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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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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.
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.
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.Read more ›
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.