52 of 55 people found the following review helpful
on October 10, 2006
Every decade or so a book comes along that completely redraws the map in its field. In the field of Early Christianity, Robert Eisenman's "James the Brother of Jesus" was just such a book and here, nearly ten years later, Eisenman, with the "New Testament Code", has done it once again. The book is a massive work with incredible depth and insight and completes his promise in his earlier work to lay out the connections between the Dead Sea Scrolls and the New Testament/Early Christianity.
Make no mistake about it, Eisenman is a scholar's scholar and possesses an almost unfathomable grasp of the original sources. His stature among the scholarly community has been on a constant upward climb since the days in the early 90's when he broke the scrolls monopoly with the publication of the "Dead Sea Scrolls Uncovered" and later with his ground breaking "James the Brother of Jesus". In "The New Testament Code" his main thesis is that James, the actual brother of Jesus and known as The Righteous One in early Christianity can be equated to the Righteous Teacher in the Dead Sea Scrolls. Along the way he unpacks many myths and obfuscations about Jesus and the beginnings of Christianity and clears the way for a keener and fuller understanding of messianism in first century Palestine, as well as where the historical Jesus fits into the equation. Rather than denying the existence of Jesus, he rescues him from the ideological hatchet job given him by a later Pauline Christianity to show the true place that he and his at that time better known brother James occupied in the Jewish fight for liberation from Roman oppression and power.
However, Eisenman is not content to stop there. He shows that the people who wrote the Dead Sea Scrolls were part and parcel of a larger messianic movement against Rome and he demonstrates conclusively that the authors of the New Testament were well aware of the ideas and beliefs in the Scrolls and used a sort of "code" in their writings to obscure, confuse, parody and disguise the real intent of their authors. Specifically, he demonstrates that what seem to be otherwise benign phrases such as "The Cup of the New Covenant" and "The Land of Damascus" are fraught with meaning for both the Scrolls community and the earliest Pauline Christians. In the end he concludes that the way the author of the Book of Acts and Paul -- among other New Testament authors -- distorted the original meanings of these and countless other expressions "are indicative of some more persistent esoteric or allegorical wordplay" that was meant to transform and downplay their significance "into its exact or mirror opposite" (pg 998) to create a new messianism that the Roman authorities were comfortable with and one that could survive in the Roman Empire.
As it was with "James the Brother of Jesus" his contributions to the field with "The New Testament Code" are monumental and his conclusions are at once awe inspiring and mind boggling. At the same time these conclusions are not for the faint of heart for they spring from the pen of one who is not afraid to allow the materials to speak for themselves. For this reason those who are committed to the Jesus of dogma or for those self styled armchair experts who pass judgment without opening the cover of the book, these deductions can be unsettling. However for those who yearn for a deeper understanding of the roots of Christianity and those who possess the open mind and willingness to investigate these roots, you can do no better than "The New Testament Code, The Cup of the Lord, the Damascus Covenant, and the Blood of Christ."
41 of 45 people found the following review helpful
on December 21, 2006
The New Testament Code is the continuation (conclusion?) of Robert Eisenman's thesis of the ambience of the Dead Sea Scrolls. The patience of Eisenman's adherents, who have long waited for the release of the present volume, will be rewarded with the extraordinary scholarship, research, interpretations, and perspicaciousness which continually characterize his endeavors. His thesis is at variance with the majority who are determined to construct their exegesis of the Scrolls in the Maccabean era-- beginning in the mid-2nd Century BC. That upon which these results are based is not in harmony with this time period. He explores assumptions that others have not pursued nor considered. The notion that the movement of those associated with the Scrolls was one of passivity, tranquility, and isolation is dismissed.
The Scrolls are representative of the theological mindset of the Messianic Movement that developed in Palestine before it became usurped and amalgamated into one that conveyed a Hellenistic god-tale and allegorical mythologizing under the name of Christianity. Eisenman identifies many who appear to have been the originators of the Gentile version of the Messianic Movement as having affiliation with the Herodians who were granted rule over Palestine by the Romans. There were four cities that bore the name Antioch which increased the potential for not only expanding the geographical sphere of the New Testament narrative, but by also increasing the number of individuals who might be involved in it. The faction of those who represented the Scrolls, as well as those responsible for the theology of the New Testament, were not only aware of one another, but were also in opposition. This is astutely documented from the scroll Peshers (commentaries) and texts in the New Testament.
Far too many writers and commentators of the Scrolls are simply content to analyze the content, and comment on the "uniqueness." The impression is that from the Palestinian Jewish matrix of ideas, phrases and terminologies that developed, they found their way into the New Testament. The dominant impression is that most of what was associated with Qumran developed in a geographical Petri dish, despite its close proximity to Jerusalem and other Palestinian locales. Eisenman presents a movement whose effects reached the regions from the Levant to southern Iraq. More importantly it was a movement that flourished contemporaneously with the events depicted in the New Testament--the 1st Century C.E. The "internal data" presented by Eisenman, as implements to assist in the dating of the Scrolls, is in opposition with the 2nd Century B.C. renderings of Carbon-14 tests and paleography. The accuracy of Eisenman's data brings into question the scientific impartiality involved. This internal data includes allusions to the New Covenant, pollution of the temple, the House of Judgment, the fallen tabernacle of David, doing according to the precise letter of the Law, the last generation, the righteous living by faith (salvation by faith), the delay of Parousia, the house of his exile, the Cup of Blood/Damascus, and references to fornication and niece marriage, soldiers venerating their standards and worshiping their weapons of war, and a scroll fragment that seems to contain the name of a High Priest who held his position 46-47 C.E. Eisenman also conveys various circumstances described in the Habakkuk Pesher as being consistent with events surrounding the fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of the Temple. All of which revolve around the 1st Century.
The "code" employed in the New Testament was disinformation, overwrite, and even name changes. It disqualified Jews from its eschatological allusions and enfranchised Gentile believers. Its "history" was sanitized and even distorted. The plethora of names that abound in the New Testament of individuals, incidents, and locations, are scrutinized with similar names and instances in the works of Josephus, the Talmud, and the early Christian Church writers to elicit the significance. The homophonic transfers of names from one language to another reveal that with which other Scroll writers have not dealt. Pentecost was of significance to the covenanters of the Scrolls as well as in the New Testament. The enigmatic personages of the Teacher of Righteousness, the Wicked Priest, and the Spouter of Lies are identified. The Cup of the Lord represents far more than Divine vengeance. Elements associated with the Teacher of Righteousness appear to have been absorbed into descriptions pertaining to Jesus. The paradigm for all traitors, Judas Iscariot, becomes less of a betrayer and one more identifiable with a faction within a movement.
There is a measure of redundancy which appears aimed more toward the reinforcement of the concepts and ideas involved as the reader can easily become overwhelmed by the multitude of imagery, metaphors and transformations that exist between the Scrolls and the New Testament. The relegation of footnotes to an online site is disconcerting to those who regularly examine the sources involved and additional commentary. It should be noted that any such criticism is to be born by the publisher. The paramount importance of this dissertation is that it presents evidence that the movement portrayed in the New Testament no longer was one that could claim the exclusive rights to originality, but had as its antecedent a Messianic faction that flourished at the same time period and in the same vicinity. The content of the Dead Sea Scrolls not only supported the precedent for a Christ, but it also anticipated many of the texts in which the historical Jesus existed, and it helped provide the theological matter from which the Messiah of the New Testament was developed. Evidence is presented of a New Testament that distorted history to vilify those who were the impetus for the Messianic movement in Palestine of First Century.
This is the definitive opus on the Dead Sea Scrolls and their affect on those from which Christianity originated. It is a departure from the "scholarly consensus," which has been more concerned with propriety than implication. The Scrolls were said to be the greatest historical discovery of the Twentieth Century. The New Testament Code is the personification of that declaration.
27 of 33 people found the following review helpful
on December 14, 2006
The Publisher's description of THE NEW TESTAMENT CODE was daunting enough, and coupled with the fact that Professor Eisenman's reputation preceded my first reading of this latest work, I felt some timidity about reviewing this book. Although I had not yet read the author's previous volume, JAMES THE BROTHER OF JESUS, I had read a few reviews of it--and it was obvious that the subject matter was well beyond the confines of the usual New Age/Gnostic pop material that comes my way. THE NEW TESTAMENT CODE is based on the highly specialized field of biblical antiquity & the comparison of ancient texts.
This book is a straight-up academic, non-fiction dissertation drawing on ancient biblical texts and other historical sources (such as the famous Judaic-turned-Hellenic scholar Josephus.) In other words, it has nothing to do with the other biblical "Code" theories currently on the market. Eisenman's purpose is to sift the fact from the fiction in the process of demonstrating the artificially fabricated nature of New Testament Gospels and the Jesus Legend. Readers don't have to buy into any artificial belief system in order to understand the work, but one probably does need an above average attention span (which let me out) in order to follow this extremely complex work from cover to conclusion.
This is both an asset and a debit as far as the book is concerned.
Robert Eisenman's style is indicative of the highest-level of intelligence and demonstrates his complete command of the subject matter. He effortlessly draws parallels between the myriad historic sources (including The Dead Sea Scrolls, of course) demonstrating their significance regarding New Testament Gospels as they came to be codified in the Christian religion approved by that arch-hypocrite Emperor Constantine. Eisenman tears off the glossy sanitized sheen from the Gospels to reveal their propagandistic, Hellenistic & anti-Semitic origins. Once the reader trusts the author's academic background & credentials, the potentially harmful myths of Christianity are unmasked in a more profoundly fundamental way than with all the other modern speculative and/or Gnostic works put together.
Regarding Gnosticism, Eisenman exhibits a tolerant attitude at those few points where the subject comes up. One senses that he doesn't feel that Gnostic interpretations of the Jesus Legend are any more outlandish or fantastical than the Pauline & Church Establishment versions.
THE NEW TESTAMENT CODE made very interesting reading during the holiday season. The underlying naivety of the "Little Town in Bethlehem" story stood in stark contrast to the historic reality unflinchingly presented in the book. The reader can clearly see how the complex original Judaic sources were twisted into rather crude religious fairy tales designed to convert world-weary Pagans and uneducated peasants.
The Jesus Mysteries: Was the "Original Jesus" a Pagan God?
13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on October 11, 2006
After reading Eisenman's newest addition to `James the brother of Jesus' I find his ideas are significantly different from mainstream early church historians and those "in the know" of Judeo/Christian/Islamic studies. In the first place, Eisenman's work area is always massive and challenging, and I found this one to be particularly chllenging. There are so many new ideas in it, in a subject one might have thought was already dead, that it is hard to catch one's breath or count them all.
Of course, it is clear that Eisenman works outside the box, and a lot of his ideas are likely to be met with extreme criticism and prejudice - as anything does when they fly against the current zeitgeist and religious zeal. But I implore anyone interested in this subject to approach Eisenman's work with an open and scientific mind. Believer or unbeliever alike, they will not be disappointed and, if anything, they will ssurely be extended -- a rare commodity in today's world.
The legwork Eisenman has done is truly massive. His prolific knowledge on the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Judeo/Early Christian/Roman ethos, which seems almost intractable, is displayed and tied together with brilliant clarity. It is refreshing to see light being shed in this angle, and a curiosity as to why this route had not yet been explored. Although I personally found Eisenman's material controversial, it is so well argued and the massive back-up of data and insight he provides often from sources I myself never knew even existed, caused me in the end (even though a person of Faith mysef -- as I believe he is from perhaps a different perspective) to be unable to find fault in the logic or reasoning that Eisenman presented after reviewing `James the Brother of Jesus' and its addendum `The New Testament Code.'
Like many scientific studies, there are always different ways to interpret data, so putting Achems Razor aside, you don't have to swallow what he is saying, but I recommend that you read the book and maybe even do some legwork of your own to make your own interpretations. I'm sure you'll find Eisenman is not off the mark. But then again, there are those who still proclaim that the earth really is flat.
14 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on November 11, 2006
The sorrow is that this brilliant book is not written in a manner which can be accessed by most people. It is written in an obscure mode and with many obstacles which Prof. Eisenman could have avoided.
The pity is that this brilliant thesis on how normative Christianity is either a terrible misunderstanding or a terrible fraud will never be seen by the millions of evangelicals and other traditional Christians whose beliefs have absolutely no validity. Millions of so-called Christians have believed the nonsense taught by the churches. Few are prepared to know the truth. No one more than Robert Eisenman has revealed the truth.
10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on August 20, 2007
Professor Eisenmen has produced a landmark work that will be referred to for decades to come. This book is for readers who are serious about understanding the first fifty years after the crucifixion and how traditional Christianity has avoided the message of the Dea Sea Scrolls (DSS). Only a professional and dedicated researcher like Profesor Eisenman could hold his readers by the hand and lead them through the maze of the traditional Christian spin of the past two thousand years. The traditional Christian movement will attack the evidence so artfully consolidated by Eisenmen. Their only other choice is to open their closed minds to the first century evidence provided by the Dea Sea Scrolls and many other collaborating first century records.
Eisenman meticulous presentation mirrors the complexity of the subject matter. In this regard, the significance of several sections of the book may remain partially unappreciated, unless the reader is well versed with the large diversity of early Christian records. The bottom line is that Eiseneman proves that Pauline Christianity as we know it today is largely a convoluted blend of the authentic teachings of the enlightened Jesus and the flawed beliefs of the historical figure know as the Apostle Paul. It will come as a shock to most readers that Eisenman proves that Paul was adversary of the inner circle of Jesus; an adversary who never met the living Jesus. Paul's version of Christianty is based primarily on his alleged psychic visions and was in opposition to the views of the real Apostles and the family of the enlightend Jesus. The underlying message of Eisenman is as follows: Who do you want to agree with, the inner circle of Master Jesus or some Greek named Paul, who never the enlightened Jesus?
Many, including the most respected members of Christian acedamia, will quickly dismiss the comprehensive case presented by Eisenman. This is unfortunate but expected given the brain washing that has been perpetrated by the traditional Christian movement for the past two thousand years. The foundation of the traditional Christian movement is largely based on the flawed Pauline perspective that dominates the New Testament. How can someone who never met the enlightened Jesus and who obtained the title of apostle only by self appointment, author 13 of the 27 documents that comprise the foundation of Christianity, New Testament? In addition, it is commonly accepted that Paul wrote his flawed epistles well before the balance of the other documents that comprise the New Testament. Thus, Paul's flawed perspective had a polluitng and conditioning effect on most of the documents within the New Testament. Paul was an expert at placing his primitive religious beleifs into the mouth of the enlightened Jesus. This erroneous practiced was unfortunately copied by most of the other authors of the New Testament.
Ever since the Catholic Church lost its control on the Christian movement, approximately 400 years ago, couragous researchers have searched for the authentic Jesus; the enlightend Jesus that is camoflaged by the primitive beleifs of Pauline Christianity. Professor Eisenman has not found all of the authentic teachings of the enlightened Jesus. However, he has proved via the DSS that the traditioanl Pauline based version of Christianity is a primitive hoax. Professor Eisenmen has shown the world that it is time to seperate the Pauline Christian foundation, along with the spin of the past two thousand years, from the authentic teachings of the enlightened Jesus. For this the entire Christian movement owes Professor Eisenman its gratitude and thanks.
The author of this review has been looking for the authentic Jesus, or more accurately called Joshua ben Joseph, for many years. As odd as this may sound, the enlightened Jesus was never called Jesus while He was alive. Jesus is Greek name used by Paul, who was a product of the primitive Greek culture. Everyone who knew the living Jesus called Him by His Judaic name, "Joshua". In any case, hundreds of books later its very disturbing to learn that the historical records are not consistent with the message of traditional Pauline Chriatinity. "All" of our Christian leaders have access to a considerable amount of information that proves that their Pauline version of Christianity is seriously flawed, and yet they continue to regurgitate tradtional Christian spin. This is very unfortunate and a dis-service to their Christian congregations. One day new Christian leaders will arrive and demonstrate the maturity and courage to emphasize what we know about Master Joshua, as opposed to the primitive teachings of Paul.
I would like to exprees my sincere thanks to Professor Eisenmam for his many books and years of research. He has endured decades of immature criticism and reidicule from the traditioanl Christian movement. It is time for our Christian leaders to open their minds, their hearts and their souls to the evidence contained within the Dead Sea Scrolls. In doing so they will recognize the mistakes of the past two thouusand years. This is the path to the authentic teachings of the enlightened Joshua ben Joseh.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on July 4, 2011
In Robert Eisenman's two major works (the present book and his earlier "James, The Brother of Jesus") his thesis, which he goes into excruciating detail to prove, is essentially this: The people who wrote the Dead Sea Scrolls and the earliest Judeo-Christians are one and the same. Documents within the Dead Sea Scrolls speak of three main protagonists engaged in an ideological battle: The Spouter of Lies, The Righteous Teacher, and The Wicked Priest. This situation bears an uncanny resemblance to what we know of the birth-pangs of early Christianity: Paul, the renegade who reinterprets [Jesus'] original message based on his own revelations, provoking the consternation of the original community, and James the Just/Righteous, Jesus' brother who is a well-respected Jew and leader of the movement after Jesus' death whose own death was brought about by his opponent the High-Priest of the Jewish Temple.
There is no doubt that Paul had a very unique and compelling vision for his Christian movement. Paul pushed vigorously forward and it is his stirring, though deeply paganized, version of messianism that eventually won so many Gentile followers over to his new religion. Meanwhile, the original Jesus/James community, an intensely Jewish and ultimately anti-Roman movement so different from Paul's, staggered under the blow of the Temple's destruction in 70 CE and eventually dispersed into obscurity. The voice of that community - the voice of the real Jesus himself even, if there ever was such a man and not merely a composite character (the very name Jesus means "Salvation") - was suppressed by the Pauline Christian church: conflicting books were destroyed, stories were changed, dogmas were fixed, highly propagandized gospels were written...all probably with the best of intentions. Still, many of us are curious about what the real, historical Jesus thought, what his original followers were for and against, before Paul successfully reshuffled the deck. Eisenman's position that the early Judeo-Christians and the Dead Sea Scrolls community are the very same movement offers a fascinating bridge back to those turbulent times in national and religious history. I find many of his points compelling though I'm not yet 100% convinced.
While most can agree that the writings of the Scrolls community and the early Christians are very similar on many counts and detail an uncannily similar situation, the main barrier to an acceptance of this theory that the two camps are one and the same is the carbon-dating of the scrolls, which came up with a date that was simply too early, reaching back into the 1st century BCE - i.e. before Jesus' time. However, as Eisenman has attempted to make known, there really is no problem at all with the carbon-dating because such a date has a margin of error of 100-200 years for this time period. I have read both of Eisenman's books and I do believe he is on the right track. For what it's worth, I have a degree in Biblical Studies, so I can follow along fairly easily. But even for someone well-versed in this type of material, the going gets tough sometimes, so substantive is the writing and so obscure the level of detail.
This book is far from ideal: It is true that Eisenman uses way too many quotation marks and parentheses, and yes he does get into an excruciating level of detail, which bars this from being a popular work...and he gets so into the spirit of his quest that he seems to get stuck, at times, on dubious parallels in disparate sources. In fact, one of the major things that differentiates this from his earlier work "James the Brother of Jesus" is that Eisenman has seemingly forgotten how to write compellingly. His scope here is so obsessively myopic that the text unfortunately reads like terse notes: all substance and no narrative finesse. The length is appalling, given how boring, detail-oriented, and unreadable each page actually is. If Eisenman were at the top of his game, he would have edited and prioritized his heaps of data, removing 2/3 of all the myopic extraneous information and presenting only the most compelling aspects of his findings and in a much more coherent way. As it is, this book is borderline unreadable.
If you are curious about the historical Jesus and the earliest phases of the Jesus Movement, then Eisenman's previous book "James, The Brother of Jesus" is a good place to start, though it is still a very formidable work. After reading that, if you are still curious for more small details and have a passion for textual analysis, then seek out this present book. I would say this is more of a reference work, not necessarily something to be read cover to cover but rather a book in which to look up various points or other about 1st Century messianic texts.
9 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on December 9, 2006
JAMES THE BROTHER OF JESUS & THE NEW TESTAMENT CODE, together answer so very many questions about Christianity in the first century in Judea. The reader can see that John, Jesus, and James were either associated with, or paralled, the Essenes, as "Essenism was what Christianity was in First-Century Palestine, certainly before the fall of Masada in 73 CE." Unlike many scholars in this field Eisenman relies on primary, not secondary, sources. One can see his dedication to truth and academic freedom in his successful struggle to free the "scrolls" for everyone to read and study. In that vein his latest book is for everyone, the general public and scholars! I have been in two of his classes; when asked a question he responds with his encyclopaedic memory; although quite familiar with the canonical sources, he understands all related primary sources. This is apparent in "The NT Code". He challenges the reader to think for him/her self. (It does bother me a bit that I find it to be a somewhat difficult read; perhaps "there is no royal road...".) Professor Eisenman is a great historian; if one wants to understand the historical Jesus and James, then who needs a theologion!
Eisenman will probably get the most flack for his portrayal (quite reasonable) of Saul/Paul of Tarsus - a nasty man. As to the Teacher of Righteousness, I was convinced that James the Just is the most probable candidate. Get the book and read it. "Dee"
11 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on October 20, 2006
As a former student, I am compelled to write a review drawn from personal experience. I was first introduced to Dr. Robert Eisenman by another professor who had highly recommended his class afterwhich, I thoroughly agree that he is the "Einstein of the Dead Sea Scrolls." His lectures are fascinating in that he recalls in detail countless sources which he has aquired over decades of study, thus I am highly satisfied with the outcome and depth of his latest book, 'The New Testament Code: The Cup of the Lord, the Damascus Covenant, and the Blood of Christ.' Truly this book blows whatever understandings one thought to have of James, the brother of Jesus, and the Dead Sea Scrolls out of the water. One cannot help but to follow the pieces Dr. Eisenman connects, which questions traditional thought and provokes the reader to explore the challenging truths portrayed in both books. The most originial, and challenging books I have ever read thusfar! A "must own," and "must read."
11 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on October 16, 2006
Professor Eisenman continues to raise the bar. This is another great masterpiece from the man who put everything on the altar to give the world access to the Scrolls. His analysis and presentation are impeccable. This is a book that every serious student of the First Century, and even those with just a curiosity about the beginnings of Christianity, should pick up and read. Whether a seasoned academic/scholar, or a person with a desire to simply immerse oneself into a captivating and stimulating topic, Professor Eisenman delivers a controversial and provocative argument with a language and style provided by only the very best of teachers. No one can ignore this work and claim to be well-informed about the First Century and the Jewish phenomenon later called Christianity.
-R.E. Potter, author of "The Crimson Thread: The Struggle To Become Jesus During The Revolt Against Rome"