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Why the Jesus Seminar can't find Jesus, and Grandma Marshall Could: A Populist Defense of the Gospels Paperback – March 17, 2005

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

David Marshall is director of Kuai Mu Institute for Christianity and World Cultures. He has written for magazines like Christianity Today, First Things, and Books and Culture, and speaks to a variety of audiences in countries around the Pacific Rim. Among other things, he has taught in Japanese universities, combatted the sex slave trade in Taiwan, and worked as a translator on board a Russian fishing vessel, where he learned that it's hard to sink a basket from the outside when the ship is swaying from side to side. David's previous books are True Son of Heaven: How Jesus Fulfills the Chinese Culture, and Jesus and the Religions of Man.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 245 pages
  • Publisher: Kuai Mu Press (March 17, 2005)
  • ISBN-10: 0970227825
  • ISBN-13: 978-0970227829
  • Product Dimensions: 8.9 x 6 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,238,228 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

(From interview on Harvest House website)

Tell us a bit about yourself, your background, and your family.

"I grew up a three'minute walk from Puget Sound in west Seattle. We used to go down to the beach, dig butter clams, turn over rocks looking for sea cucumbers and crabs, and watch sail boat races on Sunday afternoons. My parents met at Westside Presbyterian Church, left when it became 'too liberal,' then went back again when they realized that church was still quite good'it took about fifteen years.

"Like G. K. Chesterton, I'd have to say, 'I am sorry if the landscape or the people appear disappointingly respectable and even reasonable, and deficient in all those unpleasant qualities that make a biography really popular.' I grew up in a cheerful blue color family, where there were plenty of books, including World Book Encyclopdia, which after Winnie The Pooh was my first literary influence. We went to Awana and Christian summer camps and memorized Bible verses in the original King James.

"When I was in sixth grade, the Vietnam War ended, Seattle went bankrupt, and we moved to Alaska for several years. I've loved mountains, wildflowers, and strawberries ever since. Many significant things happened up there. We spent two summers at Echo Ranch Bible Camp, north of Juneau, the most beautiful place on the planet, and I 'received Jesus.' I learned about being an outsider. We got a dog, a St. Bernard/Husky/German Shepherd mix, born for Alaska. And I started reading C. S. Lewis, a habit I haven't broken yet. I discovered Narnia in the basement of my parents' friends from church.

What led you to found the Kuai Mu Institute for Christianity and World Cultures? What does it exist to do?

''Kuai Mu' (pronounced 'kwi moo') is the name of an ancient evergreen that grows high in the mountains of Taiwan, like a redwood. The name relates to our need to find roots, and to my work with 'mountain peoples' while I was in Asia. The purpose of Kuai Mu is to educate Christians and non'Christians about how the Gospel relates to other cultures and religions, and evidence for the Christian faith. We do this in three ways. First, we put on seminars and other teaching events, with myself as the speaker, or with other Christian thinkers. Second, I write. And third, we also do some ministry through the Internet.

"Some of the speakers who have participated in our seminars include Miriam Adeney, Craig Blomberg, Gary Habermas, Vishal Mangalwadi, Don Richardson, and Dudley Woodberry. These seminars are always lots of fun."

You spent time teaching English and working as a missionary in Asia. Where did you work, and when did you feel called to Asia?

"I heard about Youth With a Mission at a Keith Green memorial concert. I'd been studying Chinese, and thought, 'Why not go to China? There are more Chinese than anyone else on the planet. I can do God's work, learn a new language, take some cool pictures, and maybe meet some girls.' So in January 1984, I joined a discipleship training school in an old bombed'out hospital on the hill near that giant beehive called Hong Kong.

"My years as a missionary changed me quite a bit. I learned how to worship. I discovered that God can answer prayers in dramatic ways sometimes. I did see a good chunk of the world'we camped out in hill tribes in Thailand, smuggled Bibles into China, and were caught in a little civil war when we arrived in New Delhi just before the assassination of Indira Gandhi. I also began to work out my own way of doing ministry."

You also served in local Chinese churches, where Christians are often imprisoned and abused because of their faith. What was this experience like?

(For the rest of the interview, please see the Harvest House web site.)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

42 of 50 people found the following review helpful By Mike514 on May 15, 2006
Format: Paperback
The analysis in this book is very well done. Marshall is confrontational at times, but in a way that is necessary. His analysis of the Jesus Seminar's main scholars is enlightening, providing background and thoughts on these scholars, then methodically de-bunking their analyses/methods. A small knowledge of the Jesus Seminar is enough to follow his critique, as Marshall explains the main points of the Seminar rather than just assume that the reader is fully familiar with the Seminar works. He also gives background into the teachings and methods of other enlightening figures such as Confucius, which I found to be a good learning experience.

Some minor complaints: First, it's very short and covers many topics, not necessarily the best combination. Second, the title kind of turned me off (I know, that's very superficial of me, but this title just can't compete with some of the more confrontational and eye-catching religious titles like "Dead Sea Scrolls Deception" or "The Jesus I Never Knew"). Finally, the format is very rigorous and tends to hamper the "flow" of the book-- it reads too much like a textbook at certain points, with the numbering system, and the plus/minus comparisons.

I have had the pleasure of exchanging the occasional email with David Marshall. He comes across as one of those rare apologetics scholars who puts a lot of effort and research into his works without ignoring or superficially glossing over the tough questions. He is also unafraid of acknowledging when he agrees with critics, a very respectable trait. These qualities come out clearly in this book.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Ben Raines on February 23, 2015
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The author challenged a review I wrote about another book and suggested that I read his. I've finally muddled through it. He told me that his books were more readable and less tedious than other scholarly books on the subject of the historical Jesus - which is even more reason not to read those books unless you're required to read them as part of your seminary training.

The title of the book mentions Grandma Marshall who, according to the title, knew more about Jesus than the critics belonging to the Jesus Seminar do. Other than one page that mentions her simple and passionate faith, she's nowhere in the book. The reader never does learn why Grandma Marshall was able to understand what the scholars could not, except possibly the mention that knowing facts is not the same as having an experience. You can't explain love unless you've experienced love. The bulk of the book is focused at debunking Funk and the other 'scholars' who tear apart the canonical gospels by using gnostic gospels and erratic research methods.

What this book boils down to is a chess match where the King and the Queen, the Knights, and the Rooks have all been removed from the board. All that's left are too many bishops (the scholars) and pawns (the rest of us). Why the Jesus Seminar Can't Find Jesus and Grandma Marshall Could ends in a stalemate. I'm no more or less convinced of who Jesus really is after reading this book than I'm persuaded who's he's not by reading Robert Funk or Marcus Borg's works. Most disappointing is that I couldn't find Jesus at all in this book, nor could Grandma Marshall.
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17 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on November 23, 2008
Format: Paperback
David Marshall is one of the most unappreciated and underestimated Christian authors of our time.

From issue to issue, whether it is Marshall addressing "New Atheist" criticisms of religion, or it is Marshall addressing flawed scholarship from those holding a vague "Christian" identity, Marshall serves as a bridge between first rank scholars and the lay Christian trying to distinguish Biblical fact from modern ideological falsehood.

The failure for the public to recognize the value of Marshall's work seems to stem from a generalized sense of alienation from religious "authorities". With so many scholars who actually are very skeptical of the reality of Jesus Christ, it is refreshing to find an author who is possessed of a sincere faith, and also is familiar with scholarship.

If I were to sum up the fault of the subject which Marshall addresses here, it is though a collective of biased "scholars" gathered together and told Christians and non-Christians alike, something like this.


*** We are all dreadfully sorry, but the whole Jesus account was a bit of a hoax, so far as we can tell. Everybody can go home now, but be encouraged because "Top People" are untangling the historical mess of false claims, legends and misrepresentations. ***


It would be a tremendous understatement to claim that this destroys religious faith, but Marshall's role in this is that he meticulously dismantles the flawed arguments of religious scholars who have simply turned their backs on Jesus Christ, and some how managed to contend for some cloudy notion of religious authority.
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18 of 81 people found the following review helpful By Rock Forever on May 1, 2011
Format: Paperback
LMAO! This book only expounds on the MYTH of Jesus with ZERO historical references outside the bible to corroborate the story of the bible! It's alL GARBAGE and Jesus is 99.99% myth!

No one has the slightest physical evidence to support a historical Jesus; no artifacts, dwelling, works of carpentry, or self-written manuscripts. All claims about Jesus derive from writings of other people. There occurs no contemporary Roman record that shows Pontius Pilate executing a man named Jesus. Devastating to historians, there occurs not a single contemporary writing that mentions Jesus. All documents about Jesus came well after the life of the alleged Jesus from either: unknown authors, people who had never met an earthly Jesus, or from fraudulent, mythical or allegorical writings.
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