Sunday, July 6, 2008

Sunday Thought--The Three Foot Stone

I came across an article written by an Ethan Bronner (of the New York Times News Service) today while browsing through The Idaho Statesman. The article talked about a three foot stone that was discovered over ten years ago near the Dead Sea in Jordan, but only recently studied by scholars. Instead of engravings, the tablet was written on with ink, in two columns similar to the Torah. It contains 87 lines of Hebrew, but the stone is broken in places and some of the ink has faded. Experts don’t seem to doubt its authenticity (although the results of chemical tests to determine authenticity are still to be published) and are dating the text back to the first Century B.C.

The article stated, “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. The expression ‘Thus saith the Lord of Hosts, the God of Israel’ appears many times, as does the name Jerusalem”.

The text that is stirring biblical and archaeological circles (according to the article) is the part that “may speak of a messiah who will rise from the dead after three days.” The article points out that this would suggest “that the story of his [Christ’s] death and resurrection was not unique but part of a recognized Jewish tradition at the time.” Daniel Boyarin, a professor of Talmudic culture at Cal Berkeley, reportedly speculates, “some Christians will find it shocking—a challenge to the uniqueness of their theology”. My guess is that some Jews may challenge the authenticity or themselves be just as shocked as some of the Christians Dr. Boyarin referenced. Some will likely ascribe the messianic prophesy as the strange beliefs of some Dead Sea cult rather than accept that Jewish tradition may indeed have actually contained prophesies of a Messiah who would do exactly what most Christians purport Christ to have done.

Mormons will likely just yawn (in a ‘nothing new here’ sort of way). Or like most readers, skip the article entirely since it mentions “Dead Sea Scroll” in the subtitle.

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