Monday, July 7, 2008

Torah on Stone Provides New Controversy

Ancient Tablet Ignites Debate on Messiah and Resurrection
New York Times

JERUSALEM — 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.

When David Jeselsohn bought an ancient tablet, above, he was unaware of its significance.
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.

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.


The real debate, in my opinion, is not the age of the stone or what is blurred on the edges, but the messianic statement about dying and rising on the third day. The statement, " suggests that the story of his death and resurrection was not unique but part of a recognized Jewish tradition at the time," is the real story here, the one that could ignite the entire Christian world.

I would imagine that the 'spin doctors' in the church are already burning the midnight beeswax candles to save their interpretation of the 'uniqueness' of the death of Jesus. If these lines are not disputed and not fully spun, then many Christians will have lost their platform, their foundation for the claim that Jesus 'died and rose again on the third day.' At that point the life and death of Jesus becomes just one more great prophet who had a powerful message on how to live life fully.

To me personally, I don't give a hoot if Jesus rose from the dead; what he said during his living is most important. His message, like all of the great prophets, is not very complex: live simply, help and love others, and stand up for injustice where you see it.

Those Resurrection and Ascension scenes that were added after his death are unimportant unless one wants to have their faith moved upwards on the ladder to the one-true faith position. This oneupmanship, like a sports theme, has no place in the lives of people except by partisan fanatics who want their 'team' to be Number One!

Such is the game of religion. It will go on with the proper cheerleaders and the pompoms no matter what the 'facts' reveal. If people are comfortable with that, fine. Just don't try to cram it down our throats.

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