Who are “The Jesus Seminar” Scholars?, Pt 2

Date: July 22, 2015

Bible Text: Revelation 22:18-19 | Speaker: Dr. Harold J. Sala | Series: Guidelines For Living |

I give fair warning to all who hear the words of the prophecy of this book: If you add to the words of this prophecy, God will add to your life the disasters written in this book; if you subtract from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will subtract your part from the Tree of Life and the Holy City that are written in this book. Revelation 22:18-19, The Message

The Jesus Seminar—a group of some 70 men who purportedly have decided that about 4/5 of what Jesus is credited as saying is a fabrication. According to them, He never said it at all.

The very title—The Jesus Seminar—sounds very official, like it is a modern day Council of Nicea, or a twentieth century Council of Trent as men of God come together and say, “This is what God is saying today!” The fact is that these individuals are self-appointed and do not represent historical churches or institutions of any kind.

When U.S. News and World Report covered the seminar, they profiled five men who are typical of those serving on the committee.

Marcus Borg is a Lutheran by background, though if he were alive today Martin Luther would consider him a heretic. Borg admits to being a “closet agnostic” which is a step up from calling himself a “closet atheist” as he described himself for many years. He thinks there were two distinct Jesuses—a kind of split personality or schizophrenic Christ: One a radical cultural critic (before the resurrection) and the other a mystical spirit—not a real person.
John Meier says that the New Testament has limited historical value. He says that the virgin birth can’t be proven at all; but neither can it be disproved, he says, keeping himself in good graces with the Catholic Church whom he serves as a priest who teaches in a Catholic University. He tries to keep his faith and his academic work separate.
John Crossan, co-chairman of the Jesus Seminar, left the priesthood and the Church in 1969. He believes that the Gospel is inaccurate for the most part. He thinks of Jesus as an empowering figure—whatever that means. “If you are empowered by Jesus’ life,” he says, “in my judgment that makes you a Christian.” What is unclear, however, is how Jesus empowers a person when you basically question what Jesus said and whether or not He did most of what He was supposed to do.
Luke Johnson, a marked departure from most of the men serving on the seminar, is one of the few conservatives in the group. With an almost evangelistic passion he attacks the shoddy scholarship of the others who participate in the seminar. He’s a former monk who believes the New Testament focuses more on the character and message of Jesus than on producing a historical document.
Robert Funk was one of the founding members. He was once a young preacher who led evangelistic revivals. But that was all in his youth. The Jesus who died for the sins of the world has been replaced by “a sort of Jewish Socrates” to use his words. He thinks the Jesus of the Bible is a collection of ideas which have accumulated like dust in a cathedral over the years.


Impressed? Should they be selling one, I’m quite certain that I would not buy a used car from these men. Yes, all of them have academic degrees and graduate degrees as well. Are they intelligent? As one of my professors used to sum up the issues: It isn’t that they aren’t intelligent. It’s just that they know so many things which are just not true. What surprises me is that all of this gets as much press as it does, perhaps a reflection on the disbelief of a secular press and world.

I’m reminded of the words of Rabbi Jacob Neusner, who said, “Religion does not merely recite secular facts about what happened in ordinary affairs on a particular day. Religion speaks of God’s intervention into the world, and that claim does not come before the court of secular history, to be judged true or false by historians.”

Resource reading: 2 Timothy 3