The Jesus Dynasty

Months ago, I was contacted by Simon & Schuster and asked to accept a review copy of James Tabor’s book, the Jesus Dynasty. I agreed, and intended to write a review. But the Lebanon War and the abuse scandals didn’t leave me time, and Tabor’s book sat partially read on my table.

I met Tabor years ago in Jerusalem, and have really felt uncomfortable with my continued procrastination. Then tonight, I happened upon Tabor’s blog. From there I went to the book’s website:

…John and Jesus preached adherence to the Torah, or the Jewish Law.  But their mission was changed dramatically when John was arrested and then killed.  After a period of uncertainty, Jesus began preaching anew in Galilee and challenged the Roman authorities and their Jewish collaborators in Jerusalem.  He appointed a Council of Twelve to rule over the twelve tribes of Israel, among whom he included his four brothers.  After he was crucified by the Romans, his brother James – the “Beloved Disciple” – took over leadership of the Jesus Dynasty.

James, like John and Jesus before him, saw himself as a faithful Jew.  None of them believed that their movement was a new religion.  It was Paul who transformed Jesus and his message through his ministry to the gentiles, breaking with James and the followers of Jesus in Jerusalem, preaching a message based on his own revelations that would become Christianity.  Jesus became a figure whose humanity was obscured; John became merely a forerunner of Jesus; and James and the others were all but forgotten.

James Tabor has studied the earliest surviving documents of Christianity for more than thirty years and has participated in important archeological excavations in Israel.  Drawing on this background, Tabor reconstructs for us the movement that sought the spiritual, social, and political redemption of the Jews, a movement led by one family.  The Jesus Dynasty offers an alternative version of Christian origins, one that takes us closer than ever to Jesus and his family and followers.  The story is surprising and controversial, but exciting as only a long-lost history can be when it is at last recovered.…

James D. Tabor is chair of the department of religious studies at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.  He holds a Ph.D. in biblical studies from the University of Chicago and is an expert on the Dead Sea Scrolls and Christian origins.  The author of several previous books, he is frequently consulted by the media on these topics and has appeared on numerous television and radio programs.

I still have not had time to finish the book. From what I’ve read, I’m not yet convinced Tabor has proved his case. Still, for those interested in the split between the Church and Jews, or who simply want to know more about the time period that led up to the destruction of the Second Temple, Tabor’s book may be worthwhile.

[By the way, Tabor for many years was involved in the Bnai Noach Movement, and may still be today.]

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4 Comments

Filed under Books, History

4 responses to “The Jesus Dynasty

  1. Most aren’t aware, but a major problem with Christianity that pertains to this topic, is the problem with the Christian manuscripts. The very manuscripts that are supposed to tell the story of their Messiah, disagree. And because of this, no one can logically know just which manuscripts have veracity, since many manuscripts contradict one another and are just as “reliable” as the other. You also have to contend with other language manuscripts, such as Aramaic and Hebrew, where certain “NT” paragraphs in those languages rhyme or have a play on words, where the Greek don’t(alluding to Hebrew/Aramaic primacy). All arguments are based on logic, and flow of logic is based on it’s premises. It’s only when one assumes the premises, can you actually have the argument. In this case, to argue for or against J, one has to assume some premises (i.e. accuracy of manuscripts). I write about this here. One shouldn’t assume the accurate identity of J, since there are no accurate manuscripts to identify him. This is the concrete, logical approach, since something undefined cannot be proven true or false. It’s just undefined. If you ever tried to divide an integer on your calculator by zero, you know what I’m talking about.

    The other approach, which Tabor does, is to try and logically induce who J was. But to use logical induction, one must first assume a pattern for sequencing (of what the Messiah was supposed to be, when he’s supposed to come, etc), and it’s here where a person builds their case. Traditionally, this assumption is first made in the Christian mind during their indoctrination as a child or as part of a born-again experience, that is spiritually felt, but left mentally undefined. (However, if this initial assumption is found to break the sequence, then logical induction cannot be further applied, as it has just been proven false. It only takes one counter-example to prove something false.) In the Christian mind, the person is taught to assume a Messiah was destined to come, he did come, and luckily, we have this here Bible(ironically, there are actually hundreds of different bibles) that talks about his life and teachings. To fill the undefined gap between their spiritual awakening and their mind, the Christian then just assumes their newly purchased Bible, from their local bible bookstore, as accurate (ironically, after first asking the clerk which bible, out of the hundreds of versions, is the most accurate). This is not a smart way to go about your life. A person, such as Tabor can argue who J was, but only when one accepts certain manuscripts as being accurate. Otherwise, the subject of the conversation/debate is left with premises undefined.

    In conclusion, when it comes to a person’s beliefs with G-d, one should strive to define it as well as possible, and not leave yourself open to naive assumptions. I think a lot of avodah zarah can be resolved by simple education.

  2. Anonymous

    You are, of course, referring to the greek manuscripts used by catholic and protestant churches as the basis of their religion. These exist in thousands of variations, and no two match. There are, however, extant copies of some of the material in the original hebrew and aramaic, and these are far more consistent, at least as far as the “gospels” and the writings of his original 12 apostles.

    Current research on the works of “Paul” however shows an entirely different story. Over half of them aren’t even authentic to the period – they were written in the 3rd and 4th centuries by the roman church to push their anomial theology. And the early “church” fathers admit in their own writings that the few original “Paul” manuscripts were edited by Marcion and others to “remove the vile Jewish influence.” What’s left in greek is garbage and outright fraud. These lies and fraud are the basis of the xian religion.

    If you just read the “gospels” and the writings of the original 12 apostles who actually knew him, and forget Paul, what you get is what Tabor sees plainly – he was a Jewish rabbi who taught that at least the written Torah should be upheld but took exception to some of the traditions various sects were adopting. Then things got political.

    It should also be noted that Josephus and other secular roman sources say that Pilates never “washed his hands” of any execution. In fact, he was so into executing people that he was eventually recalled to Rome and executed himself for giving the empire a bad name. So even the “gospels” have been edited somewhat by the roman church to try and make themselves less unpalatable to the roman authorities, that is clear.

    In short, anyone who thinks the greek new testament is “scripture” is an idiot. Does that invalidate the possibility that he was acting in the role of Messiah ben Joseph? Maybe not. Maybe so. I personally don’t think that God condemns anyone for thinking that someone or another might have been Messiah ben Joseph. There is no commandment to even worry about the end times in the written Torah. You can argue that lubavitchers and Torah-observant messianics are mistaken in their beliefs, but as long as they obey the written Torah, I don’t think God really cares what they think about the end times. What you think about the end times isn’t a criteria for “Salvation” at all, as long as you believe there will be a resurrection of the dead eventually (according to Rambam).

    One thing is for sure, though. If he had been teaching his “corrections” to tradition/mesorah today, and challenged the self-appointed “leaders,” he would be just as rejected by the untra-orthodox community, regardless of whether his reforms are worthy or not. They are so invested in their “traditions” that they do, in fact, give God’s real Torah a bad name. So things haven’t changed much in 2000 years, have they?

  3. shmuel

    Nope. Nothing’s changed.

  4. Anonymous

    “I met Tabor years ago in Jerusalem,… From what I’ve read, I’m not yet convinced Tabor has proved his case.”

    Oh so now your a maven on early christian origins are you ??? And Lo and behold you also met him too. LOL you sound like Alex Seredin on the Alt.Soc.Cul.Judaism he has also met famous personages like Stalin and Mao and has fought in every war since Napolean at Waterloo and he is likewise demented. Well my poser halfwit friend Ive met Prof Tabor and heard him speak at Noahide conferences in Athens Tennesse and also had the pleasure of having corresponded with Hayim Maccoby Ztl before his passing on this subject as well. The Jamesian proposition is not new at all, its still being fleshed out but be assured that A.Your halfassed opinions on a subject you barely have touched make you look really retarded to those of us who have been studying this many years already, so nobody who matters gives a flying leap about wether or not your convinced about anything and B. Stop namedropping because its transparent and getting old.

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