Among the series of books recently released about Jesus, the most serious entry is James Tabor's The Jesus Dynasty. The author is a professor at the University of North Carolina and has spent a great deal of time on archaeological digs in Israel. For Tabor and other scholars, one thing is clear: The Bible is difficult to believe. What does a historian do with a book that claims God was born as a human to a virgin, later died and was resurrected? The simple answer is to explain such problems away.

Professor Tabor's Jesus Dynasty is a fascinating combination of historical and archaeological detail mixed with bits of naturalistic, "historical" explanation. He introduces the Virgin Birth as Christianity's "fundamental theological dogma":

But history, by its very nature, is an open process of inquiry that cannot be bound by dogmas of faith. Historians are obliged to examine whatever evidence we have, even if such discoveries might be considered shocking or sacrilegious to some. The assumption of the historian is that all human beings have both a biological mother and father, and that Jesus is no exception. That leaves two possibilities–either Joseph or some other unnamed man was the father of Jesus. (Emphasis his).

I start my overview here, because here we have stated a historiolgraphical dogma. (Note Tabor's phrases: "by its nature … cannot be … are obliged … assumption is … no exception.") Even before we look at the evidence or consider the possibilities, we have the Bible's explanation ruled out. This is the dilemma the Bible poses for those who wish to explain its claims while denying that God is capable of doing unique things.

The Dynasty Theory

Despite Tabor's mostly excellent historical work, his ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

July/August
Subscribe to CT and get one year free.
Christianity Today
The Jesus Dynasty: How to Explain Away the New Testament
hide thisAccess The Archives

In the Archives

May 2006

To continue reading, subscribe now for full print and digital access.