Although most Christians tend to shield their faith from the skeptical and scientific scrutiny that the Seminar engages in, Martin Luther, as Van Biema noted, encouraged Christians to base their faith on their reading of scripture1 instead of blindly believing what the Church taught. The central aim of the Seminar, therefore, was to study the character of Jesus from the Gospels employing the tools of historical and literary analysis. Composed of about 75 scholars, the Seminar studied the four Gospels and the apocryphal Gospel of Thomas and published a book, The Five Gospels (including the apocryphal Gospel of Thomas), in which they classified the contents of the books according to what they voted was true. The book contends that most of what is written is not fact but embellishment by the authors. Christians, consequently are supposed to have a misguided view of Jesus and his teachings – nothing recorded as Jesus’ words can be trusted. Early christian authors may have edited the works because of early church politics.2 Although the controversy around the figure of Jesus is an old one, the work of t...
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...during the Roman occupation of Jesus’ time, there were a number of “Messiahs” who appeared, proclaiming deliverance to Israel from their oppressing Roman authorities. All of them drew a following, but were quickly put down by the Roman government. Gamaliel explains this pattern to the Sanhedrin during the trial of Peter and John in Acts chapter 5. As he saw it, if Jesus was another such upstart, his movement would die out. However, if it did not, Jesus could well be from God. The fact that the Christian movement went from strength to strength instead of dying out goes to show that Jesus was no ordinary figure. This goes against the conclusions of the Seminar that portray Jesus as just another social revolutionary who was killed by the Romans.
An important aspect of the issue that the Jesus Seminar seems to have brushed over is the effect Jesus had on his followers.
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