Christian Colligation of Apologetics Debate Research & Evangelism

"And according to Paul's custom, he went to them, and for three Sabbaths reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and giving evidence that the Christ had to suffer and rise again from the dead, and {saying,} 'This Jesus whom I am proclaiming to you is the Christ.'" -- Acts 17:2-3

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The Jesus Seminar: Bad Philosophy Makes Bad Christianity

First, the Jesus Seminar in their own words:

The Jesus Seminar Forum: A Gateway to the Research of the Jesus Seminar
The Jesus Seminar Forum is an introduction to the research of the Jesus Seminar of the Westar Institute & a bridge to Jesus scholarship on line.

Now, for the criticism:

The Evangelical Responses to the Jesus Seminar by Robert L. Thomas, Professor of New Testament Studies
"Evangelicals have reacted strongly against the conclusions of the Jesus Seminar. Yet their methodologies in studying the gospels fit the pattern of methods employed by that Seminar, particularly the assumption that the composition of the gospels involved some form of literary dependence."
The Jesus Seminar: Misguided Conclusions
"The Jesus Seminar begins all of its debates with a shared, yet concealed, presupposition – that anything outside the realm of natural explanation can never be backed by historical evidence."

The Jesus Seminar by Jimy Williams.
"The Jesus Seminar portrayal of Jesus simply cannot explain the explosion of Christianity in the first and second centuries. With their view of Christ, they cannot create a cause monumental enough to explain the documented, historical effects that even they must accept."

The Jesus Seminar Should Go Back to School by James Akin.
"But the most basic part of the Seminar's motivation is a desire to produce a Jesus who is less threatening, one who does not claim to be King of King and Lord of Lords, who will not make claims on their personal lives or (worse yet) return one day in fiery judgment."

The Jesus Seminar Under Fire by Greg Koukl.
"The conclusions of the Jesus Seminar don't represent facts. Rather, their point of view and research methods are deeply flawed because of their prior commitment to a philosophic position that is already hostile to the events described in the text of the Gospels."

Who does the Jesus Seminar really speak for?
"We have noted above numerous ways in which the JS reflects the 'radical fringe' of critical scholarship and generally does not include the most established scholars of a more moderate perspective."

Jesus and Liberal New Testament Scholarship by Dr. Gregory A. Boyd
"[The Fellows of the Jesus Seminar] seek to find a merely human Jesus behind the New Testament records, and then try to explain how this ordinary human got "supernaturalized" in the mind of his followers. But the all important question of whether or not the Gospel story is mythological in the first place is rarely seriously discussed. That matter was settled before the research ever got off the ground, and before their conclusions ever reached the newspaper."

The Seventy-Four “Scholars”: Who Does the Jesus Seminar Really Speak For? by Craig Blomberg
"[The Jesus of the Jesus Seminar] is more Gnostic — concerned primarily to impart true knowledge — than anything orthodox Christianity has ever accepted. Today we might call it 'New Age.' But given the JS’s stated goal of discrediting orthodox Christianity and going beyond mainstream scholarship (despite their repeated claims that they represent a consensus), this conclusion should not be surprising."

The Corrected Jesus by Richard Hays
"The fabrication of a non-Jewish Jesus is one particularly pernicious side effect of the Jesus Seminar's methodology. One would have thought that the tragic events of our century might have warned us to be wary of biblical scholars who deny the Jewishness of Jesus."

Blackballing Scripture: Scholarship Takes a Beading by John MacArthur
"What tools did the Jesus Seminar scholars employ? Ultimately only one—the test of "political correctness." Taking a cue from secular academia, the fellows of the Jesus seminar simply dismissed every statement containing a hint of some truth or point of view that is rejected by the political liberals in our culture."

NEW The Jesus Seminar Agenda
"Christians need to be aware that there is a definite ideological agenda that lies behind the new evangelistic zeal of certain liberal scholars to bolster the 'religious literacy' of Americans."

NEW Rediscovering the Historical Jesus: Presuppositions and Pretensions of the Jesus Seminar by William Lane Craig
"The desire to have a politically correct religion and in particular a politically correct Jesus skews the historical judgement of the Jesus Seminar. They dismiss as unhistorical any aspect of Jesus which they find to be politically incorrect. Historical judgments are thus being made, not on the basis of the evidence, but on the basis of political correctness."

NEW Can the New Jesus Save Us? by C. Stephen Evans
"Scholars who are less committed to orthodoxy or positively opposed to historic Christian faith, such as Mack and Crossan, often produce portraits of Jesus that are quite remote from church teachings. The latter type of scholar often speaks disparagingly of the former, implying that the more traditional scholar is less than fully committed to 'calling them as they see them' and 'letting the chips falls where they may.' From my layperson’s perspective, it seems evident that the prior commitments of the people like Mack may be pervasive in shaping the way they interpret the evidence."

NEW The Jesus Seminar and the Public: Another Take by Darrell L. Bock, Research Professor of New Testament Studies, Dallas Theological Seminary
"The Seminar has a rather minimal Jesus that many critics do not see as a genuine reflection of the historical Jesus. This is why the Seminar did not catch on with many scholars in historical Jesus studies."

NEW Supernaturalism and Historical Study: An Account of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ from the Dead by Franz S. Klein

"I think that one of the reasons it was so useless an enterprise for Bultmann was the fact that he recognized the true fact that man’s fulfillment is not of the natural order. Because he felt that the natural order was closed, it became fatuous to look back at a man who lived two-thousand years ago. Our ultimate fulfillment was to be found within, in that timeless statement of Jesus Christ, not in a man who lived two thousand years ago. I also think that once the supernatural is accepted into the natural order, only then does the God-man who lived two thousand years ago become important. I think that the New Quest only has its value in overcoming Bultmann, recognizing elements of the supernatural into history, and from thence deriving value in the historical Jesus."

Books on the Jesus Seminar:



The Historical Reliability of the Gospels by Craig L. Blomberg



Jesus Under Fire: Modern Scholarship Reinvents the Historical Jesus by Craig L. Blomberg, J.P. Moreland and Michael J. Wilkins


What do we know about the Gospel of Thomas? Well, I would defer to J.P. Holding, for example, who examines the Gospel of Thomas in depth in his article Thomas Gospel Tizzy: An Examination of Arguments Favoring the Gospel of Thomas. After his usual thorough examination of the evidence, Holding's article concludes:

How appropriate, then, are the words of Grant and Freedman here, applied to the original author of GThom, but hauntingly fitting to the modern work of Koester, Patterson and Cameron, to Davies, and to the Jesus Seminar. GThom, Grant and Freedman write, is "probably our earliest significant witness to the early perversion of Christianity by those who wanted to create Jesus in their own image." And: "Ultimately (GThom) testifies not to what Jesus said but to what men wished he had said." How different, then, are the tactics and purposes of the Jesus Seminar and the GThom proponents? What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun." (Eccl. 1:9)

Holding's analysis isn't good enough? Well, perhaps we might consider the opinion of Glenn Miller who creates one of the finest, most intelligent webpages on the Internet: A Christian Thinktank. Like Holding, Miller is very thorough in his evaluation of the Gospel of Thomas from the standpoint of what it can tell us about the Historical Jesus. Here are his conclusions from his on-line piece What About the Gospel of Thomas?:

  • The GTh is late (150-200ad), not early (50-75ad). It dates from AFTER the completion and collation of the FourFold gospel.
  • The GTh may contain an authentic extra-biblical tradition or two . . . but by and large is dependent on ALL the canonical gospels in their finished form.
  • Since it appears in history 100-150 years later than the alleged Sayings Document called "Q", its value to demonstrate the existence of such a genre as "Sayings Document" is negligible. As a late document, is looks more like popular theme books of today--"The Parables of Jesus" or "The Gaililean Miracles"--subsets of the Gospel data for specific purposes, as opposed to a comprehensive statement of the "gospel". * * *
  • The fact that this single document can witness to the general availability of the Fourfold gospel in the mid-late 2nd century has implications for canonical studies. It demonstrates that the Fourfold gospel was accepted as the ONLY authoritative source for teaching--by the very fact that its citations were predominantly from those gospels! And the fact that the four gospels were available to a single redactor at that time confirms the rather rapid and frequent distribution and exchange of Christian literature in the period (cf. BREC:82ff).
  • To the Christian, this bare-bones gnostic "How to work your way to heaven" document should remind us vividly of the completeness of God's provision for our salvation in Christ. He broke into history, joined our "matter" in solidarity, and MADE a way--not just SHOWED a way! He "shrank not back from death" and did MORE than just reveal truth; He also unleashed grace (John 1!).
Perhaps most condmening is historian Philip Jenkins. According to an article entitled
Historical Hogwash: Two books—one new, one newly reissued—debunk false claims about the "real" Jesus by Elesha Coffman in Christianity Today:
In Hidden Gospels: How the Search for Jesus Lost Its Way (Oxford), Jenkins, distinguished professor of history and religious studies at Penn State, exposes Jesus Seminar types as—to put it bluntly—agenda-driven ninnies. Such scholars, fascinated by texts like the Gospel of Thomas, the Gospel of Mary, and others unearthed at Nag Hammadi in 1945, dig for what they want to find (evidence of alternate and legitimate "Christianities") and then spare no extravagance in touting its importance. With such titles as The Secret Teachings of Jesus: Four Gnostic Gospels and The Complete Jesus, their books promise to erode orthodox Christianity, conveniently replacing it with a kinder, gentler, and much more politically correct version.

Jenkins's problem with this body of work isn't primarily that it contradicts traditional faith, but that it rests on bad scholarship. Revisionist claims about hidden gospels require that such texts be both older and more reliable than the non-hidden sort, but Jenkins argues persuasively that they are not. Nor can the sects (notably gnostics) that produced the hidden gospels be put on equal footing with the nascent Christian church. "Just as the canonical gospels were in existence before their heterodox counterparts," Jenkins writes, "so the orthodox church did precede the heretics, and by a comfortable margin." Of course, nobody would read The Hidden Texts of Comparatively Late Fringe Groups.

The scholars running willy-nilly after wishful theories might be excused if they were merely jumping to conclusions in the wake of shocking new discoveries, but this ground has been broken before. Today's revisionists would know that if they bothered to read anyone else's work. Jenkins points out that nearly all of the "revolutionary" claims made in the past 30 or so years—Jesus didn't think he was God! Matthew, Mark, and Luke shared notes!—are at least 100 years old. The period between 1880 and 1920 was particularly fertile for radical theories, a fact many contemporary scholars stubbornly or stupidly ignore, and most of the theories weren't even new then. Jenkins goes so far as to assert that "the search for alternative Christianities has been a perennial phenomenon within Western culture since the Enlightenment."
See also, THE GNOSTIC GOSPELS: Are They Authentic? (Part Two in a Two-Part Series on Ancient and Modern Gnosticism) by Douglas Groothuis; Is the Gospel of Thomas Reliable? by Michael J. Bumbulis; and The Jesus Seminar - Select Your Own Jesus.

Now, I am not saying these guys are always right, but they usually are very scrupulous in their analysis. If anyone thinks that the Gospel of Thomas has worth, they need to first respond to the arguments raised by these esteemed gentlemen which, in effect, call the Gospel of Thomas worthless.

By William Kesatie

"But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear..." 1 Peter 3:15