Over the weekend the press jumped on the latest sensational challenge to Christianity. A stone tablet called 'Gabriel's Revelation' apparently undermines the uniqueness of the Christian story:
[Prof. Israel] Knohl told the [International Herald] Tribune that he interprets the tablet to tell of a messianic figure named Simon, whose death was recorded by the Jewish historian Josephus. The tablet, Knohl contends, was likely written by Simon's followers and demonstrates that messianic followers even before Jesus looked to their leaders rising again, thus nullifying the frequent claim that Jesus' resurrection was a uniquely developed story.
If Knohl's interpretation of "Gabriel's Revelation" is correct, it would lend evidence to his previous theories, published in his 2002 book, "The Messiah before Jesus." Knohl is one of several scholars who suggest Jesus may not have been unique in his claim to face suffering, death and resurrection, but that sources, like this tablet, suggest a common messianic story that New Testament writers may have merely been copying.
"This should shake our basic view of Christianity," Knohl told the Tribune. "Resurrection after three days becomes a motif developed before Jesus, which runs contrary to nearly all scholarship. What happens in the New Testament was adopted by Jesus and his followers based on an earlier messiah story."
Despite this blow to my worldview I still find that I am able to function and type. Two problems spring to mind despite all the hoopla. First is that not only migh Knohl's interpretation of the meaning of the scroll not be correct, but it is damaged in such a way that no one is exactly sure what it says in the first place.
The second is the idea that a resurrected Messiah was something cooked up by first century Christians. When those on the Emmaus road expressed surprise at the resurrection of Jesus to (unbeknownst to them) Jesus, Luke records: "And he said to them, 'O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?' And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself." (Luke 24:25-27)
That some expected a resurrected Messiah is not a blow to Jesus or Christianity at all, but rather a confirmation that it was possible to understand the Old Testament Scriptures correctly.
Ah well, good try, anyway. More shocking and foundation shattering discoveries are on the horizon, I'm sure.