Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Jesus Seminar latest

John Dart has the latest on the Jesus Seminar in an article in The Christian Century:

Revitalized Jesus Seminar Gets New Home
. . . . However, the outgoing board chair, Lane C. McGaughy, this year engineered a major money-saving relocation to the private Willamette University in Salem, Oregon, across from the state capitol. A longtime professor there, McGaughy convinced university president Lee Pelton, already a supporter of the Jesus Seminar, that the academic group and its Polebridge Press would fill the university's desire for an additional research center and an expandable university press.

"Westar was never on the verge of closing shop," McGaughy said. A core of Jesus Seminar fellows and lay associates "decided that Westar is an important voice for disseminating the results of serious scholarship on the Bible to the literate public." Its leaders had the respect of many biblical scholars not associated with theologically conservative schools.

Most people who looked into what the Jesus Seminar was saying "realized that our work was more mainstream (and boring) than they had thought," said one participant. "The shock value was lost."
Mainstream and boring -- that's a quotation worth remembering for the next time I am setting an essay on the Jesus Seminar and its participants! There is more news on the Westar Institute's site. And since I have last visited their site, there is some audio and video added.


Rick Sumner said...

"Mainstream and boring." Yeah. That was always my criticism of the Jesus Seminar. I'd have been more sympathetic if they had more shock value.

I seem to recall a year or so ago reading something to the effect that their next endeavor would be the "historical Paul." Do you know if that's still in the cards?

Frank McCoy said...

The Jesus Seminar has lost its creativity and "cutting edge" mentality because it hasn't re-examined some of the conclusions it reached earlier despite developments suggesting that it needs to do this.
For example, as noted by John Dart, they have concluded that Acts was written in the second century CE. This implies that Luke wrote his gospel in the second century CE as well.
This development should lead them to re-examine several of their earlier decisions, but it hasn't--e.g., their earlier decision to advocate the Two Source Theory. The problem they face is this: (1) while their original decision to date Matthew to c. 85 CE and Luke to c. 90 CE (The Five Gospels, p. 128) makes it unlikely that Luke knew of Matthew and used it as a source, (2) if the Gospel of Luke was written several decades later than 90 CE, then it becomes likely that Luke knew the Gospel of Matthew and used it as a source. So, they need to re-evaluate theories, such as the Farrer Theory and the Griesbach Theory, which posit that Luke used Matthew as a source. But they haven't done this.
Again, let us take their earlier decisions that (1) there was a first edition of Thomas by 50-60 CE (Ibid.), but that (2) Luke did not use Thomas as a source. Even with the dating of Luke to 90 CE, it is difficult to reconcile these two decisions. However, if Luke didn't write his gospel until the second century CE, then I think the idea that both of these decisions are correct is inherently implausible. So, there is a need for them to re-examine both of these earlier decisions. However, so far, they haven't.
I am an associate member of Westar Institute, but I continue membership only out of respect for the Jesus Seminar as it once was. Hopefully, their move will lead them to re-start their endeavors in more than one sense of this term.