Jesus, The Messiah and Christianity

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Jesus has been viewed as healer, moral teacher, reformer, apocalyptic preacher, radical, revolutionary, and, ultimately and most importantly, the Messiah. The word messiah is an English version of the Hebrew word moshiach, which means "anointed." Jews believe that God will appoint a messiah, a descendant of King David, who will end evil, rebuild the Temple, return exiles to Israel and save the world. The dead will be resurrected in the "Time to Come," or in Hebrew, Olam Ha-Ba, the afterlife. Judaism's split with Christianity came about primarily because of this belief. Christians believe that Jesus Christ was the Messiah, while Jews do not. [Source:]

After the completion of his 40 day fast after his baptism Jesus took up the role of an itinerant rabbi and wandered the countryside preaching. . People began calling him the Messiah and he began drawing people to him. Professor John Dominic Crossan told PBS: “Jesus talks quite clearly about the Kingdom of God, and there's no hesitation about it. And that means this is the will of God. Jesus is making statements about what God wants for the earth. And there is no "The word of the Lord came to me," or there's no "I've thought about this." It seems self-evident. I think that's exactly what it is for Jesus.[Source: John Dominic Crossan, Professor Emeritus of Religious Studies DePaul University, Frontline, PBS, April 1998]

“Now, his followers are going to ask him, of course, a very obvious question, "Who are you?" And I find no problems that during the life of Jesus, certain of his followers could have said, "He is divine." And by divine, meaning, "This is where we see God at work. This is the way we see God" or, "He is the Messiah." But then, they'll have to interpret the Messiah in the light of what Jesus is doing. He doesn't seem to be a militant Messiah, or maybe we would like him to be a militant Messiah. All of those options could have been there during the life of Jesus. I have no evidence whatsoever that Jesus was in the least bit concerned with accepting any of them, or even discussing any of them. He was the one who announced the Kingdom of God.

Websites and Resources: Jesus and the Historical Jesus Britannica on Jesus Jesus-Christ ; PBS Frontline From Jesus to Christ ; Life and Ministry of Jesus Christ ; Jesus Central ; Catholic Encyclopedia: Jesus Christ ; Complete Works of Josephus at Christian Classics Ethereal Library (CCEL) ; Christianity BBC on Christianity ; Sacred Texts website ; Candida Moss at the Daily Beast Daily Beast Christian Answers ; Bible: Bible Gateway and the New International Version (NIV) of The Bible ; King James Version of the Bible Biblical History: Bible History Online ; Biblical Archaeology Society

Was Jesus a Messiah?

From the Gospels it appear that Jesus considered himself, and was considered by many Jews to be the Jewish Messiah. Jews discounted Jesus as the messiah when he died at the hands of the Romans instead of taking them to paradise. Many scholars seem to view Jesus as more of a Messiah-designate than a Messiah because a Messiah is supposed to have presided over the End of the World and Jesus didn’t do that. Through his death and resurrection he changed the equation from a Jewish messiah to Christian martyr who removed the barrier between man and god and defeated the powers of evil.

There were others that were considered the Messiah. In A.D. 132, a leader named Kochva, set up a Jewish state supported by 200,000 soldiers that endured for three years. Hailed as a messiah, Kochva reportedly rode a lion, fought in the front lines with his soldiers and defeated an entire Roman legion before he was brought under control.

Jaroslav Pelikan wrote: “For Rabbi and Prophet yielded to two other categories, each of them likewise expressed in an Aramaic word and then in its Greek translation: Messias, the Aramaic form of "Messiah," translated into Greek as ho Christos, "Christ," the Anointed One (John 1:41, 4:25); and Marana, "our Lord," in the liturgical formula Maranatha, "Our Lord, come!" translated into Greek as ho Kyrios (1 Cor. 16:22). The future belonged to these titles and to the identification of him as the Son of God and second person of the Trinity. But in the process of establishing themselves, Christ and Lord, as well as even Rabbi and Prophet, often lost much of their Semitic content. To the Christian disciples of the first century the conception of Jesus as Rabbi was self-evident, to the Christian disciples of the second century it was embarrassing, to the Christian disciples of the third century and beyond it was obscure. [Source: Jaroslav Pelikan, “The Illustrated Jesus Through the Centuries”, Yale University Press 1997 pp. 9-23, Frontline, PBS, April 1998]

Candida Moss wrote in the Daily Beast: First-century Jews, most of whom were eagerly anticipating the arrival of the messiah, had a number of opinions about what that messiah would be like. Most were hoping for a military or political leader who would overthrow the Jewish authorities and become a ruler like King David. What no one seems to have expected was a Galilean peasant of the artisanal class who would die a humiliating death at the hands of the government. There are some passages in Isaiah that describe a “suffering servant” who would endure mistreatment at the hands of his people, but almost no one read those verses messianically. This doesn’t mean that Jesus wasn’t the messiah, of course – just that he wasn’t what anyone was hoping for. The unexpected nature of Jesus’ ministry explains why Jesus didn’t attract that many followers, but it also posed problems when his followers tried to explain to other people that he really was the Messiah. [Source: Candida Moss, Daily Beast, September 25, 2016]

Jewish Beliefs About The Messiah

In Judaism, the Messiah is expected to the deliverer and king of the Jews as foretold by the prophets of the Old Testament. Jews believe that a Messiah will come to Earth and resurrect the dead, reward the faithful, perhaps taking them away to some paradise or building a paradise on Earth. They believe the Messiah is a god and descendant of David who will come to Earth in the form of a man. Messiah means "anointed one." This term dates back to the time of David when kings were anointed to show their divine election. 2 Samuel states: “great triumph He gives to His king, and shows steadfast love to His anointed.”

While the Temple stood in Jerusalem, the messiahs were the kings of Israel. David and Solomon were all referred to as messiahs, which scholars say suggests that messiah originally meant person with great holiness or religious power. There is some controversy among scholars as to whether “messiah” means "spiritual savior" or "military savior."

After the First Temple was destroyed, the Jewish kingdom was conquered and the Jews were driven from Israel, ideas took root that a new kind of messiah would return to Earth and restore the Temple and bring the Jews back to their homeland in Israel. These ideas became strong when the Second Temple was destroyed and Jews were dispersed around the world, Over time the return of the Messiah came to embrace a larger meaning: the ending of war, the killing of the wicked, the establishment of a covenant with the righteous and the creation of God’s kingdom on Earth.

The Messiah and Christian Theology

Michael J. McClymond wrote in the “Worldmark Encyclopedia of Religious Practices”: The center of Christian theology lies in its affirmations regarding Jesus as Messiah, Lord, Savior, Redeemer, Priest, Prophet, and Returning King. While each generation of Christians has tended to re-create Jesus in its own image, certain doctrines have remained relatively constant. Chief among these is the doctrine of Jesus' divinity, humanity, and unity as a single, undivided person. The term "incarnation" refers to the affirmation that God took on human nature in Jesus: "The Word became flesh and lived among us" (John 1:14). The early Christian councils were largely devoted to elaborating basic doctrines concerning Jesus, with all departures from them defined as heresies. The heresy of Ebionitism presented a Jesus who was human but not divine, while Docetism portrayed Jesus as divine but not human. The Jesus of Arianism was neither fully human nor fully divine. Nestorianism depicted Jesus as divine and human and yet divided into two distinct persons. [Source: Michael J. McClymond, “Worldmark Encyclopedia of Religious Practices”, 2000s,]

Because they believe that salvation is at stake, Christian thinkers of all eras have been preoccupied with describing Jesus' character. In 451 the Council of Chalcedon sought to define the exact relationship between his divine and human natures. Jesus' role as Savior requires that he function as the mediator between God and humanity. Salvation depends on a full and true incarnation of God in human life. As God, Jesus can save fallen humanity; as human, he represents other humans and offers to God the perfect obedience that all owe to God. As a single, undivided person, he brings divinity and humanity into connection. The Incarnation affirms that God enters into human experience, understands humans from the inside out, and validates the material world and physical body through his union with it: "For we do not have a high priest [Jesus] who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sin" (Hebrews 4:15). Because of the Incarnation, human beings find God to be approachable and empathetic.

Not only who Jesus is but also what he does matters for Christian theology. When he wished to summarize the gospel he preached, Paul spoke of two things — the crucifixion of Jesus and his resurrection from the dead (1 Corinthians 15:3–4). Paul writes that through the cross of Jesus God mysteriously identifies himself with the guilt, weakness, and suffering of humanity in order to remove them (1 Corinthians 1:18–31). The doctrine of Atonement states that the death of Jesus is the basis for salvation. Various theories of the Atonement seek to explain this. Jesus' death frees believers from Satan's dominion (classical theory), awakens a love for God by showing the depth of God's love for humans (exemplary theory), presents an offering of perfect obedience to God (Anselmian theory), or serves as vicarious punishment inflicted on Jesus in place of all other humans (substitutionary theory). Each theory offers a partial glimpse into the significance of Jesu's cross. The resurrection of Jesus is his public vindication, whereby he is "declared to be the Son of God with power" (Romans 1:4), and it is the ultimate basis for the Christian hope in life beyond life. Because he rose from the dead, those who believe in him have hope for their own resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:12–22).

Was Jesus the Only Son of God?

Jesus wasn’t the only one who claimed to be the real son of God. Candida Moss wrote in the Daily Beast: The ancient world was home, for a brief period, to a remarkable divine person. Even before he was born, it was clear that he was no ordinary human. Prior to the birth, a figure appeared from heaven to his mother and told her that the child she would deliver was no mere mortal, but a divine being. When he grew up he became an itinerant preacher: he traveled from town to town and village to village proclaiming his message. He gathered disciples, healed the sick, cast out demons, and raised the dead. But his actions attracted negative attention: his opponents fabricated charges against him and he was executed. After his death some of his followers claimed that he had appeared to them; that they had touched him; or that he had ascended into heaven. Some of those followers went on to spread his message and after some time the story of his life was written down. [Source: Candida Moss, Daily Beast, March 02, 2019]

This is not the story of Jesus. The man was born in Central Anatolia; became a follower not of John the Baptist, but Pythagoras; and set up shop at the Temple of Asclepius. This is the story of Apollonius of Tyana, a neo-Pythagorean teacher and holy man of sorts whose biography is preserved in the writings of a later follower named Philostratus. Now, Bible Conspiracies, a new documentary on Amazon, is claiming that the Jesus story is based on that of Apollonius.

It’s easy to see the problem: one of the central claims of Christianity is that Jesus is unique. The parallels between Jesus and Apollonius are even more elaborate than I have described so far; just as with Jesus, supernatural signs occurred at his birth. Just like Jesus (in the Gospel of Luke at least), Apollonius was something of a child prodigy. But there is one, pretty substantial problem with the idea that followers of Jesus just borrowed from the Life of Apollonius story: Philostratus wrote in the third century A.D., after followers of Jesus had already written down the four canonical gospels we find in the New Testament. So even if they were influenced by the stories about Apollonius, they certainly weren’t plagiarizing. But long after their deaths both the followers of Jesus and those of Apollonius would claim that the others group followed a fraud and that their founder was the true Son of God.

But the Apollonius story raises an important question: just how many Sons of God were there in the ancient Mediterranean? And the answer is: more than you would think. In the first place there were “godly men” like Apollonius of Tyana, Asclepius, and Pythagoras. These were seemingly human individuals whose powers defied ordinary experience. And, certainly in the case of Apollonius, they left a group of followers behind them. Then there were others who actually promoted themselves as “Sons of God.” Foremost among them was Augustus, adopted son of Julius Caesar, whose propaganda presented him as “son of the divine Julius Caesar.” And, like Apollonius, Augustus was a rough contemporary of Jesus (he died in 14 A.D.). Coins describing him as a “son of God” flooded the ancient Mediterranean, including the regions of Judea and Galilee. Other emperors, like Vespasian, were rumoured to have performed miraculous healings. According to the historian Cassius Dio, rumors of Vespasian healing people circulated in Egypt. Stories like this almost certainly functioned like propaganda, but they nevertheless contribute to the general sense that special men could heal the sick.

The idea that a human being could be the child of the gods actually goes back further, to the ancient Greeks. Not only was Zeus known for fathering numerous heroic figures (like Herakles), Alexander the Great promoted the idea that he, too was divine. Philip II of Macedonia, his father, claimed to be a descendant of Herakles, while the priests at the temple at Siwa told Alexander he was the son of Zeus. And, according to legend, just like Jesus, the birth of Alexander was supported by a number of unusual and miraculous events: lightning bolts that struck without harm; victories in battle; and the strange destruction of the temple of Artemis at Ephesus.

Messiah Fever at the Time Jesus was Born

Jesus was born at a time of social unrest when many Jews were interested in the coming of a Messiah. The unrest can be traced back to the Maccabean revolt in 167 B.C., a nationalist Jewish rebellion against Greek rulers. Many young Jewish men died as martyrs. The Maccabean revolt set off a long period of chaos, social upheaval and expectations of a Messiah.

In Jesus's time Jews regarded the ideal Messiah as a redeemer or Davidic king, who take the faithful to a peaceful world, far different from the chaotic one that people lived in at that time. As a consequence of this religion began to focus more on the destiny of the individual, meting out justice in way that righted injustice of the world and dealt with the afterlife. From out of this grew the concept of a Judgment Day, resurrection and salvation.

Jews, in Jesus's time, believed that the Messiah was more likely to be a strong military leader than a gentle, moralizing preacher. The prophet Isaiah predicting that the Messiah would be a "Prince of Peace" who conquered the Assyrians "like the mire of the streets," reduced Damascus to "a ruinous heap," transformed Babylon into a city inhabited only by owls, satyrs and other "doleful creatures," and in Egypt “turn everyone against his neighbor, city against city, and kingdom against kingdom."

The prophet Jeremiah expressed similar sentiments. According to him, God said that the Philistines "shall cry and all the inhabitants of the land shall howl," the Egyptians "shall be satiate and made drunk with their blood," and the daughters of Ammon shall "be burned in fire" when the Messiah comes.

Messiahs That Jews Expected at the Time of Jesus

Candida Moss wrote in the Daily Beast: “For Jews who lived at the turn of the Common Era, the Messiah (or messiahs in some instances) was very much on their minds. At the time the holy land was occupied and controlled by the Roman Empire, and people wrestled with the economic and political ramifications of foreign occupation. Matthew Novenson, Senior Lecturer in New Testament and Christian Origins at the University of Edinburgh, and author of two books on Messianism, told the Daily Beast that the Messiah was “a kind of mythology, that had a solid foundation in scriptural sources, that was useful for making religious sense of Judea’s complicated political situation in the early Roman Empire.” [Source: Candida Moss, Daily Beast, December 26, 2021]

“There was considerable diversity of thought, however, about what the Messiah would be like. Some claimed that he would be, like King David, a monarch who would lead a successful military rebellion. Others emphasized his prophetic or priestly credentials. Others still, like the inhabitants of Qumran who wrote the Dead Sea Scrolls, seemed to have thought that there would be two messiahs. This model reproduces the organizational structure of ancient Israel, when the people were led by both a King and a High Priest.

“These messiahs, Novenson told me, “were often associated with certain ancient scriptural heroes, in particular Aaron the high priest and King David.” We can see the same tendency among followers of Jesus: “Our sources about Jesus mostly associate him with King David, either saying that he was a descendant of David, or that he did things like David did, or both.” There was no set script here. The messiah was a mythological construct that was constantly being redescribed and reinterpreted. There were other early Christians, Novenson noted, who tried to distance Jesus from David, just as there were ancient Jews who did not appear to care about the idea of a messiah at all.

Anti-Semitic Elements of Christian Messiah Beliefs

Over the centuries, some anti-Semitic elements have been woven into the Christian messiah story. Among these is that Jews couldn’t understand their own scriptures. Candida Moss wrote in the Daily Beast: Jews of Jesus’s day, the argument goes, may have been anticipating a political messiah, but they were fundamentally wrong. The Christian website, for example, connects this supposed misunderstanding about the Messiah to an even more troublesome idea: the Jewish rejection of Jesus. The website reads, “The Jews rejected Jesus because He failed, in their eyes, to do what they expected their Messiah to do — destroy evil and all their enemies and establish an eternal kingdom with Israel as the preeminent nation in the world. The prophecies in Isaiah 53 and Psalm 22 describe a suffering Messiah who would be persecuted and killed, but the Jews chose to focus instead on those prophecies that discuss His glorious victories, not His crucifixion.” [Source: Candida Moss, Daily Beast, December 26, 2021]

The bigger problem here is the idea that Jews rejected Jesus: Jesus himself and all his first followers were Jews. Historically, the idea that Jews rejected Jesus has been linked to the dangerous and erroneous idea that “the Jews” were responsible for killing the messiah.

“Some Christians go even further and assert that Jewish messianism is not just wrong or mistaken, it is actually demonic. In his work on messianism, Novenson argues that these explanations aren’t just tragically cruel and antisemitic, they are also grounded in some profound historical errors. When Christians claim that Jesus was a spiritual messiah they do so because they “take for granted the messiahship of Jesus and say whatever they need to say to maintain that axiom.” It’s precisely because Jesus suffered and because Christians believe he was the messiah that Christians argue for a spiritual messiah who suffers.

“In truth, says Novenson “Christian messianic texts are not categorically different from Jewish messianic texts.” They do describe Jesus as a political figure. Novenson told me that, “The idea of Jesus as a political, not just spiritual, messiah appears in a number of Gospel sayings and stories (e.g., Matt 10:34: “I did not come to bring peace, but a sword”), but above all in the widespread early Christian idea of the future coming (or parousia) of Jesus to execute judgment and rule over the nations.” In other words, early Christians do anticipate that Jesus will behave as a political messiah, just not yet. The sharpest example of this, Novenson said, is the book of Revelation in which Jesus returns and a New Jerusalem descends onto the earth. There are all kinds of things to worry about in this vision of the Second Coming — Revelation describes genocide and the widespread destruction of non-believers in ways that should be ethically concerning for devout Christians — but the point here is that the Jesus of end of days is as political a messiah as they come.

Ancient Tablet on the Messiah and Resurrection

Ethan Bronner wrote in the New York Times: “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. [Source: Ethan Bronner, New York Times, July 6, 2008 /=]

“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,” Mr. 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 A.D. 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.”/=\

Analysis of the Ancient Tablet on the Messiah and Resurrection

Ethan Bronner wrote in the New York Times: “Oddly, the stone is not really a new discovery. It was found in the 1990s 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.” [Source: Ethan Bronner, New York Times, July 6, 2008, /=]

. Ms. 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 B.C. 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 B.C. 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 Ms. Yardeni and Mr. Elitzur dubbed “Gabriel’s Revelation,” also the title of their article. Mr. 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. Mr. 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.” /=\

Contents of the Ancient Tablet on the Messiah and Resurrection

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 Ethan Bronner wrote in the New York Times: “In Mr. 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, Mr. 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. [Source: Ethan Bronner, New York Times, July 6, 2008, /=]

“To make his case about the importance of the stone, Mr. 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 Ms. Yardeni and Mr. Elitzur, but Mr. 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 Mr. 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,” Mr. 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 on an earlier messiah story.” Ms. Yardeni said she was impressed with the reading and considered it indeed likely that the key illegible word was “hayeh,” or “live.” Whether that means Simon is the messiah under discussion, she is less sure. /=\

“Moshe Bar-Asher, president of the Israeli Academy of Hebrew Language and emeritus professor of Hebrew and Aramaic at the Hebrew University, said he spent a long time studying the text and considered it authentic, dating from no later than the first century B.C. His 25-page paper on the stone will be published in the coming months. Regarding Mr. Knohl’s thesis, Mr. Bar-Asher is also respectful but cautious. “There is one problem,” he said. “In crucial places of the text there is lack of text. I understand Knohl’s tendency to find there keys to the pre-Christian period, but in two to three crucial lines of text there are a lot of missing words.” /=\

“Moshe Idel, a professor of Jewish thought at Hebrew University, said that given the way every tiny fragment from that era yielded scores of articles and books, “Gabriel’s Revelation” and Mr. Knohl’s analysis deserved serious attention. “Here we have a real stone with a real text,” he said. “This is truly significant.” Mr. Knohl said that it was less important whether Simon was the messiah of the stone than the fact that it strongly suggested that a savior who died and rose after three days was an established concept at the time of Jesus. He notes that in the Gospels, Jesus makes numerous predictions of his suffering and New Testament scholars say such predictions must have been written in by later followers because there was no such idea present in his day. “But there was, he said, and “Gabriel’s Revelation” shows it.” /=\e.

Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons

Text Sources: Internet Ancient History Sourcebook: Christian Origins “World Religions” edited by Geoffrey Parrinder (Facts on File); “ Encyclopedia of the World’s Religions” edited by R.C. Zaehner (Barnes & Noble Books, 1959); King James Version of the Bible,; New International Version (NIV) of The Bible,; Christian Classics Ethereal Library (CCEL) , Frontline, PBS, “Encyclopedia of the World Cultures” edited by David Levinson (G.K. Hall & Company, 1994); Wikipedia, BBC, National Geographic, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Live Science,, Archaeology magazine, Reuters, Associated Press, Business Insider, AFP, Library of Congress, Lonely Planet Guides, Compton’s Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.

Last updated March 2024

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