Israeli Jewish believers in Jesus say the recently publicized Hebrew tablet describing the death and resurrection of a messianic figure challenges centuries of teachings by rabbinic Judaism that the redemptive process of Jesus was a departure from biblical Jewish understanding.
The unique stone tablet dubbed "Gabriel's Revelation" contains 87 partial lines of archaic Hebrew in which the archangel commands a messianic ruler identified as the "Prince of Princes" to rise after having been dead for three days.
The tablet was found in neighboring Jordan some eight years ago, but just last week gained international attention after featuring as one of the centerpieces at a special Israel Museum event marking 60 years since the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls.
The content of the tablet quickly made headlines after a leading Israeli professor of Bible studies, Israel Knohl of the Hebrew University, spoke of his conclusions regarding the script. In an interview with the International Herald Tribune, Knohl called the text "revolutionary" in its confirmation that Messiah suffering and dying was originally a Jewish concept.
Knohl differed with other experts who examined the tablet by suggesting it is speaking of a specific messianic Jewish figure named Simon, a first century BC leader who led a failed revolt against King Herod of Judea.
Knohl said that whether the tablet is speaking of Simon or not, the fact that the concept of a messiah figure suffering, dying and being resurrected was already established by the time of Jesus should shake the Christian world.
According to Knohl, the tablet proves that "what happens in the New Testament was adopted by Jesus and his followers based on an earlier messiah story."
But Gershon Nirel, a prominent Israeli historian and Jewish believer in Jesus, has a different take. He says the tablet is further evidence that Jesus was the kind of messiah Israel was waiting for, even if the rabbis now teach that Jesus failed to meet the biblical messianic criteria.
"Judaism is coming closer to the idea of redemption through the cleansing blood of Messiah, an idea that had been abandoned throughout the last centuries," said Nirel.
Israeli theologian and fellow Messianic Jew Tsvi Sadan added that even if Knohl's conclusions rub some believers in Jesus the wrong way, they still represent a step in the right direction.
"One can agree or disagree with Knohl’s conclusion, but the persistence of one of the leading Old Testament scholars in Israel today to prove that the death of the Messiah for Israel’s sake is not a Christian innovation is commendable in light of the tenuous relationship between the Jewish people and Jesus," explained Sadan.