What is your response to Robert Eisenman’s theories on the Dead Sea scrolls and New Testament?  He states that James is the teacher of righteous and the true leader of the church instead of Peter while Paul is the man of lies and tried to corrupt the Church from within. He also states that Timothy and Titus are the same person and that the Paul made up his conversion and took it from another story.  Here’s a link talking about someone his theories.


Many scholars have speculated on a relationship between the Qumran community, the Essenes and the early Christians–especially John the Baptist.  Some have had a “field day” over these speculations–even building entire careers on such ideas.  The problem with this is that there is no real evidence for such contact, unless we base our speculation on supposed parallels in teaching and practice.  This is the methodology of Eisenman.

With that somewhat negative initial thought, it is fairly likely that the early apostles and Jesus were aware of the Essenes.  Given John the Baptist’s proclivity toward asceticism and staying in the desert of Judea, it is even more likely that he had some contact with the Essenes and may even have had some sympathy for their lifestyle.  How much influence they had on the thinking of the apostles is a matter for speculation, but we can assume that, by far, it was Jesus who had the most influence on the apostles’ beliefs and practice.  The idea that James, the brother of Jesus was secretly an Essene stretches credulity.

About James, the brother of Jesus, we know from Acts 15 and Galatians 2 that by the middle of the 40s AD, he already had a very significant role in the Jerusalem, second only to Peter, apparently.  The evidence from the New Testament writings, and even more so from Josephus, is that by AD 60 James had taken the chief role in Jerusalem and probably Peter was no longer there.  According to Josephus, James was martyred for his Christian faith about AD 62.  To this extent, the claims of Eisenman are valid, assuming we are talking about the church in Jerusalem.  

But then he goes totally off the rails.  James was the “Teacher of Righteousness” of the Essenes?  From what I have gleaned about the Essene belief, the “Teacher of Righteousness” was a Messiah-like figure.  The idea that James would claim Messiah status and the headship of the Essenes while leading the Christian church is simply absurd.  Apparently, Eisenman finds some affinity with the practical-minded James and the teachings of the Essenes.  Such similarity may be real, but it is highly exaggerated by Eisenman!  No reasonable person can agree with Eisenman on this.  What is his evidence that James tried to corrupt the church?  If so, then why was his book accepted into the New Testament canon?  This is totally unwarranted speculation.  

Next, Eisenman wants to make a person who was, arguably, the greatest Christian who ever lived into a liar, a cheat and a fraud.  Really?  Why, then, were his books accepted by the Church at large into the canon of the New Testament?  To accuse Paul of lying is a serious charge.  What is his evidence?  Is there a single person who knew Paul who would even hint at this?  The answer is clearly no.  What is his supposed evidence that Timothy and Titus are the same person?  At the risk of being harsh, I would say that if anyone is a fraud it is Eisenman when he claims to be a scholar but puts out this junk pseudo-scholarship.  If you are going to read his material, you should do so for entertainment purposes only.  By the way, so you know, Eisenman is a well-educated person.  His credentials are strong, but his methodology is unacceptably speculative–to the point of not deserving serious attention.

John Oakes

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