The New York Times recently reported on the mild controversy surrounding a tablet (known as “Gabriel’s Revelation”) containing Hebrew text from the pre-Christian period which suggests the Jesus story had an earlier Judaic ancestor. While I’m certainly amenable to the idea that the messianic story of Jesus was not original to the gospels — there are, after all, antecedents to gospel events in Hellenistic literature and tradition going back centuries — I hesitate to place too much faith in this discovery. The reason for my reservations and skepticism (aside from being a generally-skeptical person in the first place!) can be found here:

[The “Gabriel’s Revelation” tablet] 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.

In archaeology, one must be wary of objects whose origins are not documented. We do not know where this tablet was when it was found, its position, location, what was found with it, or anything else. It was hanging around in a collector’s home for an unknown amount of time, as well, which means its patina (the coating of dust, corrosion, debris, etc. which generally collects on ancient objects) may have been compromised, as well.

Therefore I urge a great deal of caution when it comes to claiming that “Gabriel’s Revelation” is “proof” of anything about Christianity’s origins. Until we know more about this tablet we cannot take it at face value.

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