Press Release: "Quest for the Historical Jesus Begins Anew"

Amherst, New York (December 08, 2008)—Scholars gathered this past weekend, December 5-7, in Amherst, New York, for the inaugural meeting of The Jesus Project in a renewed quest for the historical Jesus. The project, sponsored by the secular think tank Center for Inquiry and its Committee for the Scientific Examination of Religion (CSER), is an effort by historians, biblical scholars, and theologians to determine what can be reliably recovered about the historical figure of Jesus, his life, his teachings, and his activities, utilizing the highest standards of scientific and scholarly objectivity.

An earlier inquiry, "The Jesus Seminar," founded by Professor Robert Funk in 1985, concerned itself primarily with the sayings attributed to Jesus in the Gospels and related sources. Dr. R. Joseph Hoffmann, chair of the Project and CSER, said that the "The Jesus Seminar had difficulty separating itself from the faith commitments of its members. Its agenda was not exclusively, but in large measure theologically driven. Its conclusions and methods raised more questions than they answered."

The project has drawn together a diverse and rich group of scholars, including, among others Gerd Lüdemann, Paul Kurtz, Robert Price, James Tabor, Robert Eisenman, David Trobisch, Bruce Chilton, Dennis MacDonald, and R. Joseph Hoffmann.

At the session this past weekend, participants agreed that a rigorous scientific inquiry was needed, and that the Project would be committed to a position of neutrality towards the sources used as "evidence" for the Jesus tradition. Participants represent a wide variety of perspectives, ranging from Tabor's argument that there is substantial evidence that the tomb of the family of Jesus has been located, to the view that the evidence for the existence of Jesus as an historical figure is not persuasive. "Jesus remains after 2,000 years the most fascinating figure of Western civilization," said James Tabor, author of The Jesus Dynasty: A New Historical Investigation of Jesus, His Royal Family, and the Birth of Christianity. "Scholars now at the beginning of the twenty-first century are able to take advantage of a plethora of new texts, sources, and methods, including the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, various lost Gospels that are not in our New Testament, and a rich archaeological record." Tabor says that scholars today find themselves uniquely positioned to examine the issue of who Jesus was in new and challenging ways. During the closing conference round-table, Tabor was quick to emphasize that "the Jesus Project repudiates any theological agendas, special pleading, or dogmatic presuppositions." All members of the project share a common commitment to the importance of applying scientific methodologies to the sources used to construct the Jesus tradition.

The Project has outlined a set of priorities for its next meetings, including a "consistent" translation of the Gospels, an inquiry into the causes of the canonization of the existing New Testament documents, parallels between Islam and early Christianity in delineating its sacred books, and the need to carve a middle path between what Hoffmann describes as "Da Vinci Code sensationalism and the truly fascinating story that underlies the history of Christianity."

Papers delivered at the conference will be published under the title "Sources of the Jesus Tradition: An Inquiry," by Prometheus Books in 2009. The Project's next conference is scheduled tentatively for May 2009 in Chicago.

*Listen to Robert Price interview about The Jesus Project on WBFO, Buffalo's NPR affiliate.

19 comments:

Dr. Hector Avalos said...

Because of illness in the family, I was unable to participate in that important forum. But I hope
to make a contribution in the future.

david said...

Robert Price is hilarious. One time on the Infidel show he called the Jesus Seminar "a bunch of fundamentalists." Relative to his skepticism about Jesus that is probably pretty accurate! :-)

brian_g said...

John Loftus said:
An earlier inquiry, "The Jesus Seminar," founded by Professor Robert Funk in 1985, concerned itself primarily with the sayings attributed to Jesus in the Gospels and related sources.

Actually, the Jesus Seminar also dealt with the things Jesus did and published their findings in "The Acts of Jesus." The Jesus Seminar did focus on the saying of Jesus as the first phase of their project, however this was only the first phase. They did not limit themselves to the sayings of Jesus.

John W. Loftus said...

bria_g, this was a press release. I didn't write it.

brian_g said...

John said:
The project has drawn together a diverse and rich group of scholars, including, among others Gerd Lüdemann, Paul Kurtz, Robert Price, James Tabor, Robert Eisenman, David Trobisch, Bruce Chilton, Dennis MacDonald, and R. Joseph Hoffmann.

The list of names doesn't seem very balanced. Ludemann, Kurtz, Price, and Hoffmann are all atheists. Not that atheists cannot take part in Jesus scholarship, but is there any scholars from the other side to balance things out? I don't know how representative your list is. It's not terribly difficult to select a group of scholars from one narrow end of the spectrum and have them pronounce that either little can be known about Jesus or that the historical Jesus is very different from the Jesus of Christianity. This would seem to go against their goals of neutrality and scientific rigor.

brian_g said...

>bria_g, this was a press release. I didn't write it.

Sorry John. I wasn't sure, so I quoted it as coming from you. Could you link to the original article?

Charlie said...

As if any group sponsored by the CFI -- notorious atheist apologetics -- can be trusted to deliver accurate, balanced, and even remotely unbiased conclusions. Jesus may not have been a divine person, but I would never trust the CFI or sophists like Robert Price on that.


This is like AiG doing a "Quest for Origins". Needless to say, the "Jesus Quest" already got spanked for deceitfully listing members that weren't actually a part of it (hence the "under revision" on their website).

John W. Loftus said...

Brian_g, again it was a press release. It was an email they sent out to people such as me.

John W. Loftus said...

Hector, I've been busy commenting and writing today, but I didn't want it to pass not saying to you that I hope things are better with the person who had the illness in your family.

I look forward to your contribution on this issue as well.

a helmet said...

Is this really real? Yet another quest for the historical Jesus???


My, what a busy world! I don't expect there is much more to find, really. This only serves propaganda purposes, and promotes book sales. But I bet there won't be any news.

District Supt. Harvey Burnett said...

2 things in this "Release" I find especially amusing:

1- "The project has drawn together a diverse and rich group of scholars, including, among others Gerd Lüdemann, Paul Kurtz, Robert Price, James Tabor, Robert Eisenman, David Trobisch, Bruce Chilton, Dennis MacDonald, and R. Joseph Hoffmann."

I mean this is the whose who of apostasy, skepticism and atheism and they call this a diverse group??? That's too funny!

2- "Tabor was quick to emphasize that "the Jesus Project repudiates any theological agendas, special pleading, or dogmatic presuppositions."

Yea right!!!

That is a TOTAL gag to me. I think they get an award for the best comedy of the year press release!

Later.

District Supt. Harvey Burnett said...

By the way I certainly DIDN'T mean all the scholars in that list but most of them are far out there and are already very opinionated about the historic nature of Jesus.

Later.

kiwi said...

"I mean this is the whose who of apostasy, skepticism and atheism and they call this a diverse group??? That's too funny!"

I don't think 'diverse' refers to what they believe, but their areas of expertise.

"That is a TOTAL gag to me. I think they get an award for the best comedy of the year press release!"

Wait, because they are skeptics, they cannot look at the evidence without agendas or special pleading?

You don't even have the slighest clue about the Project and how it's going to be conducted. You see a list of names, and assume the rest. The "total gag" and "the comedy of the year" is a product of your imagination.

Badger3k said...

I can see diverse views in two names, Price, who is a mythicist, and Tabor, who fell for the fraudulent Ossuary. I do agree that they don't have any fundamentalists or priests with an agenda to prove a historical existence, but that is a plus.

However, I am skeptical that anything will really come of this. The Jesus Seminar has been laughed at, pretty much, by all sides of the debate that I am aware of, and I see this being taken the same way. Hopefully there will be strong scholarship to back up whatever they come up with, but ...who knows.

a helmet said...

Folks, don't be kidding! Why not start a new quest for Robin Hood in Notingham and Sherwood Forest? Why not him?

Anthony said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
District Supt. Harvey Burnett said...

Kiwi ~ "I don't think 'diverse' refers to what they believe, but their areas of expertise.

Yea right and I have some swamp land in the Arizona Beach going for 50 G's too...

One scholar who gives even Christians a rough ride is Professor John P. Meier. He wrote 3 detailed volumes of a book called "A Marginal Jew" that is a very comprehensive work and is concluding his 4th volume which I'm told exceeds the other three...His books deal exclusively with this entire subject. If one were serious about the "Jesus of History" certainly he would be on the top of the list.

Then there's Ehrman. I certainly don't agree with his conclusions in many areas but he is reputable no matter what else is said about him...again, any council such as this with a serious "scientific" "methodological" approach as this "fruit cake announcement" makes would NOT exclude his expertise or input...That's only 2 people that would add a LOT more respectability to this farce...

about the best observation that can be made is to wait and see...until then,

IT'S A TOTAL GAG! Like I said.

Later

david said...

John,

I'm sure you've already reported this juvenile wannabe hacker, but just in case here is the link for reporting violation of terms:
http://help.blogger.com/?page=troubleshooter.cs&problem=&contact_type=main_tos&Submit=Submit

david said...

DaddyCool,

Please note Blogger's position on your behavior:

"If a Blogger user is impersonating you by using your real name in their profile, please let us know and we will take action as necessary."

Also please read Google's content policy since you are in violation:
http://www.blogger.com/content.g

"IMPERSONATION: We do not allow impersonation of others through our services in a manner that is intended to or does mislead or confuse others."


You CAN have your access to Google applications denied, which means no Gmail, Blogger, Google Reader, or any other Google-based account. It is a free service, and you are abusing it. If enough blog administrators complain, Blogger can request you be blacklisted from Google services.