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.
…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.]