Den som tror at historien er frosset i etablerte sannheter, tar feil. Det dukker stadig opp ny viten. For 60 år siden ble Dødehavsrullene funnet i Qumran-hulene på Vestbredden. Deres betydning er ennå ikke avklart. Søndag åpnet en stor konferanse om Dødehavsrullene i Jersualem. Blant temaene som vil bli berørt er en merkelig sten, ca 1 m høy, med 87 linjer hebraisk som ble funnet for ti år siden. Den ble solgt av en jordansk antikvitetshandler til en sveitsisk-jødisk samler, David Jeselsohn. Selv om Jeselsohn selv er en betydelig kapasitet på oldtiden, forsto han ikke hva han satt på før han viste stenen til en israelsk ekspert på Herodes-perioden. Ada Yardani utbrøt: – Du sitter på en Dødehavsrull i sten!
Det viser seg at stenen er fra første århundre f.Kr. Derom er alle enige. Det virkelig sensasjonelle er at den later til å omtale en jødisk messias som skal bli drept men stå opp igjen fra graven etter tre dager for å redde det jødiske folk. Dette har to umiddelbare betydninger: Det fantes en jødisk Messias-forestilling som var helt annerledes enn den vante, der Messias er konge og befrier. Denne er en lidende messias. For kristendommen betyr det at Jesus går inn i en jødisk forestilling om en lidende redningsmann som stiger opp fra de døde på den tredje dagen. Det styrker båndene mellom jødedommen og kristendommen.
Tilfellet ville at en israelsk professor hadde lansert en teori om en slik jødisk messias, men han manglet historisk belegg for den. Så dukket stentavlen opp. Den har fått navnet Gabriels åpenbaring.
It was in Cathedra that Israel Knohl, an iconoclastic professor of Bible studies at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, first heard of the stone, which Ms. Yardeni and Mr. Elitzur dubbed «Gabriel’s Revelation,» also the title of their article. Mr. Knohl posited in a book published in 2000 the idea of a suffering messiah before Jesus, using a variety of rabbinic and early apocalyptic literature as well as the Dead Sea Scrolls. But his theory did not shake the world of Christology as he had hoped, partly because he had no textual evidence from before Jesus.
When he read «Gabriel’s Revelation,» he said, he believed he saw what he needed to solidify his thesis, and he has published his argument in the latest issue of The Journal of Religion.
Mr. Knohl is part of a larger scholarly movement that focuses on the political atmosphere in Jesus’ day as an important explanation of that era’s messianic spirit. As he notes, after the death of Herod, Jewish rebels sought to throw off the yoke of the Rome-supported monarchy, so the rise of a major Jewish independence fighter could take on messianic overtones.
In Mr. Knohl’s interpretation, the specific messianic figure embodied on the stone could be a man named Simon who was slain by a commander in the Herodian army, according to the first-century historian Josephus. The writers of the stone’s passages were probably Simon’s followers, Mr. Knohl contends.
The slaying of Simon, or any case of the suffering messiah, is seen as a necessary step toward national salvation, he says, pointing to lines 19 through 21 of the tablet — «In three days you will know that evil will be defeated by justice» — and other lines that speak of blood and slaughter as pathways to justice.
«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.»
Mr. Knohl said that it was less important whether Simon was the messiah of the stone than the fact that it strongly suggested that a savior who died and rose after three days was an established concept at the time of Jesus. He notes that in the Gospels, Jesus makes numerous predictions of his suffering and New Testament scholars say such predictions must have been written in by later followers because there was no such idea present in his day.
But there was, he said, and «Gabriel’s Revelation» shows it.
«His mission is that he has to be put to death by the Romans to suffer so his blood will be the sign for redemption to come,» Mr. Knohl said. «This is the sign of the son of Joseph. This is the conscious view of Jesus himself. This gives the Last Supper an absolutely different meaning. To shed blood is not for the sins of people but to bring redemption to Israel.»