Vatican Fragment

By Giacomo Galeazzi:

There’s a bit of sensationalism and a bit of news and a bit of history (belief in resurrection after three days) in this recent discussion out of the Vatican:

Professor, what is the Gabriel’s Revelation stela on show in the “Verbum Domini” exhibition in the Vatican?

“It is an extraordinary archaeological find which resurfaced back in 2000, in the Eastern part of the Dead Sea. It was on the west bank of the Dead Sea that the famous Qumran manuscripts were discovered over fifty years ago. This was purchased by Dr. David Jeselsohn, a banker from Zurich, who added it to his precious collection of old texts. Gabriel’s Revelation is a 93cm tall and 37cm wide stela divided into two columns of Aramaic text. Experts date it between the 1st century BC and the 1st Century AD. The text is composed of 87 lines and presents the Messiah in quite a different way than how he was viewed during Jesus’ time. He is not described as a glorious descendant of David who supposedly restored the kingdom to Israel, but as someone who suffered and was resurrected after three days. It is named Gabriel’s Revelation or Jeselsohn Stone, after the man who discovered it.

What does the text say?

“The first column talks about the eschatological war. When Jerusalem is under siege, God will send a sign via His Messiah, which will announce the destruction of the Antichrist and the forces of evil. In the second column, God declares that the blood of martyrs will be the instrument that will allow them to ascend to heaven. It then goes on to mention three leaders sent by God who will be killed in battle. Finally, the angel Gabriel orders his interlocutor to come back to life.”

Why might Gabriel’s Revelation be an important piece of proof of Jesus’ prophesies about his resurrection?

“In lines 80-81 of the second column, the angel Gabriel supposedly addresses these words to his interlocutor: “In three days you shall live, I, Gabriel, command you, prince of princes, the dung of the rocky crevices.” According to Israel Knhol – who studied this tablet in great depth – the “prince of princes” is meant to be Simon, one of the revolutionaries, who, the day after Herod’s death, reclaimed Israel’s independence for himself and for his people. According to Giuseppe Flavio, (The Jewish War 2, 4, 2), Simon was killed whilst standing on the edge of a gorge. His body probably ended up on the cliff’s rocks, where it putrefied. On the Jeselsohn Stone, Gabriel is supposedly addressing this revolutionary, announcing to him that he would be brought back to life after three days time.”

What do the Gospels say about this?

“In Matthew’s Gospel (27:63), the Pharisees remind Pilate of what Jesus said when he was alive: “After three days I will rise again”. The similarity between the words on the tablet and Jesus’ words is evident. The only difference is that on the tablet the angel Gabriel announces those words to a man, whereas in the Gospel, Jesus applies them to himself. Thus, the tablet is an extremely important piece of historical evidence of Jesus’ prophesies, particularly the prophesy of this death and resurrection. The words on the tablet were apparently not re-written by the early Christians, as a formula similar to the one Jesus applied to himself – in terms of his resurrection after three days – already existed.



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  • Scot how clear do you think it is that this text is actually a reference to the Davidic Messiah dying and rising? I have read that the Jews sometimes speculated about two messianic figures, a son of David who would conquer and a son of Joseph who would suffer, but not a single, messianic figure who would die and rise.

  • Nate

    My first thought in relation to this news is that perhaps N.T. Wright is wrong about how surprising the resurrection would have been for a 1st century Jew.

    That is a big component of his argument in support of the resurrection.

  • Isaac

    Nate, a big part of Tom Wright’s argument is the distinction between resurrection in a new-creation body vs. resuscitation in an old-creation body (along the lines of Lazarus or the resuscitation of the Hebrew Bible). If such a distinction applies, this account would probably go in the latter category but without reading the rest of it it’s hard to say.

  • C

    I guess I’m missing something. If in fact this is authentic, what’s the implication?

  • D. Foster

    (The site made me split my comment into two parts. This is part 1)

    This really intrigued me so I did some research. Here’s a quick summary of what I found about this text:

    1) A scholar named Arda Yardeni recently (2007/2008?) published the transcribed text of a large tablet dated to the late first century B.C. that was found among the Dead Sea Scrolls years ago. Much of the text is completely illegible, which makes it difficult to identify what it refers to. It is popularly called “Hazon Gabriel” or “Gabriel’s Vision.”

    You can read Yardeni’s transcription of the Hebrew text here:

    or her English translation of it here:

    Note just how much of the text is missing and/or conjectured.

    2) Another scholar, Israel Knohl, published a paper in which he postulates reconstructions of this missing/corrupted text and tries to make connections between Gabriel’s Vision and some of Knohl’s earlier research in which he hypothesizes about some strands of Jewish tradition. You can read Knohl’s paper on Gabriel’s Vision here:

    To briefly summarize his conclusions, Knohl hypothesizes that Gabriel’s Vision utilizes a theme of Ephraim as a messianic figure who was akin to the Davidic Messiah. He equates the Gabriel text’s usage of “Ephraim” with a “Son of Joseph” motif running through the Talmud and other strands of Qumranic tradition, as well as (what he believes to be) biblical passages from which they are derived. His hypotheses regarding the nature of the Son of Joseph motif are tentative, and he admits as much in the paper. But he believes his interpretation of Gabriel’s Vision, if correct, would substantiate his earlier research.

    Knohl reconstructs an ineligible word in line 80 as HAYEH, meaning “live” or “rise,” and thus renders the text as reading, “By three days, live, I Gabriel, command you, prince of the princes.” He interprets this reconstructed line as referring to the resurrection of an Ephraimic/messianic figure to whom Gabriel addresses this command. From this, he concludes that a motif of a resurrected messiah after three days existed prior to Jesus, and that the Gospels simply modified this tradition around Jesus.

  • D. Foster

    (The site made me split my comment into two parts. This is part 2)

    In the appendix of the paper, Knohl provides what he admits is a very tendentious hypothesis that the figure being addressed by Gabriel is Simon, a messianic figure who led a revolt against the Herodian dynasty after the death of Herod in 4 B.C. Josephus relates that Simon was killed on a ravine. With that passage in mind, Knohl reconstructs a word in the Gabriel’s Vision text to read “rocks/crevices” and another to read “dung,” then suggests that the text is referring to Simon, whose body laid like dung upon the rocky crevices. Simon’s followers, Knohl supposes, subsequently created Gabriel’s Vision in hopes that Simon would be resurrected after three days.

    Knohl ends the appendix by stressing that the specific identification of Simon is of a conjectural nature, and that it really has no bearing on the main body of this paper.

    3) Knohl’s theory made headlines in the New York Times, Time Magazine, and BAR (Biblical Archeology Review).

    Ben Witherington endorsed the authenticity of the text in one of his blogs:

    Witherington, however, pointed out in the Time article that HAYEH, “rise,” doesn’t necessarily mean resurrection. It can mean “rise” as in “show up,” I suppose like an army would “rise.” That makes more sense to me in light of what little of the text we do have. If Witherington’s correct, the text isn’t talking about resurrection, but about the rise of some prominent figure, or group, perhaps playing off of Hosea 6:2.

    Anyways, that’s what we’re dealing with here. I tried to post links the articles referred to above, but the site thinks I’m spamming and prevents me.


  • Also of interest: “Experts date it between the 1st century BC and the 1st Century AD.” Thus, there is no certainty that it precedes Jesus.