L’shloshet yamin: “In three days you will know that evil will be defeated by justice”
July 5, 2008 6:27 PM   Subscribe

Gabriel’s Revelation: “This should shake our basic view of Christianity... His 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 conscious view of Jesus himself. This gives the Last Supper an absolutely different meaning.”
posted by orthogonality (115 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite

 
This should shake our basic view of Christianity,” he said as he sat in his office of the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem where he is a senior fellow in addition to being the Yehezkel Kaufman Professor of Biblical Studies at Hebrew University. “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.”

Why would this shake anything? Christianity teaches that Isaiah 53 is a prophecy about the Suffering Messiah. This idea-that His crucifixion is foretold-is not at all new.
posted by konolia at 6:42 PM on July 5, 2008 [3 favorites]


Surprise, surprise—the gospel-writers plagiarized an aspect of Judaic "prophecy" to make their particular brand of apocalyptic mysticism look more plausible to the devout.
posted by sonic meat machine at 6:42 PM on July 5, 2008


This should shake our basic view of Christianity

For some people it might. I think most people will just find in it comfirmation of whatever they think already. For me, an agnostic, it's a mildly interesting new tidbit to add to my knowledge of the Biblical legends that the Jewish people of the time, with their belief in blood sacrifices, had a belief that there would be a blood sacrifice to save them from Roman rule.
posted by orange swan at 6:44 PM on July 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


Oh boy, it gonna be a konolia VS mefi thread, I have an accent scroll that foretold this event. Good luck to you konolia, god speed.
posted by nola at 6:50 PM on July 5, 2008 [2 favorites]


"I am a bonetop, a death's head
On a mopstick
You infected me, took diamonds
I took all your shit
Your "sell-by date" expired,
So you had to be sold
I'm a suffer-genius and
Vivi-sex symbol"

posted by Coyote Modern at 6:52 PM on July 5, 2008


In all seriousness this is an interesting find, it would be nice if folks could talk about it without bring all the anti-Christain stuff in here for a change. Just preempting the ugly.
posted by nola at 6:53 PM on July 5, 2008 [4 favorites]


definitely not a fake.
posted by b1tr0t at 6:56 PM on July 5, 2008


This should shake our basic view of Christianity

Dunno about that, can't shake a crock.
posted by mattoxic at 7:06 PM on July 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


LOLXTIANS!

Thanks for the post. It's fascinating, though I could have used a bit more context.
posted by lunit at 7:08 PM on July 5, 2008


Christianity teaches that Isaiah 53 is a prophecy about the Suffering Messiah

Jesus Fucking Christ, konolia...

as we said two years and a half ago:
most scholars today agree on the fact that those 15 verses do in fact refer to God's relationship with Israel during the Babylonian exile, and Isaiah was not predicting the birth and death of Yeshua (and by the way Deut. 24:16 easily blows up the Yeshua-as-Isaiah'sSuffering-Servant theory).

Using Tanakh to make sense of the many New Testament's logical holes is as old as, ahem, the New Testament itself. Because of course Yeshua was a Jew and the early Christians were mostly Jews or goyim somehow close to Judaism (Paul's "God-fearers"). hence it's easy to see why they relied on Tanakh to augment and make sense of their new-found faith -- a lot of reverse engineering going on, after Yeshua's sudden execution, by his followers: why did it happen?
(the flip side is, of course, the Gospel writers' efforts to exorcise Yeshua's Judaism)
What your fundamentalist Sunday school teaches and what actual scholarship teaches are for the most part two very different things.
posted by matteo at 7:10 PM on July 5, 2008 [10 favorites]


Why would this shake anything?

Because, according to the last line in the article: "To shed [the Messiah's] blood is not for the sins of people but to bring redemption to Israel."
posted by treepour at 7:12 PM on July 5, 2008


ObZodiacalRamDiscoveredToHaveThreeHorns,FoundationsOfAstrologyProfoundlyAltered
posted by DU at 7:13 PM on July 5, 2008


matteo and konolia. please shut up so we can have something nice here for once. otherwise i will quote king missile on your asses.
posted by mds35 at 7:13 PM on July 5, 2008


it's also useful to remind that Christianity flipped around the sequence of the Hebrew Bible -- Torah, Nevi'im, Ketuvim -- putting the Prophets last to, among other things, boost the "they predicted the coming of teh Jesus" angle. the Hebrew Bible ends with the disappearance of God -- a much more fitting, realistic ending, when you think about it. or when you simply watch the evening news.
posted by matteo at 7:17 PM on July 5, 2008 [9 favorites]


thanks. much better.
posted by mds35 at 7:18 PM on July 5, 2008 [2 favorites]



For anyone who believed in Jesus to begin with, I don't see how this changes anything. Jesus is always pointing to strains of Jewish tradition to interpret his actions, including the his resurrection, which he framed within the story of Jonah, seen as a symbolic three day burial before a "resurrection" back to life on the surface. If there was some Jewish sect in the time of Christ that anticipated the Messiah dying and rising in three days, that doesn't do anything to change the story. Jesus always presented himself as the fulfillment of Jewish hopes. He didn't say "I have come to do something you never should have expected." He said, "I have come to fulfill the Law and Prophets."* It shouldn't surprise us if someone else was reading the text in the same way.

*Note to all those who think that there wasn't a historical Jesus, or that we can't know anything about him. For the purposes of this comment, just assume I mean Jesus the literary character we read about in the gospels.

Or just yell plagiarism. Whatever.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 7:18 PM on July 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


Jesus Fucking Christ, konolia...

Classy.
posted by nola at 7:19 PM on July 5, 2008


Oh boy, it gonna be a konolia VS mefi thread, I have an accent scroll that foretold this event. Good luck to you konolia, god speed.
posted by nola at 9:50 PM on July 5 [1 favorite +] [!]


All I did was refute that this would have any effect on Christianity.

But thanks for playing!
posted by konolia at 7:19 PM on July 5, 2008


The tablet could also be easily intepreted as a prophecy fortelling Jesus by a previously unknown prophet, but understandably the Jewish archaeologists who dug this up didn't see it that way.
posted by Electrius at 7:21 PM on July 5, 2008


Everyone is helpful,
Everyone is kind
On the road to Shambala

Tell me, how does your light shine...?

(Cool post, but the thread needs more BONK.)
posted by darkstar at 7:21 PM on July 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


treepour writes "Because, according to the last line in the article: 'To shed [the Messiah's] blood is not for the sins of people but to bring redemption to Israel.'"

Yeah, I wanted to leave that hanging to encourage people to read the article in full.

Or as Caiaphas puts it in the Gospel according to Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice, "For the sake of the nation, this Jesus must die!" (Chorus: "Must die, must die, this Jesus must, Jesus must, Jesus must die!")

(Poor Jesus. Caiaphas got all the best lines.)
posted by orthogonality at 7:21 PM on July 5, 2008


the Hebrew Bible ends with the disappearance of God -- a much more fitting, realistic ending, when you think about it.

This reminds me of one of the most excellent MeFi comments I have ever read.
posted by synaesthetichaze at 7:22 PM on July 5, 2008 [4 favorites]


For anyone who believed in Jesus to begin with, I don't see how this changes anything. Jesus is always pointing to strains of Jewish tradition to interpret his actions, including the his resurrection, which he framed within the story of Jonah, seen as a symbolic three day burial before a "resurrection" back to life on the surface. If there was some Jewish sect in the time of Christ that anticipated the Messiah dying and rising in three days, that doesn't do anything to change the story. Jesus always presented himself as the fulfillment of Jewish hopes. He didn't say "I have come to do something you never should have expected." He said, "I have come to fulfill the Law and Prophets."* It shouldn't surprise us if someone else was reading the text in the same way.

Exactly.
posted by konolia at 7:22 PM on July 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


Electrius writes "The tablet could also be easily intepreted as a prophecy fortelling Jesus by a previously unknown prophet,"

Except, the tablet's most likely about a dude named Simon. (Who like to make Draw-rings.)
posted by orthogonality at 7:25 PM on July 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


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 around 60 years since the Dead Sea Scrolls were uncovered, and they continue to generate enormous controversy regarding their authors and meaning.
Whatever, MeFi will have this all figured out by the end of the day.
posted by danb at 7:26 PM on July 5, 2008 [2 favorites]


I actually agree with konolia; I don't think this will have the slightest bit of impact on Christianity. But I suspect our reasons for believing that are different.

People don't change their minds about their religion because of new facts. If facts were paramount, they wouldn't be religious in the first place. So why should this change any minds? Mormons don't seem to care that Smith is a known con-man. Scientologists don't care that Hubbard was a writer of bad science fiction. Muslims don't care that Mohammed was [REDACTED TO PREVENT BEHEADING]. And so on.

Why would the fact that some stone tablet says something like this make one bit of difference to a true believer?
posted by Justinian at 7:26 PM on July 5, 2008 [20 favorites]


Simon...Brian...MP almost had it!
posted by mds35 at 7:26 PM on July 5, 2008


I get it konolia, and although I'm not a follower of Christ I admire the message.
posted by nola at 7:26 PM on July 5, 2008


Konolia, I think the shaking up is due to the fact that according to this prophecy, the savior is dying, not for our sins, but to save the Israelites from Roman rule.
posted by bashos_frog at 7:27 PM on July 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


I guess I shoulda previewed...
posted by bashos_frog at 7:27 PM on July 5, 2008


(the flip side is, of course, the Gospel writers' efforts to exorcise Yeshua's Judaism)

Are you serious about this? Read the first verse of the first chapter of the first gospel in the New Testament--it's the genealogy of Jesus, starting with Abraham. If you are trying to "exorcise Yeshua's Judaism," that's a pretty bad opening move. For that matter, Matthew including five prominent blocks of teaching to parallel the five books of the Torah is pretty boneheaded, as is any reference to "the law and the prophets." Luke including lines about the one who was to bring about the "consolation of Israel" is a bad move. For that matter, labeling him the Messiah is really poor strategery--that's right out of Judaism. Matthew, Mark and Luke all present Jesus agreeing that he is "the king of the Jews." There's hardly a page in the gospels where the Jewishness of Jesus doesn't jump out for even a casual reader.

So, matteo, maybe fundamentalist Sunday School teachers have a lot to learn from modern scholarship, but so do you. Any scholar who thinks the gospels presented Jesus as anything other than a very Jewish rabbi needs to go back and re-read them. At least the first line.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 7:30 PM on July 5, 2008 [2 favorites]


The first two comments in this thread neatly sum up just how much this "shakes our basic view of Christianity": it's perfectly consistent with the existing worldviews of both Christians and non-Christians. It sounds like a fascinating discovery. Better to take it as such than to try to use it as a mechanism to proselytize to people who aren't going to be convinced.
posted by moss at 7:30 PM on July 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


Konolia, I think the shaking up is due to the fact that according to this prophecy, the savior is dying, not for our sins, but to save the Israelites from Roman rule.

Well, for what it's worth, even His disciples thought-up to the very end-that that was EXACTLY what Jesus was going to do. Which is why they really didn't get it when Jesus was trying to explain to them that He was going to be crucified. That was what the contemporaries of Jesus expected out of a Messiah.
posted by konolia at 7:31 PM on July 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


I'm about 75% certain that this text is bullshit. It pains me to say so, since I have a lot of respect for the scholars publishing on it at the moment. But, as has happened so many times before, people are rushing into print with provocative theses before the serious work of authentication has been done.

So, let's look at the facts:

*The Hazon Gabriel text surfaced on the antiquities market with only the vaguest intimation that the text was discovered in the Transjordan. This means that it has the absolute lowest level of scholarly value. Without provenance, much about location, context and use cannot be established. More fundamentally, it is impossible to know with certainty that the text is authentic. The really important discoveries, texts like the Tel Dan inscription the Black Obelisk of Shalmaneser III were discovered in situ, placing their authenticity beyond a doubt and profoundly authorizing all the provocative theses which they have inspired. Without context, the Hazon Gabriel text will never be able to sustain the argumentation it inspires. Nor, for that matter, can it inspire discussion beyond the words it bears; important questions about who produced it, for what purpose, when, where, and how, will necessarily remain speculative, and our understanding of the practices of text production in ancient Syria-Palestine will not be advanced by the discovery.

*The text is really, really weird. It's ink on stone, which is (as far as I know) absolutely unprecedented in ancient Syro-Palestine. We have ink on ceramic (called ostraca, found literally all over the place), ink on papyrus or leather (the Dead Sea Scrolls being a celebrated instance), we even have ink on plaster (the Deir Alla text, discovered in the Transjordan), and of course we have inscribed stone aplenty. But I can't think of a single occasion when we've discovered a text which is readable ink on stone. My bullshit meter went off the charts when I heard that.

*There is at least one active forgery ring in operation in Israel at the moment and serious, well-respected scholars and epigraphers have been duped by them (This forthcoming book will have a very readable account of the current controversy [full disclosure: I know the author and was involved in a small degree in helping her with her research]). Some of them are even involved in the analysis and publication of Hazon Gabriel. The Israel Museum recently had to withdraw from circulation an ivory pomegranate that they purchased for an unknown, but certainly ungodly sum of money from a private dealer because, although the pomegranate itself was probably authentic, its inscription placing it in the Temple of YHWH was faked. Then of course there's the James Ossuary, and the Talpiyot Tomb, both of which are certainly crap "discoveries." These are only a few of many, many examples of the forgeries that are currently rocking the scholarly community. The dust has not settled yet, and until it does, people need to be careful about making these sorts of provocative arguments and speculative claims.

Anyone who's seriously interested in seeing what sober scholars are currently doing about the problem, should dig around and find what Chris Rollston is writing these days. He's a rock solid epigrapher with a very sober mind who has set himself to the task of establishing criteria for authentication and protocols for the sorts of arguments that can be sustained based on unprovenanced material. If you don't see him referenced in an article in the popular press, or at least hear a serious discussion about the problems related to unprovenanced evidence, you should seriously question the value of what you're reading. Either the journalist hasn't done their due diligence, or they're trying to sell you a bill of goods.

So, the bottom line is, this discovery is most likely a fake. And even if it isn't, all the provocative claims you're going to read in the next six months are being made prior to the serious work of authentication and analysis. As has happened so many times in the last 50 years, the scholarly community is jumping the gun in a fruitless attempt to shore up reputations, grab headlines and make cash. In the process, they squander the respect of the discipline and challenge the trust of the public.

Honestly, there are moments when I think the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls was, at least from the standpoint of professional ethics, the worst thing that could have happened to the fields of Biblical Studies and Syro-Palestinian archaeology.
posted by felix betachat at 7:32 PM on July 5, 2008 [84 favorites]


Wow felix betachat what informative counter to the article.
posted by nola at 7:38 PM on July 5, 2008


...aaaannd flame off.
posted by mds35 at 7:39 PM on July 5, 2008


felix betachat writes "The text is really, really weird. It's ink on stone, which is (as far as I know) absolutely unprecedented in ancient Syro-Palestine.... There is at least one active forgery ring in operation in Israel at the moment and serious, well-respected scholars and epigraphers have been duped by them "

Wait a sec. If I'm a forger, and good enough to fool serious scholars with my forgeries, why would I forge something unprecedented, something so odd as to automatically raise suspicions??

That would be like a counterfeiter forging a pink and black $50 dollar bill, changing the dollar sign to a funny looking "L", and substituting US Grant's portrait with a woman in a tiara. Unless it's an authentic British £50 note.
posted by orthogonality at 7:47 PM on July 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


Studies of Christian theology being derived from earlier religions is not all that new.
posted by telstar at 7:49 PM on July 5, 2008


it's the genealogy of Jesus, starting with Abraham

it's been tacked-on later (like, say, the "cast the first stone" story and so many others), strange that you don't know it, familiar as you pretend to be with basic textual criticism.

There's hardly a page in the gospels where the Jewishness of Jesus doesn't jump out for even a casual reader.

yes, John calling the Jews Satanic children of darkness is a good example of the appreciation of the Gospel writers for Judaism. if you're unfamiliar with the very evident process of hellenization of Yeshua Ben Yosef and demonization of the Jews by the early Christians, your problems are much worse than defending konolia's badly memorized talking points

why would I forge something unprecedented, something so odd as to automatically raise suspicions??

because you lack the technical means to make a proper, more believable forgery.
posted by matteo at 7:50 PM on July 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


Wait a sec. If I'm a forger, and good enough to fool serious scholars with my forgeries, why would I forge something unprecedented, something so odd as to automatically raise suspicions??

Good question. It's possible that the owner of the text would be reluctant to let scholars scrape sufficient ink from the stone to allow C-14 dating. Without organic matter to analyze, it's possible that its (non)-authenticity could never be established with scientific certainty.

Plus, these forgers know exactly what they're doing. They know the scholarly politics and the personalities involved and are quite capable of playing rivals off against one another. I've even heard a well-respected senior scholar claim that a particular forged text was produced with a certain spelling of a word so as to cast doubt on his own work. He's probably too paranoid, but one never knows. I suspect that some of these forgers are embittered or failed academics who are interested in influencing the development of the discipline through "unconventional channels". In any case, it's possible that they figured that the text itself was so provocative that people would rush to publication and the ensuing smoke would obscure sober questions about the material state of the text.

And, indeed, that seems to be what is happening.
posted by felix betachat at 7:55 PM on July 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


“This should shake our basic view of Christianity...

I doubt it. Even if it does change some of the historical views, it won't change anyone's religious outlook.
posted by delmoi at 7:57 PM on July 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


"Should" != "will".
posted by orthogonality at 8:03 PM on July 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


"If facts were paramount, they wouldn't be religious in the first place."

Thus speaks ignorance.
posted by oddman at 8:10 PM on July 5, 2008


"If facts were paramount, they wouldn't be religious in the first place."

Thus speaks ignorance.


Thus speaks a meaningless insult stated in faux-classical language to make it prettier without bothering to refute the central point: that the actual facts of the world around us (evolution, for example) have little bearing on the religious mindset.
posted by sonic meat machine at 8:14 PM on July 5, 2008 [8 favorites]


Matteo: ...process of hellenization of Yeshua Ben Yosef and demonization of the Jews by the early Christians...

Links? (I'm actually curious to read more about this, and not merely doubtful of it's veracity.)
posted by bashos_frog at 8:23 PM on July 5, 2008


"the actual facts of the world around us (evolution, for example) have little bearing on the religious mindset."

Again, a statement made that gives every hint at a lack of understanding of the mindset of religious people.
posted by oddman at 8:31 PM on July 5, 2008


I'll only say this once.

IT'S ALL ALLEGORY. EVERY WORD.

The essential messages are wonderful, yes; the truths it teaches are eternal, but IT'S ALL ALLEGORY.

Crap, I said it twice. Well, that's how much I care.
posted by yhbc at 8:33 PM on July 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


I used to think something like this would come along, and it really WOULD shake the very foundation of christianity. really. But take a look around you at the different ways that people interpret the bible itself, and all the decisions that are made based upon biblical principle. I mean, it's all over the place.

Literally? Jesus could come back to Earth, flip everyone off, tell everyone to go to fucking hell, and then show his ass to all while driving a blazing chariot down the Pacific Coast Highway with a big joint in his mouth.

You know what would happen? People would start twisting it around in their heads and make it fit their own beliefs. "Well, what Jesus REALLY meant was that he loved us all, and that we should all just get along, and that he would see us again soon in his father's mansion."
posted by bradth27 at 8:49 PM on July 5, 2008 [3 favorites]


I hate to feed the troll, but just want to point out that matteo's alleged scholarly consensus on these issues (which passages were "tacked on later," which parts of the New Testament represent supposed hellenization, etc.) are in fact highly disputed among scholars of biblical literature and first century history (no, not just by fundamentalists). Lots of rival theories and models but precious little decisive evidence. And lots of bystanders on both sides eager to seize on whatever seems to support what they already believe.
posted by straight at 9:03 PM on July 5, 2008


why would I forge something unprecedented, something so odd as to automatically raise suspicions?

Is it fair to figure that if you're a forger, you don't need to fool everybody, just one person who wants to believe in the forgery enough to purchase it?
posted by pokermonk at 9:03 PM on July 5, 2008


My SubGenius response:
"Bob" Dobbs has decreed that the end of the world will come on July 5th 1998, so get your affairs in order you pesky pinko Normals! The end is sooner than you think! Nyah!

My Christian response:
Screw all this. I'm gonna start worshipping Graham Chapman.
posted by ZachsMind at 9:06 PM on July 5, 2008


July 5th 1998

Heh, those were the days.
posted by nola at 9:08 PM on July 5, 2008


oddman, I used to be religious. Very religious. I grew out of the "religious mindset" when I began noticing the logical contradictions in the material, the problems of interpretation and the practical problems of reconciling religious TRUTH with the actual facts of day-to-day life.

The fact is, the religious mindset is not concerned with fact in any real sense. You can point out intractable contradictions in a religious doctrine and a deeply religious person will say that you are "twisting scripture around" (what?), or that it's "not what it means," or that "this part of scripture doesn't apply" (what?). Sometimes if you've been a particularly bad atheistic agent of Satan, they will tell you that "Even the devil can quote scripture," and sometimes they will call you a Pharisee, as if they even know what that word means.

We live in a nation where people would rather pray for oil prices to go down than admit that our lifestyles cannot last. An elected official actually prayed for rain last year. Publicly. Many biology teachers teach creationism in class. Thousands, perhaps millions, of people fervently believe in and give money to charlatans. Doesn't this seem a little bit anachronistic? Doesn't it seem just a little bit... stupid? If you are religious, don't you feel a little bit of a squirming shame inside when you read about these people?

For my money, Robert Ingersoll's essay "Why I Am Agnostic"—which helped me come to grips with my growing lack of faith and belief—remains the clearest-written dissection of the real (rather than the romanticized) religious mindset.
posted by sonic meat machine at 9:08 PM on July 5, 2008 [7 favorites]


An elected official actually prayed for rain last year.

In his defence it was really dry that year in Georgia. Also SONNY LIED!!
posted by nola at 9:14 PM on July 5, 2008


Literally? Jesus could come back to Earth, flip everyone off, tell everyone to go to fucking hell, and then show his ass to all while driving a blazing chariot down the Pacific Coast Highway with a big joint in his mouth.

You know what would happen? People would start twisting it around in their heads and make it fit their own beliefs. "Well, what Jesus REALLY meant was that he loved us all, and that we should all just get along, and that he would see us again soon in his father's mansion."
Well, some people might say that.

A more vocal set of people, however, might say "He was talking about the faggots, the Muslims, the atheists, and the ACLU."
posted by Flunkie at 9:15 PM on July 5, 2008 [3 favorites]


But if you use the Bible Code to decipher the text, it reads "gnat fart in the wind."
posted by Fuzzy Skinner at 9:22 PM on July 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


Robert Graves made exactly the argument that the NYT claims is earth-shattering and new, in 1946. (The latest US edition is dated 1981). His argument was based on painstaking research of ancient Jewish texts and traditions (he is an historian).
posted by Susurration at 9:25 PM on July 5, 2008 [2 favorites]


This text could open the way for (some factions of) Judaism to treat Jesus somewhat as Islam does already: Jesus is portrayed as a prophet with a positive role in the historical development of Jewish identity-- and it undercuts the source of the worst animosity Christians have felt toward Jews, the accusation that the blood of Christ is on Jewish hands. If Jesus was a rabbi who sought to sacrifice himself deliberately to advance the cause of the Jews, who can be blamed for his death other than the Romans? As such, it's almost ideal as a basis for further reconciliation between Christians and Jews, which is at a high watermark as it is.

And it makes Jesus a Zionist! At a time when Israel is seeking to establish sole sovereignty over Jerusalem against absolute opposition from Muslims, and with only tepid support from most Christians.

Hmm.
posted by jamjam at 9:25 PM on July 5, 2008 [2 favorites]


If Jesus was a rabbi who sought to sacrifice himself deliberately to advance the cause of the Jews, who can be blamed for his death other than the Romans?

I don't see how suicide by cop qualifies as a reason to blame the Romans. Seems like the responsibility would lie with the suicidal.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:46 PM on July 5, 2008 [3 favorites]


Dunno about that, can't shake a crock.

Course you can.

Especially when the stew won't come out.
posted by bwg at 10:19 PM on July 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


Robert Ingersoll's essay "Why I Am Agnostic"—which helped me come to grips with my growing lack of faith and belief—remains the clearest-written dissection of the real (rather than the romanticized) religious mindset.

Previous post on Ingersoll.
posted by homunculus at 10:29 PM on July 5, 2008


Wasn't Jesus supposed to be the fulfillment of the prophets? Wouldn't it be fitting that his story was prophesied then?
posted by Pollomacho at 10:41 PM on July 5, 2008


it may speak of a messiah
If such a messianic description really is there
some of the text is faded, meaning that much of what it says is open to debate

...strong opening. I didn't want to read more, but I forced myself.

“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,”\

Christians are well aware of their heritage. Why do you think Pat Robertson has been such a strong supporter of Israel?

Much of the text, a vision of the apocalypse transmitted by the angel Gabriel, draws on the Old Testament, especially the prophets Daniel, Zechariah and Haggai

Kind of like Joseph Smith, only better.

This is like having a serious discussion about Kirk vs. Picard.
posted by sluglicker at 11:17 PM on July 5, 2008 [2 favorites]


I like the Kirk vs Picard comparison. There definitely is a sad, obsessive-fan-geek quality to religious belief. At least the Trekkies aren't killing us and each other over their fantasies. Give it a few decades, though.
posted by muzzlecough at 11:54 PM on July 5, 2008 [2 favorites]


I never got this idea from Sunday School that Christians felt any animosity at all towards Jews. At least among the baptist variant of this theology, that's not even in the subtext. Everything was fated to happen. Those who helped instigate it, from Pilate to Judas all had their roles to play, and if it was anyone's fault it was God Himself, cuz he had meant from before J.C.'s birth that he was meant to die as a sacrifice for all humanity. You can't blame Judas or Pilate for doing God's will, even if they didn't know at the time they were doing it, and if you can't blame Judas or Pilate, you certainly can't blame "jews" for anything. It's all God's fault.

This idea that Christians hold the Jews responsible is ugly antisemitism but it ain't coming from American protestant churches. I think it's coming from forces that want to pit protestants against jews but I don't get why. I don't recall ever meeting a protestant that hated jews. When I was a kid, I got the feeling protestant adults all kinda looked up to jews.

Of course, none of this will matter when the world ends on July 5th, 1998. You better get your ticket punched before the bleeding head spooges on the prairie squid, cuz X-Day's a comin'!
posted by ZachsMind at 11:58 PM on July 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


This would all make more sense if Jesus were the first mythical rise-from-the-dead-on-the-third-day figure. Then it might seem amazing. Prophetic even. But what about Mithras?
posted by rokusan at 2:53 AM on July 6, 2008


"I never got this idea from Sunday School that Christians felt any animosity at all towards Jews."

History shows that Christians hated the Jews and persecuted them for centuries because they were 'Christ killers'. Let his blood be upon us, etc, etc.

Trying to pretend that the Christians never had a bad view of the Jews is like trying to pretend the KKK never lynched a black man.
posted by Henry C. Mabuse at 3:47 AM on July 6, 2008 [2 favorites]


But what about Mithras?

The first part of Zeitgeist is a good start for anyone who still thinks that Jesus were the trendsetter on being dead for three days.
posted by mnsc at 3:58 AM on July 6, 2008



The fact is, the religious mindset is not concerned with fact in any real sense.

Very true. I'm able to ignore "fact in any real sense" because the various theological constructs, appendages, and interpretations do not change the message of "The Way": to do justice, love kindness and walk humbly with my God.

I'm unabashedly a cherry picker when it comes to reading the Bible.
posted by francesca too at 4:13 AM on July 6, 2008


Trying to pretend that the Christians never had a bad view of the Jews is like trying to pretend the KKK never lynched a black man.

The difference being that most Christians have no living memory of such a thing. It's foreign to their thinking. You might as well blame Presbyterians for the Inquisition.
posted by yath at 5:03 AM on July 6, 2008


The difference being that most Christians have no living memory of such a thing.
The pogroms that chased my grandparents out of russia were just about a century ago. Maybe the Christians have forgotten...
posted by jenkinsEar at 6:25 AM on July 6, 2008


At least among the baptist variant of this theology

You know nothing about baptist theology if you think there is any singular baptist theology. Or is 'baptist' acting as shorthand here for "Southern Baptist" here?
posted by Arturus at 6:27 AM on July 6, 2008


matteo, having failed to grasp the entire implication of Kant, worships the feeble god of "actual scholarship".
posted by quonsar at 6:29 AM on July 6, 2008 [2 favorites]


Yeah right, and Santa doesn't have the elves working all year round. Pfft.
posted by autodidact at 6:30 AM on July 6, 2008


Sonic Meat Machine, it appears we are at cross purposes. You wrote "religious person" but apparently you meant "a conservative American Christian with a very narrow understanding of the Bible and a very poor attitude toward discourse." Well, right there you can see why we've disagreed; that's not the only or even best definition for that term.

If we allow ourselves not to be constrained by your meaning and remember that there are many religions and many flavors of religious people (even outside of established religions), then, I'm sure you'll agree, we shall notice that many, many, many religious people have a great respect for "facts" (or apparently what you mean by that term: scientific explanations greatly supported by empirical evidence (which is a fine definition, if a bit limited)).

Let's get this straight kind men and women of MetaFilter: religion is not in its nature in any way opposed to science, empirical research, facts about the world, non-supernatural explanations, etc. . Some religions and some religious people have a problem with some the the thinking displayed by the non-religious, but this is a rather far cry from the caricature that is common in these parts.
posted by oddman at 6:41 AM on July 6, 2008 [3 favorites]


"religion is not in its nature in any way opposed to science, empirical research, facts about the world, non-supernatural explanations, etc. ."

You say that, but you do not give any evidence or support for the statement.
posted by Knigel at 8:23 AM on July 6, 2008


Robert Graves made exactly the argument that the NYT claims is earth-shattering and new, in 1946. (The latest US edition is dated 1981). His argument was based on painstaking research of ancient Jewish texts and traditions (he is an historian).

Your "he is an historian" led me to assume you were talking about some other Robert Graves, one who was, you know, a historian. But no, when I clicked the link I discovered you were talking about Robert Graves the poet and crackpot. Look, I enjoy I, Claudius and The Greek Myths as much as anybody, but Graves, despite his rummaging in ancient sources and diligent tracking down of obscure sources, was no more a scholar than Ezra Pound, another poet/crackpot. You might as well say "Nostradamus predicted this, so what's new?"
posted by languagehat at 8:30 AM on July 6, 2008 [3 favorites]


Oh, and many thanks to felix betachat for the only useful comment in this thread!
posted by languagehat at 8:31 AM on July 6, 2008


Oddman, in the nations where conservative Christians with a very narrow understanding of the Bible don't make up the largest part of the religious population and where riches and stability have allowed science to gain a real foothold, religion is dying out. People who have liberalized their religion are in the first steps of realizing that their religion is superstitious twaddle, and are therefore in the first steps of leaving the religious mindset. You can't use a recovering alcoholic as evidence that alcoholics, on the whole, can control their drinking.
posted by sonic meat machine at 8:43 AM on July 6, 2008


I'm unabashedly a cherry picker when it comes to reading the Bible.

The Messed-Up Teachings of Jesus.

Here's an amusing bit, though: Matthew 10:14: And if any one will not receive you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet as you leave that house or town.

Have you noticed that no matter how many times you tell a JW or Konolia or the like that you are not going to receive their words, they keep coming back to bug you? Dammit, people, the message here is clearly that you are to hole up in a compound like the FLDS and leave the rest of us alone.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:55 AM on July 6, 2008 [1 favorite]


I never got this idea from Sunday School that Christians felt any animosity at all towards Jews.

There's 2000 years between the death of Christ and Sunday School, you know.
posted by empath at 10:27 AM on July 6, 2008 [1 favorite]


So, if this article is valid at all, what it is heavily pushing is that one scholar has come to the belief that he can read what others cannot and that these phrases somehow allow give him the opportunity to say, without a doubt that, "What happens in the New Testament was adopted by Jesus and his followers based on an earlier messiah story." I don't by this one bit.

To show this, one would have to point to events where the separate traditions of the gospels and Paul came into direct contact with the traditions that have been interpreted in this stone (an interpretation that is disputed). This would be like showing that, based on the Dead Sea Scrolls, that Jesus was an Essene or that he came into direct contact with Essene thought during his travels (it's highly probable that he did or, even more likely, that some of the members of the gospel traditions were former Essene members) but proving that Jesus merely took ideas from the Essene without having any of his input into it is not possible. You can't make this jump with this stone tablet. The stone tablet tells a story but it does not tell a story where one can point that it influenced the traditions of the Gospels and Paul. Without knowing where it was found, without even knowing if the text is as readable as this article suggests, you really can't make the statement that this shows that the New Testament was merely an extension of an already existing tradition. And, in reality, if you wanted to do that, it is much easier to argue with some of the internal evidence in the Gospels that could possible suggest that John the Baptist and his followers had many struggles and were eventually absorbed into the early Christian traditions. Something that like this, if proven, makes the "New Testament adoption" idea much more plausible.

It is possible to annoy some Christians who believed that Christ was a unique event in all ways; he lived a one of the kind life, a one of the kind existence; he brought with him a unique culture, thought process, history and view point that no one else had ever experienced or seen. THe problems is that there are practically no scholars or theologians who would agree with this (Jesus was a Jew after all). Jesus experienced a Jewish life in a Jewish culture that was under the authority of the Roman Empire. This is not, in anyway, disputed by this tablet. A few lay people or fundamentalists might be shocked by this but no one of serious merit will be. This tablet rather than undermining some of the foundational ideas behind Christianity instead (if the tablet is a valid historical artifact) helps to bring us a fuller understanding of the social, political and religious life that existed in 1st century Israel. And, as much as people would like it too, more knowledge of 1st century Israel does not shatter the Christian faith.
posted by Stynxno at 10:41 AM on July 6, 2008 [1 favorite]


Hebrew transcription and English translation of the stone have been put online here.
posted by felix betachat at 11:02 AM on July 6, 2008 [1 favorite]


Also, I've asked around and the consensus seems to be that Yuval Goren's forthcoming article (mentioned briefly in the Times piece) will argue for the text's authenticity. Goren is a good and serious scholar who's been involved in debunking past forgeries. So his imprimatur will carry some weight. Still, I'll hold off passing judgment until I've seen the article itself. And all my other statements about the difficulty of working with unprovenanced material still stand.
posted by felix betachat at 11:10 AM on July 6, 2008


I'm surprised no one has mentioned The Passover Plot -- a popular book from the 60s which argued from evidence in the bible that Jesus was essentially a Jewish rabble-rouser who engineered his life (and death) to fulfill the ancient prophesies.
posted by binturong at 11:55 AM on July 6, 2008


binturong writes "which argued from evidence in the bible that Jesus was essentially a Jewish rabble-rouser"

Balderdash. Everyone know Jesus was a law-and-order Republican. And a strong proponent of capital punishment.
posted by orthogonality at 12:08 PM on July 6, 2008 [1 favorite]


"People who have liberalized their religion are in the first steps of realizing that their religion is superstitious twaddle, and are therefore in the first steps of leaving the religious mindset."

This is quite simply wrong. You may feel confident that this gross generalization is accurate, but it's about as accurate as my saying that people who realize that scientific investigation may be unable to answer some questions are in the first steps of adopting a religious mindset. Consider that the Jesuits have been at the forefront of liberalizing Catholicism for quite a long time now, and yet they are in no way less religious (whatever that might mean) than their conservative counterparts.

Knigel, I didn't support that statement because frankly it's about as close to self evident as you can get. Let's take a look at famous scientists who were explicitly religious: Pasteur, Alexander Fleming, Galileo, Descartes, Gregor Mendel, Michael Faraday, Isaac Newton. You'll excuse me if I think that these rather famous gentlemen (and it's a very small sampling) give lie to the claim that religious belief is somehow incompatible with science.
posted by oddman at 12:09 PM on July 6, 2008


Let's take a look at famous scientists who were explicitly religious: Pasteur, Alexander Fleming, Galileo, Descartes, Gregor Mendel, Michael Faraday, Isaac Newton.

I hate to step into this... but at least in the case of Newton, was he as explicity religious as he was stumped by the whole "prime mover" problem?
posted by ifthe21stcentury at 12:14 PM on July 6, 2008


Let's take a look at famous scientists who were explicitly religious: Pasteur, Alexander Fleming, Galileo, Descartes, Gregor Mendel, Michael Faraday, Isaac Newton. You'll excuse me if I think that these rather famous gentlemen (and it's a very small sampling) give lie to the claim that religious belief is somehow incompatible with science.

Others have made that argument better than I.... The fun starts at the 1:11 timestamp.
posted by Dark Messiah at 12:20 PM on July 6, 2008


Thanks Dark Messiah. I was just looking for that! There is a soft spot in me for Tyson.
posted by ifthe21stcentury at 12:22 PM on July 6, 2008


Wasn't Newton also pretty heavy into astrology and some other interesting mysticisms, too?

I always understood the tenets of science were pretty muddled and syncretized with mysticism until fairly recently in the human experience.

So it seems like it would be difficult to compare 17th/18th Century scientists with 21st Century scientists in terms of what is "compatible" in their worldview...under scientists' modern conception of what "science" means, anyway.
posted by darkstar at 12:29 PM on July 6, 2008 [2 favorites]


Of course, that's not to say that there aren't modern scientists who are also religious. Just that Newton's ideas of what constituted "science" might not overlay very neatly with scientists', today.
posted by darkstar at 12:31 PM on July 6, 2008


This discovery will not shake anyone's faith in Jesus directly because they already bought the story. Indirectly it will probably influence the growing doubt of his actual existence among those who debate it. We don't have any reliable evidence for Jesus because his contemporaries didn't record him, but yet here is this stone instead, alluding to the same difference. The view will eventually come about that Jesus was long awaited as a general messiah but never showed at all, so his surviving cult wrote him into existence after he would have been long gone. The question is why would this matter to the entire agricultural world? Because the rest of world was already stuck worshiping various resurrected man-gods as the old Osirian-derived bread and wine birth/death mystery based on a judgment of clean hands and pure hearts. But those gods had no actual human history. Then a movement suddenly shows up with a purported history. It mattered greatly to the Romans and their sense of realism, and they actually dumped the once powerful Mithra for this new guy (but kept the same basic message and gave Jesus the same birthday and changed his once Saturday worship to Mithra's Sunday, acknowledging their identical meaning and origins). Hence the now awaited "second coming" as though the first coming was just a qualified success. That's probably what is being referred to here as the change.
posted by Brian B. at 1:37 PM on July 6, 2008 [1 favorite]


Of course, that's not to say that there aren't modern scientists who are also religious.

Very few, percentage wise. Very few. Belief in a personal god is hovering down under 10%. And I'm guessing that ain't the top 10%, either.
posted by Justinian at 1:54 PM on July 6, 2008


So, let's see. Tyson's analysis seems to boil down to this: Newton was certainly smart enough to produce LaPlace's work, but he didn't. His failure is the result of his religious views.

I suppose as a working theory this is as plausible as any. Of course, we have absolutely no way of knowing what kept Newton from doing that bit of math that Laplace did. So, feel free to give what ever unprovable conjecture you'd like. I'm fine with all of them. (Personally I think Newton was so pissed off at Leibniz that he refused to do any further really cool work that relied on calculus.)

But here's an interesting point. Cleary Neil deGrasse Tyson is brilliant. And it seems a safe bet that at some point in the future someone will make a scientific discovery that relies on no bit of knowledge not available to Tyson right now. Afterward we will be able to say: Tyson was certainly smart enough to produce Future-science-guy's work, but he didn't. His failure is the result of his non-religious views
posted by oddman at 2:10 PM on July 6, 2008


oddman: I'm not using Tyson's presentation as a direct counter argument, but I think his message bears repeating; those that concede things are the "work of God" are not working towards science. Science requires the willingness to, essentially, say "bullshit, I'll figure it out, AND show my work."

I took Tyson's statements about Newton as a call-out to his unwillingness to further develop his ideas and simply use the God cop-out. That's Tyson's beef with the whole thing; that he sat back and said that it's the work of God, not so much as that he didn't apply his immense genius.
posted by Dark Messiah at 3:26 PM on July 6, 2008 [1 favorite]


"This should shake our basic view of Christianity..."

* picks up Our Basic View Of Christianity *

...

* shakes it *

Ooh look! It's a snowglobe!
posted by ZachsMind at 4:40 PM on July 6, 2008 [2 favorites]


"That's Tyson's beef with the whole thing; that he sat back and said that it's the work of God"

But as I said, Tyson has no way of knowing that this is what happened, not with any certainty. Newton was religious, and he failed to accomplish somethings that Tyson believes he should have accomplished. The former is not necessarily nor even likely the cause of the latter. (And seriously what kind of hubris does it take to say what Newton should have done?)

For Tyson it would seem that religious belief is a bogeyman upon which we can lay a certain amount of blame with respect to lack of advancement of science. It is also rather anachronistic. Just because Tyson, today, thinks that religious thought is a hindrance, there is very little evidence that we should label it a hindrance for Newton (or even for anyone today).
posted by oddman at 6:18 PM on July 6, 2008


I really wish someone could tell me why people who are virulently anti-religious and also not intellectually curious about biblical scholarship or theology keep coming into posts about biblical scholarship. Would it not be more productive to just skip it and go hug somebody you love? Or do you feed off of your hatred? Who do you think you are going to convince with the snark? It's not like this site is over-run with fundies and your snark is a bastion of reason in a sea of repressive fundamentalism. Also, these aren't discussions of religion effecting public life..they are posts about freakin SCHOLARSHIP, for fuck's sake.
posted by spicynuts at 7:34 PM on July 6, 2008 [5 favorites]


I really stopped paying attention to the value of religious scholarship when my grade 12 english class of vague, but devout Christians were reading 100 year old religious poetry, and not only did most of the religious symbolism go right over the tops of their heads, but we had a brief digression while the class tried to puzzle out what the Trinity was, exactly. Me being little Miss Snarky Atheist, I reached three conclusions 1)All our ancestors' efforts to burn each other alive over small matters of dogma seem to have been a bit of a waste of time 2)What Christians think is based on what works best for them, not what others believed in the past and 3)I am a giant nerd.
posted by Phalene at 5:32 AM on July 7, 2008 [1 favorite]


Well isn't that lovely for you - but clearly you didn't stop paying attention because you've come in here to crap on those of us who find it interesting. Thanks for taking your one personal anecdote about your 12th grade English class and turning it into an indictment of every person on the globe doing real scholarship on theology.
posted by spicynuts at 6:26 AM on July 7, 2008


I really wish someone could tell me why people who are virulently anti-religious and also not intellectually curious about biblical scholarship or theology keep coming into posts about biblical scholarship. Would it not be more productive to just skip it and go hug somebody you love? Or do you feed off of your hatred? Who do you think you are going to convince with the snark? It's not like this site is over-run with fundies and your snark is a bastion of reason in a sea of repressive fundamentalism. Also, these aren't discussions of religion effecting public life..they are posts about freakin SCHOLARSHIP, for fuck's sake.

This is about biblical scholarship from a religious point of view by way of damage control and minimizing the impact of the discovery. People who are anti-religious primarily belong to this thread because it validates their viewpoint. Having a sense of humor about it is one way of dealing with a biblical fetish and cultism that takes itself far too seriously.
posted by Brian B. at 7:08 AM on July 7, 2008


spicynuts: Some people don't seem to understand that Sister Mary that rapped your knuckles with a ruler in the second grade was not a 'biblical scholar'.

For those that think this is a waste of time, do you also think that studying greek mythology is a waste of time?
posted by empath at 8:14 AM on July 7, 2008


> Science requires the willingness to, essentially, say "bullshit, I'll figure it out, AND show my work."

Or, in the case of Galileo, the willingness to say "bullshit, I've figured it out, even though my theory falls flat when faced with the lack of parallax in stars. Plus everyone who points out the big hole in the theory are assholes."

Knowledge advances in mysterious ways, not all of which can be made to fit the Popper model. Not that I don't think that disproving alternative hypotheses isn't the best way to advance scientific knowledge, but an anti-dogmatic stance, a willingness to reconsider the facts at hand, and showing your work have not always been held to be as important in the history of natural philosophy as it is today. If it can even be said to be true today. (There! I've neatly tied in my digression to the main link.)
posted by gentilknight at 10:11 AM on July 7, 2008 [1 favorite]


For those that think this is a waste of time, do you also think that studying greek mythology is a waste of time?

The difference is that, outside of a few pagan loonies, the study of greek mythology isn't believed to give you some kind of superior insight into the fabric of reality. It's not so much the curiosity and scholarship that offends as the notion that said curiosity and scholarship are increasing our knowledge of reality.
posted by Pope Guilty at 2:46 PM on July 7, 2008 [1 favorite]


The difference is that, outside of a few pagan loonies, the study of greek mythology isn't believed to give you some kind of superior insight into the fabric of reality.

A few pagan loonies, and Freud, and Nietzsche.
posted by empath at 3:31 PM on July 7, 2008


So yeah, loonies.
posted by Pope Guilty at 3:47 PM on July 7, 2008


PG, narrow view of reality much?
posted by oddman at 10:16 AM on July 8, 2008


Looks like I'm not alone in my skepticism. Almost immediately, some dissenting voices are being heard.
posted by felix betachat at 11:43 AM on July 8, 2008


Thanks, felix. That link has a couple of striking points from Professor Stephen A. Kaufman of Hebrew Union College:
a) in this day and age of computer graphics for everyone, producing a totally convincing and consistent ink text is not difficult. An inscribed one (i.e. Joash) is easily discovered to be bogus by those who know how to see. Until we see a complete scientific analysis, extreme skepticism over a totally new typology of document is warranted.

b) the argument about Gesenius grammar NOT being violated has to be ascribed to content as well. In other words, the fact that the text is overloaded with reference to "three days" SCREAMS forgery. An innocuous text would not.
posted by languagehat at 12:32 PM on July 8, 2008


"Oddman, in the nations where conservative Christians with a very narrow understanding of the Bible don't make up the largest part of the religious population and where riches and stability have allowed science to gain a real foothold, religion is dying out. People who have liberalized their religion are in the first steps of realizing that their religion is superstitious twaddle, and are therefore in the first steps of leaving the religious mindset. You can't use a recovering alcoholic as evidence that alcoholics, on the whole, can control their drinking."

What sophomoric bullshit.

Where religion is less prominent, religion is less prominent?

I'll leave alone your grasping question-begging regarding liberalization of religion and note that European countries have not, on the whole, liberalized their theology—Rome is still in Italy, and the Vatican II had less of an effect locally than it did abroad regarding church membership.

Or, basically, that you were a fool with religion does not mean that when you abandoned religion you abandoned being a fool. For you, idiocy precedes essence.
posted by klangklangston at 5:33 PM on July 8, 2008


PG, narrow view of reality much?

If attempting to minimise the amount that one mistakes fantasy for reality is having a narrow view of reality, I suppose so.
posted by Pope Guilty at 6:37 PM on July 8, 2008


Languagehat - just because Robert Graves chose to present much of his work in the form of fiction does not make him less of a scholar or an historian. He performed much more primary research than most history academics that I know (and I know a few). He based his work on painstaking translation and reading of ancient texts. He had controversial theories, which he expounded in his books - and many people disagreed with these (including, obviously, you). But what historian doesn't have pet theories and detractors? It is easy to sneer at someone who tries to make his work accessible. But I have read non-fiction history that is a great deal more biased than the fiction of Robert Graves, who always performed research that was nonpareil. If you actually read the book, you would see that this is a serious commentary, albeit fictionalized, not a cheap novel. Or are you trying to be one of the "little corner watchers" that Graves noted?
posted by Susurration at 11:17 AM on July 9, 2008


Susurration: Your "scholar" link goes to the home page of the Robert Graves Archive: "a subject gateway for the poet and novelist Robert Graves." You note they don't say "the scholar and historian Robert Graves," and there's a reason for that. Your second link goes to another crackpot:
I first read his WHITE GODDESS about 15 years ago, and I must say, it completely blew me away. I had to reread it 3 times to figure it out. It is a book of incredible complexity, a book that many people have heard about, very few have read, and of those, fewer still managed to get to the bottom of it. The Gnosis of Graves is expressed very well in this book. If anything about the extremely varied Gnostic movement could be found to bind all these free-thinkers together, it is perhaps the respect for Sophia, the Goddess of Wisdom. I really think that the White Goddess of Graves is really Sophia.
If that sounds to you like the kind of person who is to be taken seriously about scholarship, I guess I don't know what to tell you. I hate to rain on your parade, and feel free to ignore me, but as a scholar, Graves was a fine poet.
posted by languagehat at 11:33 AM on July 9, 2008


A good post on this discovery by Ben Witherington, here.

I take quite seriously the authenticity of this stone, since Ada Yardeni has weighed in on it, and found it genuine. So let us suppose it is genuine-- let's ask the question, So what?

If you read the article you will discover that one eclectic Jewish scholar is now suggesting that the Christians got the idea from this stone or its source, and then predicated the idea of Jesus. It would be just as simple to argue that Jesus knew of this idea, and predicated of himself. What this stone then would show is that there was in early Judaism some concept of a suffering messiah whom God might vindicate by resurrection before the time of Jesus.

This is not entirely surprising in view of Isaiah 53 in any case. But the real implication of this for Jesus' studies should not be missed. Most radical Jesus scholars have argued that the passion and resurrection predictions by Jesus found in the Gospels were not actually made by Jesus-- they reflect the later notions and theologizing of the Evangelists.

But now, if this stone is genuine there is no reason to argue this way. One can show that Jesus, just as well as the author of this stone, could have spoken about a dying and rising messiah. There is in any case a reference to a messiah who dies in the late first century A.D. document called 4 Ezra.

Long story short-- this stone certainly does not demonstrate that the Gospel passion stories are created on the basis of this stone text, which appears to be a Dead Sea text. For one thing the text is hard to read at crucial junctures, and it is not absolutely clear it is talking about a risen messiah. BUT what it does do is make plausible that Jesus could have said some of the things credited to him in Mk. 8.31, 9,31, and 10.33-34.

posted by Pater Aletheias at 11:24 AM on July 24, 2008


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