I was just on the National Geographic Channel website, and I came across this program called, 'The First Jesus,' which is to be aired Friday, November 20th 2009.
Here is an overview of the program:
''He called himself the King of the Jews, likely considered to be a Messiah. Just around Passover, the Romans killed him and crucified many of his followers outside Jerusalem. But his name was not Jesus... it was Simon, a self-proclaimed Messiah who died four years before Christ was born. Now, new analysis of a three-foot-tall stone tablet from the first century B.C., may speak of an early Messiah and his resurrection. We'll go to Israel to assess this unique and mysterious artifact, including comprehensive review of the script and content by a Dead Sea Scroll expert. Then, from Jerusalem to Jericho, we'll investigate key archeological ruins that could help prove Simon was indeed real.''
**THE FIRST JESUS FACTS
***“I've got enough experience now with antiquities, that when I see it, I have a gut feeling … that the thing is authentic.” — Dr. David Jeselsohn, antiquities collector
He called himself the King of the Jews, likely considered to be a Messiah. Just around Passover, the Romans killed him and crucified many of his followers outside Jerusalem. But his name was not Jesus, it was Simon, a self-proclaimed Messiah who died four years before Christ was born. Now, new analysis of a three-foot-tall stone tablet from the first century B.C., being hailed by scholars as a “Dead Sea Scroll on stone,” may speak of an early Messiah and his resurrection. Was Simon of Peraea real? Did his life serve as the prototype of a Messiah for Jesus and his followers? And could this tablet shake up the basic premise of Christianity?
ABOUT THE STONE:
*]The tablet, called the Jeselsohn Stone, is three feet tall with 87 lines of Hebrew. It was found on the antiquities market a decade ago but not seriously studied by scholars until recently.
*]Based on microscopic analysis of the soils and writing found on the stone, the tablet probably came from an area near the Dead Sea in Jordan and dates back to the first century B.C.
*]Its writing is unique because it is ink on stone in two neat columns, rather than ink on parchment or engravings on stone like so many other biblical artifacts.
*]The stone is broken and much of the wording has been washed away over time. Many scholars believe the stone’s imperfect pockmarks and the ambiguity of the text itself actually validate the stone.
*]Much of the text describes a vision of the apocalypse transmitted by the angel Gabriel.
*]The stone is controversial because it could speak of a Messiah who will rise from the dead after three days, based on line 80, which leading Messianic scholar Dr. Israel Knohl has read as “by three days live.”
*]If this reading were accurate, it would imply that the idea of a Messiah who rises from the dead after three days predates the time of Christ — providing a missing link between Judaism and Christianity, since it suggests Jesus’ death and resurrection were not unique.
*ABOUT SIMON OF PERAEA:
*]A former Jewish slave, Simon of Peraea crowned himself king, claiming to be the redeemer of Israel, the Messiah.
*]He led a failed rebellion against Rome in 4 B.C. before Passover and set fire to one of King Herod’s palaces at Jericho and several other royal residences.
*]Soon after the rebellion, Simon was captured in a remote canyon and killed or chopped in the neck; his corpse was left to rot amidst the rocks. For Jews of the time of Simon of Peraea, not burying a corpse was the ultimate humiliation.
*]In the wake of his death, many of his followers were crucified.
*]Dr. Knohl believes that Jesus knew the story of Simon’s death and from it had learned that a Messiah must die to fulfill his destiny.
*]Accounts by the ancient Jewish historian Flavius Josephus may be the only literary evidence from the time that either Jesus or Simon of Peraea existed.
*]Archeological evidence of Simon’s rebellion may lie in the ruins of the ancient burned palace, which Dr. Knohl and archeologist Byron McCane set out to find in National Geographic Channel’s expedition.
What do you think of all this? This has got me a bit shaken!