The “Gabriel Revelation” Stone
by Norman L. Geisler
There is yet again another discovery amongst the objects found around the time of Jesus that if proven true will undermine Scriptures and shake the basic view of Christianity. The new discovery is known as Gabriel’s Revelation. One Hebrew professor named Yehezkel Kaufman said, “[Because of this discovery the]Resurrection after three days becomes a motif developed before Jesus, which runs contrary to all scholarship. What happens in the NT was adopted by Jesus and his followers based on an earlier messiah story.” Time Magazine commenting (7-6-08) on this discovery said, “If true, this [Gabriel’s Revelation] could mean that Jesus’ followers had access to a well-established paradigm when they decreed that Christ himself rose from the dead.”
Gabriel’s Revelation which was owned by a Swiss-Israeli collector has come to the front line in our media lately. Gabriel’s Revelation is a stone that was found nearly a decade ago in Jordan by the Dead Sea. The stone is said to be three feet tall and date to the 1st Century B.C. Written in two columns on the stone are 87 Hebrew lines of ink with references to the Old Testament books of Daniel, Zechariah, and Haggai. It was initially translated by the Hebrew scholar Ada Yardeni, but it has recently been analyzed by Hebrew Bible scholar Israel Knohl. Yardeni says that the first six lines are unintelligible so they were unable to translate them. Lines 7-44 are intelligible in part but not in whole. The translators were able to render small phrases, but they were still unable to give a complete translation. The next column known as Column B is comprised of 42 more lines. Of those 42 lines 45-50 are unintelligible, while the others were still an incomplete translation.
Of the 87 lines found upon Gabriel’s Revelation the crucial lines of inquiry are numbers 19, 20, and 80. Lines19-20 which says, “sanctity(?)/sanctify(?) Israel! In three days you shall know, that(?)/for(?) He said, 20 (namely), YHWH the Lord of Hosts, the Lord of Israel: the evil broke (down). Then in line 80 it says, “In three days… [you shall live?], I, Gabriel…[?].” With the phrase “you shall live” being added by Hebrew biblical scholar Israel Knohl. Knohl believes from the faint letters one can derive the word “hayeh” or live.
From the lines above many of the critics are claiming that there was a resurrection account by Jewish believers about a Messiah who would rise from the dead after three days, and that the disciples borrowed this account in order to fabricate the Gospel message. If true, then as David Van Biema and Tim McGrik of Time(7-7-08) said, “Jesus’ followers had access to a well-established paradigm when they decreed that Christ rose on the third day–and it might even hint that they could have applied it in their grief after their master was crucified. However, such a contentious reading of the 87-line tablet depends on creative interpretation of a smudged passage, making it the latest entry in the woulda/coulda/shoulda category of possible New Testament artifacts; they are useful to prove less-spectacular points and to stir discussion on big ones, but probably not to settle them nor shake anyone’s faith.”
So, what would make a group of Time Magazine writers say that it probably will not “shake anyone’s faith?” Initially it is because there are two assumptions that the correct dating is from the 1st Century B.C. and that it is the correct translation. Expert translators have repeatedly claimed that it was too faint to be translated. The phrase could also be translated “there arose” giving the implications that he “just shows up.” Finally, the phrase does not have to refer to a specific resurrection but the common Jewish belief of the general resurrection at the end of time; which according to lines 19 and 20 were said to be in three days.
There are two problems that arise from this discovery and the current interpretations of the data. First, some ask “how can 1 Cor. 15:4 (in A.D. 55) say “on the third day” was “according to the Scriptures” when there was no OT scripture that said this?” The response to this objection is that the Gospel of Matthew may have been written before A.D. 55 (see Bishop Robinson, Wm. F. Albright–by 40’s). Also we know that at around that time Matthews Gospel was considered scripture (1Tim. 5:18). Finally, in the OT Jonah’s three days in the great fish prefigured Christ’s resurrection (Mt. 12:40). The second problem is that some claim that the discovery shows that Christianity is based on previous myths about death and resurrection. But, it is false to claim that the belief of a Messiah that would die and three days later rise from the dead is a myth. It is clear that the OT predicted the Messiah who would die (Isa. 53; Dan. 9) and rise again (Psa. 2, 16). Also the NT is not based on Greek (polytheistic) myths but Jewish monotheistic Messianic predictions (see Ronald Nash, The Gospel and the Greeks). As C.S. Lewis said,
“All I am in private life is a literary critic and historian, that’s my job. And I am prepared to say on that basis if anyone thinks the Gospels are either legend or novels, then that person is simply showing his incompetence as a literary critic. I’ve read a great many novels and I know a fair amount about the legends that grew up among early people, and I know perfectly well the Gospels are not that kind of stuff” (C.S. Lewis, Christian Reflections, 209).
Some conclusions that need to be drawn from this discovery are that it first assumes the dating and translation to be correct. Second, it has been evidenced against the standard liberal views that there was no such Jewish expectation at that time. Third, this discovery also discredits the view that the NT writers simply invented the resurrection. But, it could not have been adopted by Jesus’ disciples because there is no evidence that they knew of the stone, and they were surprised by Jesus’ announcement of his resurrection(Mk 16:11; Mt. 28:11; Lk. 24:37; Jn. 20:25). If anything, the discovery supports the NT belief in Christ’s death and resurrection three days later (Mt. 17:22 cf. 1 Cor. 15:4) and the disciple’s interpretation of the OT predictions of a future resurrection (Psa. 2, 16 cf. Acts 2, 13). Concluding with the writers of Time Magazine:
“Yet for now, at least, Gabriel’s Revelation must take its place among a slew of recently discovered objects from the time of Jesus that are claimed to either support or undermine Scripture but are themselves sufficiently, logically or archaeologically compromised to prevent their being definitive.” (7-7-08).
Copyright © 2008 Norman L. Geisler – All rights reserved
Also see: Gabriel’s Revelation by Craig Hazen http://www.equip.org/articles/gabriel-s-revelation