July 25th, 2007

Books!

Another good one ...

Wow, two "can't put down" books in a row. Frankly, I didn't start on this one until I was done with that Gurdjieff book I reviewed a couple of days ago, and here I am with this one done already! Of course, I love archaeology, am interested in history, and am always open to heretical ideas, and this has all those woven together into a fascinating whole.

James D. Tabor's The Jesus Dynasty: The Hidden History of Jesus, His Royal Family, and the Birth of Christianity starts out as an archaeological investigation. The author is the head of the Religious Studies Department at UNC-Charlotte with PhD from University of Chicago, and spends a lot of time in Israel supervising digs. The book begins with the accidental discovery of a couple of tombs, with some very interesting "clusters" of names, and then moves on to the earlier discovery of the "James, brother of Jesus" ossuary (a box for bones), and a discussion of 1st Century CE burial customs (yes, I do find this stuff fascinating). The book then shifts to a discussion of the general historical setting of the time, and eventually moves towards looking at the major players in the Jewish "Messianic" movement.

Much of the reality of early Christianity was "swept under the rug" by the later Church, and the bulk of The Jesus Dynasty is spent uncovering the traces of Jesus' original teachings, using archaeological, historical, and textual sources. Much of this would not have been possible prior to the past few decades, but major discoveries have been made of "lost books", and computer analysis is able to separate out later over-lays on the early documentation.

The picture which emerges is of a "Nazarean" movement of certain families of Royal lineage. John (the Baptist) as the "High Priest Messiah" through descent from Aaron, and Jesus as the "King Messiah" through his mother's lineage back to David. Much is also covered on Jesus' paternity, of how likely Mary, betrothed to much older Joseph, had become pregnant, possibly by a Roman soldier named Pantera (cue "Revolution Is My Name"?), has Jesus in less than optimal circumstances, re-marries one of Joseph's brothers (as was common practice at the time) after his death, and has four additional sons and two daughters. These details are important following Jesus' execution in 30ce, as first James takes over the lineage, followed by Simon after James is executed in 62ce, followed by Jude once Simon is eliminated by the Romans in 106ce.

Most of this history is likely unfamiliar to mainstream Christians, as by the time the New Testament was being codified, the "mystical" Church of Paul (based solely on his hallucinations) had swept to prominence in Rome and its empire. Nearly all canonical traces of James and the "Jewish Christianity" were expunged, surviving only in echoes of the "Q document", extrapolated from the "non-Mark" parts of Matthew and Luke, and supported by surviving non-canonical sources such as the Greek Didache, and descriptive traces of pockets of authenticity such as the Ebionites. There were two reasons for this, the obvious one being that the "Pauline Church" wanted to play down the Church of Jesus and his lineage as much as possible as Paul's teachings bore little resemblance to Jesus', yet was anchored on his personage; second, the major Jewish revolts in 66-70ce (resulting in the destruction of the Temple and much of Jerusalem) and 132-135ce had polarized the Roman world against the now-destroyed Jewish civilization, and the Gentile Church was eager to keep it's "Jewish roots" out of sight as much as possible.

Needless to say, this is another major look at how what we know as "Christianity" would have been seen as the basest blasphemy by Jesus and those with whom he lived and worked. The co-opting of the Church of John, Jesus, and James by the "false prophet" Paul is perhaps the cruelest perversion of any religious movement in all of human history. I suppose it would be too much to hope that with the on-going discoveries of texts and archaeological evidence that the abomination that is Pauline Christianity could begin to be taken down from it's ill-gotten prominence!

Anyway ... I don't suppose I have to say that I highly recommend this book!

The Jesus Dynasty is still in print (it only came out last year) in both hardcover and paperback, so could likely be found at your local bookstore. It's also at a discount via Amazon, and can be had in "good" copies of the hardcover for as little as $1.98 (plus shipping) via the new/used vendors over there. Whichever way you pick this up, DO pick it up and give it a read ... and hopefully start to wake up from the 2,000-year lie!


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