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orion Eisenman's James



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Fellow Listers:

 On Crosstalk we have had some preliminary discussions of Robert
Eisenmanís book
"James, the Brother of Jesus" Viking Press, 1997 ISBN 0-670-86932-5.
Having finished the
book, I now offer my  opinion.  I apologize for the length and will
divided the review into
several posts.

                            A LAYMANíS REVIEW OF EISENMANíS "JAMES"

We seem to know more about the nature of black holes dozens of light
years away
than the nature of 2nd Temple Jewish and "Jesus Jewish" society a
hundred generations ago.
This is a society that has been filtered to us historically through 2
millennia of  Hellenic Christian mythology and reconstructed Rabbinic
Judaism, yet this is the society in which the historical Jesus
was born, raised, taught and died.  Scholars, for centuries, were
content to remain within the
confines of the theological perspectives dictated by a religious
institution that reconstructed
history to conform to dogma.  For 80% of the period between the
historical Jesus and the
present day, to wander beyond those confines in Christianity brought
severe, even fatal,
consequences from a politically powerful and intolerant church.  Those
consequences no longer
exist in modern scholarship, other than the approval or polemic of ones
peers, yet modern scholars
are not devoid of theological, atheological or paradigmatic
tendentiousness.

 Over the last century, with a major impetus from German scholarship, a
more critical
eye has been cast on the historicity and texts underlying the "New
Testament event."  One of
these areas of investigation has been the art of textual criticism. TC,
however, is limited only
to the surviving texts which come to us through Hellenic Christianity
and date in the main
to no earlier than the 4th century and only a few scraps earlier.  TC
can offer little or no
support in the "quest for the historical Jesus" and the society in which
he moved and admirably,
as one of its canons, works only with the surviving textual evidence,
eschewing probable or
improbable speculations beyond the tangible evidence.  Scholars
attempting to reconstruct
the historicity of the "Jesus movement" and the Jewish society to which
it belonged had
much less to go on until the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls 50 years
ago.  In this arena
evidence is slight and speculations abound.

 In the spring of 1948, an 8 year old Jack Kilmon dropped by the office
of a kindly
professor at Johns Hopkins who often took time from his busy schedule to
give the lad a few
lessons in Hebrew.  On this particular day, I still remember seeing
"Dr. Bill" bent over his
desk examining something.  His balding pate reflecting the light, he
peered upwards over his
very thick eyeglasses and greeted me.  Dr. Albright was very excited
over some photographs
he had received of some ancient scrolls.  He showed me the photographs
and explained some
of the differences in the handwritten script over the printed square
script of the textbook he
had loaned me.  All of the characters seemed to be hanging from a faint
line except for the
lameds which trailed upwards like the tail of an angry dog.  Some of the
photographs were
of an ancient parchment of the book of Isaiah and others were from what
he said was an
explanation of Habbakuk.  I learned that day what a "midrash" was and
the difference
between Hebrew and Aramaic and learned to recognize Aramaic by the
difference in plural
endings.

My Hebrew "exercise" for that day was to transcribe the written
characters on one
of the photographs of the Isaiah scroll and attempt to translate some of
the words which I
did to the welcome praise of my mentor.  At the time, I had no idea of
the eminence of
this kindly professor who condescended his time for a precocious kid
from the street nor
that I had experienced a contact with a discovery that would
revolutionize the history
of the period.  I now look back, with the advantage of hindsight, and
realize that I was among
the first to translate a dozen phrases or so since the scroll was hidden
nearly 2,000 years
before.  What a way to give a kid some Hebrew lessons.

 The point of this personal cameo of my childhood is that I have
hungrily followed
the scholarly and popular literature on the DSS since that time.  I am
not a "expert" but
I am also not a neophyte.

Continued next post...

Jack Kilmon
JPMan@accesscomm.net