Century-old Archaeological Find Could Prove Authenticity of Jesus’ Prophesy of the Resurrection
Gabriel’s Revelation tablet (on show in the “Verbum Domini” exhibition in the Vatican) has been said to be an important piece of evidence for the authenticity of Jesus’ prophesies on the resurrection
Vatican Insider spoke to Biblicist and writer, Professor Simone Venturini on the subject. Professor Venturini works in the Vatican Secret Archives and teaches Biblical Science at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross. He is also the author of a number of works, including Il libro di Gesu Segreto (The secret book of Jesus) published by Newton Compton.
Professor, what is the Gabriel’s Revelation stela on show in the “Verbum Domini” exhibition in the Vatican?
“It is an extraordinary archaeological find which resurfaced back in 2000, in the Eastern part of the Dead Sea. It was on the west bank of the Dead Sea that the famous Qumran manuscripts were discovered over fifty years ago. This was purchased by Dr. David Jeselsohn, a banker from Zurich, who added it to his precious collection of old texts. Gabriel’s Revelation is a 93cm tall and 37cm wide stela divided into two columns of Aramaic text. Experts date it between the 1st century BC and the 1st Century AD. The text is composed of 87 lines and presents the Messiah in quite a different way than how he was viewed during Jesus’ time. He is not described as a glorious descendant of David who supposedly restored the kingdom to Israel, but as someone who suffered and was resurrected after three days. It is named Gabriel’s Revelation or Jeselsohn Stone, after the man who discovered it.
What does the text say?
“The first column talks about the eschatological war. When Jerusalem is under siege, God will send a sign via His Messiah, which will announce the destruction of the Antichrist and the forces of evil. In the second column, God declares that the blood of martyrs will be the instrument that will allow them to ascend to heaven. It then goes on to mention three leaders sent by God who will be killed in battle. Finally, the angel Gabriel orders his interlocutor to come back to life.”
Why might Gabriel’s Revelation be an important piece of proof of Jesus’ prophesies about his resurrection?
“In lines 80-81 of the second column, the angel Gabriel supposedly addresses these words to his interlocutor: “In three days you shall live, I, Gabriel, command you, prince of princes, the dung of the rocky crevices.” According to Israel Knhol – who studied this tablet in great depth – the “prince of princes” is meant to be Simon, one of the revolutionaries, who, the day after Herod’s death, reclaimed Israel’s independence for himself and for his people. According to Giuseppe Flavio, (The Jewish War 2, 4, 2), Simon was killed whilst standing on the edge of a gorge. His body probably ended up on the cliff’s rocks, where it putrefied. On the Jeselsohn Stone, Gabriel is supposedly addressing this revolutionary, announcing to him that he would be brought back to life after three days time.”
What do the Gospels say about this?
“In Matthew’s Gospel (27:63), the Pharisees remind Pilate of what Jesus said when he was alive: “After three days I will rise again”. The similarity between the words on the tablet and Jesus’ words is evident. The only difference is that on the tablet the angel Gabriel announces those words to a man, whereas in the Gospel, Jesus applies them to himself. Thus, the tablet is an extremely important piece of historical evidence of Jesus’ prophesies, particularly the prophesy of this death and resurrection. The words on the tablet were apparently not re-written by the early Christians, as a formula similar to the one Jesus applied to himself - in terms of his resurrection after three days - already existed.
What is the relationship between archaeology and faith?
“Faith is obviously an inner attitude and the fruit of a choice freely made by man. However, the awareness that the Gospels tell the story of a man who not only died but was really brought back to life, could indeed be a solid and effective starting point. In this sense, archaeology is the one science that can help situate the Gospels and the characters they describe, in the historical context in which they lived.”
In general, do archaeological findings confirm or contradict faith?
“Archaeological findings which came to light in the past and continue to pop up in Palestine are precious clues that confirm the historicity of the descriptions contained in the Gospels. Take the remains of Peter’s house in Capharnaum for example. Apart from the pane of glass which is still visible inside the octagonal Church, it is also possible to see one of the places where Jesus almost certainly set foot (Mark 1:29-31).Then, in Jerusalem, there is the Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre which stands in the location in Golgotha where Jesus died and was buried. Tombs similar to the one Jesus was buried in can still be seen here. Findings such as the Jeselsohn Stone are of particular importance as they carry inscriptions or texts of a religious nature, giving insights into the cultural and linguistic context in which Jesus of Nazareth lived and preached.”
In what ways are exhibitions like the “Verbum Domini” valuable and what purpose do they serve?
“The exhibition aims to create awareness among people of the history of the Bible and the way in which the text was passed down through the centuries, right from the beginning. It offered an opportunity for people to see for themselves how the Word of God was embodied in a real story that dates back a long long time ago (the exhibition includes a reconstruction of the Qumran caves) and reaches us through an unbroken chain of precious testimonies, some of which (the Jeselsohn Stone for example) the wider public is almost completely unaware of, especially in Italy.”
By Giacomo Galeazzi, Vatican Insider