New York: An ancient limestone tablet covered with a mysterious Hebrew text that features the archangel Gabriel is being exhibited in Jerusalem.
Scholars continue to argue about what it means.
The so-called Gabriel Stone, a meter (three-foot)-tall tablet said to have been found 13 years ago on the banks of the Dead Sea, features 87 lines of an unknown prophetic text dated as early as the first century BC, at the time of the Second Jewish Temple, reports the Huffington Post.
Scholars see it as a portal into the religious ideas circulating in the Holy Land in the era when was Jesus was born.
Its form is also unique - it is ink written on stone, not carved - and no other such religious text has been found in the region.
Curators at the Israel Museum, where the first exhibit dedicated to the stone is opening Wednesday, say that it is the most important document found in the area since the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls.
"The Gabriel Stone is in a way a Dead Sea Scroll written on stone," James Snyder, director of the Israel Museum said.
The writing dates to the same period, and uses the same tidy calligraphic Hebrew script, as some of the Dead Sea Scrolls, a collection of documents that include the earliest known surviving manuscripts of Hebrew Bible texts.
The Gabriel Stone made a splash in 2008 when Israeli Bible scholar Israel Knohl offered a daring theory that the stone`s faded writing would revolutionize the understanding of early Christianity, claiming it included a concept of messianic resurrection that predated Jesus.
Bible experts are still debating the writing`s meaning, largely because much of the ink has eroded in crucial spots in the passage and the tablet has two diagonal cracks the slice the text into three pieces.
Museum curators say only 40 percent of the 87 lines are legible, many of those only barely.
The interpretation of the text featured in the Israel Museum`s exhibit is just one of five readings put forth by scholars.