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On the Search for the True History of Jesus

March 13, 1994

I am outraged at the insidious and heretical attack on the Christian religion and the central figure of its faith, the person of Jesus Christ. I refer to "Cross Examination" (Feb. 24).

How dare you attack my faith with lies and aspersions? Who are you to hold the most sacred pillars of Christianity up to scrutiny?

The Dead Sea Scrolls and numerous other archeological finds examined by believers are found to substantiate their faith. The revisionist historians are nothing new.

I herewith cancel my subscription to your scurrilous and sacrilegious rag and heap scorn on the contemptuous scoundrels who produce it.


South Pasadena


The L.A. Times is at it again--Christianity bashing. Mary Rourke's piece tells about so-called scholars' unbiblical ideas concerning the nature of Jesus.

Some of the biblical experts met for nine years casting opinion votes as to whether events in the Bible really happened.

Who are we to believe--the authors of the gospels who were eyewitnesses to the events and personally knew Jesus, or a bunch of eggheads 2,000 years later who haven't a clue?




The claims of Robert Funk and the Jesus Seminar would make good National Enquirer headlines: "Paul 'Outed' at Jesus' Wedding, Magdalen Miffed."

And electing verses to the canon by dropping beads in a bottle is certainly, uh, interesting.

This approach only confirms my perception of Robert Funk as the Geraldo Rivera of biblical studies.

John Spong's (14 books), Robert Funk's and Martin Borg's published enthusiasms are amusing, but they are hardly works of meticulous scholarship. These are trade books--fodder for the same audience that buys Danielle Steel.

The Jesus Seminar ignores both the thoroughness of past work and the current direction of academic inquiry.

The approach honors neither modern nor post-modern textual theories. It deserves all the apathy we can muster. But it won't be easy.

These guys aren't easily embarrassed.




As the world sinks further and further into a truly frightening darkness of mind, body and soul, your proposed "solution" is to re-examine Jesus Christ, to debunk him, to explain him away?

What a disservice to yourselves, to others, to the world you claim to care about.

Why do you think Christianity has lasted nearly 2,000 years? Why do you suppose millions and millions of people, despite intense and often violent persecution, have been converted? Doesn't that tell you anything? Do you think a mere human being could have such incredible influence and power?




"Cross Examination" raises a question about Jesus that should be asked about the entire Bible:

Are we supposed to believe that a collection of writings by a handful of folklorists and religious mystics who lived in the eastern Mediterranean two to three thousand years ago contains the answers to the mysteries of the universe?

If the Bible were subjected to the same canons of research--peer review, corroboration, tests of credibility, documentary validation, statistical quantification--that modern historians must conform to, it would be seen for what it really is--99% mythology.

Of course, the faithful will continue to believe what they want. After all, the definition of faith is belief in the unknown.

The trouble starts when adherents of a faith try to impose their values and rules of conduct on others.




I am responding to Episcopal Bishop John Shelby Spong's comment about the gospels having been written 40 years after Christ's life. He asks: "How many words of anybody will be exactly repeated 40 years later?"

I have thought about the question and concluded that it is quite possible to remember someone's words when you consider the person to be God talking to you.

I teach psychology at a local community college. In the introductory class, we spend about a week studying the research on memory.

There is a phenomenon called flashbulb memory in which people can remember amazing details from years before. One example is found by asking people to remember where they were and what they were doing when John F. Kennedy was shot.

Strong emotions can really make events stay in your mind.

Think about the situation of the Apostles. They were followers of Jesus, looking to him for guidance and leadership.

Why shouldn't they remember what he said?




One thing I learned from my doctoral studies at San Francisco Theological Seminary (a highly regarded Presbyterian school) was a skepticism about "scholarly conclusions." For one thing, equally knowledgeable scholars, especially in a field like this, plunk down on opposite sides of the question.

The simple fact is that scholars, being human, have biases, largely rooted in the time and culture in which we all live and from which we cannot completely escape.

Often this bias includes the conviction that miracles don't happen. Few of us, even evangelical conservatives, find it easy to accept the gospel accounts of Jesus' miracles--for example, his walking on the water. But against that we set the bias that Jesus was not a mere man, but the son of God.

This he clearly claimed according to the only records we have of what he said, the gospels. That some in the Jesus Seminar deny the validity of those accounts is a subjective judgment. Admittedly, we evangelicals also start with a bias, but it seems to me that our bias has more to support it than their bias.



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