Falling Awake

Just Darts Since 2009

New York Times doesn’t get Christianity

The headline reads “Ancient Tablet Ignites Debate on Messiah and Resurrection.”  Apparently, a stone tablet has been found which describes a messiah who will die and rise again after three days.  The problem–according to the New York Times–is that the tablet predates Jesus Christ.

“This should shake our basic view of Christianity,” [Israel Knohl] said as he sat in his office of the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem where he is a senior fellow in addition to being the Yehezkel Kaufman Professor of Biblical Studies at Hebrew University.  [Me: He is also selling a book on the subject.]  “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.”

In other words, the early Christians’ fanciful story of a “resurrection” was based upon a myth that had been current in the Middle East prior to the birth of Jesus.

There are four questions I would like to ask the author of the piece:

  1. What tests have been done to ascertain the tablet’s age, and the age of the writing?  The article states that “its authenticity has so far faced no challenge,” which is ambiguous.  Does no one have any grounds on which to challenge it, or have its custodians not allowed any examination by critical eyes?  Also, we’re not talking about a traditional engraving, but words written in ink upon stone.  How common was this practice?  Has the ink been tested?
  2. Has anyone except Mr. Israel Knohl been able to read the entire text?  One scholar, Moshe Bar-Asher, is quoted by the Times as saying: “In crucial places of the text there is lack of text. I understand Knohl’s tendency to find there keys to the pre-Christian period, but in two to three crucial lines of text there are a lot of missing words.”  This is reminiscent of The Da Vinci Code method of research.  Dan Brown made a lot of money off one missing word in a Gnostic text.
  3. Were you aware that there are many myths concerning the death and resurrection of a god?  Those myths, like the one Mr. Knohl can read on this tablet, are irrelevant to the matter except insofar as they are pre-echoes of the actual event.  The New York Times apparently is unaware that Chrisitianity is based upon the assertion of a fact: the resurrection of a specific man at a specific time.  If that can be demonstrated to be false, then Christianity is a lie.  No amount of evidence of earlier resurrection traditions can prove Christ did not rise from the dead.

For Christians, this tablet–real or fake–is a non-issue.  But that doesn’t mean you won’t be hearing more about it in the months to come.

Oh, yes.  My fourth question: why are you running this story in July?  Don’t you normally save these for Easter?

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3 responses to “New York Times doesn’t get Christianity

  1. Museum Ethics July 6, 2008 at 8:15 pm

    I would submit that this “ancient tablet” is probably another sensationalist scam, as is clearly indicated by the facts

    (1) that no specific information (apart from a vague 3rd-party rumor) is available on its provenance and

    (2) that no details are provided on carbon dating of the ink.

    As such, this “news” brings to mind the faked Lost-Tomb-of-Jesus “documentary” designed to make a profit off of people’s fascination with the “real” Jesus, as well as the larger scandal of the biased and misleading way the Dead Sea scrolls are being presented in museum exhibits around the world, with an antisemitic nuance appearing on a government-run North Carolina museum’s website. See, e.g.,

    http://spinozaslens.com/libet/articles/dworkin_ethicsofexhibition.htm

    and

    http://blog.news-record.com/staff/frontpew/archives/2008/06/dead_sea_scroll.shtml.

  2. Mike Kriskey July 6, 2008 at 10:43 pm

    Sensationalism seems like the right word. Sensationalism on the part of the discoverer, the owner and the New York Times. Like the famous ossuary inscriptions, it’s evidence of nothing even if true.

    It’s a shame because these texts hold their own fascination, which is overlooked when ridiculous claims for their implications are made.

  3. tzvee July 7, 2008 at 4:39 pm

    “Oh, yes. My fourth question: why are you running this story in July? Don’t you normally save these for Easter?”

    You got a chuckle from me on this one! Guess it’s now a 4th of July Weekend event?

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