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Historical Jesus Theories: Robert Eisenman

The purpose of this web page is to explain and explore some of the theories offered up by contemporary scholars on the historical Jesus and the origins of the Christian religion. Issues include the nature of the historical Jesus, the nature of the early Christian documents, and the origins of the Christian faith in a risen Jesus Christ.

Robert Eisenman

James the Brother of Jesus:  Buy at! In the tradition of S. G. F. Brandon and Robert Eisler, Robert Eisenman has argued that the original Jamesian Christianity consisted of Torah-observant and nationalistic Jews of insurrectionist bent. In order to reconstruct the historical James, Eisenman peers behind the texts as we have them to get to the source of things; for example, Acts and the Pseudoclementine Recognitions are maintained to be both dependent on a source, now lost, which is better preserved in the Pseudoclementines. The Gospels are seen to be pro-Gentile, pro-Roman fictions which deliberately portray Jesus as a pacifistic, spiritual Messiah. In the Gospels, the original Heirs of Jesus are played down for political reasons.

Ancient tradition has it that the first Jewish revolt was sparked by the unjust execution of James the Just. In order to disassociate James the Just from his brother Jesus, the Gospels split him into two: on the one hand, the family of Jesus including James think Jesus is mad; on the other hand, James the son of Zebedee is one of the trio of James, Peter, and John as found in the Gospels. Yet the fiction is exposed when we look at the earlier letters of Paul, in which the trio is James the brother of the Lord, Peter, and John - what an odd coincidence, which so many scholars take at face value, that one James the son of Zebedee should have died only to be conveniently replaced by another by the name of James, the brother of Jesus! Yet, Eisenman argues, the Gospels and Acts are full of this kind of misinformation designed to obscure the significance of the James faction and to domesticate Christianity for Gentile consumption.

In addition to propounding his central thesis that the original Christianity of James was a Jewish nationalist resistance movement and that Paul transformed it into a Hellenistic cult, Eisenman has an auxiliary theory that has likely drawn both impressive book sales and scholarly derision, which is his attempt to bring the Dead Sea Scrolls into the mix. Eisenman identifies James the Just with the Teacher of Righteousness and Paul with the spouter of lies, figures vaguely identified in some of the Dead Sea Scrolls. However, in so doing, Eisenman must strenuously argue against the use of carbon-dating and paleographical methods which suggest that the documents in question were written prior to the Christian era. Fortunately, his identifications for the characters in the Dead Sea Scrolls need not be seen as essential to his thesis.

Please enjoy exploring the varied Historical Jesus Theories offered by these authors through the links below.

Jesus the Myth: Heavenly Christ

Jesus the Myth: Man of the Indefinite Past

Jesus the Hellenistic Hero

Jesus the Revolutionary

Jesus the Wisdom Sage

Jesus the Man of the Spirit

Jesus the Prophet of Social Change

Jesus the Apocalyptic Prophet

Jesus the Savior

For more information on the debate over the historical Jesus, visit the Christian Origins web site.

Go to the Chronological List of all Early Christian Writings

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Early Christian Writings is copyright © Peter Kirby <E-Mail>.

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Kirby, Peter. "Historical Jesus Theories." Early Christian Writings. <>.