What Is The Jesus Seminar

The Jesus Seminar

The Jesus Seminar was founded in 1985 with the goal of reviving the search for the historical Jesus and disseminating the findings of its study to the wider public, rather than simply a small group of gospel scholars. It was the intention of the Seminar at the outset to examine each of the sayings and acts ascribed to Jesus as recorded in the gospels in order to decide which ones may be regarded authentic. At the first gathering, which took place in Berkeley, California, thirty scholars rose to the occasion.

For reasons explained in their Preface to The Five Gospels, published by the Seminar’s editors in 1993, the Fellows of the Jesus Seminar represent a diverse range of Western religious traditions as well as academic organizations.

Learn more about the Westar Fellows program.

At the conclusion of each agenda item’s debate, Fellows cast votes using colored beads to indicate the degree to which the words and acts attributed to Jesus in the gospels were historically real.

More information about voting It was discovered, among other things, that the Jesus Seminar Fellows believe around 18 percent of the sayings and 16 percent of the acts attributed to Jesus in the gospels are genuine.

  • Phase 1, “Sayings of Jesus” (1985-1991)
  • Phase 2, “Deeds of Jesus” (1991-1996)
  • Phase 3, “Profiles of Jesus” (1996-1998)
  • Phase 4, “Sayings of Jesus” (1985-1991)

In the Beginning

excerpt from the opening comments of Jesus Seminar and Westar Institute founder Robert W. Funk delivered at the Jesus Seminar’s inaugural meeting held in Berkeley, California, in March 1985 The beginning of a historic endeavor is about to begin for us. We are going to investigate simply and thoroughly after the voice of Jesus, after what he actually said. We are not going to be distracted by anything else. In this process, we will be posing a subject that, for many people in our culture, is on the verge of being sacrosanct, if not bordering on blasphemy.

It is possible that we may incite enmity.

Everest confronts the team of climbers.” » Read the whole introductory comments in their entirety (PDF)

What is the Jesus Seminar?

QuestionAnswer The “Jesus Seminar” was founded in the 1970s by New Testament “scholar” Robert Funk, who was also a pastor. It was Funk’s quest to recover the “historical Jesus” who, he felt, had been concealed under nearly 2,000 years of Christian traditions, myths, and tales, that drew him to the project. When the Jesus Seminar was founded, it was with the goal of examining the canonical gospels and other early Christian writings in order to determine who Jesus genuinely was and what He truly taught.

  1. What is not on the agenda of the Jesus Seminar is a search for the identity of the historical Jesus.
  2. The Jesus Seminar’s finest achievement is a work that takes the reader through the four canonical gospels as well as the gospel of Thomas and attempts to ascertain what Jesus genuinely said and taught in each of them.
  3. Words highlighted in red are those that Jesus is most likely to have stated.
  4. It is possible that Jesus did not speak any of the phrases highlighted in gray, but they are quite near to what He may have spoken.
  5. This work from the Jesus Seminar is notable for the fact that there are more words in black than there are in any combination of the colors red, pink, and gray.
  6. It is also noteworthy that the gospel of Thomas is assigned a substantially larger percentage of red and pink terms than the biblical gospels, which is surprising.
  7. The idea that a group of “scholars” today can more accurately determine what Jesus said and did not say is absurd, if not offensive.
  8. Possibly most importantly, they reject that the Holy Spirit is the author of all Scripture (2 Timothy 3:16-17), having moved the thoughts and hands of all of the authors (2 Peter 1:20-21).

The Jesus Seminar’s aim is essentially this: “I do not think that Jesus is God, thus I am going to eliminate everything from the gospels that records Jesus declaring or teaching that He is God.” According to the Jesus Seminar’s mission statement, the goal is to “find the historical Jesus,” which is incorrect and deceptive.

In reality, the Jesus Seminar exists to promote the Jesus that the Jesus Seminar believes in rather than the Jesus of the Bible, which is the ultimate goal of the organization. Questions regarding Jesus Christ (return to top of page) What is the Jesus Seminar, and how does it work?

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The Jesus Seminar Under Fire

Jesus Seminar is a collection of self-described experts who have discovered that Jesus stated only around 20% of the words given to him by the gospel writers Mark, Matthew, Luke, and John (and maybe even less). Greg considers their voting technique, which incorporates the use of colored beads, to be “under threat.” Prepare to be shocked. Given that Easter is approaching, a deluge of articles in newsweeklies and local publications concerning a certain type of missionary organization is expected.

  • They also claim to have the benefit of history, science, and scholarship in their favor.
  • These are folks on a mission, and they know it.
  • People who favor facts over imaginations, history over histrionics, science over superstition will find it useful.” That evangelicals favor lovely stories over real history is a powerful challenge to them, as demonstrated here.
  • When the Jesus Seminar reaches the newsstands, here are the articles you’ll want to read.

Who Are the Scholars?

Newspapers and magazines usually refer to the 74 “scholars” who are members of the Jesus Seminar as “representing the mainstream of biblical research.” Being a genuine scholar, on the other hand, entails more than merely holding a degree. In general, a scholar is someone who exhibits mastery of his or her profession and who makes an intellectual contribution to the field in which he or she is working. Based on these criteria, there are only 14 participants in the Seminar who meet the requirements, including experts such as John Dominic Crossan and Marcus Borg.

One-quarter of the group, on the other hand, is completely unknown (one of them is a movie producer), and half of them are graduates of a cluster of three ultra-liberal universities: Harvard, Claremont, and Vanderbilt, among others.

This does not imply that their findings are incorrect; rather, it implies that theirs is merely one voice among many, one that is seen as suspicious and on the extreme edge even by liberal intellectuals.

What Does the Jesus Seminar Believe?

The Jesus Seminar gathers twice a year to discuss biblical passages in greater depth. Their purpose is to distinguish between historical fact and legend. As of this writing, they have discarded as myth the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, the virgin birth, all of the Gospel miracles, and an astounding 82 percent of the teachings generally attributed to Jesus, all of which have been dismissed as legendary accretions with no historical foundation. “Our Father,” for example, is one of just two words from the Lord’s Prayer that has survived as legitimate.

  1. ” According to this article, the Jesus Seminar has two things to say concerning the resurrection of Jesus, both of which are affirmative.
  2. There is no historical evidence to support this claim.
  3. Christians may still celebrate Easter, with its symbolic message of hope and new life, as long as they live in the modern world.
  4. In his subsequent remarks, he claims that “Jesus was possibly the first stand-up Jewish comic.” “Creating a new religion would have been the farthest thing from his thoughts,” says the author.
  5. Jesus did not resurrect from the grave as he claimed.
  6. He did not provide us with the most profound teaching the world has ever known.

What Are Their Assumptions?

The most crucial question one can ask of any point of view (a question practically never posed by the press) is this: Why do they believe it? This helps us to examine if the reasoning lead appropriately to the conclusions. Everyone has a starting place from which to work. The location of the Seminar’s beginning is kept secret from the general public, yet it is the most important factor to consider. What is the source of their contention that there is no proof for the resurrection of Jesus Christ?

  • According to them, their logic is as follows: It is impossible for the Gospels to be historically true because they contain accounts of events that are just impossible to occur, such as the resurrection of the dead and the multiplication of food—in other words, miracles.
  • If miracles can’t happen, then the accounts in the New Testament must be fabrications, according to this theory.
  • Furthermore, if miracles are impossible, then prophecy (which is a form of extraordinary knowledge) is also impossible.
  • As a result, they could not have been written before the invasion of Titus of Rome in 70 A.D., but rather after that invasion.
  • It is important to note that the Jesus Seminar does not begin with historical evidence; rather, it begins with presuppositions, which are assumptions that are not tested.
  • This is deceptive, however, because the Jesus Seminar does not come at the conclusion that the Gospels are incorrect.

That’s where theybeginbefore they’ve looked at one single shred of genuine historical data. When you begin with your conclusions, you are doing a heinous crime. No, you haven’t proven anything in the least.

Does Their Bias Make Them Open-minded or Closed-minded?

Christian academics, according to philosopher J.P. Moreland, are entitled to their own point of view, just like everyone else. While Christians are subject to prejudice, their judgments are not influenced in the same manner that they are influenced by the results of the Jesus Seminar. The fact that people like Robert Funk begin with the “scientific” belief that miracles are impossible means that their prejudice excludes choices before the game has even begun. Funk must come to the conclusion that the Gospels have been altered with since his philosophical position requires it.

  • A Christian, on the other hand, is not burdened in this way.
  • Both are in accordance with his global perspective.
  • The Christian’s religious inclination broadens his categories, allowing him to be more open-minded.
  • Because of the Jesus Seminar’s religious slant, on the other hand, it is closed-minded and dogmatic.
  • A dean of a prestigious Baptist seminary is quoted as saying that the Seminar’s work is building a rift between religion and history among Christians, according to the source.
  • According to them, “Please do not tell me these things since they may cause confusion with the facts.” It has the potential to erode my faith.” This portrays believers as nincompoops, obscurantists, and those who wish to stick to their beliefs.
  • It is far from it.
  • They are really fundamentally faulty in their point of view and research methodologies because they have already committed themselves to a philosophical viewpoint that is opposed to the events reported in the text of the Gospels in the first place.
  • The facts are on the side of the resurrection, not on the side of the wishful thinking of the Jesus Seminar, as the Jesus Seminar would have it.
See also:  According To The Gospel Of Mark, Who First Announced Jesus' Resurrection

Is There Any Good Evidence the Gospels are Reliable?

The so-called “quest for the historical Jesus” has been going on for more than a century. There has been virtually little evidence revealed throughout that time period that calls into question the Gospel stories. According to current research, there is no “new evidence” supporting the notion that the miracle-working Son of God was the product of a protracted period of mythological development. Recently discovered evidence has actually increased the credibility of the Gospels themselves, which is a positive development.

  1. Recent archaeological discoveries, for example, demonstrate that funerals were done in a different manner in Galilee than they were in Jerusalem, which is compatible with the specifics recorded in the Gospels.
  2. This does not prove that Jesus rose from the grave, but it is one of a number of items that have been unearthed throughout time that speak to the accuracy of the Gospel stories in terms of detail and timeliness.
  3. In A.D.
  4. Because Paul was still alive at the conclusion of Acts, it is reasonable to assume that the book was written before A.D.
  5. The book of Acts was a continuation of Luke’s Gospel, which had to have been written much earlier.
  6. With this, Mark’s Gospel is placed in the 1950s, a little more than twenty years after the crucifixion.
  7. Galatians, another undisputed Pauline letter from the mid-fifties, chronicles Paul’s relationship with the primary disciples (Peter and James) at least 14 years before the events recorded in Philippians (Gal 1:18, cf.
  8. According to the Jesus Seminar, the modest sage of Nazareth was turned into a wonder-working Son of God around the late first and early second centuries.
  9. Simply said, it isn’t enough time for myth and legend to establish themselves, especially while so many people were still living to refute the supposed inaccuracies.
  10. The writers of the New Testament have asserted over and again that they were eyewitnesses to the events.

The fact that Jewish disciples were taught to remember full talks from their rabbi has also come to light in the last few years. Oral tradition in the first century was not as adaptable or fluid as we might expect it to be. However, there is another issue to consider.

Who Would Follow this Man?

Despite their protestations, even the members of the Jesus Seminar acknowledge that Jesus was crucified on a Roman cross. But why was He assassinated? Who would want to follow this Jesus who has been deconstructed? Who cares if He lives or dies, in the end? As noted by leading Jesus scholar John Meier, a Jesus who “spent his time spinning parables and Japanese koans.or a bland Jesus who merely encouraged people to gaze at the flowers of the field.would pose no threat to anybody, just as the university academics who produce him pose no threat.” For example, J.P.

Does the Resurrection Matter?

Because of their study, the Jesus Seminar wants us to assume that nothing significant has been surrendered in the process. They claim that even if the resurrection was a hoax, it still has relevance because of the tale it conveys about Jesus. The Apostle Paul, on the other hand, was not of this opinion. His conclusion: “If Christ has not been risen from the dead,” he said, “your faith is meaningless; you remain in your sins.” Those who have fallen asleep in Christ have also perished as a result of this.

  1. According to Paul, people should be pitied rather than envied.
  2. Death can only be defeated by a rising Savior.
  3. I feel sorry for the Jesus Seminar, which believes that we can maintain some kind of stupid, hollow religious confidence even while all the realities of history are working against us.
  4. That’s hardly anything to be happy about on Easter Sunday.
  5. I’m going to take a position alongside Jesus.
  6. – By the way, the book Jesus Under Fire, written by J.P.
  7. You really must obtain a copy of this book.

On pages xvi-xvii of Robert Funk’s The Gospel of Mark, Red Letter Edition (Sonoma, CA: Polebridge Press, 1991), we find the following quotation: The Los Angeles Times published this article on March 11, 1995.

(1993), p.


In A Marginal Jew: Rethinking the Historical Jesus, vol.

177, quoted in Jesus Under Fire (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1995), p.

21. John P. Meier, A Marginal Jew: Rethinking the Historical Jesus, vol. 1 (New York: Doubleday, 1991), p. 177. On page 22 of Moreland and Wilkins’ Jesus Under Fire (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1995), they write, “Jesus was a man under fire.” 1 Corinthians 15:17-19.

The Jesus Seminar

According to the Jesus Seminar, some of the statements of Jesus recorded in the Gospels were truly spoken by him, while others were made up by the early church or the Gospel authors to support their point of view. These researchers claim to be able to figure out which ones are which based on differing degrees of likelihood.

What is the Jesus Seminar?

New Testament experts who are working together to obtain an agreement on what Jesus actually said (as opposed to words that have been attributed to Jesus by later tradition)

Behind the Jesus Seminar

  • The Jesus Seminar is sponsored by the Westar Institute in Sonoma, California.
  • Jesus Seminar co-chair John Dominic Crossan (in his previous capacity)

Who Belongs to the Jesus Seminar?

  • Originally, there were 30 Fellows (professional academics) on the team.
  • The number of Fellows and Associates (interested non-specialists) increased to around 74 and 100, respectively.

Original Purpose of the Jesus Seminar

  • A collection of all the words (canonical or not) ascribed to Jesus throughout the first three centuries of his life is being assembled.
  • To come to a consensus on which of these phrases were most likely said by Jesus and which were added afterwards

Goal of the Jesus Seminar

  • To raise awareness among the general audience about contemporary New Testament study

The Five Gospelsmarks a radical departure from the tradition of windowless studies and the beginning of a new era in the field of gospel research. Several leading academics, known as Fellows of the Jesus Seminar, have agreed to update and then make public the legacy of more than two hundred years of inquiry and discussion on the life and teachings of Jesus.


The Parables of Jesus are a collection of stories spoken by Jesus. The Gospel of Mark is a collection of stories about a man named Mark who lived in the first century AD. The Sayings Gospel is a collection of sayings from the Bible (Q), The Gospel of Thomas, often known as the Gospel of Thomas, The Gospel of Matthew is a collection of stories about a man named Matthew who was born into a family of ten children. The Gospel of Luke, often known as the Gospel of St. Luke, The Gospel of John, often known as the Gospel of John the Baptist, The Five Gospels are a collection of stories about Jesus that are told in the Bible.

Working Premises of the Jesus Seminar

  • The working premises of the Jesus Seminar have been published.
  • There are 64 numbered premises as well as seven “pillars of academic learning” in this book.
  • The Gospel of Mark, pp.2-26, is followed in the numbering of the premises.

Some premises we could agree with

  • (2) Jesus taught his followers verbally
  • He did not leave any written instructions.
  • Secondly, Jesus only spoke to his followers
  • He did not write anything down.
  • III. The Gospel of Mark was written first, followed by Matthew and Luke (i.e., Markan priority)
  • (IV) Jesus’ teachings were derived from a comparable source in Luke and Matthew.
  • Fourth, the Gospels of Luke and Matthew both traced their teachings back to the same source
  • In addition, it’s possible that Jesus spoke Greek as a second language.
  • (8) Jesus was a nomad, traveling from place to place and adapting his sayings and parables to the circumstances

Some premises we might disagree with

  • (12) It took approximately 40 years after Jesus’ death for the first canonical gospel to be written (around AD 70).
  • (24) Compared to the canonical gospels, the Gospel of Thomas reflects an earlier stage in the tradition.
  • The Gospel of Thomas, as an independent testimony to the Jesus narrative, constitutes a significant step forward.

Some premises we would reject outright

  • It is not appropriate to compare the historical Jesus with the Christ of faith
  • (I)
  • In addition, the Synoptic Gospels provide more historical material about Jesus than the Gospel of John (in other words, the Gospel of John does not contain information on the historical Jesus)
  • It is not possible to compare the authentic Jesus of the sayings and parables with the non-authentic Jesus of the kingdom and return.

Some premises we would have questions about

  • Not the exact words, but the essence of what was said is remembered by those who have an oral mindset.
  • (19) The events in Mark’s account of Jesus’ life have been haphazardly ordered
  • (3) The oral tradition of Jesus’ disciples was nomadic and itinerant: they went around and amended / produced his sayings and parables as the circumstances necessitated
  • (37) Q and Thomas were written during the years AD 50 and AD 60, respectively. Mark was composed about the year 70 AD. Matthew was written about the year AD 85. The book of Luke-Acts was written around the year AD 90.

The temptation in the wilderness (Matthew 4:1-11; Luke 4:1-13) is a good example of this. Which story is more accurate in describing the actual sequence of events? The Baptism of Jesus (Matthew 3:13-17; Mark 1:9-11; Luke 3:21-22) is an illustration of this. Is it a public event (in Matthew) or a private event (in Mark and Luke)? The Confession of Peter at Caesarea Philippi (Matthew 16:13-20; Mark 8:27-30; Luke 9:18-21) is an illustration of this. What was it that Peter confessed? (Each of the three is different.) For example, Matthew 8:5-13 and Luke 7:1-10 describe the healing of the Centurion’s servant.

As an illustration, Matthew 24:15-22; Mark 13:14-20; Luke 21:20-24 describe the Abomination of Desolation (as part of the Olivet Discourse).

An illustration (6): The Trial of Jesus (Matthew 26:57-68; Mark 14:53-65; Luke 22:54-71), from the Bible.

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The Results of the Jesus Seminar’s Deliberations

When it comes to the phrases attributed to Jesus in the canonical gospels (in red letters),


The Jesus Seminar’s methodology and outcomes are up for debate. What should we make of them?

The Jesus of the Seminar

  • In contrast to the portrayal of Jesus in the gospels, Jesus did not make messianic or personal claims.

If all goes according to plan, the study might result in a fascinating freeze frame snapshot of gospel scholarship at the end of 20th century: not quite an epoch-making scientific breakthrough in the vein of Galileo, but a moderately meaningful survey of public opinion.

Major Problems

1. Although the Jesus Seminar is comprised of a self-selected group of academics, which includes numerous excellent scholars, the group does not represent a representative cross section of contemporary scholarly thinking. 2. The selection and date of sources is a significant difficulty, particularly when it comes to considering the Gospel of Thomas as an early and independent source for the story of Jesus. 3. Another significant issue is the Seminar’s predominance in the use of the criterion of dissimilarity in determining the legitimacy of Jesus tradition:

  • Everything that is authentic must be unlike (opposite) to both Judaism and Christianity
  • Otherwise, it is not authentic.

4. The Jesus Seminar’s stress on discovering a Jesus who is not a prophet of the end of the world:

  • Fourth, the Jesus Seminar is adamant about identifying a Jesus who is not eschatological:

(5) The evaluation of Jesus’ sayings in isolation from an in-depth reconstruction of the events of his life, ministry, death, and resurrection is problematic from a methodological standpoint and results in a Jesus whose character does not correspond to the events that we know occurred. 6. A minimalist, socially concerned Jesus, even a naturalist Jesus, appears in the Seminar, who was provocative in his social assertions, but who was not particularly unusual in his religious teaching.

  • Is it possible for such a Jesus to inspire a new religious movement?

Seventh, the Seminar has a too simplistic understanding of the perspectival character of history and sayings. Events in the future can modify sayings and history without causing the history or saying to be distorted in the first place. Sayings may summarize while also being historically accurate (we do it all the time today). 8. The actual Jesus may still be seen in quotations that are either pink or gray in color (the voiceof Jesus versus the very words). However, the number of sayings the Seminar places in black is questionable, as it frequently operates on concealed premises (for example, the ‘Son of Man’ satisfies the requirements but is nonetheless prohibited on theological grounds; similarly, sayings associated with miracles).

What is in the works.

It is a specific interpretation of Jesus and the early Church that works its way through a lengthy list of sayings that are consistent with this interpretation.

What Difference Does It Make to Us?

  • At the very least, the Jesus Seminar produced some authentic remarks from Jesus (i.e., evidence that he actually existed)
  • Meanwhile, a solid wedge is being created between the Jesus of history and the Christ of religion
  • And
  • Attempts to describe who Jesus is made at the Seminar, and these attempts are representative of where many people who study him are at — great moral teacher, Galilean rabbi, social activist, and so on.
  • This may be shown by the reaction of moderates to the Jesus Seminar, which shows that it does not represent a cross-section of contemporary New Testament studies.
  • The Seminar’s point of view is radical, skeptical, and cynical in nature.

There is an alternative to the Seminar’s view of who Jesus is

  • Jesus Under Fire,Jesus the Messiah,Jesus According to Scripture,Jesus and the Kingdom of God (as well as several monographs, as well as the IBR Jesus Project) are examples of this alternate viewpoint.
  • This debate is important because it highlights the distinction between a domesticated Jesus and the Jesus who claims to show the way to God and provide access to him in the context of hope and forgiveness — a moral Jesus (the religious teacher) versus a unique Jesus who brings God’s blessing, forgiveness, and hope
  • And a moral Jesus (the religious teacher) versus a unique Jesus who brings God’s blessing, forgiveness, and hope.

ARTICLE: The Jesus Seminar Unmasked

According to Luke Timothy Johnson, “The Real Jesus: The Mistaken Quest for the Historical Jesus and the Truth of the Traditional Gospels” (Harper & Row, 182 pages, $22 hardback) is the historical Jesus. “Who do scholars claim that I am?” a recent Connecticut Times cover story on the thriving industry of Jesus studies inquired (Mar. 4, 1996). Most people believed that the answer was virtually anything other than the risen Christ, who is worshipped by believers all across the world. Despite the fact that extreme revisionists have received the lion’s share of public attention, their conclusions are by no means typical of the whole range of New Testament scholarly opinion.

  • This decade’s most exciting religious books have been written by Johnson, whose book “The Real Jesus” is one of the most exhilarating religious novels ever written.
  • At first look, Johnson, a former Benedictine monk who is now a professor of New Testament at Emory University in Atlanta (his commentary on the Epistle of James was published in the famous Anchor Bible series in 1995), appears to be an unusual choice for polemics.
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Getting the gist of a ‘historical’ Jesus: the Jesus Seminar 30 years on

Any book that is dedicated to Galileo is almost certain to be an attempt to alter our perception of the world. What Did Jesus Say in His Five Gospels? What Did Jesus Really Say? Jesus of Nazareth (1993) attempted to shift our view on the historical person Jesus of Nazareth by informing us what he actually said and therefore what he didn’t say. The Five Gospels transmitted the goals, methods, and outcomes of theJesus Seminar, a group of early Christian academics whose work began 30 years ago, in March 1985, and has continued until the present day.

However, one aspect of the Seminar’s activity that stood out was the confidence with which its members went about their tasks.

A meticulous, and by now rather notorious, method of analysis was used to arrive at this precise figure: first, compile an inventory of every saying attributed to Jesus in the first three centuries of the Common Era, in all variant forms and traditions; then, analyze each saying using a set of “tests” or “criteria” that might help to establish its relative historical authenticity; and finally, cast a vote, using colored beads: Red indicates that Jesus said it, while pink indicates that it sounds very much like Jesus.

  • Grey = most likely not, although it may include some of his ideas.
  • Regardless of the use of colored beads, the technique and goal of the Seminar have a long, renowned, and significant history behind them.
  • This “search,” which is the result of the meeting between Christendom and the Enlightenment, has attempted to peel aside the layers of religion, dogma, theology, and interpretation from the gospels in order to unveil the “true,” historical Jesus to the public gaze.
  • The quest for Jesus has frequently flourished over its long history and in its many variations because of its ability to question established, confessional, and conventional ways of thinking about Jesus, and this has been true throughout its many variations.
  • David Friedrich Strauss (1808–1874), a theologian at the University of Tübingen, was dismissed from his position because he asserted that most of the content in the gospels was mythical.
  • Members of the Seminar have continued to build on this foundation.
  • While there is no denying that the Jesus Seminar’s goal is noble, it is now becoming evident that the approach employed by the seminar as well as by a substantial majority of New Testament and Christian origins researchers has been incorrect for some time.

The criteria of authenticity, which were gathered together under the term ” criteria of authenticity “, looked to equip researchers with a set of sharp instruments with which to distinguish between historical truth and theological interpretation.

In one or two apparent instances (for example, the Trinitarian formula ofMatthew 28:19), this works, but it is based on the assumption that there are some Jesus traditions that have been demonstrated to be untouched by subsequent Christian interpretation.

Historical Jesus researchers have begun to rethink the way we think about the Jesus tradition, drawing on broader academic conversations in the humanities as a starting point.

A number of scholars have begun to examine the dynamics of stability and variation as they apply to the early church’s recollections of Jesus, drawing on the work of sociologistMaurice Halbwachs (1877–1945) and his concept of ” social memory “.

The traditions concerning Jesus cannot be divided into categories such as early and late, primary and secondary, authentic or inauthentic, fact and interpretation.

It’s as if trying to unscramble an omelette is a waste of time.

When those engaged in the Jesus Seminar came to the conclusion that the gospels only present us with the “gist” of what Jesus said and did thirty years ago, they saw the promise of this method.

Gaining an understanding of Jesus’ core message will not satisfy our demand for historical certainty. But it is a sufficient duty for historians, as well as the church if it so chooses, to be going on with their work.

Seminar Rules Out 80% of Words Attributed to Jesus : Religion: Provocative meeting of biblical scholars ends six years of voting on authenticity in the Gospels.

The controversial Jesus Seminar came to a close on Sunday after six years of voting on what the historical Jesus most likely said, ruling out approximately 80 percent of the words attributed to him in the Gospels and presenting a picture of a prophet-sage who told parables and made witty remarks in the process. Scholars gathered in Sonoma, California, rejected virtually all of Jesus’ remarks from the Gospel of John, including a popular sermon passage, John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that he sacrificed his only Son.” Because it was founded partly to challenge literalist interpretations of Scripture, the Jesus Seminar, a 200-member organization of mainstream biblical academics from all across the country, has sparked debate ever since its inaugural sessions, which took place in 1985.

“Teleevangelists on talk programs claim it’s the devil’s work,” said Robert Funk, the organization’s founder and a New Testament scholar who has published significantly in the field of Gospel studies.

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Many academic colleagues have criticized, among other things, the seminar’s unconventional voting techniques—red and pink beads dropped into a ballot box for probable or possible authentic sayings; gray and black beads for sayings that allegedly reveal the theological bias of the Gospel authors or the beliefs of beleaguered early Christians, but not necessarily the messages of Jesus—as well as the seminar’s unconventional voting techniques—red and pink beads dropped into a ballot box for probable or possible authentic sayings; gray and black beads for saying At the same time, about 200 respectable professors from universities and seminaries have taken part in the study; their results, according to Funk, are typically the same as those taught outside of fundamentalist and evangelical communities.

Marcus Borg of Oregon State University, who is also the chair of the Historical Jesus Section of the international Society of Biblical Literature, expressed his belief that the discoveries will “satisfy a thirst” among the churches, based on his experience educating adults.

According to Funk, the Jesus Seminar and the parallel Gospels of Mark, Matthew, and Luke, as well as the apocryphal Gospel of Thomas, “Jesus talks frequently in adages or aphorisms, or in parables, or in witticisms devised as rebuke or retort in the context of discussion or dispute.” The fact that he did not deliver protracted monologues of the sort contained in the Gospel of John is unambiguous.” There was just one verse in John’s Gospel that earned a pink vote, and that was verse 4:44, which has similarities in the other Gospels and which states that a prophet has no esteem in his own nation.

As Robert Fortna of Vassar College explained, “Most academics, if they had studied through the sayings as we did, would likely to concur that there is essentially nothing in the fourth Gospel (John) that goes back to Jesus.” However, Fortna noted that while Jesus claims in John that “I am the good shepherd.

  • I am the food of life,” this is “primarily a product of the author.” In the other Gospels, Jesus makes only a few references to himself.
  • Father Raymond Brown, a Catholic authority on the Gospel of John, on the other hand, claims that the gospel has “a solid historical substratum.” Brown, who has retired from teaching at Union Theological Seminary in New York City, is now a professor at St.
  • “As soon as someone mentions ‘the Jesus Seminar,’ I immediately turn away,” Brown explained in an interview.
  • Borg highlighted that Christians should not dismiss the sayings of Jesus that have been erroneously ascribed as meaningless.
  • While Jesus never proclaimed, ‘I am the bread of life,’ this indicates that John’s group considered Jesus to be the source of food for their spiritual lives, according to the scholar.

Among these were the parables of the good Samaritan and mustard seed, as well as the exhortation to love one’s enemies and various Sermon on the Mount statements, such as “Blessed are the poor, for they shall inherit the kingdom of God.” Another 200 sayings received pink votes, indicating that Jesus said something that was comparable to the recorded words in that particular instance.

  1. “ As Funk said, a gray vote meant that “parts of the concepts may have been returned to Jesus, but not those specific words.” Funk said on Sunday that the almost two dozen scholars who cast ballots in Sonoma over the weekend had one condition: they had to be there.
  2. Researchers believe that the doomsaying remarks were placed on his lips to strengthen the hopes of Gospel authors and their churches between 30 and 60 years after Jesus’ death and resurrection.
  3. A conference in Atlanta came to the conclusion that the Lord’s Prayer did not refer to the actual Jesus, but rather to some of the terms in it.
  4. After a few years, a number of early seminar attendees decided to discontinue their participation.
  5. I left when it became clear that the group was primarily concerned with earning money, said one academic who did not desire to be recognized.
  6. He said that numerous researchers believed that the supporting Westar Institute and its journal- and book-publishing arm, Polebridge Press, all based in Sonoma and led by Funk, went too far in their efforts to be controversial in order to garner attention and profit from their efforts.
  7. Other on-going seminars have been developed by the Westar Institute, including one that looks at early Christian creeds.

THE DISAPPOINTED COMMENTS Approximately half of the sayings attributed to Jesus were put into his mouth by Gospel authors and early believers as a reflection of their own hopes and fears, according to the Jesus Seminar, a six-year project based in Sonoma that sought to assess the historical authenticity of sayings attributed to Jesus.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.” “I am the way, the truth, and the life,” says Jesus in John 14:6.

Indeed, I assure you, this generation will not pass away until all of these things have occurred.

Are “The Jesus Seminar” criticisms of the gospels and Jesus Christ valid?

The “Jesus Seminar,” a gathering of the skeptical-minded whose results are published in The Five Gospels, is a moniker for individuals who conduct historical study outside of the standard canons of historical research. Instead of proving historical objectivity, their endeavor consists of a stacked deck of antagonistic presuppositions against the historical record.

  1. They hold the Gospels to be erroneous and, as a result, inherently inferior to all other sources available at the time of Christ. For example, they effectively give the Apocryphal Gospel of Thomas greater weight than the canonical Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John)
  2. They effectively give the Apocryphal Gospel of Thomas greater weight than the canonical Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John)
  3. And they effectively give the Apocryphal Gospel of Thomas greater weight than the canonical Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John). It is their belief that miracles are impossible that leads them to dismiss miraculous accounts out of hand as fabrication. They also believe that the faith-motivated first Christians were uninterested in history and freely put words in Jesus’ mouth to meet their own wants. The only phrases they recognize as real to Jesus, and hence not stolen, are those that differ from both the concerns of the early church and the surrounding Judaistic society, according to their brand of “criteria of dissimilarity.”

In response, this shifting of the burden of evidence from the critics to the Gospels is a blatant violation of the entire tradition of historical study. To be sure, Wayne Booth is correct in asserting that “abstract orders to “question pending proof” should be contrasted with the “ancient and natural command to “assent pending disproof.” First and foremost, the aforementioned rejection to miracles is founded on an antiquated, nineteenth-century conception of science, and it is a logical mistake known as “begging the issue” (assuming what they seek to prove).

  1. According to academic Edgar Krentz, the principles that underpin their third presupposition were rejected by secular historians decades before they were proposed.
  2. Their “Jesus,” on the other hand, is unable to account for the powerful responses of his contemporaries.
  3. Although improbable, the notion that the first Christians were uninterested in Jesus’ pre-crucifixion words requires direct and substantial evidence of a type that has not been produced even remotely in the archaeological record.
  4. Instead of communities, which can only mold profound dialogue, but never initiate it.
  5. On page 200 of Ben Witherington’s The Jesus Quest: The Third Search for the Jew of Nazareth (InterVarsity Press, 1995), it is said that According to John Bright, For the most part, his early disciples were humble and very ordinary men.

insight to Jesus Himself—who, on the most basic level, was one of the greatest creative minds in history—than it is to credit such insight to his early disciples.” In this context, it is notable that three early Christians, Clement, Ignatius, and Polycarp, referred to Jesus’ words in the Gospels as his own words.

Rev. Gary W. Jensen, M.Div. is the author of this work. Editor: Paul S. Taylor, Christian Answers, edited and expanded this article. Permission has been granted to use.

RECOMMENDED READING in response to the Jesus Seminar

  • Who Was Jesus, according to N.T. Wright (Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1993), 116 pages
  • Gregory A. Boyd, Cynic, Sage, or Son of God? (Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1993), 116 pages Recovering the Real Jesus in an Age of Revisionist Replies (Victor Books/SP Publications, 1995), 416 pages
  • William F. Buckley, Jr., et al., Recovering the Real Jesus in an Age of Revisionist Replies (Victor Books/SP Publications, 1995), 416 pages Will the real Jesus just take the stage? Among the books available are: The Jesus Seminar’s Dr. John Dominic Crossan vs. Dr. William Lane Craig (Turner-Welninski Publishing, 1995)
  • Douglas Groothuis, Searching for the Real Jesus in an Age of Controversy (Harvest House, 1996), 374 pages
  • Michael J. Wilkins and James P. Moreland, editors,Jesus Under Fire: Modern Scholarship Reinvents the Historical Jesus (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zonder (Aquila, 1994). John Meier, A Marginal Jew: Rethinking the Historical Jesus, Vol. I (New York: Doubleday, 1991)
  • Ben Witherington, The Jesus Quest: The Third Search for the Jew of Nazareth (Downer’s Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 1993)
  • R.T. France, editor,The Evidence For Jesus(Downer’s Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press 1986)
  • C.S Lewis, “Fern Seeds and Elephants,”

References and Footnotes

  • In addition to Marcus Borg’s Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time (San Francisco: Harper San Francisco, 1995), John Dominic Crossan’s Jesus: A Revolutionary Biography (also published by Harper San Francisco, 1995) has 224 pages.

The Five Gospels: The Search for the Authentic Words of Jesus, edited by Robert Funk, is available online (Polebridge, 1993). Ibid., p. 4; Funk, p. Page 15 and 26 of the apocryphal “Gospel of Thomas,” which was highly inspired by gnosticism, and which is probably definitely to be dated to the middle of the following century after the closing of the New Testament. Ibid. page 15 and 26 of the apocryphal “Gospel of Thomas.” Refer to John Meier’s book, A Marginal Jew: Rethinking the Historical Jesus, Vol.

Page 22, and page 29 of the aforementioned document.

30 and following.

See, for example, Vincent Taylor’s The Formation of the Gospel Tradition (New York: Macmillan, 1935), pp.


See, for example, Gary Habermas’ The Verdict of History (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1988), p.

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