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Jesus' resurrection

Four evaluations of the significance of
"Gabriel's Vision of Revelations" tablet

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Material to read first:

Background of resurrection and the tablet:

The following was extracted from our essay on the newly discovered tablet:

Belief in the miracle of Jesus' resurrection is one of the cardinal doctrines of historical Christianity; some suggest that it is "the" cardinal doctrine.

Most Christians believe that Jesus was executed on a Friday afternoon in the springtime, circa 30 CE and was resurrected sometime before sunrise on the following Sunday morning, perhaps a day to a day and a half later.

A tablet dated to the late first century BCE has been found. A message was written on it many decades before Jesus' ministry. Yet it appears to describe a great Jewish leader -- a "prince of princes" --  who would die violently and be resurrected three days later.

Some have speculated that the Gospel stories may related to earlier Jewish prophecy in addition to -- or instead of -- being based on real events. That is, Jesus' resurrection and ascension may not have actually happened.

Dr. Knohl a senior fellow at Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem and the Yehezkel Kaufman Professor of Biblical Studies at Hebrew University has translated the tablet. He has expressed his belief that:

"This should shake our basic view of Christianity. 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. ... [Jesus'] mission is that he has to be put to death by the Romans to suffer so his blood will be the sign for redemption to come. This is the sign of the son of Joseph. This is the conscious view of Jesus himself. This gives the Last Supper an absolutely different meaning. To shed blood is not for the sins of people but to bring redemption to Israel." 1

If the tablet predates Jesus' ministry and describes a messiah figure, a son of Joseph, who is violently killed, and resurrected in three days, the discovery could have profound effects on Christians' understanding of Christian exclusivity, atonement, salvation, incarnation, resurrection, ascension, Trinity, virgin birth, etc. 

Evaluations of the tablet discovery:

(Text in brown represent our synopsis of various bloggers and theologians' comments)

  • Paul, Gospel writers, & tablet all based on Old Testament writings: "Rey", a Plymouth Brethren blogger, wrote:
    "Is the Jesus resurrection then unoriginal and thus fake? I’d argue of course not."
    "Paul would argue throughout his epistles and most pointedly in the synagogues that Jesus the Messiah (the Christ if you would rather use that term) was revealed, suffered and died and rose again according to Scripture. Paul argues this by looking back at the Old Testament Hebrew writings before Christ came. If he could argue those points based on those texts, why would it surprise anyone that there’s a tablet that has some Jewish interpreters drawing similar conclusions before Messiah came? In other words, if Paul saw it in Isaiah 53 (and other places), one would expect others to pick up on it too."
    "One of the scholar’s in the article suggests that the resurrection event that occurs in 3 days in the account puts Christianity in an extremely bad light. I wonder why he would assume that since the 3 day motif is one that is drawn from the Jonah story where he spends 3 days and nights in the belly of a water creature. And even if there weren’t other sources to draw a 3 day/3 night parallel from I’ve already argued in a different post that there may be myths out there that hint at the truth but what happened with Christ was the realization of myths. In other words, it wasn’t merely a story: it happened." 2
  • Gospel story grounded in universal human myths: "Quixie" describes himself as an iconoclast from Tempe, AZ. He writes:
    "The recent discovery of a tablet with an 80 line inscription in Hebrew, which possibly contains a pre-christian reference to an anointed one who is resurrected by Gabriel after three days has been talked about recently in blogs. I think it should surprise no one that there are mythic precedents to all of the details in the gospel narrative"even the Easter narrative. That's the very nature of human mythology; the symbols used to relay our stories are recycled and assimilated by societies instinctually from decade to decade, epoch to epoch, into the spiritual languages of their own times. ...  Nevertheless, if the inscription says what Israel Knohl thinks it says, then it's a very good example of this Jungian principle in action. It's evidence that the motif was an active and contemporaneous one in the very geographical locale where Christianity was to eventually germinate. ..." 3
  • Resurrection after three days found in ancient Canaanite texts: "N.T. Wrong," is a pseudonym based on "New Testament - Wrong," or perhaps an inversion of the name of the famous Anglican author N.T. Wright, Bishop of Durham. He wrote:
    "The idea that the dead take three days to return to the world of the living is a familiar one. The time period of three days is often given as the distance between the netherworld and earth."
    "A very relevant example is in the  Texts (KTU 1.20-22) from ca. 1200 BC. It is very relevant, because the Ugaritian and biblical traditions share a broadly common geographical locale, many common beliefs and traditions, and a broadly similar language (although are separated by some 500+ years). The traditions about the Rephaim (Saviours) are included in the biblical books with very similar accompanying mythological themes (Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Isaiah).
    "KTU 1.20 ii 5-7a says ... as Wyatt translates:
    'They journeyed a day and a second. After su[nrise on the third] the Saviours arrived at the threshing-floors, the di[vinities at] the plantations'."
    "The picture here, although from another fragmentary and uncertain text, is of the 3-day journey from the netherworld to Ugarit by the long-deceased heroes (-kings) who were the deified heroic ancestors of Ugarit. ... Note that the dead return after sunrise on the third day. Now read Mark 16.2. " 4
  • Three-day resurrection was a traditional Jewish expectation by the time of Christ: Dr. James F. McGrath, assistant professor of religion at Butler University, writes:
    I've yet to take a proper look at it, but it would make sense in the context of my current thinking about the rise of early Christianity if the motif of 'in three days rise again' was already traditional, and the disciples who fled back to Galilee came to believe that Jesus had risen 'on the third day' not because they knew a tomb had been found empty on that day, but because they believed that was what must have happened 'according to the Scriptures'." 5

See five more comments on the tablet

References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. Ethan Bronner, "Ancient tablet ignites debate on messiah and resurrection," New York Times, 2008-JUL-06, at:
  2. Rey, "Ancient tablet proves Jesus wrong?,"
  3. "Quixie," "The Hazon Gabriel tablet," The Quixotic Infidel, 2008-JUL-07, at:
  4. "N.T. Wrong," "A pre-Jewish prediction of a Saviour who will die and be raised again on the third day," 2008-MAY-16, at:
  5. Dr. James F. McGrath, "Ancient Texts Online: Rising Messiahs and Reproduced Mandaean Sources," Exploring our Matrix, 2008-JUL-07, at:

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Copyright © 2008 by Ontario Consultant on Religious Tolerance
Essay originally written: 2008-OCT-04
Essay last updated: 2008-OCT-04
Written by: B.A. Robinson

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