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"There was also Simon, who had been a slave of king Herod, but in other respects a comely person, of a tall and robust body; he was one that was much superior to others of his order, and had had great things committed to his care. This man was elevated at the disorderly state of things, and was so bold as to put a diadem on his head, while a certain number of the people stood by him, and by them he was declared to be a king, and he thought himself more worthy of that dignity than any one else." "He burnt down the royal palace at Jericho, and plundered what was left in it. He also set fire to many other of the king's houses in several places of the country, utterly destroyed them, and permitted those that were with him to take what was left in them for a prey. He would have done greater things, but care was taken to repress him immediately. [The commander of Herod's infantry] Gratus joined himself to some Roman soldiers, took the forces he had with him, and met Simon. And after a great and a long fight, no small part of those that had come from Peraea (a disordered body of men, fighting rather in a bold than in a skillful manner) were destroyed. Although Simon had saved himself by flying away through a certain valley, Gratus overtook him, and cut off his head."
A tablet, known as the Gabriel's Revelation or The Jeselsohn Stone, was likely found near the Dead Sea some time around the year 2000. It has been associated with the same community which created the Dead Sea scrolls and mentions Simon. Israel Knohl reads the inscription as a command from the angel Gabriel "to rise from the dead within three days". He takes this command to be directed at a 1st century Jewish rebel called Simon, who was killed by the Romans in 4 BC. In Knohl's view the finding "calls for a complete reassessment of all previous scholarship on the subject of messianism, Jewish and Christian alike".
The finding has caused controversy among scholars. Israel Knohl, who is an expert in Talmudic and biblical language at Jerusalem's Hebrew University reads the inscription as a command from the angel Gabriel "to rise from the dead within three days". He takes this command to be directed at a 1st century Jewish rebel called Simon, who was killed by the Romans in 4 BC. In Knohl's view the finding "calls for a complete reassessment of all previous scholarship on the subject of messianism, Jewish and Christian alike". Retired professor, Stan Seidner contends that it reflects the Apocalyptic beliefs of the day, many which are found in the Dead Sea Scrolls, as antecedent and predictive writings of Christianity. He also suggested the use of infra-red technological applications, similar to what had been utilized on Dead Sea Scroll Material in the recent past. Challenging Knohl's "Two Messiahs" theory, Seidner noted that, "Knohl’s reliance upon what he calls, the 'Glorification Hymn,' in support of a first Messiah’s relationship with King Herod, failed in its carbon-14 testing. It predates Herod’s ascendency to the throne by at least twelve years and as much as one hundred and fifty six." However, he does agree with Knohl's interpretation of the inscription,"to rise from the dead within three days." Ben Witherington, on the other hand – an Early Christianity expert at Asbury Theological Seminary in Wilmore Kentucky – claims that a word interpreted as "rise" could just as easily be taken to mean "show up". At a conference at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem between the 6th and the 8 July in 2008, marking the 60th anniversary of the discovery of the Dead Sea scrolls, Knohl gave a paper on the tablet.
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 the microscopic analysis of the soils, the tablet probably came from an area near the Dead Sea. The writings found on the stone date 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.
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.