Messiah Stone Scrutinized

Written by Clinton Wahlen

This article examines the sensational claim that “a Dead Sea Scroll on stone” reflects a pre-Christian Jewish belief in a messiah who would die, rise again after three days, and be exalted to heaven.

Media attention has recently spotlighted a sensational interpretation of what has been dubbed “Gabriel‟s Vision” and “a Dead Sea Scroll on stone.” Israel Knohl, Professor at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, claims that the 87-line Hebrew inscription, which has been dated by Ada Yardeni and Binyamin Elitzur to the late first century B.C.,reflects a pre-Christian, Jewish belief in a messiah who would die, rise again after three days, and be exalted to heaven.

Knohl‟s reading of this tablet raises a number of questions, not the least of which is why a similar messianic conception by Jesus would be so unintelligible to the twelve disciples. It could be argued that if the idea of a dying messiah was current the disciples were unwilling to accept it in reference to Jesus, or that such a notion was not widespread. The impression given by the four Gospels is that Jesus‟ death was seen by onlookers as proof positive against any messianic claim. Knohl, while not directly addressing such questions, understands Jesus‟ reference to Ps 110 (Mark 12:35-37) as a rejection of the triumphant messiah model in favor of one that “involves suffering and death.”


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