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A 2,000-year-old inscription, written in ink on a stone, is being called "a Dead Sea Scroll on stone." But New Testament scholars scoff at the idea that the inscription "should shake our basic view of Christianity," as one scholar told The New York Times.

The inscription has been dubbed "Gabriel's Vision" since the phrase, "I, Gabriel," appears several times in the broken text. It was apparently discovered somewhere in Jordan about a decade ago, and was more recently purchased by an Israeli-Swiss businessman from an antiquities dealer. The legible parts of the Hebrew text are stylistically similar to the Dead Sea Scrolls, and so far no scholar has raised doubts about its authenticity despite its murky provenance.

An analysis of the inscription appeared in the Hebrew journal Cathedra a year ago and in Biblical Archaeology Review earlier this year. But few people outside the scholarly world paid attention until The New York Times featured an interview with Hebrew University professor Israel Knohl, who claims additional insight into some of the hard-to-read areas of the text.

Knohl says one illegible word is the Hebrew word for "live," which led him to translate one sentence as, "In three days you shall live, I, Gabriel, command you." He concludes the inscription is about a leader of the Jews who will die and be resurrected after three days.

That's in contrast to the typical Jewish image of a triumphant messiah, who is usually seen as a powerful leader like his ancestor King David. It suggests there were other perspectives on messianism in the first-century Jewish world from which Christianity sprang.

Darrell Bock, a professor of New Testament at Dallas Theological Seminary, says Knohl may be reaching too far with his translation. ...

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September 2008

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