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The Jesus Dynasty / James Tabor

The Jesus Dynasty Blog Has Moved

This Jesus Dynasty blog has been moved or morphed into TaborBlog which you can access at http://jamestabor.com.

TaborBlog is a more comprehensive site that attempts to cover not only Jesus and Christian Origins but “All things Biblical” from a historical-critical perspective.

For now the posts here will remain so that various links from other sites to this blog will not come up as broken.

Please note the change and bookmark the new site.

If you signed up for the Jesus Dynasty e-mail list at the right side of this page you will be automatically moved over to the TaborBlog e-mail list so there is no need to do anything.

Keeping Up with the Latest on the Talpiot “Jesus” Tomb

I find it somewhat amazing that so many freely expressing opinions on the controversial Talpiot “Jesus” tomb and/or the “James ossuary” have not kept up with even the most minimum of the latest research on the topic. I find this is the case even with all too many of my academic colleagues, not to mention a host of others, most with an evangelical Christian bias, who regularly “trash” the idea that this tomb might arguably be that of Jesus of Nazareth. It seems everything but the facts are brought into play here.

I was reminded of this today with the publication of the excellent article by Prof. Kevin Kilty and Mark Elliot of the University of Wyoming, reviewing the latest published views of my colleague Jodi Magness. In her latest book, Stone and Dung, Oil and Spit: Jewish Daily Life in the Time of Jesus, Prof. Magness offers a spirited argument that there is little to no likelihood that the Talpiot tomb, or the James ossuary, have any connection with the Jesus movement. The problem is, as Kilty and Elliot so clearly demonstrate, is her argument and even her information is as flawed as it is outdated.

Most of what Prof. Magness argues has been addressed previously, see for example my exchange with her now archived at the SBL Web site: http://sbl-site.org/publications/article.aspx?articleId=651.

No one can keep up with everything in our rich and ever complex field of biblical/archaeological studies but on a subject as controversial and as potentially important as this, it seems a minimum expectation for those wanting to engage in discussion would be to be up to speed on at least the basic research. Lamentably, such is not the case.

Here are a few of the basic articles, all readily available at the Web site bibleinterp.com, that are fundamental to any informed discussion of these subjects. If one is not willing to spend an hour or so reading through these I have to honestly question to what degree such a person is interested in a high level and informed discussion based on facts. As I say to my students on any topic we cover–read, read, please read–then express your views!

M. Elliott and K. Kilty, “Inside the Numbers of the Talpiot Tomb.”  http://www.bibleinterp.com/PDFs/tomb2.pdf

M. Elliott and K. Kilty, “Probability, Statistics, and the Talpiot Tomb.” http://www.lccc.wy.edu/Media/Website%20Resources/documents/Education%20Natural%20and%20Social%20Sciences/tomb.pdf

Jerry Lutgen, “The Talpiot Tomb: What Are the Odds?”http://www.bibleinterp.com/articles/tomb357926.shtml

M. Elliott and K. Kilty, “Talpiot Dethroned.” http://www.bibleinterp.com/articles/talpiot357921.shtml

Eldad Keynan, “Jewish Burials.” http://www.bibleinterp.com/articles/burial357907.shtml

Oded Golan, “The Authenticity of the James Ossuary and the Jehoash Tablet Inscriptions.” http://www.bibleinterp.com/PDFs/Authenticity_Letter.pdf

A. Rosenfeld, C.Pellegrino, H. R. Feldman, and W.E. Krumbein, “The Connection of the James Ossuary to the Talpiot (Jesus Family Tomb) Ossuaries.” http://www.bibleinterp.com/PDFs/JOTalpiot3.pdf

M. Elliott and K. Kilty, “The James Ossuary in Talpiot,”  http://www.bibleinterp.com/articles/kilell358029.shtml

Eldad Keynan, “Obscurities Around the Tomb of the Holy Sepulcher” http://www.bibleinterp.com/articles/tombs358017.shtml

Steve Jobs Dead at 56: A Personal Reflection

I got the sad news last night at 7:51pm. It beeped in as a CNN bulletin on my iPhone. Steve Jobs, legendary founder of Apple computer, and inspiration behind Mac computers, the mouse, iTunes, the iPod, the iPhone, the AirBook, and most recently the iPad, had died of pancreatic cancer at age 56.

Friends began to shoot me e-mails and text messages. Posts began to appear on Facebook and Twitter and last night Twitter was so jammed, with people posting tributes, you could not get on for over an hour. Steve’s creative genius and love of elegance, his independent spirit and commitment to “whole earth” thinking, his hard work and determination, has truly transformed our world. From music, to photos, to the Web, to writing, e-mail, and a host of amazing “millennial” applications, my world intersects with Steve Job’s creations every day. I wrote all my books on my MacBook and can hardly remember what life was like without these Apple products that have so enriched our pleasure in using technology and brought it to our desk, lap, and hand in such a lovely and convenient way.  Even the PC/Microsoft users, Android people, and a host of other knock offs are largely using products adapted and copied from the original Macintosh, iPhone, or iPod. Jobs was neither engineer or technician. He was a dreamer. But he combined those dreams, and their elegant sense of “taste” and beauty, with hard work, persistence, and a self-demanding style that would never give up. His life, like so many of us, was a complex tangle of starts and stops, of breakthroughs and disappointments, but always his bright spirit prevailed in the end.

We will all miss him and I believe our new millennial world will continue to be transformed by his innovations in ways we can only dream of today.

The NYTimes has some amazing coverage this morning if you want to browse a bit, beginning with the front page story by John Markoff. There is lots more in the links:


James, signing off on his iPad

Prof. Tabor to Lead Israel Tour October 21-30, 2011

I have made forty-four trips to Israel since 1990 but I have only led two tours. One was a private group from my university; the second, last year, I opened to the public–primarily various readers of my books who had followed some of my career as a biblical scholar. This is not the standard “Holy Land” tour. I have shaped the special itinerary myself, teaming up with DeWayne Coxen, as I did last year. Dr. Coxen has traveled to Israel over 150 times over the past 50 years–I think he has actually lost count. In addition to this rich experience he also provides us with our connection to the archaeological site of biblical Tamar, in the Negev desert, one of the centerpieces of this tour. Not only to I want to give participants a survey of the Land of Israel, from “Dan to Beersheva,” quite literally–and everything in between–but I want them to have a chance to get their hands dirty actually working for a day at an archaeological site. One could not find a better opportunity for this than Tamar, not to mention the inspiring experience of staying two nights in the Desert.

Basically my idea on this tour is to take a limited group of 45 people together on one bus and give them an overview of the archaeological and historical side of my work as a Biblical scholar–and particularly one who has worked on the historical Jesus and the Origins of Christianity for the past 40 years. I am your personal guide on this tour and everyone who goes has personal access to both Dr. Coxen and me the entire time. The itinerary speaks for itself.  I think you will be amazed when you see what I have packed into a ten day schedule. We are also doing our best to hold the prices down, despite rising airline and hotel costs. Neither Dr. Coxen or I charge a fee for leading this tour. We both do what we do because of a love of history, a fascinating with our research, and the satisfaction of introducing others to the Land of Israel.  You can download a copy here TaborItinerary2011 and see for yourself. The registration form and payment information is available here. This tour will likely fill up quite fast and the group will be determined on a first-come-first-serve basis. In order to hold your place you can go ahead and register on-line immediately at http://www.blossomingrose.org/tours/Online_Deposits.html.

More on Pantera from researcher Joseph Raymond

I thought this piece by Joseph Raymond, author of Herodian Messiah was well worth reading in the light of the posts I have put up recently on the “Panthera” traditions. There is more to come from my end of things but I want to recommend this as a supplement to what I have been presenting. Thanks to Joseph for his good and solid research. One point I think is important to make is that the early Church Fathers, in dealing with the Pantera “tag,” accept it as a family name within Jesus’s lineage! This should be factored in. In other words, our soldier boy Pantera, if he was the father, might have been already part of the family…Then there is the tomb in Jerusalem, the ossuary, with Pantera as a name–clearly a Jewish tomb of the period. Both these points show that the name in Greek is not so alien to Jewish culture at the time, and even closer, to the family names of Jesus’ lineage, both from the Miriam and Yosef sides of the family.


More on the German “Pantera” Tombstone

As I pointed out in a recent post on this Blog, the term “Jesus son of Pantera” comes up in 2nd century AD Greek and Jewish sources, including texts associated with stories set in the city of Sepporis, just four miles from Nazareth where Jesus grew up. In chapter 3 of The Jesus Dynasty, titled “An Unnamed Father of Jesus” I discuss the Pantera tradition, including the oft heard assertion, that the name “Pantera” is a pun of Jewish enemies of the Christians of the Greek word parthenos or virgin. It is strange how often this assertion gets repeated, though I think it has no basis either in history or linguistics. When early Christians countered the charge that Jesus was the “son of Pantera” they took the name seriously, not as a pun, and asserted that it was indeed a “family name” in the lineage of Jesus. I agree with Deissmann that the evidence shows that it is a “real” name, whether or not we can identify any historical figure to which it referred. In my book I examine the tombstone in Germany of a 1st century Roman soldier from Palestine of that name, not so much to claim it belonged to the “father” of Jesus, but rather to learn what we can of this particular individual.

When I sent in my book manuscript The Jesus Dynasty for publication most of what I knew about the Tiberius Julius Abdes Pantera tombstone now located in Bad Kreuznach, Germany, was taken from two main sources: the article by Deissmann, “Der Name Panthera,” published in 1906 (see notes in my book for details), as well as the information he included in his subsequent book, Licht vom Osten/Light from East (1923); and another article by L. Patterson, “Origin of the Name Pantera,” JTS (1917), which built on Deissmann’s work.

As far as I can tell almost everything subsequently published, which is mostly people mentioning the Bingerbrück tombstone in passing, most often to dismiss it as insignificant, relies on these two initial publications. It is from those two articles that the ideas emerge that the names Tiberius Julius indicate manumission under the emperor Tiberius (thus after 14 AD), that our Panthera is a Jew or Semite based on the name Abdes (this is more Patterson than Deissmann), and that the 1st cohort of archers had come to the Rhine in the year 9 AD. Deissmann’s main point, echoed by Patterson, was not to say that this Panthera was the “father” of Jesus, or even had any remote connection to Jesus, but that the name Panthera was not an invention of Jewish enemies of Christianity, spurning the virgin birth, but a real name used by the ancients and thus likely picked up for some reason in the “Yeshua ben Pantera” traditions.

Since that time I have been able to examine much more closely the archives (mostly artifacts, paintings, and articles published in the Bonner Jahrbuch in 1859-1860, atFig24PanteraInscription_1.jpg the time of the discovery) that I brought back with me from the museum in Bad Kreusnach where the tomb stones are now housed, and thus to learn much more about the original discovery of this cemetery in 1859 as well as the others buried with Panthera. I was also able to photograph, measure, and study closely the Pantera tombstone itself. All Deissmann apparently had was the inscription itself as published in the catalogue CIL XIII 7514. He seems to know nothing of the discovery, its context, or anything related thereto.
There are lots of interesting avenues of inquiry but at least three issues that need to be resolved are the following:

1. The significance of the Semitic name Abdes. I am not convinced by Deissmann’s postcard correspondent, Count Wolf Baudissin (footnoted in Light from East, p. 74), that Abdes=Eded Isis or “servant of Isis.” I think it is more likely a name, and Deissmann himself refers to another soldier who is called “Cottio the son of Abdes,” which seems to be the same name. It was Patterson that took the name to mean our Panthera was a Jew. I would not go that far but did take it as an indication of at least a “Semitic” background. I have also wondered if the name might be related to Sbedsdas or “Zebedee,” which is found on another soldier’s tombstone in the area, who was from Tyre, which would make it more akin to Zebdas from the Hebrew root Zabad (=Doros/gift) in Hebrew.

2. Do the names Tiberius Julius indicate manumission or perhaps something else? I went with the freed slave suggestion, which seemed to have been so confidently asserted by Deissmann and Patterson, but now tend to doubt that such is the case. Our Abdes Pantera might have taken on these names much later in life, even at retirement, for reasons having nothing to do with having been a freed slave, but perhaps just as a way of honoring the emperor Tiberius, celebrating citizenship, or otherwise celebrating a higher status than that of a commoner. One very well known figure from antiquity with that name was the famous nephew of Philo, Tiberius Julius Alexander.

3. What is the evidence for Deissmann’s assertion that that particular cohort of archers had come to Dalmatia (Croatia) in the year A.D. 6 from Palestine and moved to

the Rhine/Nahe river area in A.D. 9? He refers to a source by Domaszewski but gives no details in the citation, so I take it this source is well known in his time and would be known to Roman historians, which I am not. Of course we should not take 9 AD as the date Abdes Pantera necessarily arrived in the area. The cohort would have been regularly replenished by new recruits throughout the 1st century, once stationed in the area.

Given what we know so far of Abdes Pantera it is difficult to date him more precisely. We know he was from Sidon in Palestine, that he served in the army for forty years and that he died at age 62. Whether he might have been retired at the time he died or not we can not be sure, so accordingly, we can not be sure at what age his 40 year service began or when he took on the name Tiberius Julius, other than to place it sometime between the years of the reign of the emperor: 14-37AD.


I can add, just for interest, that three large tombstones, Pantera among them, were found on October 19, 1859 about 300 yards from the Nahe River in connection with the construction of the Bingerbrück railway station. The first two, individuals named Hyperanor and Julia Quintia, were in their vertical positions but the third one, Abdes, was slanted. The foundations of all three were at the same level, and all three were

headless, due to the building in earlier times of an embankment wall. Clay funerary urns were found with vessels as well as coins. These finds have been distributed in a number of museums and I am in the process of trying to locate them all. They will perhaps allow

us to date at least the terminus ad quem of the cemetery. Other tombstones were subsequently recovered in the area, which was obviously a Roman cemetery. Four different army units are represented, including the 4th Legion, and the IV Delmatarum, 1 Pannoniorum, and the 1st Sagittariorum cohorts–all known to be in that area during the mid-1st century AD. Pictured here  is a painting made in 1859 of the original discovery–taking us back to a time when photography was just coming into use, but not yet for archaeology.

I believe there is still much to learn about both the cemetery and Tiberius Julius Abdes Pantera, so stay tuned…It is entirely possible that his funerary urn is still preserved in the archives of one of the museums in Germany. More to come…

The “Jesus son of Panthera” Traditions

Predictably one of the more controversial topics in my book The Jesus Dynasty is my discussion in chapter 3 titled “An Unnamed Father of Jesus?” in which I treat the “Jesus son of Pantera/Pantira” traditions. The topic has generated more than one sensational headline as well as lots of disdainful treatment, particularly from evangelical Christian readers and reviewers. As my colleague Prof. Ben Witherington dismissively phrased it in his four-part 28 page single-spaced Blog review of my book, “Tabor trots out for us the shop-worn tale of Mary being impregnated by a Roman soldier named Pantera” ((Witherington on Tabor’s Jesus Dynasty).

The topic is as controversial as it is complex. My own position is that Jesus’ biological father remains unknown but is unlikely Joseph, husband of Mary. This puts me in an odd position of partial agreement with Christians who take the virgin conception/birth story literally and would likewise hold that Joseph was not the father of Jesus. In the book I then pose the sensitive question–if not Joseph then whom? Is there anything at all to be said of this matter? Has any alternative tradition regarding Jesus’ father come down to us? And the answer is yes, the name Pantera is found in a number of ancient sources. Rather than dismiss these out of hand as a “shop-worn tale” produced by Jewish opponents of the Christians who wanted to cast aspersions on Jesus’ paternity, I felt compelled to honestly examine what one might responsibly conclude about the subject. Having examined the “Jesus son of Panthera” textual traditions in their various forms I then turned to my own investigation of the tombstone of the 1st century Roman soldier, one “Tiberius Julius Abdes Pantera” from Sidon who was buried outside of present day Bingerbrück, Germany.

The earliest textual evidence comes from three sources:

1) We have two stories preserved in supplements to the Mishnah called the Tosefta (as well as in other parallel rabbinic texts but primarily see Tosefta Chullin 2:22-24) that refer to “Yeshu ben Pantera” (with alternate spelling variations). The first involves the famous Rabbi Eliezer ben Hyrcanus who lived in the late 1st and early 2nd century AD. Rabbi Eliezer relates a teaching in the “name of Yeshu ben Pantera” that he heard on the streets of Sepphoris from one Jacob of Kefar Sikhnin. Eliezer himself had been arrested for “heresy” and some have suspected he might have been sympathetic to the Nazarenes. The second story also involves Jacob of Kefar Sikhnin who attempts to heal a certain Rabbi Eleazar ben Dama of a snakebite in the name of “Yeshu ben Pantera.”

Although Maier and a few others have doubted these references are to Jesus of Nazareth, most experts are convinced that they are. Since both of these texts appear to use the designation “Yeshu ben Pantera” in a descriptive rather than a slanderous or polemical way they offer us evidence that Jesus was remembered as “son of Panthera” in the region of Galilee, and even on the streets of Sepphoris, in the early 2nd century. Indeed, Richard Bauckham argues quite persuasively that this Jacob of Kefar Sikhnin might well be James, son (or grandson?) of Jude the brother of Jesus, otherwise known to us as a prominent leader in the Galilean churches (Jude and the Relatives of Jesus, pp. 114-119).

2. The Greek philosopher Celsus relates in polemical work against the Christians preserved by the Christian theologian Origen that he had found it “written” that Jesus was the son of a Roman soldier named Pantera (Contra Celsum 1. 69). This text dates to the late 2nd century. Origen replies that the story was concocted by those who refused to believe that Jesus had no human father and was conceived by the Holy Spirit.

3. The 4th century Christian apologist Epiphanius seems to take the designation “Jesus son of Panthera” seriously in that he argues the name is actually a nickname for Jacob, the father of Joseph, husband of Mary. So rather than denying it is part of the family tradition he tries to explain it within that context.

If one begins to read through the literature on “Jesus son of Panthera” the most common explanation one finds is that “Panthera” is not the real name of any individual at all but a play on the Greek word “Parthenos,” or “virgin” that Jewish opponents of the Christians invented to make fun of their enemies. I am amazed at how many of my critics have referred to this idea as a way of dismissing the Panthera stories as references to a specific individual. This explanation is weak on two counts. First, linguistically, the Greek words panthera and parthenos are not even closely related in sound. But more important, none of the earliest sources quoted above, including Origen and Epiphanius, who both believed in the virgin birth, make use of this explanation. Epiphanius in particular recognizes that this is a “real” name and his only defense of it being associated with Jesus is to claim it was already “in the family” before Jesus’ birth. In that sense Jesus could loosely be called “Jesus son of Panthera.”

What Adolf Deissmann contributed to the discussion in his famous 1906 study on “Der Name Panthera” (see references in the notes to my chapter 3) was to remind us all that the Greek name “Pantera” was used by real individuals in the 1st century AD, and furthermore that it was particularly favored by Roman soldiers. He lists six examples which hardly makes the name common, but one of them is the Bingerbrück tombstone of Tiberius Julius Abdes Pantera, the 1st century archer who actually was from Sidon in Palestine. His point in his study is not to even remotely imply that this individual was the father of Jesus, but just that the tradition “Jesus son of Pantera” likely referred to some real individual rather than being a concocted term of Jewish polemical slander. The discovery of an ossuary with the name “Pentheros” in a Jewish 1st century tomb in Jerusalem by Clermont-Ganneau in 1891 has given us additional evidence that the name “Pantera” was in use in Palestine by Jews in the 1st century.

When I traveled to Germany in October, 2005 to examine the tombstone of Tiberius Julius Abdes Pantera of Sidon found in 1859 along with other Roman officers buried at Bingerbrück my intent was to find out all I could about these individuals. I do not hold the view that this particular individual was the father of Jesus. As far as I can tell that sort of definitive evidence simply does not exist. However I did come back with a thick file of evidence relating to the original excavation and its particulars that to my knowledge has never before been brought into the discussion. Pantera is only one of 10 other tombstones found at this grave site. I was able to photograph a painting that captures the original excavation of the site when it was accidentally discovered during construction of a railway station in 1859. Artifacts from the cemetery are also in various local museums in Germany, including coin and ceramic evidence. By studying the entire site we are in a much better position to say something about Tiberius Julius Abdes Pantera and his history. It seems to me those who have dismissed out of hand even the possibility that Pantera of Sidon might relate to the “Yeshua ben Pantera” stories would do well to examine more closely what can be known, and then to draw conclusions.

In a subsequent post I will begin to cover some of what I have been able to ascertain so far in my research on this particular individual. It is not the case, as Prof. Witherington and others have asserted, that his death at age 62 after 40 years of service in the army precludes him being old enough to have been the father of Jesus around the year 6 BC. Following that I also want to discuss the matter of the social and cultural implications of Mary becoming pregnant before her marriage to Joseph and how we might imagine such a possible scenario, given what we know, including what it might have meant to Jesus if he grew up not knowing his father.

More to come…

Happy Birthday Jesus

Tonight begins the Jewish festival popularly known Sukkoth, the “feast of huts” or booths. The King James Version translated it as the “Feast of Tabernacles,” and that is how many Christians who observe it in some fashion refer to it most often today.

What is all the more interesting about this day is that by some calculations (see Jack Finegan, Handbook of Biblical Chronology) Jesus was born on or very near the 15th day of the 7th month–based on the chronology given in the book of Luke. The calculations are complex but have to do with the time in which Zechariah, father of John the Baptizer, served in the Temple (Luke 1:8), as the “section” of priests in which he was part went on duty at a specific time of year. From that window calculations can be made as to the birth of John, followed by the birth of Jesus six months later. My own calculations based on a computer program I use puts the birth of Jesus in 5 B.C. very close to Sukkoth, or September 22nd on the Gregorian Calendar, corresponding to the Autumnal Equinox. It just so happens that today, in 2010, the 15th day of the 7th month, beginning Sukkoth, also corresponds to the Equinox–that is today, September 22nd/23rd.

There is a fascinating Roman civic inscription dating to the year 9 B.C. that was passed by the cities of Asia to celebrate the birthday of the Emperor Augustus. It reads in part: “Whereas, finally, that the birthday of the god (i.e. Augustus) has been for the whole world the beginning of the gospel (euangelion) concerning him, therefore, let all reckon a new era beginning from the date of his birth, and let his birthday mark the beginning of the new year.”

It is surely more than ironic that the birth of Jesus, an insignificant Galilean peasant, living under the brutal boot of Roman occupation, just a few years later, did indeed lead to a new era, a kind of “birthday of the world,” that has paled into insignificance the birth of the celebrated Emperor Augustus.

So today in particular it seems has a double meaning, as the festival of Sukkoth for Jews and others who observe the Torah festivals, but for Christians, and really our entire society, the birthday of a new era, in that Jesus himself was born on or very near this day.

Jewish Roman World of Jesus Web Page Change

My main university Web page that has been used by many thousands of folks over the years (the counter reset to zero at 1 million some years ago) has been moved. If you have linked it anywhere please note the change and update your records. I am working with our Web people at the university to see if there can be a “redirect” message:

The old URL was: http://religiousstudies.uncc.edu/JDTABOR/indexb.html

The new one is: http://religiousstudies.uncc.edu/people/jtabor/

This site contains a wealth of materials related to Jesus, Christian Origins, 2nd Temple Judaism, and the religion and culture of the ancient Mediterranean world. I use it in all my classes and welcome any of you who teach to make use of these materials so long as credit is given.

My special thanks to Prof. Dennis Duling for allowing me to make his masterful essays on the Jewish and Roman World of Jesus available, originally published in his co-written The New Testament: An Introduction, with the late Norman Perrin.Jewi

An Update on “Paul Untitled”

It has been a while since I have posted anything here on the Jesus Dynasty Blog. For the past two months I have pretty much gone “underground” to complete my new book on Paul. I have been writing non-stop, with trips to Rome and Jerusalem sandwiched in, to move the book along as soon as feasibly possible.

Fresco Image of Paul at St. Tekla Catacomb in Rome

As some of you know, Paul has been in the news of late, with stories about his tomb in Rome being validated, as well as the newly uncovered portrait of Paul in the catacomb of St. Tekla. I have been working on the Paul book since late 2008 when I signed a contract with Simon & Schuster. There was a time when I expected it might be out by Spring, 2010 but as I got deeper into my work I began to develop my ideas in directions I had not originally anticipated, so I have ended up taking most of 2010 to complete the manuscript. The book has been listed on Amazon now for over a year with the fetching title: Paul Untitled and still no cover image. I know many of my readers have pre-ordered it, and I appreciate your patience. The pre-orders do count, and when the book is released they can give it a great send-off, so if any of you are willing to “stand in that Amazon line,” I thank you for it. My editors and I are still talking about a final decision on a title, as well as the cover art, and I hope it will appear soon. I will let everyone know.

What I think I can safely say is that the book will be worth the wait! I don’t know of another book on Paul by a scholar in the field that is like this one, either in ideas, approach, or style. I did my Ph.D. dissertation on Paul at the University of Chicago (1982), directed by the incomparable Jonathan Z. Smith. It was published as a monograph in the Brown University Judaic Studies series in 1985 titled Things Unutterable. It has long ago gone out of print though an unbound facsimile edition is available on Amazon. For the past 30 years, teaching at three universities (Notre Dame, William & Mary, UNC Charlotte) I have continued to think deeply about Paul, covering him in my courses at both undergraduate and graduate levels.

So far as books on Paul go, I think they must outnumber the books on Jesus, but almost without exception the academic study of Paul is pretty much an “in-house” enterprise with most of the scholars who specialize and write about Paul producing endless books primarily intended for their colleagues.  Most of the writings on Paul are highly technical, very theological in orientation, and full of jargon particular to the field. “Pauline Studies,” is such a vast field right now it is impossible for all but the most devoted, who rarely work on anything else, to keep up. I am not one of those people and though I have published and written about Paul along the way.  My concentration has been much broader–namely trying to analyze the many ways of understanding “salvation” in ancient Mediterranean religions, particularly in late 2nd Temple Judaism and earliest Christianity–with apocalypticism as my main focus. Such a general description certainly pulls in Paul, but in a broader way that most Pauline scholars deal with him.

What I hope I have produced is a readable and accessible book on Paul, but one that offers an analysis of his mission and message that I have not seen anywhere else. Mine is neither a Paul-bashing nor a Paul-applauding book. I guess you might call it “Paul in His Own Words,” in that I try as best I can to let Paul speak for himself, based on the seven “authentic” letters we have from his hand. And speak he does! I think I have succeeded, at least on an introductory level, to offer readers a clear, refreshing, and provocative look at the Apostle.

I thought I would paste the Table of Contents in here, just to whet a few appetites, and I plan to begin a series of blog posts over at TaborBlog the next few weeks that will explore various aspects of Paul and his thinking–as a kind of prelude to the book itself–so check there if you are interested.

Preface: Discovering Paul

Introduction: Paul and Jesus

The Quest for the Historical Paul

Chapter 1: After the Cross

Chapter 2: Reading the New Testament Backwards

Chapter 3: A Forgotten Brother, A Lost Christianity

Chapter 4: A Cosmic Family and a Heavenly Kingdom

Chapter 5: A Mystical Union with Christ

Chapter 6: Already but Not Yet

Chapter 7: The Torah of Christ

Chapter 8: The Battle of the Apostles

Conclusion: Does God Care for Oxen?A

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