Facts About the Jesus Seminar and Founder Robert W. Funk

A direct quote must be short and "punchy"

A thought must run against the social and religious grain of the day

An action must be in the style of contemporary "wise men" of the day

Parables must not have explicit applications

A word or passage must not contain Old Testament quotations

A passage must not contain contextual connections

Any prophecy is immediately deemed invalid

Any miracle is immediately deemed invalid

Jesus promised to return to earth

Jesus' death was vicarious, atoning for sin

Jesus was the Messiah

Jesus was supposed to suffer

Jesus resurrected

Jesus was virgin born

Jesus ever performed miracles

Jesus was the Son of God, God Himself


1. Does it make sense that men and women would be willing to die because they dared to spread the message of a Jesus who never claimed to be the Messiah and who was never raised from the dead?

2. A sage is not a threat. A crucified, risen, returning Christ is.

3. A Jesus who spent his time spinning parables and Japanese koans. . . or a bland Jesus who simply told people to look at the lilies of the field . . . would threaten no one, just as the university professors who create him threaten no one.

4. The Jesus Seminar assumptions would require the assumption that someone, about a generation removed from the events in question, radically transformed the authentic information about Jesus that was circulating at that time, superimposed a body of material four times as large, fabricated almost entirely out of whole cloth, while the church suffered sufficient collective amnesia to accept the transformation as legitimate.

5. It is not good history to ignore the massive weight of manuscript evidence attesting to the validity of the Bible. It is ludicrous to raise the Gospel of Thomas, for which there is only one known manuscript, to the level of the other four gospels, which were copied and distributed throughout Africa, Asia and Europe and for which scholars have collected hundreds of ancient manuscripts.

6. The Jesus of the Jesus Seminar is a non-Jewish Jesus. To put it metaphorically, the Seminar has performed a forcible epispasm on the historical Jesus, a surgical procedure removing the marks of his circumcision. In robbing Jesus of his Jewishness, the Jesus Seminar has finally robbed him of his religion.

7. Scholars of religion have rightly come to be suspicious of theologically driven scholarship. We should be equally suspicious of a-theologically driven scholarship, or any ideologically driven scholarship, political or otherwise.

8. Who would want to crucify a laconic sage, even one whose discourse is "distinctive"? And why?


"It is time for us [scholars] to quit the library and study and speak up . . . . The Jesus Seminar is a clarion call to enlightenment. It is for those who prefer facts to fancies, history to histrionics, science to superstition" (Robert Funk, founder).

[Jesus was] "a secular sage who satirized the pious and championed the poor. . . . Jesus was perhaps the first stand-up Jewish comic. Starting a new religion would have been the farthest thing from his mind" (Robert Funk, founder).

"The gospels are now assumed to be narratives in which the memory of Jesus is embellished by mythic elements that express the church's faith in him, and by plausible fictions that enhance the telling of the gospel story for first-century listeners" (Robert Funk, founder).

"The historical Jesus was, then, a peasant Jewish Cynic" (John Dominic Crossan, fellow).




Geivett, R. Douglas and Gary R. Habermas, eds. In Defense of Miracles: A Comprehensive Case for God's Action in History. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1997.

Habermas, Gary R. The Historical Jesus: Ancient Evidence for the Life of Christ. Joplin, MO: College Press, 1996.

Wilkins, Michael J. and J. P. Moreland. Jesus Under Fire: Modern Scholarship Reinvents the Historical Jesus. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1995).

Witherington, Ben. The Jesus Quest: The Third Search for the Jew of Nazareth. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1995.

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The Lord's Servant must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. Those who oppose him he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will give them a change of heart leading to a knowledge of the truth
II Timothy 2:24-26