A Gateway to the Research of the Jesus Seminar

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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.

Convened in 1985 by Robert W. Funk, the Jesus Seminar has become a lightning rod for international debate about the "historical Jesus" - that is, the real facts about the person to whom various Christian gospels refer. The Seminar's on-going project has been to evaluate the historical significance of every shred of evidence about Jesus from antiquity (about 30-200 CE). Over the past twenty years more than 200 scholars from North America & beyond have participated in its semi-annual meetingsSeminar Fellows include prominent scholars from Canada, Great Britain, Germany, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand as well as the U.S. For a roster of active participants click here.

The first phases of the Seminar's work on the evaluation & interpretation of Jesus tradition are complete & the results have been published. The Seminar is now turning its attention to analysis of the historical value of materials about & by the first generation of Jesus people: e.g., the Acts of the Apostles & letters of Paul.

Two features distinguish the research of the Jesus Seminar from other scholarly forums:

The Seminar's deliberations are conducted as a public forum involving both dialogue between biblical scholars & reaction from lay associates. To insure candor, the debates are electronically recorded & reported through major news media.

The Seminar's research is measured by democratic rather than elitist methods. All of Seminar's Fellows are scholars with advanced degrees that attest to their qualification to interpret primary source materials about Jesus & Christian origins. But equally qualified scholars often come to different conclusions. The Seminar provides a forum to debate & evaluate these conflicting insights & interpretations.  Debate on any item is closed by a ballot to test the degree of group consensus about the relative value of that item as historical evidence. The weighted average of the votes determines what items are accepted as the Seminar's data base of verifiable information about Jesus himself. Therefore, the Seminar's reports meticulously represent the balanced cumulative judgment of the group rather than the opinion of any individual.

 

These Web Pages are a logical extension of the Jesus Seminar's dedication to distinguishing historical fact from rumor & speculation. 

Media coverage of the conclusions of the Seminar has renewed public interest in the quest of the historical Jesus & created an intense debate about the Seminar itself. Yet, ironically, much of what has been said & written about the Jesus Seminar -- as about Jesus himself -- is based more on hearsay & emotional reaction than on accurate historical information.

This electronic publication has three aims:

To clarify the Jesus Seminar project: its rationale & goals, materials & methods, meetings & membership.

To provide up-to-date information about the Seminar's consensus regarding the historical person known as Jesus.

To keep pundits & critics accountable for misrepresentation of the facts.

The ultimate goal of this website is that of the Jesus Seminar itself: to bring the quest of the historical Jesus of Nazareth to the center of a global forum. We hope you find the contents of these pages both enlightening & stimulating.

 

 

The Jesus Seminar is a project of the Westar Institute, a center for scholarly research on issues of cultural importance in western religion.

Westar has come to rest at Santa Rosa, California. Its official web site is at http://westarinstitute.org.

As the Seminar begins its third decade of deliberations, this Jesus Seminar Forum has also settled into a domain that supports its intellectual independence. For seven years Rutgers University Department of Religion hosted this site as a matter of academic freedom & public education. Rutgers was not a sponsor of the Jesus Seminar & the work of the Seminar does not necessarily represent the views of the Rutgers administration, faculty or staff. The contents of these pages remain the sole responsibility of Fellows of the Jesus Seminar. 

 

 - This page was revised 06 April 2008 -

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