Category Archives: Books

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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America and Israel

Jonathan Tobin, writing in JewishWorldReview.com, reports:

In 1844, a biblical scholar and professor of Hebrew at New York University published a pamphlet urging the establishment of a Jewish state in the place then known as Palestine.

The name of this early Zionist who argued for the recreation of Jewish sovereignty over the land of Israel: George Bush.

But the astonishing thing about this manifesto is not just that the author was a forebear of two later U.S. presidents of the same name. It was that his advocacy of a theological/political position known as "restorationism" — support for the "restoration" of the Jewish people to their historic homeland — was common in 19th century America.…

All this and more in historian Michael Oren’s (Six Days of War) new book, Power, Faith and Fantasy: America in the Middle East 1776 to the Present.

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And New Orleans Floods Again …

Author Patty Friedmann lives in and writes about New Orleans. Last week the Katrina-ravaged city got a heavy rain, the worst since last year’s hurricane. The city’s pumping system failed and the streets and some homes flooded. I asked her about this and she was kind enough to write a small piece on her out-of-New-Orleans-family and the current flood. Read The Gigi and Fritzl Show after the jump:

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Shalom Auslander on Rabbinic Abuse

Luke Ford has an hysterical interview with Shalom Auslander. A brief excerpt:

Q: What do you make of the disproportionate number of Jewish writers who come from an Orthodox background?

A: Reading is fundamental, even reading nutty books written by terrified ancient nomads.…

Q: Did a rabbi ever touch you inappropriately? Are priests or rabbis more likely to molest kids?

A: If telling a small child that a violent psychopath in the sky is going to punish him for eating cheese with meat passes as inappropriate touching – and I think that it does – then yes, I was touched inappropriately, and repeatedly, by many, many rabbis..…

Q: After you’ve finished trashing religion, what do you want to leave people with to live by? Are your kids going to have as rich a material to draw from as you did? Perhaps you should smack them more?

A: I’ve bookmarked your site. That oughta do it.

Q: There’s nothing in halacah against burying a tattooed jew in a jewish cemetery, so why do you have a rabbi in The Metamorphosis claim there is?

A: Because that was what I was taught growing up. Also, on a related note, that wasn’t the point of the story. (Hey, can I change my answer to Question #11? What depresses me most is getting dogmatic, legalistic, bickering questions about stories whose essential point is the intellectual stupidity and emotional damage caused by dogmatic, legalistic bickering. There, that’s much better.)

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The Pious Fool: Former President Carter and the Middle East

My old friend David Makovsky skewers former President Carter’s horrible book on the Middle East. Carter was arguably the worst president of the 20th century (and perhaps most of the 19th, as well). Read Makovsky and you’ll see why. (This is not that everything revolves around Israel. Carter’s moral and mental flaws are simply laid bare in this case for all to easily see.)

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Unchosen

Hella Winston’s wonderful book, Unchosen: The Hidden Lives of Hasidic Rebels, is now out in paperback. Here is 16 minute interview (scroll down the page a bit) Leonard Lopate did with Hella last year when the hardcover edition was released. Note how she is very respectful of the hasidic way of life and of haredim. (Here’s a longer interview from Michael Krasny at KQED, as well.) The point is Hella is more than fair to haredim. Now look at Marvin Schick’s attack on Hella Winston. Note the deception and the complete lack of mentchlekeit Schick displays. Winston is secular. Schick is a haredi mouthpiece. Even 10 years ago, at the height of my haredism, I would much rather my children act like Hella Winston than act like Marvin Schick.

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Gary Shteyngart Gets Special Mention From NY Times

Gary Shteyngart’s book Absurdistan has been named one of the top ten books of the year by the New York Times.

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