The Jesus Seminar (1985- ) is made up of New Testament scholars and others who meet to determine what Jesus Christ truly said and did. They vote on the degree of truth of passages of the Bible. Then, in a take-off of those Bibles that print the words of Jesus in red, they print colour-coded gospels:
- red – Jesus almost certainly said or did this
- pink – Jesus probably said or did this
- grey (or blue) – Jesus probably did not say or do this
- black – Jesus almost certainly did not say or do this
Pictured above is the Lord’s Prayer as coloured by the Jesus Seminar.
The Jesus Seminar was founded by Robert Funk and had well-known scholars like Marcus Borg, John Dominic Crossan and Burton L. Mack.
Four notable books they put out:
- “The Complete Gospels” (1991) – 20 known gospels put in everyday American English
- “The Five Gospels” (1993) – what Jesus said
- “The Acts of Jesus” (1998) – what Jesus did
- “Gospel of Jesus” (1999) – just the red and pink parts made into one gospel
Lost gospels: In most Bibles you see just four gospels, those of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, but in the first 200 years after Christ there were way more. We have copies, in whole or in part, of at least 22 of them, like those of Mary, Peter and Thomas. We have even been able to reconstruct two lost gospels: Q and Signs.
Based on all known gospels, the Jesus Seminar has examined and voted on everything Jesus was reported to have said or done and have come up with their “Gospel of Jesus”.
Two things seriously wrong with the Jesus Seminar that even I as a layman could see:
- It does not represent the general opinion of New Testament scholars but rather its liberal wing. For example, most scholars believe that Jesus talked about the end of the world, but most in the Seminar do not.
- It moves from conclusions to facts, not the other way round. For example, most in the Seminar do not believe in the supernatural, so statements that report a supernatural event get voted down. Likewise those where Jesus talks about the end of the world or about who he is get voted down – because they do not believe Jesus talked like that.
It turned out to be worse than I thought: A fourth of those in the Seminar were not even published New Testament scholars! One was a Hollywood director, Paul Vorhoeven, he of “RoboCop” (1987) and “Showgirls” (1995).
Robert Funk controlled who was in the Seminar. It produced a Jesus not far from his own ideas.
The Jesus of the Jesus Seminar is a travelling Jewish wise man and faith healer and little more. No walking on water, no Virgin Birth, no Resurrection, no Second Coming, no Judgement Day, no hell, no claims of being the Messiah or the Son of God, no dying for our sins, none of that stuff.
It is an old idea: Thomas Jefferson said much the same 200 years ago. He too wrote his own gospel.
– Abagond, 2012.
- Jesus Seminar – their website
- Unmasking the Jesus Seminar – a readable, online critique of the Seminar from Mark D. Roberts, a conservative New Testament scholar
- Reading Burton L Mack
- Jesus Christ
- Thought for the day – Augustine on the Jesus Seminar