The Jesus Seminar - Putting Truth to the Vote
Welcome to another issue of Expository Files, our 54th consecutive monthly issue
if you're counting. (If you are counting, I'm worried about you.) Well, included
in the news the past month is the unhappy report that the misnamed "Jesus
Seminar" is at it again. The votes are in and counted. This group of
seventy-five unbelieving Biblical scholars decided, by popular vote, that Jesus
really didn't walk on water after all. Nor did He multiply the loaves and
fishes, not turn water to wine. In fact, they voted on whether He arose from the
grave. Sorry, the resurrection lost that vote as well.
Of the 176 events reported by the gospels and voted on by this group of enlightened ones, they have determined Jesus only actually did 28 of them. Or, to put it another way, this group of scholars have decided that the New Testament is a pack of lies.
Robert Funk, who founded the group in 1985, admits that some of the things in the gospel are true. For example, he said that concerning the birth of Jesus, it was confirmed by other historical documentation that Jesus was born during the reign of Herod the Great, his home was Nazareth, his mother's name was Mary and his name was Jesus. Funk stated, "These constitute the meager traces of history found in the birth stories, everything else is fiction."
They called the story of Jesus' arrest, trial and crucifixion "not only dubious, but dangerously anti-Semitic" even though they admit that it is "likely" that Jesus was arrested "at the temple" (not on the mount of Olives as the Bible says) and probably some high Jewish officials, including probably the high priest, urged Pilate to execute Jesus, and he probably was crucified after being flogged on Golgotha, and his disciples probably did run away.
Funk said he hopes he and his Seminar will have a similar effect on the Protestant world as the "great Protestant Reformers" had. He insists we need to go back and recover the real Jesus, and set a new course. If the church does not do this, he says it is in for a really serious problem.
Several things occur to me. First, I think it is rather arrogant to decide that the reality of historical events stand or fall based on the vote of seventy-five people. Second, Funk discredits every statement in the Bible that is not collaborated by other historical data. But he does not consider all historical data. For example, the gospels themselves are historical documents. Third, this idea of trying to recover the real Jesus is silly. Why should we? If He is not who we thought He was, then we cannot find in Him those things we thought we could. He simply has nothing to offer us if He is not who He claimed to be... no authority, no power, no strength, no comfort, no peace, no joy, no eternity.
How about we get together a group of seventy-five people and vote on whether the "Jesus Seminar" really exists? If they can, we can! Let's vote them out of existence.
By Jon W. Quinn
The Front Page
From Expository Files 5.6; June 1998