12. [ ] .. from my house Israel and I will
talk about the greatness of
13. [Thus] said the Lord, God of Israel,
now all the nations
14. … enc[amp] on Jerusalem and from it
15. one two three forty Prophets and the
16. and the Hasidim. My servant David, ask
17. [that he] place the sign; (this) I ask
of you. For thus said
18. the Lord of Hosts, the God of Israel,
my gardens are ripe,
19. My holy thing for Israel. By three
days you shall know, for thus said
20. the Lord of Hosts, the God of
Israel, the evil has been broken
21. before righteousness.
Lines 19-21: "Leshloshet yamin tayda ki-nishbar
hara melifnay hatzedek" ("In three days you will know that evil will be
defeated by justice")
24. his seat. In a little while, I
25. .. the heavens and the earth.
Line 57: "dam tvuhey yerushalayim" ("the blood
of the slain of Jerusalem").
"All agree that the passage
describes an apocalyptic vision of an attack on Jerusalem in which
God appears with angels on chariots to save the city. The central
angelic character is Gabriel, the first angel to appear in the
Hebrew Bible. "I am Gabriel," the writing declares."
An ancient limestone tablet
covered with a mysterious Hebrew text that features the archangel
Gabriel is at the center of a new exhibit in Jerusalem, even as scholars
continue to argue about what it means.
The so-called Gabriel Stone, a
meter (three-foot)-tall tablet said to have been found 13 years ago on
the banks of the Dead Sea, features 87 lines of an unknown prophetic
text dated as early as the first century BC, at the time of the Second
Scholars see it as a portal into
the religious ideas circulating in the Holy Land in the era when was
Jesus was born. Its form is also unique — it is ink written on stone,
not carved — and no other such religious text has been found in the
Curators at the Israel Museum,
where the first exhibit dedicated to the stone is opening Wednesday, say
it is the most important document found in the area since the discovery
of the Dead Sea Scrolls.
"The Gabriel Stone is in a way a
Dead Sea Scroll written on stone," said James Snyder, director of the
Israel Museum. The writing dates to the same period, and uses the same
tidy calligraphic Hebrew script, as some of the Dead Sea Scrolls, a
collection of documents that include the earliest known surviving
manuscripts of Hebrew Bible texts
The Gabriel Stone made a splash in
2008 when Israeli Bible scholar Israel Knohl offered a daring theory
that the stone's faded writing would revolutionize the understanding of
early Christianity, claiming it included a concept of messianic
resurrection that predated Jesus. He based his theory on one hazy line,
translating it as "in three days you shall live."
His interpretation caused a storm
in the world of Bible studies, with scholars convening at an
international conference the following year to debate readings of the
text, and a National Geographic documentary crew featuring his theory.
An American team of experts using high resolution scanning technologies
tried — but failed — to detect more of the faded writing.
Knohl, a professor of Bible at
Hebrew University in Jerusalem, eventually scaled back from his original
bombshell theory but the fierce scholarly debate he sparked continued to
reverberate across the academic world, bringing international attention
to the stone. Over the last few years it went on display alongside other
Bible-era antiquities in Rome, Houston and Dallas.
Bible experts are still debating
the writing's meaning, largely because much of the ink has eroded in
crucial spots in the passage and the tablet has two diagonal cracks the
slice the text into three pieces. Museum curators say only 40 percent of
the 87 lines are legible, many of those only barely. The interpretation
of the text featured in the Israel Museum's exhibit is just one of five
readings put forth by scholars.
All agree that the passage
describes an apocalyptic vision of an attack on Jerusalem in which God
appears with angels on chariots to save the city. The central angelic
character is Gabriel, the first angel to appear in the Hebrew Bible. "I
am Gabriel," the writing declares.
The stone inscription is one of
the oldest passages featuring the archangel, and represents an
"explosion of angels in Second Temple Judaism," at a time of great
spiritual angst for Jews in Jerusalem looking for divine connection,
said Adolfo Roitman, a curator of the exhibit.
The story of how the stone was
discovered is just as murky as its meaning. A Bedouin man is said to
have found it in Jordan on the eastern banks of the Dead Sea around the
year 2000, Knohl said. An Israeli university professor later examined a
piece of earth stuck to the stone and found a composition of minerals
only found in that region of the Dead Sea.
The stone eventually made it into
the hands of Ghassan Rihani, a Jordanian antiquities dealer based in
Jordan and London, who in turn sold the stone to Swiss-Israeli collector
David Jeselsohn in Zurich for an unspecified amount. Rihani has since
died. The Bible scholar traveled to Jordan multiple times to look for
more potential stones, but was unable to find the stone's original
Israel Museum curators said
Jeselsohn lent the stone to the museum for temporary display.
Lenny Wolfe, an antiquities dealer
in Jerusalem, said that before the Jordanian dealer bought it, another
middleman faxed him an image of the stone and offered it for sale.
"The fax didn't come out clearly.
I had no idea what it was," said Wolfe, who passed on the offer. It was
"one of my biggest misses," Wolfe said.
What function the stone had, where
it was displayed, and why it was written are unknown, said curators of
the Israel Museum exhibit.
"There is still so much that is
unclear," said Michal Dayagi-Mendels, a curator of the exhibit.
Scholars, she said, "will still argue about this for years."
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