In Sunday’s New York Times there is an interesting story about a tablet discovered that dates to the second century BC: Tablet Ignites Debate on Messiah and Resurrection. It reports that this MAY provide evidence of the pre-Jesus idea of the Jewish messiah dying and rising again after three days. There is some vital text missing from the stone but it seems to suggest that Jesus did not invent the idea of a suffering, dying, and resurrecting Jewish Messiah.
I can’t see this changing things though. Those who accept Jesus in the Christian sense will say that he fulfilled pre-existing expectations and died for the people of God, including both Jews and Gentiles, whereas those who do not believe will say that Christians co-opted an existing tradition and presented Jesus as this suffering, dying Messiah. Either way I’m sure we will be hearing a lot more about this next Easter if not in the coming months.