Monday, October 5, 2009

The Jesus Seminar

The Jesus Seminar and Westar Institute was the dream of founder Robert W. Funk. (PHD Vanderbilt University). He led dozens of world class scholars to the search for the Historical Jesus starting in 1985. The quest has gone through several distinct phases, generally divided into two or three stages. The first stage, which ended with the work of Albert Schweitzer, ended with the conclusion that no first historical basis for a life or biography of Jesus could be ascertained.

The second stage gathered momentum after World War Two among students of Rudolf Bultmann. Sometimes referred to as the "new quest", this movement did not seek to write a biography, since the project had been repudiated in the first quest, but rather sought to study the sayings of Jesus to see how or rather they supported the preaching of the early community. The Jesus Seminar views their work as starting a third quest . This third stage has as it's chief characteristic an effort to understand Jesus within the historical, social and religious contexts of the Greco-Roman world. While a division of opinion was real within the Jesus Seminar, it did not have a major effect on the groups' findings or the final outcome of it's labors.

Their findings were to be made an effort to educate the general public.

I have their first book, "The Five Gospels" and also their second one "The Acts of Jesus". I also have their "Jesus Seminar Guides". Each time they meet...twice a year, they have an "expert" on the subject present a paper which they then critique. Then after that is finished they "vote" with colored beads to indicate whether they believe those words or acts to be the authentic words or acts of Jesus, using the evidence presented as their guides. The colors are Red: "that's Jesus!", Pink: "that sure sounds like Jesus", Gray: "Well maybe" and Black: "There's been some mistake".

They then published their five gospels with those colors indicating their collective beliefs about the scripture. The five are: Mark, Matthew, Luke, John and Thomas.

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