Three Days
Sunday July 06th 2008, 2:08 pm
Filed under: Archeology,Patristics,Site News

The New York Times’ most-emailed story today is about the “Vision of Gabriel,” which we discussed here.


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“This should shake our basic view of Christianity,” he 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. “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.”

I’m confused. I thought the Christian claim was precisely that Jesus recapitulates all messianic motifs from Jewish revelation that predates his advent. What’s so new and unprecedented about the idea of resurrection of the body in Judaism predating Jesus? When haven’t we accepted that? Don’t we recall Prophet Jonah’s 3-day interment in the belly of the fish as a prefiguration of Christ? There’s also plenty of evidence before Jesus that the Messiah will suffer and be from Bethlehem. So? Either I’m still a clueless Catholic or this scholar is a clueless Jew.

Comment by L.T. 07.06.08 @ 8:55 pm

I’m with you. As I predicted several weeks ago: there are those who will say that this shows Christianity to be history’s most successful copycat; and there are those who will marvel that the prophets were so tuned-in to what was coming.

Comment by Mike Aquilina 07.06.08 @ 9:39 pm

In the previous post you link to you state that the tablet refers to a figure who dies, then rises, but in fact, the text nowhere speaks about the death of the figure (unless I missed something). If I am correct, the absence of a reference to death becomes quite problematic.

The idea of being raised up after three days is not unknown in the Old Testament, for Hosea 6:2 Reads: “He will revive us after two days; on the third day He will raise us up, to live in His presence.” Here the text is not speaking (at least at the literal level) about a bodily resurrection, rather “it simply stands as a poetic device that conveys the rejuvenation and rescue of the nation at a time of crisis. Whether by bringing rain or by delivering the people from enemies, YHWH (God) gives life to the nation of Israel so that the people “live before” YHWH.” (Marvin Sweeney, THE TWELVE PROPHETS, Vol. 1, Berit Olam Series, pg 70). Likewise, Ezekiel 37:1-14 speaks of Israel being freed from the Babylonian exile under the image of a bodily resurrection. Given the militaristic and political themes on the tablet, not to mention the absence of any reference to the actual death of the individual being spoken of, is it not likely that the rising being spoken of here is salvation from, or victory over, enemies? This is why Knohl has to speculate rather insistently that the tablet is referring to Simon, who was murdered by a commander in the Herodian Army. He needs some dead Jewish rebel to bolster his thesis

Comment by Dim Bulb 07.07.08 @ 2:47 pm


Dim Bulb’s comments are pertinent, and reveal a bulb that is very bright indeed. It is fascinating the number of things that happen “on the third day” or “after three days” in ancient Hebrew literature. Some highlights: (1) in Genesis 40, the chief butler is restored after three days, but the chief baker is executed. In Genesis 42, Joseph’s brothers languish in prison for three days before being set free. In Exodus 19:11, we find Moses preparing the people for a theophany: “on the third day the Lord will come down upon Mount Sinai…” These are only a small sample of the passages relating to the number three. In general, in Hebrew Scripture, three days is the length of time one must wait for vindication, or a revelation from God. In the case of Jesus, His resurrection is both a vindication of his life and ministry, and a unique revelation from God.

Of course, a typological reading of scripture can reveal the significance of a particular event, but cannot prove or disprove the event. But it is clear that the events recorded in the New Testament surrounding Jesus of Nazareth are deeply rooted in the ancient Jewish understanding of how God acts in the world. This should surprise no one.

Comment by Carl Sommer 07.08.08 @ 8:59 am



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