Professor Craig Evans, probably one of my best NT Profs in seminary, introduced me to the Jesus Seminar. As we were exploring the Seminar, I was immediately fascinated, even though I reject what the Seminar’s scholarship subscribes to. Seminar Scholar (or Fellows) includes Robert Funk, John Dominic Crossan, Karen Armstrong, Marcus Borg, and Walter Wink.
The Jesus Seminar is a group of scholars who hold meetings twice a year. (this March the Seminar will be meeting in Santa Clarita, CA) During their seminar meetings they vote on the fact of: did Jesus say or do that. They vote by using color beads. A red bead means Jesus said it. A pink bead means Jesus probably said it. A gray bead represents He did not say it, but the ideas are the same. A black bead means Jesus did not utter these words at all. The Seminar has concluded that Jesus did not say 82% of what the gospel attributed to Him. 18% is considered doubtful and about 2% of Jesus sayings confidently determined to be authentic.
The Seminar calls their translated Bible, “The Scholars Version”. Their book of “The Five Gospels”(Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, and Thomas). On a side, the gospel of Thomas is not written until the mid 2nd century and depicts Jesus as a father. Essentially, the Seminar represents an extremely small number of radical-ultra liberal scholars who are on the far, far left wing of NT scholarship. The problem is that the Seminar does not go to other accredited NT scholars, but the Seminar loves to go to the popular media press. The Seminar creates this nice huddle of IVY league “scholars” who can interpret the NT through their lens, which allows for no objections or critiques. After the Seminar meetings the Seminar goes to the media.
Many people, including the media and Dan Brown, interpret Jesus as this wonder mythical worker, and not the Messiah. The Jesus Seminar has greatly contributed to distorting Jesus as not the Messiah, but this crazy loony rabbi guy who did wonders. The Seminar has much media exposure so they are able to broadcast this non-messiah Jesus to America. Stroebel comments, “People pick up a magazine or newspaper, read the conclusions of the Jesus Seminar, and assume that this represents the mainstream of NT scholarship.” The seminar wants a Jesus for today. They want a new faith; they want a new Jesus, and a new type of Christian religion. They do not see Jesus as the Messiah or the one who performed miracles. They see Him as a regular man who was a wonder mythical worker.
Jesus the Wonder Worker
This Jesus the wonder worker is just considered another rabbi in the ancient world. Simply what Jesus was doing was no big deal. Jesus was not one of a kind. For example, ancient rabbis conducted exorcisms or prayed for rain and it happened. Thus, Jesus was just another example of a Jewish wonder worker, and not the Messiah.
One of the Seminar’s biggest player is John Dominic Crossan. In his book he states…. “Jesus did not and could not cure that disease or any other one…He continues later: “I do not think that anyone, anywhere, at any time brings dead people back to life. Jarl Fossum also comments that: “or it can be asserted that Jesus really did raise the girl from the dead – which would only reflect fundamentalist naivete.
The fundamental problem is that the seminar is stating Jesus’ miracles are only myths. In several of the Jesus Seminar books, scholars argue that it is necessary to rely on second and third century sources because our first century NT gospels are not reliable enough. Our first century NT sources are reliable enough. CS Lewis stated, “I have studied mythology my whole life, and the gospel are nothing but a myth.” If Jesus is a myth, it was the pagan’s who loved myths. Also, myths make people feel good and validate their culture rituals, traditions, and practices. Jesus was only validating His Father’s practices.
We have 1st century Jewish, non-Christian, historians (Josephus, Tacitus, Philo) confirming the true realities of Jesus. We have original 1st century manuscripts that indicate Jesus did in fact walk this earth conducting ministry and miracles. Many times, the historical records of certain major events like the Persian wars or the movement of Alexander the Great were given to us by only one source. Even though we have so few sources that were written a long time after the event, no one really doubts the truth of the claims made in these books. We have to keep in mind the ancient world moved very slow and is very unlike the modern world. The only people writing during 1st and 2nd century are people who are hired by the Roman government. Also, about 95% of history, which was recorded has been lost. The four gospels were written within 30 years after Jesus died, not 300 hundred years. In the first 200 years, AD35 to AD 235, we have nearly thirty records of this Jesus guy who was in fact doing miracles and loving on people. We can stand on truth that Jesus is not only a significant historical figure, but
He is fact the Son of God who did perform radical healing miracles.
Seminar Jesus versus Christian Jesus
I am arguing it is so easy to believe in the Jesus the Seminar portrays when we are reading it in the newspaper, magazine, national bestselling books, or watching it on the history channel. Currently, I am reading the book: A History of God by Karen Armstrong, which this book was on the “New York Times Bestseller”. Karen is a Jesus Seminar fellow and I can see her bias in how she is presenting Jesus. She is presenting this “hocus pocus” Jesus who is only human and this crazy wonder worker rabbi in the 1st century. The problem is Christian scholarship, unlike Jesus seminar scholarship, does not have a great media platform to broadcast what is really going on. This is okay and this is just the reality in which we, as followers of Christ, live in.
Any which way the enemy can distort the message he goes for it. But the reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work. (1 Jn 3.8). Thus it is our call to come on board with what Jesus did. We destroy the devil’s work and evil ways. We simply do not return evil with evil, but we return evil with love. Let’s keep fighting the good fight and demonstrating love to everyone, even to the ones who do not deserve it. I am sorry but I do not worship a wonder worker, but a Messiah who conquered death, perform miracles, healed the sick, and loved on the slums of society.
 Stroebel, Lee. The Case for Christ – A Journalist’s Personal Investigation of the Evidence for Jesus. Zondervan, 1998, p 151.
 Crossan, Dominic John. Jesus: A Revolutionary Biography, p. 82 & 95.
 Fossum, Karl. “Understanding Jesus’ Miracles,” Bible Review, Vol. X, No. 2 (April 1994), p. 50.