Tuesday, April 11, 2006

James Tabor's Jesus Dynasty round-up

If it hadn't been for the Gospel of Judas, this story might have picked up more attention, but it's doing well all the same. Already mentioned by Jim Davila on Paleojudaica and Jim West in several posts (Jesus Dynasty, Q & A with James Tabor, Jim Tabor's New Book Reviewed). I thought it was high time I mentioned the book and rounded up some of the media response so far. Begin with the book's website here:

The Jesus Dynasty

It's refreshing to see that an audio version is available, read by Tabor himself, from which an audio excerpt is available too. But at this stage we are talking audio CD, and not download. I'm still hoping that the days of cheap, downloadable audio of academic books are not too far away. The site also features a series of quotations under specific headings (Gospels, Birth of Jesus, More than one Messiah etc.):

Select Excerpts from The Jesus Dynasty

See too this section to get a good summary of the book's approach and thesis:

Questions and Answers

The book has just been released and I've not yet seen a copy myself (anyone fancy sending me one for my free publicity?). Bart Ehrman has an endorsement to the following effect:
"Many scholars have undertaken studies of Jesus and his legacy; none has dared advance the boldly provocative theses of The Jesus Dynasty. For sheer breadth of vision and imaginative reconstruction, rooted deeply in the historical sciences, this promises to be a book unlike any the public has ever seen."
And Amazon have the Publisher's Weekly review:
Tabor, chair of religious studies at UNC-Charlotte, offers a bold and sometimes speculative interpretation of the historical Jesus and his family, beginning with his paternity. Evaluating several possibilities, Tabor concludes that the most historically plausible claim is that Jesus' father was neither God nor Joseph, but another man, possibly a Roman soldier named Pantera. He also argues that Joseph likely died when Jesus was young, leaving Jesus head of a household that included his six half-siblings. Like many scholars, Tabor emphasizes that we must understand Jesus in the context of first-century Judaism. After Jesus' death, his brother James took over the titular family dynasty. James championed a version of the faith quite different from Paul's, and, although James was more faithful to Jesus' original teachings, Paul's Christianity won. Tabor not only challenges Christian dogma, he also makes some assumptions with which not all scholars will agree: he places a great deal of emphasis on the hypothetical text Q, calling it "our most authentic early Christian document." This book is accessible and sure to be highly controversial, attracting the attention of reporters, spiritual seekers, historians and fans of The Da Vinci Code.
I can't say I'd be too thrilled by the latter association if I were the author (though my bank manager might be). I suppose I would naturally be less than enthusiastic too about the "great deal of emphasis on the hypothetical text Q", but of course Tabor is not alone there.

Now there have been several newspaper articles on the book over the last week or so. This one, from U.S.News.com, is a decent length and is clear and on the whole is well informed:

The Kingdom of Christ
A bold new take on the historical Jesus raises questions about a centuries-long quest
By Jay Tolson

It seems too that ABC News's Nightline had a feature on the book too, though I missed it myself, and the video is not available on-line except to subscribers. But ABC have a lengthy feature:

'Jesus Dynasty' Author Asks: Were There Two Messiahs?
Martin Bashir

This is another lengthy report, and is dated 7 April, when the feature went out on Nightline. (Is this the British Martin Bashir, famous for the Princess Diana and Michael Jackson interviews?). See also on the same site the following book excerpt:

Excerpt: 'The Jesus Dynasty' by James D. Tabor


Chris Petersen said...

This looks like a throwback to the ridiculous history of religions school's false dichotomy of a Jewish Kerygma and a Hellenistic Kerygma with Paul emerging from the latter.

Billy V said...

It is the same Martin Bashir. He is co-host of ABC's Nightline

J. B. Hood said...

Do let us know if the book becomes available for search via Amazon or Google.

Thanks for your detailed review of the Natl Geog program on GJudas!

Charles Gadda said...

I myself am not a religious person, but allow me to point out that the entire "Lost Tomb of Jesus" thing, both the film and the book, is clearly a hoax.
The name "Jesus" is not even legible on the ossuary in question, as any serious semitics scholar will immediately tell you if you show him the tracing. The original transcriber himself (see the Israeli Catalogue of Ossuaries) put a question-mark after that part ("Yeshua") of his reading, and two dots over the name indicating that he was making an (obviously remote) conjecture. The film's producer has evasively omitted to address this fundamental point in his statements to the press, speaking simply of unnamed "experts who have conclusively confirmed the reading". For details, see http://jesus-illegible.blogspot.com/.
As for James Tabor, he appears to be involved in the biased and mendacious Dead Sea Scroll exhibits currently touring the country, and he is also at the center of the now debunked "Essene toilet" campaign recently waged in newspapers all over the world. Misleading claims about DNA "evidence" are at the core of both hoaxes, perpetrated on masses of unsuspecting people to make a profit. This entire matter is analyzed at length at http://jesus-crypt-fraud.blogspot.com/.

Suzanne Shapiro said...

For anyone who might be interested, a fascinating opinion piece by Professor Norman Golb of the University of Chicago, who is one of the world's leading authorities on ancient Judaism, has appeared in the Forward.

Although the piece is mainly about the marginalizing of ancient Jewish history in Dead Sea Scrolls research, in passing Golb weighs in with the view that the Jesus-tomb claim is not based on "scientific research per se, but on conjecture and a tendentious presentation of evidence". That pretty much closes the door on the "Lost Tomb" episode.

The link is http://www.forward.com/articles/take-claims-about-dead-sea-scrolls-with-a-grain-of/.