About James Tabor

James Tabor

Dr. James Tabor is a Professor in the Department of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte where he is professor of Christian origins and ancient Judaism and served as Chair for a decade. His Ph.D. is from the University of Chicago. He previously taught at the University of Notre Dame and the College of William and Mary. Tabor has combined his work on ancient texts with extensive fieldwork in archaeology in Israel and Jordan. Since 2008 he has been co-director, with Shimon Gibson, of the acclaimed Mt. Zion excavation in Jerusalem. He was also involved in the 1993 Waco tragedy drawing upon his expertise in understanding ancient Biblical apocalyptic ideas and he testified before Congress in the 1995 Waco Hearings. Among his publications are Things Unutterable (1985), A Noble Death (1992) Why Waco: Cults and the Battle for Religious Freedom in America (1995) and The Jesus Dynasty (Simon & Schuster, 2006). In 2012 he published two books: The Jesus Discovery: The New Archaeological Find that Reveals the Birth of Christianity (Simon & Schuster) and Paul and Jesus: How the Apostle Transformed Christianity (Simon & Schuster). Dr. Tabor has completed a new book, The Lost Mary: From the Jewish Mother of Jesus to the Virgin Mother of God which is out in French (Flammarion, 2020) but will appear in English late next year (Knopf, 2022). Email: [email protected]; Faculty Page: https://pages.uncc.edu/james-tabor/ and Blog: http://jamestabor.com

Presenter at

Bible & Archaeology Fest XXVI, November 17 – 19, 2023
Jesus Across the Jordan

Most historical studies of Jesus have emphasized his activities in the Galilee and his final days in Jerusalem as the main areas of his activities and teachings. This focus is understandable, since it is embedded in the gospel of Mark—our earliest narrative account—that is taken up by both Matthew and Luke. However, looking more closely at these sources, as well as the gospel of John, we find that Jesus is exceptionally active on the east side of the Jordan River—in the country we know as Jordan today. This lecture focuses on that often neglected aspect of our Jesus traditions, including the cities of the Decapolis, Wadi el-Yabis and Pella, Herod Antipas’s fortress at Machaerus, the activities of John the Baptizer in both the north and the south, as well as Gadara and other population centers described as “beyond the Jordan.” This research opens up an entirely new perspective on Jesus as more of an urban figure, appealing to Jews as well as Gentiles, in both rural villages as well as major population centers.

Bible & Archaeology Fest XXV, October 8 & 9, 2022
How Does One Follow the God of Israel after 70 C.E.? How the Gospel of Mark is Our Earliest Post-War Proposal

Most scholars date Mark as our earliest Gospel, usually putting it just after the Roman destruction of Jerusalem and its Holy Temple in the summer of 70 C.E. That means it might well be our earliest surviving textual proposal for how one follows the God of Israel, and the traditions of Abraham, Moses, and the Prophets—whether Jew or non-Jew—in the post-war period. Comparisons are made with Rabbi Yochanon ben Zakkai, who, with his surviving Pharisaic colleagues, forged out their own response to the same core question. What emerged lies at the heart of the surviving forms of both Judaism and what became “Christianity,” in all their variations over the past 2,000 years.

Bible & Archaeology Fest XXIV, October 16 – 17, 2021
The Shapira “Deuteronomy” Manuscripts—Ancient Dead Sea Texts or Modern Forgeries?

The sixteen leather Deuteronomy “strips” that were presented to scholars in Europe and the UK in 1883 were declared to be forgeries. They have subsequently disappeared. Their owner, Jerusalem bookseller and antiquarian, Moses Shapira, claimed to have bought them in 1878 for a pittance from Bedouin who found them in a cave in Wadi Mujib (the biblical Arnon River) on the east side of the Dead Sea. One of the prime reasons for their rejection at that time was no one could imagine scroll materials surviving in those desert climates since ancient times. The case of Moses Shapira “the forger” became a textbook example in the history of manuscript frauds. However, since the 1950s, with the discovery of the trove of manuscripts loosely known as the “Dead Sea Scrolls,” a number of scholars have raised the possibility that the case for authenticity should be reconsidered. Two recent books have argued for authenticity, based on new evidence as well as a reconstruction of the texts themselves from contemporary records and fresh linguistic analysis. This lecture rehearses the latest developments and surveys the various arguments pro and con, addressing the question—what do we now know about the Shapira scrolls—were they ancient texts or modern forgeries?

Presenter at the BAS Virtual Spring Seminar, May 24 – 29, 2021
Excavating Forgotten, Misrepresented, and Marginalized Figures of Earliest Christianity

Led by esteemed scholars James Tabor (University of North Carolina, Charlotte) and Tina Wray (Salve Regina University), this six-session seminar features 12 thought-provoking lectures on intriguing, yet poorly known figures from the world of the New Testament. Includes James, brother of Jesus, Mary Magdalene, and even Satan himself. In the quest to unearth these forgotten figures, this seminar explores a variety of sources beyond the pages of the Bible: intertestamental literature, ancient historical texts, and the latest archaeological discoveries.

Bible & Archaeology Fest XXIII, October 24 – 25, 2020
When Prophecy Fails—The Dynamics of Biblical Messianic Apocalypticism

Dr. Tabor will examine two parallel movements in Late Second Temple Judaism, the Dead Sea Scroll sect and the Jesus movement, in terms of their interpretations of the Book of Daniel and their calculations that the “appointed time of the end” had grown very short. What do apocalyptic movements do “when prophecy fails,” or more accurately, when their fervent expectations and hopes based on prophetic interpretation come crashing down. What are the four basic strategies that such interpreters employ to maintain their faith? The relevance to modern biblically oriented apocalyptic systems of the 19th and 20th centuries will be briefly included towards the end.

Bible & Archaeology Fest XXII, November 22 – 24, 2019
When Prophecy Fails—The Dynamics of Biblical Messianic Apocalypticism

Dr. Tabor will examine two parallel movements in Late Second Temple Judaism, the Dead Sea Scroll sect and the Jesus movement, in terms of their interpretations of the Book of Daniel and their calculations that the “appointed time of the end” had grown very short. What do apocalyptic movements do “when prophecy fails,” or more accurately, when their fervent expectations and hopes based on prophetic interpretation come crashing down. What are the four basic strategies that such interpreters employ to maintain their faith? The relevance to modern biblically oriented apocalyptic systems of the 19th and 20th centuries will be briefly included towards the end.

Bible & Archaeology Fest XXI, November 16 – 18, 2018
The Gospel of Matthew in Hebrew: What Do We Know and What Difference Does it Make?

Early Christians uniformly mention that the Gospel of Matthew was originally written in Hebrew. So far as we know that original edition has disappeared. However, there are three editions of Matthew in Hebrew that date from the Middle Ages. One of them in particular, which is embedded in Rabbi Ibn Shaprut’s work Even Bohan, seems to reflect readings of a version of Matthew that is not derived from the Greek version of Matthew. This lecture examines “Hebrew Matthew” and its very unique and fascinating readings in an attempt to recover a lost stream of gospel tradition circulating among Jews into the Middle Ages.

Bible & Archaeology Fest XX, November 17 – 19, 2017
Living the High Life in Pre-Roman Destruction Jerusalem

This presentation explores the last two decades of Jewish/Roman life in Jerusalem (50-70 CE) based on a weaving of textual and material/archaeological evidence. Who were the main social and religious groups, where did they live, how did they live, and what relationship might the Nazarene movement had had within this network? The focus is on wealth, power, status, gender, and class, and the ways in which apocalyptic thinking intersected with the Roman/Jewish establishment.

Bible & Archaeology Fest XIX, November 18 – 20, 2016
The Abba Tomb in Jerusalem: Does it Belong to Hyrcanus II/Antigonus—the Last of the Hasmonean Kings?

Few have heard anything about the “Abba Cave,” discovered in 1971 in the north Jerusalem suburb of Givat Hamivtar – not far from the tomb of “Yehohanan,” the famous “crucified man” discovered in 1968 about whom much has been written. The Abba cave held the remains of another “crucified man,” with three nails – not just a single one in the heel bone – that clearly pinned the hands (not the wrists, as some have argued) in hook-like fashion to a cross beam. It was assumed back in the 1970s that these bones were buried and no longer available for analysis, however it turns out that this is not the case. What is even more intriguing, the victim was arguably Matitiyahu Antigonus, the last of the Hashmonean kings, who was both beheaded and crucified by Marc Anthony in 37 BCE. Even more significantly, Greg Doudna has persuasively argued that this Antigonus is none other than the famed “Teacher of Righteousness” in the Dead Sea Scrolls. This presentation examines the mystery of this compelling site as well as the results from the DNA tests that recently been completed on these skeletal remains.

Bible & Archaeology Fest XVIII, November 20 – 22, 2015
Enochian Judaism: How an Ancient Vision of Things Took Over Our World

Christians, Jews, and Muslims are all spiritual heirs of a specific form of Judaism that arose and developed in the late 2nd Temple period. Along with Pharisees, Zealots, Sadducees, and Essenes—the Jewish groups that espoused a vision of the cosmos and the future such as that reflected in the apocryphal books of Enoch turned out to be one of the most formative influences in the West. Our sources today are fragmentary, but significant, including some of the Dead Sea Scrolls, various apocryphal writings, and archaeological evidence that appears to be related to a kind of astral-mysticism. This lecture explores the contours and main ideas in what broadly might be called “Enochian Judaism,” and traces its extraordinary influence within the three Abrahamic Faiths.

St. Olaf College, July 19 – July 25, 2015
Trajectories through Earliest Christianity

In his lecture program, Professor Tabor examines some of the most intriguing enigmas, mysteries, and controversies in early Christianity

  1. Re-humanizing the Mythological/Theological Miriam, Mother of Jesus
  2. Miriam the Magdalene: Wife, mother, Consort, or Literary Fiction?
  3. Identifying the Mysterious Disciple Whom Jesus Loved
  4. A Thoroughly Apocalyptic Jesus – Was Schweitzer Right?
  5. John the Baptizer—An Alternative Messiah in the Time of Jesus?
  6. Why the “End of the Age” Should Have Come in 70 CE
  7. Did the Apostle Paul Repudiate Judaism?
  8. The Q Source Hypothesis after 100 Years – What Can We Definitely Say?
  9. Understanding the Earliest View of the Resurrection of Jesus
  10. What Kind of a Jew was Jesus?

Bible & Archaeology Fest XVII, November 21 – 23, 2014
Paul’s Apocalyptic Expectations and Nero’s Rise to Power

In the letter of 1 Corinthians Paul confidently refers to the “impending distress,” declaring “the appointed time has grown very short.” Based upon this imminent apocalyptic expectation of Jesus’ Parousia, he advises his followers to “remain as they are”—whether married or unmarried, circumcised or uncircumcised, slave or free—since “the form of this world is passing away.” This lecture explores Paul’s expectations in the light of his understanding of Daniel 12, Isaiah 24, and Micah 7 (LXX) as evidenced by linguistic and thematic links, and set against the background of the demise of the dysfunctional Julio-Claudian imperial family as Nero and his mother Agrippina achieved power in October of 54 CE.

Bible & Archaeology Fest XVI, November 22 – 24, 2013
Was Paul the Jew the Founder of Christianity?

Paul has been loved and hated through the ages. Some see him as a faithful Jew until the end of his life, though one who came to believe Jesus was the Messiah, whereas others have charged he abandoned his Jewish faith and was the founder of the new religion of Christianity. What can we learn from Paul’s seven authentic letters themselves when they are considered separately from later theological issues and controversies? Should Paul be seen as the unacknowledged founder of Christianity?

Bible & Archaeology Fest XV, November 16 – 18, 2012
Is There Reliable Archaeological Evidence Related to the Earliest Followers of Jesus?

The recent events surrounding the James ossuary controversy as well as the new discoveries of a four-line Greek inscription and an image that is arguably one of “Jonah and the big fish,” in an ancient sealed tomb in Jerusalem have sparked renewed consideration of the question of whether Jesus’ earliest Jewish followers left behind any distinctive archaeological remains. This paper will consider this century-old discussion, represented by scholars like Sukenik, Bagatti, Figueras, Rahmani, Taylor, and Gibson, and assess the state of the question today.

Bible & Archaeology Fest XIV, November 18 – 20, 2011
Reassessing the Talpiot “Jesus” Tomb: What’s the Latest?

Since the public controversy over the Talpiot “Jesus” family tomb broke in early 2007, much has been happening behind the scenes. This includes a major conference in Jerusalem in 2008, which was sponsored by James Charlesworth of Princeton Theological Seminary. The papers from this conference document additional research and test, as well as newly emerging archaeological evidence—especially as related to a second tomb less than 200 feet away from the “Jesus” tomb. This presentation by James D. Tabor, (who, along with Rami Arav, holds the Israeli Antiquities Authority license to excavate both tombs), brings things up to date. What do we know for certain about the Talpiot tombs, and how do we separate speculation from solid evidence?

Bible & Archaeology Fest XIII, November 19 – 21, 2010
Was There an Essene Quarter and a “Church of the Apostles” on Mt. Zion in the time of Jesus? What We Know Now in 2010

The late Father Bargil Pixner’s well known proposals regarding the location of the “Essene Gate,” an Essene Quarter, and the “Church of the Apostles” on Mt Zion have received a measure of acceptance in the popular press, various guide books, and on maps (including the Oxford Bible Atlas), as well as two BAR cover stories (May/June 1990; May/June 1997). This lecture offers an updated evaluation of Pixner’s theory as a whole, particularly as related to an “Essene Quarter” on Mt Zion in Herodian Jerusalem in the light of recent Mt Zion excavations and textual studies.

Bible & Archaeology Fest XII, November 20 – 22, 2009
Media Hype, Academic Squabbles and the James Ossuary: Getting the Facts Straight

This lecture attempts to sort through the major issues related to the “James Ossuary.” It will examine the variety of media treatments and academic responses, and clarify what we know and what remains uncertain or undetermined.

James Tabor Online