This article, linked from the Drudge Report, makes some claims meant to disturb Christians. The discovery it describes is interesting, and I’d like to hear more about how it pans out. However, some of the application is sensational, to say the least. Here’s a bit quoting Israel Knohl, described as “an iconoclastic professor of Bible studies at Hebrew University in Jerusalem:”
“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.”
That’s about all you need to understand what someone is trying to do with this story.
The news here is that a stone with writing on it is supposed to date from the first century before Christ. It was discovered in connection with the Dead Sea Scrolls, which have provided many ancient writings, including the oldest known OT manuscripts in existence. The Dead Sea Scrolls confirmed the accuracy of the OT manuscripts extant at the time of their discovery.
This stone is being promoted as a challenge to the basic tenet of Christianity: that Jesus died and rose again the third day (counting the day He died). That’s more or less what this article seems to claim, though it may not actually say so explicitly.
The key point is that the writing on the stone says something about a savior dying and rising again on the third day.
Toward the end of the article, we learn what Mr. Knohl considers the important aspect: “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.” This is important, he says, because “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.”
I don’t know who these NT scholars are, but they’re wrong. My guess is that they consider the NT in isolation from the OT. That’s always a bad idea. The Bible, though not homogenous in terms of human origin or style, is completely united in divine origin and purpose. These NT scholars may also consider the NT not to have a divine origin, especially in the sense of plenary inspiration. In any case, Mr. Knohl would be correct that an artifact like this stone, referring to a salvific death and resurrection, should help to set those NT scholars straight.
The article ends with a supposedly-devastating application of this discovery: “To shed blood is not for the sins of people but to bring redemption to Israel.” Huh? I don’t see how that’s even a challenge for Christianity.
The Church of the NT is Israel. As horrible as it may sound to some Jews, the believing Gentiles have been grafted into the olive tree of Israel (see Romans 11), while the unbelieving Jews have rejected their own honor and glory. Jesus is a Jew. The OT Scriptures, the Tanakh, is all about the Messiah in one way or another. That means it’s all about Jesus, including His death and resurrection. Read the letter to the Hebrews once or twice, and the pattern begins to emerge.
What does redemption mean? A lot of Jews had it wrong, including Jesus’ disciples from time to time (Luke 24:21, Acts 1:6), and possibly including the person who wrote on this stone. But Isaiah had it right (44:22), as well as Hosea (13:14), both being OT prophets to Israel.