James the Brother of Jesus: The Key to Unlocking the Secrets of early Christianity and the Dead Sea Scrolls
is a 1997
book by American archaeologist
and Biblical scholar Robert Eisenman
. He is most famous for his controversial work on the Dead Sea Scrolls
and the origins of the Christianity
Eisenman attempts to reconstruct the events surrounding the origins of Christianity
, preceding the recorded history of early Christianity
. He critically reviews the narrative of the canonical gospels drawing on the Dead Sea Scrolls
, the Clementine Recognitions and Homilies
, the Apostolic Constitutions
, the two James Apocalypses
from Nag Hammadi
, the Western Text of Acts
and the Slavonic Josephus
The central claim is that the Jewish Christianity emerged out from the Zadokites, a messianic, priestly, ultra-fundamentalist sect, making them indivisible from the milieu of contemporary movements like the Essenes, Zealots, Nazoreans, Nazirites, Ebionites, Elchasites, Sabeans, Mandaeans, etc.
In this scenary, the figure of Jesus at first did not have the central importance that it later acquired. The canonical Twelve Apostles were no more that an artificially expanded replacement for the smaller circle of brothers of Jesus. After his crucifixion one of his brothers, James the Just take place as the leader of this party, besides other factions loyal to Jesus (Ebionites) and to John the Baptist (Mandaeans). The central triad of the early Jerusalem Church will be composed by James, Peter, and John the Apostle. According to Eisenman, James was an important religious figure in his own right.
Chronologically, the book moves the events reflected in the gospels closer to the First Jewish-Roman War than usual, identifying an Herodian named Saulus, active during the siege of Jerusalem, with Paul of Tarsus, and considers the identification of Simon Peter, with Simeon bar-Cleophas.
Eisenman continues this discussion in his 2006 book The New Testament Code.
Eisenman's theses were received by the most of the scholars as eccentric, but partly favourably by reviewers. While Robert M. Price
reviews the book with enthusiasm, James Painter (1999) in an excursus
of his book, "easily refutes the more outlandish aspects" (McGinn 2001).
Painter accepts James was the leader of the Jerusalem church, but concludes there is "no evidence of a direct relationship between James and the Qumran Righteous Teacher" (p. 234). He concludes that Eisenman's book "is both erudite and eccentric" (p. 277), an assessment that in turn Painter (McGinn 2001) characterizes as "a gracious reading if ever there was one".
- Eisenman, Robert (1997). James the Brother of Jesus: The Key to Unlocking the Secrets of Early Christianity and the Dead Sea Scrolls. Viking. ISBN 1842930265.
- John Painter, Just James: The Brother of Jesus in History and Tradition (1999), ISBN 1570031746.
- Sheila E. McGinn, review of Painter (1999), Journal of Early Christian Studies 9.2 (2001) 290-291.
- http://depts.drew.edu/jhc/rpeisman.html - Review by Robert M. Price
- http://www.radikalkritik.de/RezEisenman.htm - Review by Michael Turton
- http://roberteisenman.com - Robert Eisenman's web site, with a link to his lectures and confrerences in youtube.
- http://www.csulb.edu/centers/sjco/ - Robert Eisenman's articles, interviews and reviews of his books.