Buddy Scott of buddyscott.com © 2000 ALLON PUBLISHING
In the ABC News Special, The Search for Jesus, Peter Jennings featured seven scholars, and according to Dr. Elizabeth McNamer, Adjunct Instructor of Religion and Philosophy, Rocky Mountain College, interviewed at an archeological excavation on the program, four of the scholars were a part of the Jesus Seminar. (Another source reduces the number of Jesus Seminar scholars to three.)
She told me, on the phone, that because of the number of scholars included from the Jesus Seminar and because only one less-radically liberal scholar was included, Rev. N. T. Wright, the author of The Challenge of Jesus, the show was unbalanced and confusing to a lot of people. (Note: Wright wasn't a conservative scholar as conservatism is generally understood in the United States. He chuckled [if not snickered] when Jennings asked him about the reliability of the four Gospel stories of Christ. Then he questioned the authenticity of the Gospels. Wright defined a conservative in his responses to the public on the discussion board. You'll notice that his definition does not necessarily require believing in the authenticity of Scripture. Wright wrote, "A 'conservative believer' must be someone who believes that Jesus was truly human as well as truly divine. [Anything else is radically unorthodox.]" Jennings covered this subject in his chat after the broadcast. He wrote something peculiar in light of what his scholars had said on the broadcast: "Many of you have asked why, in your view, we didn't speak to more 'conservative' scholars. It's hard to answer the question without fully understanding your definition of 'conservative'. The majority of people we spoke to are practicing believing Christians. My suspicion is, it's unfair to categorize them one way or the other based on the brief biographical information which appeared on the screen. All of their credentials can be found at abcnews.com and BeliefNet.com." After hearing the scholars interviewed, no one has to question whether or not they were conservative or liberal. "By their fruit, ye shall know them," Jesus said.)
McNamer said that she felt the program's lack of balance was somewhat her fault. She said she told Jennings's producer about one of the Jesus Seminar scholars without anticipating that ABC News would include so many of them. One of the scholars Jennings interviewed, she said, "makes no bones about the fact that he is out to destroy Christianity."
She said that there were plenty of reputable scholars who could have been interviewed to bring balance to The Search for Jesus. There are hundreds of scholars who have devoted their lives to the study of the historical Jesus and the faith Jesus.
McNamer expressed to me that she likes Jennings and his producer very much, and she hadn't understood the original intention for the special to be to present the most liberal view.
Not a conservative herself (as conservatism is generally understood in the United States), McNamer said that she believes that the Gospels are a reliable source of information about Jesus. Her view is not in harmony with the view generally reflected on the program concerning the Gospel writings.
I also spoke with John Patrick Whelan, M.D., Ph.D., an instructor at Harvard Medical School. He was interviewed for the program by Jennings's producer in May of 1997. He was in Israel devoting two weeks of his time to excavating the ancient city of Bethsaida. He said that The Search for Jesus turned out to be an effort to tear down literal interpretation of the Bible.
This writer finds it a bit difficult to take everything the Bible says literally, but I find the alternative to be about as wise as trying to hang over a cliff from a sky hook: Trusting modern scholars to dissect it since there can be no standard of dissection. Truth is lost to people when they do what's right in their own eyes. The Bible specifically warns against the consequences of pell-mell dissection.
The Jesus Seminar is a revealing example of what can occur when people dissect Scripture. About 30 self-appointed unconventional scholars, a mutual-admiration society, authorized by no official entity, not balanced by the participation of scholars from other schools of thought, met twice each year to issue their individual opinions on whether or not Jesus said what the Bible says He said. The outcome was predictable.
According to Marcus J. Borg, a participating scholar in the Jesus Seminar and author of Jesus in Contemporary Scholarship, Trinity Press International © 1994, page 160:
After analysis and discussion of a saying attributed to Jesus, members of the seminar voted on whether they thought the saying goes back to Jesus himself by casting one of four differently colored beads into a ballot box.
A red vote means, "I think these are the authentic words of Jesus"; pink means, "A close approximation of what Jesus said"; gray means, "Not Jesus' words, though they may reflect his ideas"; and black means, "Inauthentic; definitely not spoken by Jesus."
Borg reports the results of their line-item vetos in his book. Eighty percent of the sayings that are attributed to Jesus received gray or black beads. Twenty percent received red or pink beads.
According to Borg, they black beaded essentially all of the Gospel of John, all passages in the Gospels which Jesus spoke of Himself with exalted titles such as "Son of God," "Messiah," "all of the great 'I am' sayings," and the seminar concluded that Jesus didn't teach the Lord's Prayer. Remember, these scholars made up half of the scholars that Jennings interviewed on The Search for Jesus.
In the Scholars Version of the Gospels of Christ, translated by selected scholars from the Jesus Seminar, here is an alarming example of how they translated the words of Christ. In place of "Woe to you," they have Jesus saying, "Damn you!"
If people who honor what the Bible says are wrong, their only consequence is that they have lived quality-controlled lives based on Scripture. But what if the dissectors of the Bible and the detractors therefrom are wrong? What happens to them? What happens to the people they have led astray?
As for me, I literally want to follow Christ. I literally want to stand approved before God at The Judgment. I literally want to go to heaven and be reunited with my family and friends. And I literally want to enjoy one-on-one time with my esteemed Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Then the Prince of Peace will explain everything that I literally don't understand. My delight will be to hear my Lord say to me, "Well done, thou good and faithful servant."
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