Dr. James Tabor recently released an updated and revised edition of his book Restoring Abrahamic Faith a biblically based exposition of the ancient Hebrew faith of Abraham. It is an absolute “must read” for Christians who wish to know more about the Hebraic Roots of their own faith as well as anyone who seeks a better understanding of the biblical faith deeply rooted in the text of the Hebrew Bible.
God’s sovereign plan in history was to establish his covenant through a man called Abraham, and all Jews today trace their ancestry to Abraham as father of the Hebrew nation. The prophet Isaiah admonished “Look to the rock from which you were cut…look to Abraham your father.” The roots of Christianity run deep into Hebrew soil and the Hebrew heritage of the church is extensive and rich. Yet many Christians are regrettably uninformed about it. Most of it has been treated either passively, superficially, or more often, it has simply been left unexplored. The apostle Paul in addressing believing non-Jews stated “those who believe are children of Abraham” and “Abraham is the father of us all.” It’s time to hear again the clarion call of the prophet Jeremiah to “seek the Ancient Paths, where the good way is, and walk in it…”
James Tabor has provided a remarkable resource in Restoring Abrahamic Faith, a blueprint of the core biblical faith drawn solely from the biblical texts themselves.To those who are challenged to take the next step by seeking the ancient paths, read this book! Absolutely the advanced alpha course for our time!
Ralph Buntyn, Executive Vice-President
United Israel World Union
For anyone who wishes to understand the biblical Jesus and the message that
he brought, James Tabor’s Restoring Abrahamic Faith is essential
reading. Prof Tabor brings a range of well-researched sources from the
Hebrew Bible and the Gospels that reveal insights all too often lost in a
casual reading of those ancient Texts. Tabor’s conclusions will raise the
ire of some and reassure others. But either way, reading this book is a
Dr. Gerald Schroeder, Physicist and author of God According to God (HarperOne, 2009)
Restoring Abrahamic Faith
James D. Tabor
Genesis 2000, Charlotte, North Carolina, 2008 (genesis2000.org)
Paperback, 170 pgs., $15, ISBN: 978-0-615-21664-5
Review by Isaac Mozeson
Professor James Tabor (Chair, Dept. of Religious Studies at UNC Charlotte) spent decades searching for the historical Jesus. What he found was a Jew, and the religion of Jesus, rather than the religion about Jesus.
Tabor writes as one raised as a New Testament Christian who has discovered that the Hebrew Torah is far from what he was taught about an Old Testament. The book’s content involves theology and key ideas, but the tone is never scholarly or academic. It is “remarkable,” “striking” and “tremendous” that the Creator communicated with us, gave us His Name and an eternal Revelation to guide us. The enthusiasm is contagious, and very much written for the spiritually-open layman.
While “YHVH” is unknowable, Dr. Tabor makes clear what G-d’s Way is. We are to pursue steadfast love and righteous judgment, with key Hebrew terms from the Torah carefully explained. Revelation of that Way is most intimately conveyed in the Ten Words or Commandments. While a commandment like keeping the Sabbath day of rest appears to be especially addressed to the former Israelite slaves, Tabor stresses how this observance is actually global, planetary.
Indeed, the book’s “Abrahamic Faith” is named for Abraham’s personal relationship with G-d, but the larger “Way” and even the “core teachings” are for all the descendants of Adam. All humanity is termed “the Children of Noah, “ who are all responsible for seven basic categories of morality. Gentiles should strive to attain the level of these B’nai Noach, but Tabor makes it clear that the Jews, the “priestly tribe,” are supposed to be a small minority. Only the ignorant and paranoid can accuse Tabor of trying to convert Christians to be Jews.
Judaism is unusual for not wanting converts. Comparative religion is one of the strengths of this book, and it emerges that there is no “salvation” to attain – either through some magical act of faith or of works. There may be no Original Sin to undo, but the author details a concrete, historical Plan of Redemption where we creations will eventually restore our intimacy with the Creator.
History is important in this little gem, as it reveals little-known facts. For example, one learns that the Israelis retook Old Jerusalem on June 7, 1967, 2300 years to the day from Alexander the Great’s defeat of the Persians in 334 B.C.E. – as per the prophecy in Daniel 8:14. And that the Moslem architectural wonder, the Dome of the Rock, was built above an eight-sided Byzantine church.
Not every rabbi will embrace Tabor’s thoughts on the Lost Tribes, Judah and Joseph theory, bold phrases like “the Second Coming of YHVH,” Israel as Suffering Servant, or his multiple messiah teachings, but now every rabbi or Ben Noah has a small, instant classic to give to anyone queasy with the Gospels who would like to explore a more solid Biblical Way and Plan.
Isaac Mozeson’s most recent book is The Origin of Speeches: Intelligent Design in Language (Lightcatcher Books, 2007), see lightcatcher.com.
Restoring Abrahamic Faith, by James D. Tabor; revised 3rd edition, 2008 (Genesis 2000, Charlotte, North Carolina). Softcover, 171 pages. We have a long friendly relationship with Dr. Tabor, and he speaks very positively of Rainbow Covenant here, but we would call this terrific little book a “must read” regardless. We love this book because it takes the Bible completely seriously, explores it fearlessly, following the text itself, and other sources, and explains things – including, e.g., the nature and early history of Christianity, but also many aspects of the Torah Tradition itself – directly, simply, and rigorously honestly. This is an open-hearted, large-souled book, very American, in its way (in its trust in the power of logic, truth and the black-letter Scripture itself to create change), which convincingly explains why the whole human race needs to re-think the Bible and rediscover the ancient faith of Abraham.
Web posted Blog review by Hanok ben Isaac of JewsandJoes.com
Note: Although Hanok and I could not disagree more strongly on the place and role of Yeshua the Nazarene, past and future (He believes Yeshua was an incarnation of the God who appeared to Abraham as YHVH!), we have much else in common and I respect his right to disagree, thus I am posting his review which is intelligent and sensible. His Web site also contains lots of links and resources on “Lost Tribes,” the Hebraic Faith and so forth. What I like and respect about Hanok is that he is not afraid to present alternative views and provides links to ideas with which he does not agree in the interest of free exchange and dialog. For example, on this point of viewing Yeshua-YHVH, he links my article on “The Second Coming of YHVH,” with which he disagrees, to his discussion. Here is his complete review and the link:
“Restoring Abrahamic Faith” by James Tabor
According to the publisher’s website (Genesis 2000 Press), Restoring Abrahamic Faith:
“… attempts to set forth in a clear and engaging style an exposition of the ancient Hebrew Faith as revealed in the Hebrew Bible, with a particular emphasis on Abraham, Moses, the Torah, and the Prophets. Restoring Abrahamic Faith offers a compelling proposal for the 21st century, namely a return to the “ancient paths” of the Hebrew faith with Abraham, the first Hebrew, as a prime model. As such it is foundational to the origins of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, the three great Abrahamic Faiths that subsequently developed in different directions. Abrahamic Faith takes one back to the beginnings, and thereby offers a perspective that is as fascinating as it is valuable for anyone interested in the biblical tradition.
Brief background: The author, James D. Tabor (Ph.D. 1981, University of Chicago), is Chair of the Dept of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, where he has taught since 1989.
I knew Tabor’s book was going to focus on Hebraic-roots and though I have much interest in that topic, my primary desire in reading it was driven more with curiosity in how he would approach the issue of the House of Joseph (the Lost 10 Tribes). You have to wait until the third major section of the book (titled “The Plan”) before he really delves into the Two-House reality in earnest. Since David Horowitz (founder of United Israel World Union) was his mentor, I knew Tabor must have some profound things to say about 10-Israel… and I wasn’t disappointed. A brief sample:
These promises of restoration are addressed to both the House of Israel (”the Lost Tribes”) and the House of Judah (”the Jews”). One of the most neglected points in the Hebrew Prophets, even among Jews, but virtually unacknowledged among Gentiles/Christians, is their constant emphasis on the total restoration of ALL Israel–meaning all twelve Tribes. Ephraim/Joseph, who has seemingly been lost among the Gentiles, will make himself known to his brother Judah. The results of this reunion will astound the world and alter world history. pg.78
When we have the head of religious studies from a major university making such monumental remarks regarding 10-Israel (e.g., altering world history), the “One-Housers” and/or the oblivious schools of Christendom should be jarringly shoved into the light of reason in regards to Joseph… even if they are barricaded into their worldview with slabs and slabs of misinformation and tradition. In my experience, one of the main reasons Christian ministers will say the “LAW” isn’t for Gentiles is because the “LAW wasn’t given to Gentiles”, but instead, it was given just to “the Jews” (in their “proper” exegetical minds). Hence, I believe much of Christiandom is close-minded toward the Two-House reality partially because they fear the far-reaching ramifications… in the realm of Lawlessness in particular. Exposing Joseph to them, is like rescuing an elderly person from the Matrix, the Red Pill is too traumatizing for them to swallow. Knowing this, maybe Tabor leaves the 10-Israel topic for later in the book. The first two sections of the book brings much compelling “scriptural” reasoning as to why the WAY of TORAH is good and was meant to be Light to all nations no matter if they have a Hebrew or Semitic heritage. The subject of 10-Israel could probably have been left out and the general message would be solid none-the-less. However, I’m thankful he included it and think the outline and flow of the book was very thoughtful and digestible… and think it would likely be so for most all readers.
My only disagreement with the book is Tabor’s conclusion that Yeshua (Jesus) was not / is not the same Person as יהוה. If you read the book (and I hope you will) I would suggest reading my article: Is Yeshua (Jesus) the same Person as יהוה (YHVH)?. Tabor would claim many of the New Testament verses that paint Yeshua as Divine were inserted by later scribes in later generations, and he may turnout to be correct wholly or partially (if need be, I will be amiable to Yeshua’s corrective voice when he returns). I’m very familiar with the textual criticism of Bart Ehrman and at least partially aware of how NT manuscripts were tweaked occasionally in order to support particular religious doctrines, yet I must refute Tabor’s general proclamation that the “god-man” paradigm is entirely Hellenistic. In passages like Genesis 18-19, יהוה appeared in the form of a “god-man” to Abraham; and in Genesis 32, יהוה appeared to and wrestled with Jacob as a “god-man”. Yeshua being and having the same mind of יהוה is not necessarily a Greek/Pagan innovation just because the Greeks frequently epitomized “god-man” type legends.
I hate to sound off on a negative note, especially since I agree with the majority of what Tabor writes. So please know… all in all, I greatly respect Tabor and enjoyed, quickly consumed, and highly recommend his book Restoring Abrahamic Faith. I truly do believe it would be a worthy and significant addition to anyone’s library even if one doesn’t agree with all his conclusions.
Hanok ben Isaak
A Review by Pastor Ken Westby
Reprinted from The Journal: News of the Churches of God
SEATTLE, Wash. — James D. Tabor’s latest book, Restoring Abrahamic Faith (180 pages, Genesis 2000 Press) is the story of God’s great plan, His divine project for the salvation of mankind. The story begins in earnest with the calling of Abraham. Yahweh began by choosing a man to pioneer the path toward eternal fellowship with Him. Abraham’s journey Godward was to become the example for all seeking to know God. Through Abraham’s progeny, Yahweh would bring forth a nation. God would commission that nation, Israel, to pioneer the way for other nations to walk and so live under the divine blessings of their Creator, Abraham answered God’s call and became the Father of the Faithful. But the nation of Israel stumbled and left its commission unfulfilled.
Not an Israelite, not Jewish
Abraham was neither an Israelite nor a Jew, though he was father of both. His grandson Jacob (God changed Jacob’s name to Israel) had 12 sons, each of whom in time became a large tribe within the nation of Israel that would eventually become nations in their own right. One of those was Judah, from whom the word Jew is properly associated. Abraham’s walk with God was long and rich. He believed in the one true Creator God. He rejected the near-universal polytheism of his world. He became a prophet and evangelist for what we know as biblical monotheism. His faith, quietly held and handed down in his family until its formulation under Moses and its description by the prophets, is what Dr. Tabor’s book recounts.
The sovereign God chose Abraham, inviting him to forsake paganism, leave his homeland and move to a land God would show him. He came to experience God as the Supreme Being who can be known and who explains His purposes, even if over a time span that stretched Abraham’s patience.
Abraham approached God without intermediaries, worshiped Him, talked with Him and benefited from God’s deliverance from his troubles more than once. Abraham’s faith was informed, not blind. God called him with a promise and showed His faithfulness to him and his descendants. Abraham obeyed that call, walked in God’s way and experienced His faithfulness. He was called a friend of God. What is Abrahamic faith? Let Dr. Tabor lead you on a path of discovery toward answering that question for yourself.
The bosom of Abraham
Jesus, in His famous rich-man-and-Lazarus parable, used the term Abraham’s bosom (Abraham’s side) to represent people resurrected to eternal life in God’s Kingdom (paradise).
Paul said, “If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise” (Galatians 3:29). The example of Abraham’s faith anchors the faith chapter (chapter 11) in the book of Hebrews. Much of what you read in Restoring Abrahamic Faith will ring immediately true and familiar, particularly if you are a seasoned student of Scripture. But I suspect you will also find concepts new and challenging, requiring reflection and mental debate. Dr. Tabor is calling for a “restoration” to the true faith of Scripture, a faith largely lost in traditional Christianity. This is a radical idea and a bold critique of mainstream Protestant and Catholic Christianity for which he will be roundly attacked.
While I can heartily recommend Dr. Tabor’s book, I do have my disagreements with him.
I don’t quibble with his prime thesis because I think it is solidly scriptural. It is his take on the apostle Paul, his lack of trust in the New Testament documents and his Christological confusion that I find questionable. I think he misreads Paul as being opposed to Torah. But it seems to me that Paul and Jesus were alike in their respect for Torah.
Regarding the reliability of the NT, I acknowledge that the Old Testament documents are older and cover a much broader scope than the NT books. The OT clearly was the Bible of Jesus, the apostles and Paul.
The NT does not replace the OT, and the NT cannot be properly understood without the OT, which provides its context.
The NT should be understood in light of the OT. The opposite approach is common in traditional Christianity. That said, the NT provides us with the Christ story and the mightiest of God’s great works:
The revelation of Jesus, Yahweh’s Son; Jesus’ ministry and message; His death; His resurrection; and His exaltation to Yahweh’s heavenly throne — these provide the crowning action of God to bring mankind into His image.
My friend and colleague the late Dr. Charles V. Dorothy liked to summarize the content of Genesis to Revelation as “Torah-Christ story.” I see the NT, consistently and with inspiration, proclaiming the same gospel begun in Genesis. Regarding Dr. Tabor’s comments on the “Messiahs,” there is much agreement. However, I see Jesus as partly fulfilling both the role of the Davidic Messiah and the Priestly Messiah already — and completely at His return. The writer of the letter to the Hebrews likens Jesus’ priesthood to that of Melchizedek, to whom Abraham paid tithes. Melchizedek was both a priest and king — the King of Salem, meaning King of Peace, a shortened form of “Jerusalem” (see Hebrews 6:19-7:17).
Who was this mysterious figure of Melchizedek? Hebrew oral tradition is clear about his identity: He was Noah’s eldest son, Shem (who was quite elderly at this point, having lived 465 years of his 500-year lifetime). After the Flood, Noah was king of the earth, and upon his death Shem rightfully held that title.
When you read Dr. Tabor’s book you may have your own disagreements and may disagree with my disagreements.
I love the book and use it as a devotional guide, meditating and praying along with the many important scriptures he has artistically assembled. I have been using it as a guide to devotion because it presents the core of biblical faith with such clarity and assembles the weightiest passages of Scripture for study and meditation. Its chapters include “Knowing God,” “The Way,” “The Plan,” “The Messiahs” and “Turning to God,” and it features a listing of the “Principles of Abrahamic Faith.”
Ken Westby is pastor of the Virtual Church and director of the Association for Christian Development (www.godward.org and 2303 W. Commodore Way, Suite 206, Seattle, Wash. 98199, U.S.A.)