Here we go again. Another relic pops up of questionable authenticity that one or two experts is saying casts doubts on the unique claims of Christian orthodoxy. So of course Time.com put the story of the so-called "Gabriel's Revelation" tablet in its July 7 top stories lineup (see screencap at right), with the teaser headline, "Was Jesus' Resurrection a Sequel?"
The story by David Van Biema and Tim McGirk breathlessly began by noting how this "revelation" could set some orthodox Christians on edge:
A 3-ft.-high tablet romantically dubbed "Gabriel's Revelation" could challenge the uniqueness of the idea of the Christian Resurrection. The tablet appears to date authentically to the years just before the birth of Jesus and yet - at least according to one Israeli scholar - it announces the raising of a messiah after three days in the grave. If true, this could mean that Jesus' followers had access to a well-established paradigm when they decreed that Christ himself rose on the third day - and it might even hint that they they could have applied it in their grief after their master was crucified.
But then Van Biema and McGirk dialed it down a bit (emphasis mine):
However, such a contentious reading of the 87-line tablet depends on creative interpretation of a smudged passage, making it the latest entry in the woulda/coulda/shoulda category of possible New Testament artifacts; they are useful to prove less-spectacular points and to stir discussion on the big ones, but probably not to settle them nor shake anyone's faith.
Indeed, as Christian blogger Michele McGinty of Reformed Chicks Blabbing noted, one has to
[make] a leap there from the text (an excerpt of Knohl's article can be found here) to suffering, death and resurrection which isn't evident in the text he quotes which is "by three days live, I Gabriel, command you, prince of princes." And that quote is based on his assessment of partial words. Not enough there to suggest that the disciples of Jesus based their account on messianic stories that may have circulated at the time. Too many leaps to be believable. So much for shaking our view of Christianity.
What's more, it's laughable on its face that one obscure, questionably-interpreted transcript of an alleged angelic annunciation has anything on the public witness of the early church, which based its arguments for the resurrection of Christ from first-hand eyewitness accounts of some 500 people of the risen Jesus and Hebrew scriptures on the person and work of the Messiah (I Cor. 15:1-11; Acts 2:14-36; Heb. 1:1-4).
Indeed, the New Testament is full of historical-theological exposition, particularly in the books of Acts and Hebrews as well as the gospel accounts, about how Jesus Christ fulfilled numerous Old Testament prophecies related to the Messiah. Simply put, whether you believe Christian claims or not, the apostolic preaching of the early Church was not based on folklore or myth but a systematic understanding of Hebrew Scripture as testifying to the person and redemptive work of Jesus Christ as the Son of God, the Messiah.
For the media to fail to take this into account when reporting on Palestinian archaeology betrays the ignorance which the mainstream media have when it comes to reporting on faith and theology.