One of the strengths of the blogging community, all the more so when it is backed up by e-listers, is that it can hold public bodies to account; it can test misleading claims. The Jesus Project was recently announced as a kind of successor to the Jesus Seminar, but with the intention to be "the first methodologically agnostic approach to the question of Jesus’ historical existence". The project's website had an impressive roster of fellows including names like John Dominic Crossan, Richard Bauckham, Philip Esler, Adela Yarbro Collins, Kathleen Corley and Marcus Borg. Alongside these there were some independent scholars like Timothy Freke and Peter Gandy. It has been interesting to watch as it has become clear that several of the listed fellows in fact have no association with the project at all. I asked Richard Bauckham, for example, and he confirmed that he had nothing to do with the project and could not imagine how he was added. I would like to add that I also asked Justin Meggitt about his involvement and he confirmed that he had been asked to be a fellow.
Key blogs that have been reporting on this developing story are Christopher Heard's Higgaion, James McGrath's Exploring Our Matrix and Thoughts on Antiquity (team blog, but I think this post is Chris Zeichman). Jim West has been posting developments as they happen on his blog. Doug Chaplin comments on Metacatholic. Two of the listed fellows themselves blog about it, April DeConick on Forbidden Gospels Blog and James Tabor back in January. Sorry if I have missed any.
Clearly the bloggers' and e-listers' efforts have made an impact because today all the materials on The Jesus Project website have been taken down, including the list of fellows, and leaving only the front page with an "update in progress" sign. Let us hope that when it returns there will be some explanation of the recent debacle. In the mean time, one of the encouraging things to come out of this is the extent to which the biblioblogging community is able successfully to test claims made in public by people working in our area and on this occasion to find them wanting. In this respect, it is a continuation of one of the fundamental benefits of academic scholarship -- it keeps people honest.