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The Resurrection Tablet

1 August, 2008

A friend mentioned this article to me, which appears in The New York Times.  See 06stone.html?hp

The paper reports a recent discovery of an alleged 1st c B.C. stone tablet. Reportedly, there appears to be a partial inscription referencing a “prince of princes” dying and rising from the dead three days later.  What makes this discovery intriguing is the possible implication that during the 2nd Temple period of Judaism there may have been some Jews who considered the possibility of the Messiah dying and rising.  The fuller implication of this is the idea that Jesus’ words of his own dying and rising did not “come in a vacuum”.

The discovery of yet another Jesus-era artifact is always newsworthy and important.  Whatever one makes of this tablet it is important, I take it, to consider at least two lines of thought:

1. The NT accounts of Jesus’ words about his dying and rising (in reference to his being the Son of Man) do have OT “echoes”.  A stone tablet from 1st c B.C. does not in itself resolve the question of OT or 2nd Temple precedents.  Nonetheless, that this tablet might imply that Messiah’s dying and rising was not entirely foreign is an important implication.  What is reasonably clear, however, is that this tablet doesn’t mean that Christianity is now trounced because one of its central claims actually has historical precedent.  The NT consistently stresses a continuity with the OT when it speaks of Jesus’ resurrection.

2. The debunkers and sceptics of Christianity will not be silenced by this discovery.  Already Dawkins and other new atheists are commenting and their ridicule and vitriol pour out even more.  What one should appreciate is that the real problem of the resurrection of Jesus is not its historicity.  The real problem for men and women is whether they will bow in adoration, repentance and faith in response to the risen Lord Jesus.  All the historical evidence in the world will not, in itself, overcome the hardness of our hearts.  We need to be open to the idea that the issue is: what we presuppose to be true will inevitably colour our reading and interpretation of the truth.  Or as Jesus put it in a parable/story: “If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.” (Lk 16:31)

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