Washington, July 7 : There's a stir in biblical and archaeological circles because of a three-foot-tall tablet with 87 lines of Hebrew, which suggests that the story of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ was not unique but part of a recognized Jewish tradition at the time.
The tablet, found near the Dead Sea in Jordan a decade back, according to some scholars who have studied it, is a rare example of a stone with ink writings from that era - in essence, a Dead Sea Scroll on stone.
According to a report in International Herald Tribune (IHT), scholars believe that this tablet will cause controversy as it may speak of a messiah who will rise from the dead after three days.
It is written, not engraved, across two neat columns, similar to columns in a Torah. But the stone is broken, and some of the text is faded, meaning that much of what it says is open to debate.
Still, its authenticity has so far faced no challenge, so its role in helping to understand the roots of Christianity in the devastating political crisis faced by the Jews of the time seems likely to increase.
According to Daniel Boyarin, a professor of Talmudic culture at the University of California at Berkeley, said that the stone was part of a growing body of evidence suggesting that Jesus could be best understood through a close reading of the Jewish history of his day.
"Some Christians will find it shocking - a challenge to the uniqueness of their theology - while others will be comforted by the idea of it being a traditional part of Judaism," he said.
The stone was found about a decade ago and bought from a Jordanian antiquities dealer by an Israeli-Swiss collector who kept it in his Zurich home.
"I couldn't make much out of it when I got it," said David Jeselsohn, the owner. "I didn't realize how significant it was until I showed it to Ada Yardeni, who specializes in Hebrew writing, a few years ago.'You have got a Dead Sea Scroll on stone,' she told me," he added.
Much of the text, a vision of the apocalypse transmitted by the angel Gabriel, draws on the Old Testament, especially the prophets Daniel, Zechariah and Haggai.
Yardeni, who analyzed the stone along with Binyamin Elitzur, determined that based on the shape of the script and the language, the text dated from the late first century BC.