THE FIVE GOSPELS, Part 2
by David Sisler
The Fellows of the Jesus Seminar, a 200-member study group without ties to a single academic community with recognized New Testament facilities, publicly state that they do not believe that the New Testament is a document which is literally true. The scholars of the Jesus Seminar publicly state that they do not believe that Jesus ever promised to return to earth. The scholars of the Jesus Seminar publicly state that they do not believe that Jesus died a vicarious death, atoning for the sins of whosoever would believe in him.
Does it surprise you, therefore, that when they released The Five Gospels, a 500-page volume billed as "the search for the authentic words of Jesus," they attributed none of the sayings of Jesus about his Second Coming or his victorious death and resurrection to actually having been said by Jesus?
In a statement released at their first meeting, January 1, 1985, the Jesus Seminar said, "We need a new narrative of Jesus, a new Gospel if you will, that places Jesus differently in the grand scheme." Like presidential elections inside the former Soviet Union, the results were a foregone conclusion. Red-letter proclamations were awarded to only sixteen statements of Jesus.
One of the rules which the Fellows established for proof of authentic Jesus statements was, if Jesus said it, it had to be a short statement. If it was to be remembered by the future gospel writers (totally discounting "God-breathed inspiration"), it had to have been a very short statement. It is curious, therefore, that Jesus' parable of "The Good Samaritan" received an 81 percent approval rating (the ninth highest rating given by the Fellows) because it is one of the longest recorded pronouncements recorded in the Four Gospels. A rule is a rule is a rule? Evidently only when it fits the preconceived plan.
Much credence is given to (their words) the "hypothetical source Q." Q, they say, was not a tormentor of Captain Jean Luc Picard and the good ship Enterprise, but a work by an anonymous author from which all of the gospel writers copied. Q is for the German word "quella" which means "sources." The interesting thing about Q is, the document, in its original form, no longer exists. No one has ever seen Q. No one has ever read the original Q. Regardless of those apparent problems, the Q document is one of the pillars of the examination performed by the Jesus Seminar. One of their pillars, one of the crucial supporting parts, is hypothetical. Hypothetical, in the words of The American College Dictionary, is "supposed, problematical, and not well supported by evidence."
Quoting again from that first press release, which revealed their scholarly blue print, "We are having increasing difficulty these days in accepting the apocalyptic conclusion in anything like a literal sense." Translation, the Fellows, from the beginning of their research, did not believe that Jesus was coming back to earth again. An eschatological Jesus, which the Four Gospels proclaim, is a frightening Jesus, one who must be eliminated or dismissed because of that declaration that he is coming again in power and in glory. Marcus Borg, a Fellow of the Jesus Seminar and Hundere Professor of Religion and Culture in the Department of Philosophy at Oregon State University declares the issue is settled: Jesus, the eschatological prophet is out. Resistance is futile!
Jesus never claimed to be the Anointed One, the Messiah, the Fellows declare. This stuff about a suffering Savior was made up by the early Church, they declare. Does it makes 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 Messiah, and who was never raised from the dead? I played enough poker in college to know that there are times, when the only sensible thing to do is fold, no matter how much you have put into the pot. If Jesus is not Messiah, if Jesus is not Savior, why would they make up lies and die for lies. If it is not true, it is not worth dying for.
"The Fellows of the Seminar were unable," they admit in their Introduction, "to find a single saying they could trace back to the historical Jesus" in the Gospel of John. John wrote with a different purpose in mind and said so. Read John's own statement of purpose, as translated by The Five Gospels: "Although Jesus performed many more miracles for his disciples to see than could be written down in this book, these are written down so you will come to believe that Jesus is the Anointed, God's son -- and by believing this have life in his name (emphasis added)." The Fellows of the Jesus Seminar reject John because he proves his point. The Fellows call the words of Jesus, as recorded by John, those of a sage. It is too bad that the authors of this version never really read -- and believed -- their own words. A sage is not a threat. A crucified, risen, returning Christ is.
Published in the Augusta Chronicle 1/18/97
Copyright 1997 by David Sisler. All Rights Reserved.
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