Ancient Tablet Ignites Debate on Messiah

In case you haven’t heard the buzz there is a stone that is causing quiet a stirr regarding the uniqueness of the Christian message regarding a suffering Messiah who eventually raises from the dead in order to save Israel. Its amazing what 87 lines of unearthed text can do to scholarly concensus and plausability structures that have been favored for some time. Here’s a link to one possible way of translating the Hebrew of the stone into english.

Ethan Bronnar over at the New York Times has a decent two-page article on the stone. And here is a link to CNN’s video short on th stone and how three scholars are reacting to it. I appreciated Dr. David Jeselsohn’s conclusions that far from challenging the Christian faith pre-dating biblical theologies that agree with the Christian message give it even further credibility. It is only when we enshrine ‘uniqueness’ as a necessary component of every motif of the New Testament that things like the Messiah Stone can shake our faith.

Though this should not cause one to then jump at every opportunity to find predating biblical theological motifs that make the New Testament ‘more credible’. In this regard I think Michael Bird’s assessment of the stone shows level headedness and chastened opinion concerning the Messiah Stone’s value. Bird says;

It is possible that some Jewish texts refer to a suffering Messiah (Zech 13.7; Dan. 9.26; Tgs. Isa. 53; T.Benj. 3.8; 4Q541 frags. 9, 24; 4Q285 5.4; 4 Ezra 7.29-30; 2 Bar. 30.1; Justin, Dial. Tryph. 39, 89-90; Tg. Zech. 12.10; Hippolytus, Haer. Omn. Haer. 9.25; b.Suk. 52) and several scholars have inferred from this a form of intertestamental messianic expectation that provides the background to the messianism of Jesus and of the early church (Horbury, Jewish Messianism, p. 33; Hengel, ‘Messiah of Israel’, p. 37; Bockmuehl, This Jesus, 50; idem, ‘A “Slain Messiah” in 4QSerekh Milhamah [4Q285]?’ TynBul 43 [1992], pp. 155-69; R.A. Rosenberg, ‘The Slain Messiah in the Old Testament,’ ZAW 99 [1987], pp. 259-61). But if there was a well-known tradition about a suffering or dying Messiah, how could the hopes of the disciples be shattered after Good Friday (cf. Lk. 24.21)? If such a tradition was extant then, on the contrary, their hope that Jesus was the Messiah would have been confirmed not dashed. Likewise, the scandal of a crucified Messiah would dissipate if it was thought possible that the Messiah would suffer rather than conquer. Geza Vermes (Authentic Gospel of Jesus, p. 387) writes: ‘It should be recalled that neither the death nor the resurrection of the Messiah formed part of the beliefs and expectations of the Jews in the first century AD’. Belief in a suffering Messiah (Messiah son of Ephraim or Messiah son of Joseph) may have arisen in response to the failed messianic aspirations of Bar Kochba in the post-135 CE period; see also Vermes, Jesus the Jew, pp. 139-40; Wright, People of God, p. 320; idem, Jesus and the Victory of God, p. 488; Theissen and Merz, Historical Jesus, pp. 540-41; Stuhlmacher, Jesus of Nazareth, p. 27; Schürer, History of the Jewish People, vol. 2, pp. 547-49; Evans, ‘Messianism’, p. 703; Collins, Sceptre and the Star, pp. 123-26.

Thoughts, crticisms, suggesions…

UPDATE: Craig Blomberg on the new Messiah Stone. Here is Darrell Bock’s take thus far as well, very measured and slow to jump in with conclusions.