Printed from http://tektonics.org/.php
This is a highly readable one thousand plus pages of text, and that is the only virtue I can find in this book. Allow me first to summarize a few of the highly counter-consensus points that Eisenman expects his readers to believe:
The Dead Sea Scrolls should be dated much later, to the time of the New Testament - but there is an academic conspiracy afoot to cover up that fact.
As for the New Testament, it was written very late - and used the Dead Sea Scrolls, and the works of Josephus (dated c. 90 AD) as sources. It is a far less reliable source than the Pseudoclementine Recognitions, which was a source for the NT: In fact, the story of Paul being surrounded by a bright light from heaven is merely a copy of a story in the Recognitions of the tombs of two brothers that were miraculously whitened every year.
The Gospels are too anti-Semitic to have been written by Jews; they were all written by Gentiles. Anti-Semitism stands out in such teachings as, The first shall be last and the last shall be first and A prophet is never accepted in his own land and in his own hometown.
Early Pauline Christianity is guilty of a massive conspiracy to cover up the role of James and the Holy Family in the early church.
Many events in the NT are adulterated overwrites of actual events. The election of Matthias to replace Judas is an overwrite of the election of James to apostolic office. The stoning of Stephen is an overwrite of the stoning of James by Pauls command. Events have even been lifted from the works of Josephus and overwritten, then placed in the NT.
Many persons listed in the NT simply did not exist: Stephen, Judas Iscariot, the apostle James, and Zebedee the father of James and John. Nazareth probably did not exist either. Timothy and Titus are the same person, as are Silas and Silvanus.
Anti-Jamesian polemic is the point behind Pauls analysis of those with weak faith in the Book of Romans.
The early Christians, the Essenes, and the Sicarii are all pretty much the same movement.
The probable genius behind the conspiracy was Pauls companion Epaphroditus, who is identical with the Epaphroditus who sponsored Josephus and the Erastus mentioned in the Corinthian correspondence.
Other than that, there are many fallacies involved: Straw men, overreading of texts, outright errors, grasping at straws, semantic equivocations, and so on.
Shall we get into more depth? Indeed we shall, developing these points more specifically.
- Admittedly, Eisenman is a professor of Middle-East religions and Director of the Institute for the Study of Judeo-Christian Origins at CSU, Long Beach. But Eisenman's critics are people like Hershel Shanks (editor of the Biblcal Archaeological Review), Daniel J. Harrington (see his article on the subject here, and his article in the Journal of Biblical Literature ("Qumran Cave Texts: A New Publication," v. 11/3, 1993), co-authored with Strugnell, criticizing Eisenman's earlier handling of translations of Cave 4 texts), William Stegner (senior scholar at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary, whose review of the book in Christian Century (February 4-11 1998) makes the same charges against Eisenman that I do, in more detail. Most other scholars regard Eisenman as someone to be ignored.
Note as well that the issue here is whether the DSS should be dated later. No one of course questions that there have been in the DSS project (as there has been in any academic project with interests at stake) an even share of mistakes. But none of these mistakes have involved controversy over incorrect dating of the Scrolls.
Despite their other differences, and their various ideologies, the majority of scholars, including those actually working on the Scrolls (which Eisenman did not) agree that most of the Scrolls date to a time before the NT (150 BC-68 AD, with the ones key for Eisenman being in the earliest part of that range).
The "mishandling" of the DSS had to do with clashes of egos and personalities, with laziness, with funding problems for the project, with political problems (Arabs vs. Israel, etc.), with the speed of the publication, and with direct access to the papyrus -- but NOT with dating. The DSS have also attracted an inordinate number of odd theories, which has not helped (Zeitlin pronouncing them as forgeries; Allegro's "sacred mushroom" theories and his wild-goose-chase treasure hunt; Allegro and Eisenman both using unauthorized photos; Theiring's "reverse pesher" method).
But the issue of dating is one that is agreed upon by the majority involved, other factors notwithstanding -- and we may take special note that Eisenman was refused access to the DSS, because he "lacked training to interpret paleographic documents." Eisenman, despite his credentials, is in no position to comment upon the dates or the contents of the DSS; his translation source, Michael Wise, translated from photographs and had no access to the DSS themselves.
As Harrington notes, Eisenman and Wise "infuriated many of their scholarly colleagues by providing introductions, transcriptions, and translations for fifty Cave 4 documents. The problem was that they skimmed off the 'cream' of the Cave 4 texts and did their work badly: their transcriptions and translations are often inaccurate, and the introductions place the texts within a hypothesis that almost all scholars reject: that the Qumran scrolls came from the 'messianic movement' in Palestine that included Palestinian or "Jamesian" Christianity."
- Also interesting is that the paperback edition of Eisenman's book quotes the venerable Kirkus Reviews as calling the book "Fascinating reading." Nothing else about the review is reported; the sentence itself says, "Eisenman's historical reconstruction makes for fascinating reading, but it never takes us beyond the realm of the merely plausible." That's verging on false advertising.
- We have no copy of the Clementine Recognitions earlier than the third or fourth century. When Eisenman insists that they could be a source for the NT, he does so without so much as a shred of evidence. What matters, he says, "is the source underlying them," even if that source has no actual proof of existence outside of Eisenman's theorization -- no textual evidence, no scrolls, no quotes from early literature, nothing.
We are told that the Recognitions, along with other "Pseudoclementine" material, has "occsionally reliable material"  but no grounds are laid out for discerning what is or is not reliable, other than this: "Here one might wish to apply the doctrine of incongruity, that is, when a fact is considered poorly documented or for some reason flies in the face of obviously orthodox materials, this is sometimes good grounds, not for dismissing it, but for taking it more seriously than one might otherwise have done." [76-7] Thus for example we should give attention to Paul's attack on James recorded in the Recognitions because it is "just such a piece of astonishing material." 
In short, Eisenman has assumed a conspiracy from the start, and then arbitrarily selected as "reliable" whatever suits his thesis; what of other material that may be "astonishing," to anyone else? Is such a subjective criteria of any worth at all?
- Eisenman's dismissal of Acts is quite rationalized and contradictory. In attempting to prove one particular overwrite, for example , he emphasizes "the precision of geographical detail" in the Recognitions (this meaning only, that the Recognitions say where in the Temple James fell from) whereas in Acts, "we have to do with disembodied spirits, tablecloths from Heaven, individuals supposed to be on their way to Gaza, but ending up in Caesarea instead, 'Ethiopian' eunuchs, 'a prophet called Agabus,' and similar flights of fancy."
It should be noted that "precision of geographical detail" (as well as political and historical detail) is overwhelming in Acts, as we have known and as even critics have acknowledged since Ramsey, and that the Recognitions have their own set of miracles (what Eisenman derisively calls "flights of fancy," which amounts to no more than an "it's a miracle so it didn't happen" skeptical argument, unchanged and no more useful since Hume). And really, one wonders what is particularly fanciful about an Ethiopian eunuch and a prophet named Agabus.
The bottom line is that Eisenman's case is founded on false premises. In addition, his familiarity with the literature available on Acts is non-existent; there is no sign that he is familiar with the works of Hemer, Witherington, or any others whose conclusions drastically affect his own, and at the very least need to be dealt with before he can be given credence.
- I have noted that Eisenman considers Timothy and Titus the same person. Do we have hard data presented, like an inscription saying that Timothy and Titus are the same? No. Here is what we have:
On page 130, Eisenman merely says: "It is not always possible to distinguish this Timothy (in Acts 16:3) from the Titus in Galatians and other letters -- Titus is not mentioned in Acts -- just as it is not always possible to distinguish the individual Paul is calling Silvanus in his letters frim the Silas in Acts. Often the one is a Greek name; the other, simply the Latin. As with many other reckonings already encountered, these may not be all separate individuals."
On page 155 Eisenman mentions Titus and puts in parenthesis after his name, "identical with Timothy?"
On page 605 Eisenman refers to Timothy being introduced in Acts and says only that he is "probably identical" with Titus, and hints at a supposed parallel between a story in Acts where Timothy is circumcised and a reference in Galatians where Titus is said not to have to be (it is not clearly argued, but the premise seems to be that one story is a polemical thrust against the other).
On page 795 Titus' name appears with "Timothy?" in parenthesis afterwards.
On page 925 "Timothy/Titus" is referred to.
And that's it. There is not so much as an argument in any of this; the closest we get is one that is based on Eisenman's assumption that there must be a conspiracy afoot. The rest is merely declarative assertion. But this is part of Eisenman's larger paradigm in which he looks for names that look even the slightest bit the same (like James the son of Alphaeus and Cleophas) or looks for same-named individuals (like the several people named James in the NT) and collapses them into single personages. As a James myself, who has met many others in even my limited geographic area, I find this quite without credence.
In sum, there is little to recommend Eisenman's work, much less to recommend it over consensus and mainstream works on the same issues.