Review of Disciples in “The Dubious Disciple”

The following review of Disciples appeared in Lee Harmon’s blog “The Dubious Disciple”:

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Wow. I wish I had written this book. Speculative but convincingly argued, it strikes a perfect balance between reason and wonder, as it traces the evolution and demise of Jewish Christianity.

I have both curiosity and sympathy for the Ebionites, that early Jewish Christian sect which probably stemmed from the first Christians in Jerusalem, headed by Jesus’ brother James. Their disagreements with Paul, their emphasis on simplicity, and their primitive Christology have always intrigued me. But Akers pulls no punches in digging up the truth about the Ebionites and others. Some of their doctrine entices me, and some does not. For one thing, by the time you finish this book you may turn into a vegetarian . . . and life without bacon? No thanks, Keith.

In my studied opinion, Akers oversteps the bounds of reason only once—when he discusses the Talpiot tomb and its implications—but the thing is, his scholarship is so precise elsewhere that it makes me want to take a hard look at even this and see if there is really something to it! If it sounds like I’m gushing praise, it’s because this may be the most intriguing book I’ve read since discovering Paul Anderson’s Johannine studies. In a word: Disciples is simply brilliant, very highly recommended.

My one complaint is that it suffers from a scarcity of references, having no reference section or footnotes. The in-text references are not plentiful enough.

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7 thoughts on “Review of Disciples in “The Dubious Disciple”

    1. Keith Akers

      James Tabor is one of the few scholars who understands the significance of the Ebionites. To me it is common sense that the Ebionites were the successors to the first-century Jerusalem church and provide a critical window into the primitive church. But such common sense is rare among scholars these days.

      Reply
      1. Drew Hensley

        I agree. And I really don’t think evangelicals should be threatened by your basic thesis. I can’t see where a grand cover up theory is needed to believe that the Ebionites and Thomas communities retained a knowledge of historical Jesus’ teachings. I think Paul was openly discussing the issue in 1 Cor and Romans. John over compensates a bit with all his tall fisherman tales ;ie, hyperbolic volumes of fish. But that document was written late when recollection of Jesus’s vegetarianism was restricted to certain groups, I suspect. I guess I’m asking whether you think your basic theory could be of use to open-minded evangelicals, less of course, your suspicions that Jesus didn’t resurrect or that such reports were fabricated?

        Reply
        1. Keith Akers Post author

          Sure. There are lots of Bible verses in there which many evangelicals haven’t thought that much about. By the way, the Ebionites actually agree with Paul on the nature of the resurrection.

          Reply
          1. Drew Hensley

            Yes but is a sort of resurrection none-the-less, and actually NT Wright says Paul was misunderstood, that “flesh and blood” was ancient slang for that which is perishable. But I think many Jews will tell you the Jewish concept of resurrection is a fuzzy one. While I’m open minded about the nature of the resurrection, I think it is an essential component – the essential component in fact. And I do believe a smart historical case can be made for it. Wright in particular probably does that in the most compelling way.

          2. Keith Akers

            Well, perhaps Paul was misunderstood. But then again, maybe the Ebionites were misunderstood as well. Maybe I am being misunderstood! So now that we all agree on the resurrection, can we go vegetarian?

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