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Customer Review

on July 20, 2002
One can often decide whether a book is "worth reading" by the amount of controversy surrounding it. Judging by the emotionalism vented against the work of Funk and Hoover and the Jesus Seminar, I would think any serious, curious readers would want to look at this book --if for no other reason than to find out what all the fuss is about.
It's a shame such an attempt at rational, dispassionate biblical scholarship should have been received in such a tepid way by the general public who, frankly, understand very little about biblical scholarship, methodology, linguistics, historiography, genre, etc.
For the reader whose mind remains fluid, whose horizons have not been rendered brittle and narrow by faith and emotionalism, this book will present many interesting insights about not only the authorship of the canonical gospels and the Gnostic Gospel of Thomas, but also explains how the 72 scholars arrived at the conclusions presented in this volume, particularly the phrasing of the text (SV) and how the opinion of the Jesus Seminar was reached. Also interesting for the lay-reader, armchair philosopher and others are the few unabashed statements about how the early Church leaders tampered with the several gospels, though this is not a point the Jesus Seminar dwells upon.
As an introductory book that is easy to read and understand, I recommend it to any person unafraid to think critically, beyond the box, about the nature of not merely the canonical gospels and their message and origins, but also the humanity --the divine humanity-- of what inspires so much of what informs human consciousness and awareness in whatever form, be it parable, fable, myth, or other borrowed story.
While I was writing my doctoral thesis I became less and less concerned about the trappings of traditional lore and became more interested in just what the original cultural and historic importance of these texts were in their own time, and what they might convey for our own lives today. I think Profs. Funk and Hoover and the other Jesus Seminar members have, with this book, made an important step, and the results --clear and easy to understand-- are accessible to any person wishing to enrich a personal understanding of the history and meaning of these gospels; to any study group, Unitarian Universalist or otherwise. Where there is visceral emotionalism amok there can be no reason. No reason no peace. No peace, no understanding. No understanding, no light. No light.... Well, just look around.
This book isn't the light of the world and does not pretend to be. It is the work and opinions of some learned men of our time, i.e., a group of biblical scholars. It is not a gospel unto itself. In spite of that it is a volume I would include in any library intended for the study of Christianity and its development in the first millennia of the common era with respect to the canonical gospels. This book could only frighten or offend those who have transcended all objectivity and insist upon maintaining a status quo that represents the worst kind of myopia. Read this book and decide what YOU think.
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