Book review: Disciples: How Jewish Christianity Shaped Jesus and Shattered the Church

by Keith Akers


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 (the “Jesus 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.

Apocryphile Press,  © 2013, 298 pages

ISBN: 978-1-937002-50-3

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