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The Jesus Seminar and Its Critics Paperback – November, 1999

4.1 out of 5 stars 9 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


"...Miller deals one by one with the [mostly absurd] criticisms of the Seminar. ...[There] is plenty of room for specific disagreements with the published results of the Seminar [I have pleny of qualms myself], but that's not the sort of trouble that called forth this book. Miller addresses himself to [one often suspects] willful misunderstandings and blatant misrepresentations of the Jesus Seminar. Sadly, the polemic Miller addresses here is the sort of underhanded mud-slinging practiced by politicians, usually not by scholars. ...Miller makes quite clear that much [criticism] stems from two sources: orthodox apologists who despise New Testament criticism for [inevitably] rocking, no, sinking the boat of traditional faith; and fellow critics to whom the findings and methods of the Seminar must be old news, but who do not want the New Testament's dirty linen to be hung out for the Babbit-like laymen and harumphing clergy on seminary boards to see." -- infidels.org, February 2000

"Miller engages some of the most severe critics of the work of the Seminar . . . in a courteous but trenchant critical debate about the methods and aims of research into the "historical Jesus." Miller's work will challenge the sometimes facile critics of the Jesus Seminar, give its scholarly critics food for thought, and help the general public understand what the fuss is all about." -- Harold W. Attridge, Yale Divinity School

Provocative and controversial ... lays out the significance of the Seminar's work for scholars, for society, and for the church. -- Mark Allen Powell, author of Jesus as Figure in History

About the Author

ROBERT J. MILLER is Associate Professor at the Lewis & Clark Law School in Portland, Oregon, and Chief Justice, Court of Appeals, Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde Community of Oregon. He is a citizen of the Eastern Shawnee Tribe of Oklahoma.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 168 pages
  • Publisher: Polebridge Press; 1 edition (November 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 094434478X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0944344781
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.3 x 8.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,455,164 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
This book provides a useful overview of both the Jesus Seminar's efforts to reconstruct the historical Jesus and the critical response such efforts have drawn from conservative Biblical scholars. Author Robert J. Miller makes it clear from the beginning that he is himself an active member of the Jesus Seminar and proud of its accomplishments. This volume is a collection of Miller's published essays about the Jesus Seminar divided into two parts. The first third provides background about the Jesus Seminar, explains its controversial voting methods and gives the principles that guide its work. The second two-thirds of the book concentrates on criticisms, especially those written by Luke Timothy Johnson and Ben Witherington. Miller diputes most of these criticisms, but carefully lays out the points of argument on both sides. His chapter on how scholars view the resurrection is especially fascinating for its focus on how nonbelievers respond to a religion's core beliefs. In sum, this is a carefully organized and thoughtful discussin of a pioneering project in biblical scholarship.
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Dr. Miller provides a fairly detailed explanation of what the Jesus Seminar is and how it works, and then answers two of its most prominent critics, Luke Timothy Johnson and Ben Witherington. Johnson appears to be somewhere near mainstream Christian and Witherington Fundamentalist (neither is identified by denomination). Dr. Miller is Roman Catholic.

Fellowship in the Jesus Seminar is open to anyone with an accredited earned doctorate in Religion, Theology, etc. The Seminar has published numerous books, including "The Five Gospels," in which the words attributed to Jesus are printed in (in decreasing order of perceived authenticity) red, pink, grey, or black. Red means the consensus of fellows of the Seminar is that these words are authentically a close English equivalent of what Jesus actually said (in Aramaic or possibly Greek) Black means the consensus of the fellows is that these are not authentic words of Jesus, OR that they are something that most any Jew of Jesus time probably said on occasion; that is, not distinctively of Jesus. Pink and grey are lesser degrees of certainty than red, but more than black.

One common criticism of the four-color schema is that any particular saying either WAS or WASN'T said by Jesus, there can be no in-between. This is, of course, true, but there ARE varying degrees of certainty as to whether particular sayings are authentic. Pink does NOT mean that the saying is, say, 66% authentic (that is an absurdity) but that the fellows, looking at the available evidence from nearly 2000 years ago, averaged to be about 66% convinced that Jesus actually said it (or 34% convinced that the didn't).
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By A Customer on April 19, 2002
Format: Paperback
Watching Biblical scholars debate is not pretty. They split hairs, parse the subtitles of each other's books and peck at each other's religious fidelity, scholarly rigor, or intellectual integrity. This might be inevitable, given the scarcity of material they work with. They have only a few ancient texts, with scant corroborating historical evidence and little hope of finding new documents.
Add to this the fact that over the past two millennia, a gigantic political, military, social, religious and economic superstructure has grown up around the Bible, using it to accumulate vast power and to justify wide extremes of behavior, from the ruthless to the benevolent. The slightest peep that challenges any part of this superstructure is bound to bring down upon the peeper the wrath of one offended faction or another.
Fortunately for Biblical scholars (and probably for the rest of us, too), most of them work in obscurity. The Jesus Seminar is probably the exception.
I admire the Seminar's goals of establishing what is historically verifiable about the life of Jesus and, as Dr. Miller's writes in "The Jesus Seminar and its Critics," "providing an alternative to the unchallenged fundamentalist assumptions that pervade American discourse about the Bible." What Seminar members are doing is courageous and ultimately helpful. But I was disappointed by this book. I hoped to find an introduction to the Seminar's findings and an overview of the criticism. What I found was a detailed - very, very detailed - look at the Seminar's voting process and Dr. Miller's painfully painstaking responses to some of the Seminar's critics.
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Format: Paperback
I highly recommend _The Jesus Seminar and Its Critics_ as an introduction to the work, methodologies, premises of the Jesus Seminar, and as its title tells us, to some of the critiques that have been hurled at it. (For a more extensive discussion of the "rules of evidence" employed by the Seminar please see _The Five Gospels_ and _The Acts of Jesus_, both by the JS.)

The project founded by Robert Funk in 1985 known as the Jesus Seminar (JS) is controversial (particularly back in the 90s). To some that may be an understatement. Not only evangelicals and fundamentalists but even such noted critical scholars as Catholic priest (now monsignor) John Meier have criticized and taken potshots at the JS. But why?

Reading Miller and other Fellows of the JS, it seems that what has earned the ire of nonJS scholars and "conservative" Christian groups is not the findings of JS per se, since a good deal of what the JS is making public are matters which critical biblical scholars have known for decades. Rather, what has triggered the avalanche of somtimes very emotionally laden criticisms is the fact that the JS had the gall of making these findings public, and actually making it a policy to maintain close ties with the public. Thus, in an interview with americancatholic[dot]org we hear Fr. Meier deriding the JS:

"Everything [in the US including biblical scholarship] has been turned into televised soap opera. Robert Funk, head of the Jesus Seminar, at one point was planning televised sessions of the Jesus Seminar in which there'd be debates and then scoring; it almost sounds like a hilarious send-up. You can't mock it because it is such a caricature even to begin with!

"But I think one of the great problems is precisely that.
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