Monday, July 07, 2008

Gabriel Revelation

I came across this article from Haaretz on a new archaeological discovery relating to early Christianity called the Gabriel Revelation (here) which was discovered more than a year ago. Time magazine has a more popular version (here). James Tabor has an interesting rundown with relevant links on his blog (here). No doubt all the major newspapers will carry a story on this one -- if they have not already. The interpretation of the text is dependent on both semantic range of the language and text-critical reconstructions.

"The Gabriel Revelation thus confirms my thesis that the belief in a salin [sic] and resurrected messiah existed prior to the messianic activity of Jesus. The publication of this text is extraordinarily important. It is a discovery that calls for a complete reassessment of all previous scholarship on the subject of messianism, Jewish and Christian alike." (
Israel Knohl, first link)


  1. This stone was purchased by David Jeselsohn in 1998, so I don't think this can be called a 'recent' discovery. Of course, it's hard to believe that David didn't have it examined before forking out the money for it.

    One thing that strikes me as I read the gospels: Jesus was somewhat angry (Yes Bart, he was angry quite often) with those claiming to be informed about the OT. I really don't think all Jews were clueless as to a suffering and dying Messiah who would also have to somehow reign forever. How do you get from a death (as Daniel 9 indicates) to a eternally reigning Messiah without a resurrection. Daniel brings up the resurrection in Ch 12 with very little expectation that his readers would be surprised.
    If Jesus was upset with his contemporaries for not understanding his mission, perhaps we should not be so surprised by this Dead Sea Stone. Any thoughts?

    Tyler Reeves

  2. How secure is this date? Is there any strong reason to exclude the possibility that this text was written AFTER Jesus' advent?

  3. wouldn't it be a bit silly to write a text predicting a dying and rising messiah if the tradition that Jesus as the messiah had died and risen was already a tradition? I didn't think it was the date that was in doubt so much as the reconstruction of the text, considering the fragmented state of it.

  4. Tyler: I guess it depends on what you refer to as the discovery. While the stone was purchased ten years ago, the owner did not realize that it was of particular interest until three years ago when it was examined by an antiquities dealer. The hype surrounding the manuscript is more recent still.

    ANON: The date (end of 1 cent BCE) appears to be based on linguistic features and paleography. The dating appears to be firm, but we will have to see if it holds. I am not sure how certain we can be about the chronology of Hebrew dialect and paleography. Anybody know about this?

    Steph: The reconstruction of the text really is the big issue, and additionally we have to ask what the significance would be if the 3-day resurrected messiah story was pre-Jesus. Would it be a surprise in light of the gospels? In fact, it seems highly likely according to other texts already known (see Knohl's full scholarly article here). According to the gospels, the 3-day resurrected messiah story was prophesied in the OT. Would the Gabriel Hazon undermine the idea that the apocalyptic material in the gospels was a later accretion?

  5. Christian: That's what I understood and I've already read Knohl's full article.

  6. Well, I haven't looked closely into this. And since at least one of the folks pushing this text has a history of making sensationalistic but unsubstantiated claims, I think I'll adopt a wait-and-see approach to this. But, intially, one question popped into my mind: why isn't this some sort of pesher-text based on the last part of Hosea 5 and the first part of Hosea 6?

    Yours in Christ,

    James Snapp, Jr.