I have just finished reading the preface and first chapter (of 28) of the book. In the preface Eisenman explains that about 500 pages of his earlier opus, James the Brother of Jesus, were scrapped by the publisher. Like the prophet Jeremiah, Eisenman now has rewritten them and added another 500 pages as well!
The first chapter provides a summary of two key issues explored in James the Brother of Jesus. First is the confusion between the leading figures of Stephen, Ananias, James, and Mani/Manaen (linked to later cults venerating John the Baptist, such as the Mandaeans and Manichaeans). In James the Brother of Jesus, Eisenman made a compelling association of James with the an earlier role model, the "Righteous Priest" and "Teacher" Honi the Circle Drawer (a.k.a. High Priest Ananias/Hanan). But for some reason Eisenman, even in his new book, does not connect all the dots and recognize Ananias of the New Testament era as an obvious alter ego of James brother of Jesus.
Eisenman goes farther in his comparison of James and Stephen, but cannot fully associate the Gentile convert Stephen, a servant of Caesar, with ultra-fundamentalist James. This, despite being able to connect Herodian Saulus and the "Super-Pharisee" Apostle Paul. And therein is the flaw in Eisenman's thesis. For it is now clear that as Paul was, so was James and Jesus, that is, all the major New Testament characters are based on high-profile Herodian elites. Their station required them to be fully Roman and fully Jewish, which inevitably led to wearing many hats and the appearance of hypocricy when roles overlapped.
Inexplicably, Eisenman wants to identify Manaen "foster brother of Herod the Tetrarch" with Ananias and/or Paul. The obvious association of Manaean or Mani is however with John the Baptist himself. Yet, one cannot do this without first taking the leap of making John the Baptist a Herodian along with the rest of the Gospel troupe. The Tetrarch in question would then not be Herod Antipas, but Herod Phillip (I). John the Baptist is then easily recognized as a popular identity of Phillip II, a much younger half-brother and adopted son of Phillip I.
The second key issue addressed in the first chapter of The New Testament Code is the nature of anti-Semitism in the New Testament and analysis of its sources. However, again, the slightly misguided thesis of Eisenman doesn't allow him to find the real context of deadly friction between James and Peter with Paul, and completely understand how the common Jews were trapped in the crossfire. The more interesting and relevant study of this period is the jockeying for geo-political influence that occurred between the various Heroidan family members and how they exploited various religious sects as part of that process - ultimately going so far as to create a new religion with its own factions and destroying those who resisted exodus from the old Way.
Eisenman has taken the typical academic approach of "bottom-up" scholarship, unquestionably excelling all others in open-mindedness and common sense. Yet, this research needs to be combined with a "top-down" analysis that concentrates on the ubiquitous power structure of the day and the ways in which royal influence pervaded from high to low level elements of society in Jerusalem, Samaria, and rest of the known world.
© Charles N. Pope, US Library of Congress. All rights reserved.