Shaking the foundation of Christianity?

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.

4 thoughts on “Shaking the foundation of Christianity?

  1. I would submit that this “ancient tablet” is probably another sensationalist scam, as is clearly indicated by the facts

    (1) that no specific information is available on its provenance and

    (2) that no details are provided on carbon dating of the ink.

    As such, this “news” brings to mind the faked Lost-Tomb-of-Jesus “documentary” designed to make a profit off of people’s fascination with the “real” Jesus, as well as the larger scandal of the biased and misleading way the Dead Sea scrolls are being presented in museum exhibits around the world, with an antisemitic expression appearing on a government-run North Carolina museum’s website. See, e.g.,


  2. So, people read the Old Testament and concluded that a Savior who was killed would rise again in three days for the salvation of Israel. …and this proves that Jesus wasn’t the Savior? How does THAT work?

    btw, Jesse, thanks for posting the thetically formatted PMW by Pastor Webber the other day. Reading it raised a question or two in my mind, but they are the same questions raised by the PMW itself. (I’m still not clear on whether we’re saying that teachers MUST receive calls, or only whether they CAN be called. cf. thesis 49). Anyway, my point is, thanks for posting it. That was the first I’d heard of it, and I appreciated getting it. Do you know if it’s scheduled for discussion at GPC?

  3. On the issue of teachers and calls, I believe we are saying the latter, but also that teachers ought to be authorized in some way by the Church before they can teach publicly in its name. “In accordance with” may not be clearest way to state the connection to AC XIV, but I’m pretty sure it doesn’t mean that AC XIV *demands* that teachers receive the same sort of call that we require for pastors.

    In my own words, I’d say that AC XIV demands such a call for public ministers in the narrow sense, and requires some kind of official authorization for public ministers in the wider sense. That authorization may be established in a variety of ways, including the “calling” process. Others may disagree, but that’s where your point comes in: the PMW is not exactly precise about it.

    If you want to know what’s scheduled for GPC, have a look at the envelope that was passed out to the pastors at synod convention. I don’t think it included the thetical form of the PMW. (Now, if I can remember where I put mine…) Why don’t you bring it up for discussion at your local winkel?

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