Jesus Seminar

What is the view on Jesus Seminar?

Was it top flight work into the historical Jesus? Or was it a politically motivated con job?

Well, it is not politically motivated and it is not a con job.

One may question its procedures or results, but I have seen no reason to question the sincerity (or qualifications) of its participants.

Poltically motivated was probably a bad choice of words. I meant something like their results were predetermined by their assumptions.

William Lane Craig critizes the seminar for this.

I think it would be difficult to gather a group of Biblical scholars together to debate the historicity of the Gospels without them having predetermined ideas on the matter!!

The criticism that I have read of the Jesus Seminar revolve around the fact that it was (numerically) dominated by scholars of a more liberal than evangelical bent, and that because they used a voting system to determine the truth of various passages, these scholar’s opinion’s dominated proceedings.


This is sort of how the Bible was assembled in the first place.


I think that one can make a case for a particular variation on this theme, but I am not sure that what happened amounts to “predetermined.”

I suspect that the stated purpose of the group would have appealed to scholars of some philosophical inclinations while discouraging scholars of different inclinations thus filtering participation and subsequent assessments, but I doubt that scholars with opposing philosophies were prohibited from participating.

In that the group was formed, pretty much as a reaction against the silencing of some of its older members by Fundamentalist schools in the early 20th century (a silencing that had no effect on European or Catholic scholarship), I would guess that there would be a certain predisposition among many of its members away from the more Fundamentalist positions regarding gospel scholarship, but I doubt that there was a specific finding or belief that was set before the group as a goal that had to be reached (beyond the goal of examining a broad spectrum of scholarship in a collegial atmosphere).

The Wikipedia article briefly summarizes the Seminar and some of the criticisms of it, and gives what looks like a pretty good list of books and links on both sides.

Here’s the view of L Michael White, Professor of Classics and Director of the Religious Studies Program, University of Texas at Austin.