Thursday, May 2, 2013
Renowned Gabriel Revelation Stone in First-Time Exhibition in Israel
The Gabriel Revelation, Eastern Dead Sea region, 1st century BCE – 1st century CE, Ink on limestone, Collection of Dr. David and Jemima Jeselsohn, Zurich, Photo @ Bruce Zuckerman
Considered the most important archaeological artifact to come to light in the region since the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Gabriel Revelation Stone will be on public view for the first time in Israel as the centerpiece of a new focused exhibition at the Israel Museum, opening May 1, 2013. The inscribed first-century BCE tablet, discovered in 2007 on the eastern shore of the Dead Sea, sheds light on the spiritual life of the Second Temple Period. The exhibition I Am Gabriel will contextualize and further illuminate the stone’s inscriptions with a number of ancient, rare manuscripts – including a fragment of the Dead Sea Scrolls and the 13th-century Damascus Codex – tracing the development of the figure of the Angel Gabriel across the early years of rabbinic Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. On view through February 11, 2014, I Am Gabriel complements the ongoing large-scale exhibition Herod the Great, which explores other aspects of the period.
The Gabriel Revelation inscription reflects the messianic atmosphere, anxiety over the fate of Jerusalem, and the new role of angels as intermediaries that characterized the spiritual orientation of Jews in the Second Temple Period. Inscribed in ink on stone, a rare find in itself, the Hebrew text is written in the first person, the narrator identifying himself as the angel Gabriel. The inscription comprises a series of dialogues; in the main dialogue the speaker identifies himself three times in the first-person: "I am Gabriel." Gabriel converses with a human figure – a visionary or prophet – to whom he, Gabriel, is apparently communicating a vision. Scholars are deeply divided regarding the reading of the inscription's 87 lines, since large sections have been effaced. However, all agree that the main topic of the inscription is an attack on Jerusalem and the hope that God will see to the city's deliverance for the sake of his servant David, perhaps referring to the Messiah of Davidic descent. The style of the inscription echoes the late prophetic and apocalyptic literary genres that are unique to the Second Temple period, similar to that of the Dead Sea Scrolls and the later books of the Prophets, such as Daniel, Haggai, and Zechariah.
Complementing this exceptional inscription are works showing the evolution of the figure of the angel Gabriel in the three monotheistic religions, including the War Scroll, one of the first Dead Sea Scrolls discovered at Qumran in 1947; the Book of Daniel from the 13th-century Damascus Codex of the Hebrew Bible, rarely on display to the public; the Gospel of Luke from a rare 10th-century Latin manuscript of the Four Gospels from France, and a 15th-16th-century Quran from Iran. Also on view are prayer books from the three traditions with illustrations of the angel Gabriel.
I am Gabriel is curated by Michal Dayagi-Mendels, Tamar and Teddy Kollek Chief Curator of Archaeology, and Adolfo D. Roitman, Lizbeth and George Krupp Curator of the Dead Sea Scrolls.