by Rome and later Resurrected by God must just be a story the early church made up. For the longest time, Christian scholars haven’t had much to say back either. Largely they’ve admitted that this was a new idea that began with Jesus. The Gabriel Stone, however, has something shocking to say here.
So far, having been dated around the late first century b.c.e. – just before Jesus – the prophecy of the angel Gabriel to the soon-to-die messiah includes the following (translated) statements:
In three days you will know that evil will be defeated by justice
In three days you shall live, I, Gabriel, command you.
It should be noted that the term live is spelled oddly, but Israel Knohl, professor of Bible studies at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, affirms that the spelling is in line with the era in which it was written. If this translation is accurate though (and it seems that no scholar has strongly contested the translation) the implications are massive. No longer can the same arguments be made that the Resurrection of Jesus didn’t take place, or that Jesus was a failed Messiah, and that the church made it all up. Why? Because those arguments are based on the idea that no one could have taken a dying Messiah seriously in the first century (including Jesus). If the Gabriel Stone is deemed authentic though, we now have irrefutable evidence that there did exist in ancient Judaism the idea that Messiah would suffer, die, and be vindicated (in three days!), and that this sequence of events would contribute to the salvation of Israel and the world.
The Jesus of the earliest Christian scriptures, then, will be found squarely rooted in the Judaism of his day, and can no longer be dismissed as a wishful fabrication of his first, broken-hearted followers, and so many who have (maybe honorably) lost their faith in the shadow of skepticism will be able to follow Jesus, the Messiah, with solid intellectual conscience.
So, I hope it’s legit. Even though, if the stone turns out to be a fake, it doesn’t hurt Christianity’s orthodox conception of Christ. It has been shown, very powerfully, by authors like N.T. Wright and Gary Habermas that the Jesus of scripture is not at all a fanciful fabrication of the early church, but is historically defensible.