Think you know who Jesus was? Well, think again.
Using archaeological evidence and textual analysis, Tabor (Religious Studies/Univ. of North Carolina, Charlotte) puts forth a very different history of the Jesus movement than is traditionally taught within Christian theology. Jesus, a descendant of David, was shaped by the events of his time. He became a disciple of the charismatic John the Baptizer and soon became John’s partner in ministry, taking over the movement upon John’s execution. He was convinced that Roman rule over Israel would soon end, allowing him to set up an earthly kingdom. His Council of Twelve acted as regional rulers over this kingdom. When Jesus was crucified, the Council set up a provisional government, led by James, the brother of Jesus and heir to the Davidic line. Beyond that, not only was Jesus made divine, but his teachings were corrupted, and the roles of John and James were dramatically diminished, says Tabor, who raises some good points and spurs meaningful thought for the reader. And his archaeological backup makes for exciting reading. However, his book has a number of flaws. While identified as a historian, Tabor often sounds like a conspiracy theorist, piecing together tiny shreds of evidence to create a revisionist history, while rarely pausing to address the counterarguments that arise at every turn. Tabor accepts his conclusions as truth without ever entertaining the notion that there are other arguments to be made. This arrogance can be an affront to the educated reader. The author writes for those with only a marginal knowledge of Christian history and theology, and for those already skeptical of Christianity. There are vast discrepancies between his own presumptions and the presumptions of the majority of Christians—a gulf he fails to address and for which some will make efforts to debunk his work. Tabor simply speaks past actual believers, who will be perplexed by his approach at best, insulted at worst.
A provocative contribution, diminished by an overbearing approach.