Oh, the power of the New York Times combined with a provocative idea. The Times story quoting Hartman Institute Senior Fellow Israel Knohl‘s innovative commentary on the “biblical stone” and the idea that Jewish tradition and folklore had of the messiah whose death and resurrection three days later would redeem the people has spun around the world and back again since it appeared on the paper’s front page and website over the weekend.
Follow-up stories in everything from Time to MSNBC and newspapers in Ireland, South Africa, Australia, and elsewhere have given the matter widespread publicity. Now, bloggers worldwide are chewing over Knohl’s research and claims, which we posted on the Shalom Hartman Institute website in May.
Some of the more interesting thoughts and headlines out there:
MSNBC: Messianic message stirs debate. MSNBC quotes (among others), Herschel Shanks, founder of the Biblical Archaeology Society and editor of the Biblical Archaeology Review:
“The really unique thing about Christian theology is in the life of Jesus – but in the doctrines, when I was a kid, you had little stories about the Sermon on the Mount and the people listening to this saying, ‘What is this man saying? I never heard anything like this! This is different,'” Shanks told me. “Today, this view is out. There are Jewish roots to almost everything in Christian experience.”
“It is certainly not perfectly clear that the tablet is talking about a crucified and risen savior figure called Simon,” says Ben Witherington, an early-Christianity expert at Asbury Theological Seminary in Wilmore, Ky. The verb that Knohl translates as “rise!,” Witherington says, could also mean “there arose,” and so one can ask “does it mean ‘he comes to life,’ i.e., a resurrection, or that he just ‘shows up?’ “
New York Sun: Blurry ‘Vision of Gabriel.’ The usually reliable Hillel Halkin, roused by his editors in New York to join the conversation offered this surprisingly thin commentary:
The “Vision of Gabriel,” from what I have been able to gather from these reports — I was not at the Jerusalem conference and have not read Mr. Knohl’s paper — would seem to be in many ways a typical late-Second-Temple-period eschatological text, a cryptically couched prediction of the messianic End of Days in the form of a revelation granted to the anonymous author by the archangel Gabriel….
What, then, is so dramatic about the “Vision of Gabriel”? Mainly, it would seem, a possible pronouncement by the archangel that the future Messiah will die and rise from the dead in three days’ time, just as Jesus is said to have done by the New Testament….Let us suppose that Mr. Knohl is right, and that the New Testament story of a messiah who is killed and rises from the dead on the third day represents a borrowing of a motif current in the same Jewish circles in Palestine that produced the “Vision of Gabriel” a generation or two before Jesus’s time.
(D)oes it tell us anything sensationally new about Christianity’s Jewish antecedents? I doubt it — not because these antecedents were not real, but on the contrary, because we already know so much about their reality that one more instance of it, however remarkable, will not add a great deal to the overall picture.
Knohl spoke on his theories at the Israel Museum conference mentioned above on Tuesday. There is no doubt his thought-provoking interpretations will continue to be discussed by religious thinkers and all those who care about the connections between Judaism and Christianity.