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The Jesus Dynasty: The Hidden History of Jesus, His Royal Family, and the Birth of Christianity
James D. Tabor

0743287231 Retail Price: $27.00
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Format: Hardcover, 384pp.
ISBN: 0743287231
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Pub. Date: April 4, 2006

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From The Publisher:

Based on a careful analysis of the earliest Christian documents and recent archaeological discoveries, The Jesus Dynasty offers a bold new interpretation of the life of Jesus and the origins of Christianity. The story is surprising, controversial, and exciting as only a long-lost history can be when it is at last recovered.

In The Jesus Dynasty, biblical scholar James Tabor brings us closer than ever to the historical Jesus. Jesus, as we know, was the son of Mary, a young woman who became pregnant before her marriage to a man named Joseph. The gospels tell us that Jesus had four brothers and two sisters, all of whom probably had a different father than his. He joined a messianic movement begun by his relative John the Baptizer, whom he regarded as his teacher and a great prophet. John and Jesus together filled the roles of the Two Messiahs who were expected at the time: John, as a priestly descendant of Aaron, and Jesus, as a royal descendant of David. Together they preached the coming of the Kingdom of God. Theirs was an apocalyptic movement that expected God to establish his kingdom on earth, as described by the Prophets. The Two Messiahs lived in a time of turmoil as the historical land of Israel was dominated by the powerful Roman Empire. Fierce Jewish rebellions against Rome occurred during Jesus' lifetime.

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, and among the Twelve he included his four brothers. After Jesus 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, Paul preached a message based on his own revelations, which 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 archaeological 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.

This is a book that will change our understanding of one of the most crucial moments in history.


"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."
—Professor Bart Ehrman, Author of Misquoting Jesus and Chair, Department of Religious Studies, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

"James Tabor presents what may be the boldest reconstruction yet of the life and times of Jesus of Nazareth. Working with the surviving evidence like a CSI detective -- especially the testimonies concerning Jesus' family and the Jerusalem Nazarenes -- Tabor succeeds in reinscribing what has been lost (and in some cases erased) from the historical record. At once scholarly and accessible, Tabor's book may very well inaugurate a new phase in the quest for the historical Jesus."
—Professor Arthur J. Droge, Professor of New Testament and Early Christian Literature and Director, Program in Religious Studies, University of California at San Diego

"James Tabor stands out among his generation of biblical scholars for his thorough familiarity with the full range of textual evidence from the first centuries, his extensive experience with archaeological excavations, and his imagination and creativity. Tabor has a remarkable ability to discern the contours of vital religious movements from the scattered bits and pieces of evidence that survive from antiquity. Anyone who takes the career of Jesus seriously will have to reckon with his bold, new synthesis."
—Professor Eugene V. Gallagher, Rosemary Park Professor of Religious Studies, Connecticut College

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. (Apr.)
—Publishers Weekly, Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


readers index
Reader's Index

Send us your favorite quotes or passages from this book.

• "[The New Testament gospels present] a tangled tale of political intrigue and religious power plays with stakes destined to shape the future of the world' s largest religion." Pg. 81

• "[A]lthough our New Testament gospels contain historical material, the theological editing is a factor that the discerning reader must constantly keep in mind." Pg. 139

• "[The gospel of] Matthew implies that Isaiah' s prophecy was 'fulfilled' by the miraculous virgin birth of Jesus—but the original text clearly carries no such meaning." Pg. 46

• "The English word 'messiah' comes from the Hebrew word moshiach, which simply means 'an anointed one.' The equivalent Greek word, christos, also means 'annointed' and from that we have derived our more familiar term 'Christ,' meaning Messiah.... Most people are surprised to learn that the very first Messiah in the Bible was Aaron. He was 'annointed' as a priest by his brother Moses and is referred to in the Hebrew text as a 'mosiach' or 'messiah' (Exodus 40:12-15)." Pg. 58

• "That Jesus has four brothers and at least two sisters is a 'given' in [the gospel of] Mark, our earliest gospel record. He names the brothers rather matter-of-factly: James, Joses, Judas, and Simon." Pg. 73

• "…[Jesus] is not 'liberal' with regard to Jewish observances in any modern sense of the term. What he did not accept were certain oral traditions and interpretations that some rabbinic teachers had added to the biblical commandments." Pg. 115

• "The Nazarene movement, led by James, Peter, and John, was by any historical definition a Messianic Movement within Judaism. Even the term 'Jewish-Christianity,' though perhaps useful as a description of the original followers of Jesus, is really a misnomer since they never considered themselves anything but faithful Jews. In that sense early Christianity is Jewish." Pg. 264


About the Author

James D. Tabor is chair of the Department of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. Tabor has been quoted in Time, Newsweek, The New York Times and other major newspapers. He has also been featured in programs on ABC, CBS, the History Channel, the Discovery Channel, and PBS. He lives in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Table of Contents

Preface: Discovering the Jesus Dynasty1
Introduction: A Tale of Two Tombs6
Part 1In the Beginning Was the Family
1A Virgin Shall Conceive37
2A Son of David?48
3An Unnamed Father of Jesus?59
4Children of a Different Father73
Part 2Growing Up Jewish in Galilee
5The Lost Years85
6A Kingdom of this World95
7The Religion of Jesus the Jew109
Part 3A Great Revival and a Gathering Storm
8Hearing the Voice125
9A Crucial Missing Year138
10Ushering in the Kingdom153
Part 4Entering the Lion's Den
11Herod Strikes171
12Last Days in Jerusalem187
13The King Is Dead208
14Dead but Twice Buried223
Part 5Waiting for the Son of Man
15Go to James the Just243
16The Challenge of Paul259
17The Legacy of the Jesus Dynasty272
18The End of the Age284
Conclusion: Recovering Lost Treasures305
Timeline of Major Events and Figures319
Photo Credits365

Customer Reviews

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A True Adventure Story May 17, 2006
Reviewer: L. Vogt from Brownington, VT United States
This book is a must for anyone interested in the life and times of Jesus from an historical perspective, based on archeological discoveries, linguistics and forensic science. The author presents a meticulously researched and documented analysis of the political, social and religious views held during that period. In cases where the facts are not known, the author deduces possibilities based on logical assumptions. You might think, with all of the logic and factual detail, that the book would be difficult reading. Quite the contrary, it reads like an adventure story. It is hard to put down and very thought provoking. I hope Dr. Tabor publishes a sequel in the not too distant future, covering the results of ongoing developments on the subject.

Truly a Family Affair! May 17, 2006
Reviewer: Barrie Wilson, Professor, Religious Studies, York University from Toronto, ON, Canada

The Jesus Dynasty is an easy-to-read book by a first rate biblical scholar and archeologist who focuses on Jesus family his ancestors, parents, brothers, sisters, cousin and successors. Emphasizing that Jesus was more than a religious figure, his political thrust was to challenge the Roman empire with his Kingdom of God alternative. This resonated and galvanized his audience, so much so that the Romans caught wind of it and executed him as King of the Jews. One of the most important contributions Tabor makes is to show us how Jesus brothers were involved in his inner core of disciples. This represents an important contribution to our understanding of early Christianity and is a not-to-be-missed argument. Anyone seriously interested in Christian origins will find this book insightful and a fascinating read. Truly Jesus ministry was a family affair.

Excellent synthesis of the historical evidence! May 18, 2006
Reviewer: F. Trammell from Charlotte, NC United States

Dr. Tabor's well written book examines the history of the Jesus movement starting from John the Baptizer and Jesus and traces the preservation of their message through Jesus' brothers. The book also demonstrates that this strand of the tradition, which represents the more authentic version of the movement, is distinct from the message of Paul, whose own personal revelations formed the primary basis for his understanding of Jesus. Much of the book's material is based on historical facts and plausible historical reconstructions are given when the evidence is fragmentary. Not since Albert Schweitzer's 'Quest of the Historical Jesus,' has the world been given such an accurate synthesis of the earliest evidence relating to Jesus and his cause.

MY The Jesus Dynasty REVIEW May 18, 2006
Reviewer: S.E. from Charlotte, NC United States

The Jesus Dynasty by Dr. Tabor has given us both a clear and concise understanding of the life of Jesus and the birth of Christianity. In all our years we have never developed a true historical picture that makes sense to us, the average people . Everyone knows the birth story and the crucifixion story, but few know of the religious, political and social influences of this time. Moreover, in my experiences, few people can even relate to this time! Why? Because it took place so long ago in a distant place and is only known to us in this odd dimension where reality runs together with the supernatural and divine. How can I relate to the divine in my life which consists of stale morning coffee, long work days and two hour evenings? The reality in which Jesus, John, James, Simon, Jude, etc. lived in can be wrapped around your mind once you have read The Jesus Dynasty and like a puzzle the pieces will fall into place and form a picture that you can look at for the rest of you! This book is entertaining and informative, insightful and inspiring, but, most importantly a very accurate and historical presentation of the Jesus we should all seek to know. I would and have recommended this book to young and old, Christian and non-Christian, family and friends. The Jesus Dynasty is a must read for anyone who would like to explore the historic origins of Christianity, get an intimate view of the life of Jesus his family and followers or simply connect to a time so significant to our past, present and future.

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