James Tabor


Dr. James Tabor is a professor of Christian origins and ancient Judaism in the Department of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. Since earning his Ph.D. at the University of Chicago in 1981, Tabor has combined his work on ancient texts with extensive field work in archaeology in Israel and Jordan, including work at Qumran, Sepphoris, Masada and Wadi el-Yabis in Jordan. Over the past decade he has teamed up with Shimon Gibson to excavate the “John the Baptist” cave at Suba, the “Tomb of the Shroud” discovered in 2000 and ongoing work at Mt. Zion. Recently, Tabor, along with Rami Arav, has been involved in the re-exploration of two tombs in East Talpiot: the controversial “Jesus tomb” and a related tomb less than 200 feet away that has ossuary inscriptions Tabor and Arav interpret as Judaeo-Christian. 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: A New Historical Investigation of Jesus, His Royal Family, and the Birth of Christianity (Simon & Schuster, 2006). His most recent book, co-authored with Simcha Jacobovici, is The Jesus Discovery: The New Archaeological Find that Reveals the Birth of Christianity (Simon & Schuster, 2012). His latest book, Paul and Jesus: How the Apostle Transformed Christianity (Simon & Schuster), was published in November 2012. Visit Dr. Tabor’s website at jamestabor.com.

Presenter at

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

BAS Learning Resources Featuring James Tabor

Selected Articles by James Tabor

Selected Books by James Tabor