'I Am Gabriel': Ancient Stone on Display in Israel

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JERUSALEM, Israel -- Gabriel is one of the Bible's best known angels.

Now, a first of its kind exhibition in Jerusalem highlights an archaeological discovery quoting Gabriel that's considered the most important find of its kind since the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls.

It's called the "Revelation of Gabriel." It's written on stone and proclaims three times, "I am Gabriel" -- just as the angel told Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist, in the first chapter of Luke's Gospel.

"So to the best of my knowledge these are the only two instances in ancient Jewish and Christian literature that you have such an expression, 'I am Gabriel,'" Israel Museum curator Adolfo Roitman told CBN News.

Some scholars consider the tablet a Dead Sea Scroll on stone. It's written in two columns, in ink, and the style of writing, the script, is the same as the Dead Sea Scrolls themselves.

While some scholars believe it was found near the Dead Sea, no one knows for sure because an art collector purchased the stone from an antiquities dealer in 2000.

Roitman says experts believe it's authentic.

"It's very clear that this stone was written in the time of Herod the Great by the end of the first century BCE or the beginning of the first century CE," Roitman said.

"Even though the fact angels are many times mentioned in the Hebrew Bible, only in the Book of Daniel two angels are mentioned by names -- Gabriel and Michael -- the same two angels mentioned in the stone," he explained.

There are 87 lines of text on the stone, but only about 40 percent is legible, so the meaning is obscured.

"To the best of my knowledge, at least five different readings were proposed for the riddle of this stone," Roitman said.

All agree, however, the message refers to an attack on Jerusalem and the hope of God's deliverance. 

At line 80, there's a reference to three days, which some scholars originally thought referred to the resurrection. Now most believe it refers to a "sign."

"Gabriel plays such a key role in a strategic and dramatic scene, as is the Gospel of Luke Chapter 1, in which he reveals (God's plan) to Zechariah and to Mary," he said.

This is the first time the stone is on display in Israel.

"And it's a small exhibition of one stone and six manuscripts, which of course relate to the emergence of Gabriel as an important prophetic figure and his recurrence time and again in Jewish, Christian and Islamic biblical literature," Israel Museum Director James Snyder told CBN News.

Snyder says the display complements another exhibition:  30 tons worth of material relating to King Herod.

"It allows us to look at a singular period of time during which Herod was building the earthly Jerusalem and the text of the Gabriel Revelation Stone relates to the slightly later moment of angst that begins to reflect on the destruction and redemption and on the heavenly Jerusalem," Snyder said.

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