Dr. William Lane Craig and others have pointed out that first century Jews were not waiting for humble Messiah who will suffer, let alone will rise from the dead. They waited for king who would free them from the Romans. But I found information in a video about Dr. Knohl who decoded an inscription about a Messiah who will rise from the dead, This inscription has been dated to the 1st century BC. So could the idea of a rising Messiah have entered from here and have been used to create Christian faith in the resurrection? Also, I have doubts that arise from this since, even if Jews in the first century BC had some ideas of a rising Messiah, still they could forget it in the first century AD. Also, maybe people knew about a rising Messiah from prophecy but would forget it as they did about the suffering of Messiah. What would you or Dr. Craig say about this?  Here are two sources I found on the topic.


If we look at all the sources on Jewish ideas about their Messiah it can get confusing.  The discovery recently of the Gabriel Stone (mentioned in your resources above) has added to the volumes of data about this. You quote William Lane Craig as saying that the Jews were not expecting a humble, dying and rising Messiah, but instead were hoping for a victorious king to restore the fortunes of political Israel.  Craig is a well-informed scholar, and I am sure he is well aware that this is not the whole story.  The fact is that all the evidence from the New Testament and from other sources is that the majority of Jews did expect a Messiah of some sort.  However there was a minority, such as the some of the Sadducees, were not even expecting a Messiah at all.  And for those who expected a Messiah, there was a range of ideas about that Messiah.   If Dr. Craig had said that the majority view of the Jews in the first century was that the Messiah would come as a victorious king, he would be speaking truth.  In other words, there was a great variety of ideas of the Messiah in the first century, but the evidence favors that the expectation of the majority was for a victorious king.  John 6:15 is an example of this. “Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by himself.”  There are a few other verses in the New Testament which show that this was the majority expectation.  There is no significant evidence in the New Testament of Jewish expectation for a humble, suffering Messiah.

However, there were certainly some who expected a suffering servant Messiah.  Some used Isaiah 53 to support this idea.  There is evidence that among the Essene community there were some who anticipated two different Messiah-like figures–a humble priest-like servant and a powerful king.  Of course, we as Christians understand that the actual Messiah–Jesus of Nazareth–is both a humble suffering servant and a powerful king, except that his kingdom is not of this world.

As for the Gabriel inscription, there have been different interpretations.  It is not at all clear that this inscription is describing a Messiah who would raise in three days.  The wording is too vague to say for sure that is what the writer had in mind.  However, if this were the case, there is plenty of reason from the Old Testament to anticipate a resurrection from the dead on the third day.  Like Paul said, the church believed in a resurrection on the third day because that is what happened!!  The idea of resurrection on the third day is not the creation of people.  That they would invent a resurrection on the third day is truly an absurd proposal.  But, in 1 Corinthians 15:4 Paul does point out that the Old Testament prophesied a resurrection on the third day.  This prophecy is found in Genesis 22 in the form of a foreshadow, when Abraham received his son back “from the dead” on the third day (Hebrews 11:19).  It is also found in a foreshadow when Jonah came back from the dead on the third day inside that giant fish.  In addition, there is a possible prophecy of the resurrection from the dead on the third day in Hosea 6:1-2. “On the third day he will restore us.”  The Hosea prophecy is interesting because it is not an absolutely clear prophecy of resurrection on the third day, as the Gabriel inscription is also not super obviously a prediction of a messianic resurrection on the third day.

So, is the one who wrote this interesting inscription reading Genesis 22, Jonah 2 and Hoseah 6 and using these to predict that the Messiah will resurrect on the third day, or is this a coincidence (or is he/she not even talking about a resurrected Messiah at all)?  I suppose the answer is that we do not know, but it is certainly possible that the writer was reading the Old Testament and properly interpreting it to predict that the Messiah would be raised on the third day after being killed or after dying.  Unfortunately, we will probably have to settle for having an interesting and fun discussion, but we will not be able to finally decide for sure how to understand this interesting discovery.

Here is what I can say for sure.  The church did not invent as an afterthought the resurrection of Jesus on the third day.  This idea is simply not supportable.  The resurrection of Jesus was preached in Jerusalem within just more than one month after it actually happened.  There was absolutely no possibility that this could have been invented right there within just a few short weeks from the events.  The reason that Christians believe that Jesus was raised from the dead on the third day is very simple.  His tomb was empty on the third day!  That is the only possible conclusion.  I suppose we can debate whether he actually resurrected on the third day, but what no reasonable person can debate is that his tomb was empty on the third day.

John Oakes

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