08 July 2008

Resurrection -- A Christian Rip-Off?

"Gabriel's Revelation" is a 1 metre long tablet with ink writing that has been dated to the period just before Jesus was immaculately born into this world. The tablet is said to challenge the uniqueness of the Christian story of the resurrection and is also said to suggest that Jesus and his followers may have misappropriated an earlier version of the resurrection story to fulfill their own ends.

The tablet only has 87 lines and some think it to be part of the Dead Sea Scrolls and in some way associated with John the Baptist. However, it might not be as cut and dried as some might have us believe. The best part of the tablet is smudged and therefore requires some creative interpretation. This is what the believers need to say that those interpreting the tablet to say that Jesus and his disciples misappropriated the resurrection scenario from somewhere else have it wrong.

The smudged passage might say that "after three days in the grave the messiah will raise again". If this is true and the tablet has been accurately dated then it stands to reason that there was a resurrection story pre-dating the resurrection of Jesus. The question then is, was Jesus aware of the story and did he co-opt it for his own purposes? Then again who cares and does it make any difference to the accounts of the event laid out in the Gospels?

The critical line is the 80th line which begins with "In three days ..." and a little further on includes the verb "to live". It has been suggested that the passage refers to a Jewish rebel named Simon who was killed in 4BC by the Romans. The passage apparently reads in full that the angel Gabriel commands Simon to live again after three days.

The argument goes that it was the Christian texts that influenced the Jewish texts on the resurrection idea. However, this revelation would seem to suggest that the opposite is true; the Jewish texts influenced the Christian texts. It must be noted that Christian scholars do not accept this interpretation and this is hardly surprising considering what is at stake.

The tablet is owned by a Swiss-Israeli antiques collector named David Jeselsohn (pictured). I am certain that there will be more to this story in the future...

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