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The Virginian-Pilot and The Ledger-Star, Norfolk, VA – July 6, 2008
By Ethan Bronner
The New York Times

A 3-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. Apparently, it may speak of a messiah who will rise from the dead after three days.
If such a messianic description really is there, it will contribute to a developing re-evaluation of both popular and scholarly views of Jesus, because 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.
Daniel Boyarin, a professor of Talmudic culture at the University of California at Berkeley, said that the stone was part of a growing body of evidence suggesting that Jesus could be best understood through a close reading of the Jewish history of his day.
“Some Christians will find it shocking – a challenge to the uniqueness of their theology – while others will be comforted by the idea of it being a traditional part of Judaism,” Boyarin said.
Given the highly charged atmosphere surrounding all Jesus-era artifacts and writings, both in the general public and in the fractured and fiercely competitive scholarly community – as well as the concern over forgery and charlatanism – it will probably be some time before the tablet’s contribution is fully assessed. It has been 60 years since the Dead Sea Scrolls were uncovered, and they continue to generate enormous controversy regarding their authors and meaning.
The scrolls contain some of the only known surviving copies of biblical writings from before the first century A.D.
A conference marking 60 years since the discovery of the scrolls begins today at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem.
The stone, as well as the scholarly debate over whether it speaks of a resurrected messiah, as one iconoclastic scholar believes, also will be discussed.
Christianity’s roots
The tablet’s authenticity has so far faced no challenge, so its role in helping to understand the roots of Christianity in the political crisis faced by the Jews of the time seems likely to grow.

(C) 2008 The Virginian-Pilot and The Ledger-Star, Norfolk, VA. via ProQuest Information and Learning Company; All Rights Reserved

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