Are We Getting Anywhere With Jesus Research?

Every year, millions of dollars are spent by taxpayers and church goers paying for research into what Jesus said, what Jesus meant and whether Jesus performed miracles or experienced a miracle by being dead, coming back to life and then swooping up to  heaven.

There have been couple of “team efforts” involving many scholars in recent years.  The first was the Jesus Seminar in the 1980’s and 1990’s followed by the Jesus Project in 2007 and 2008.  The second project was started because some thought the first was too biased toward the view there was no human Jesus. The second project fell apart after a few gatherings.

The idea of both unsuccessful efforts was to look at the Bible along side other information and agree on which parts were historical and which were meant to be metaphorical.  The organizer of the second effort wrote an essay concluding it is not possible to have agreement on the Bible’s great issues like the resurrection and second coming because of one big problem.  That is the ancient practice of treating as interchangable dreams/visions and actual events.  Since the Bible’s authors did not differentiate between them today’s readers cannot know for certain either.

And, of course, there is the disconnect between events those who wrote about them.  I read the Jesus Seminar estimated that only fifteen percent of the Bible’s Jesus quotations are accurate.

It appears there will always be a living for hundreds of people in the futile quest to discover the real Jesus.

33 Responses

  1. entech

    Are We Getting Anywhere With Jesus Research?
    A generally accepted definition of God and Jesus would be a good start, at the moment there is nowhere to go except in circles. Probably a good idea to find out if God is a unity or a trinity for a start, although how you would do that from a set of old books is hard to tell, even the experts don’t find a commonality in the words of the books let alone a commonality in meaning.

    1. entech

      Good question, it points out a bit of the inadequacy of the English Language, my native tongue. There are languages that have a variety of “we” definitions, including the speaker, excluding the speaker, something like a more generic us. In English if we asked “where do us want to get” we would be laughed to scorn and any argument put forward would be drowned in ‘ad hominem’ attacks.

      So, Henry what do you mean by “we” now that you have made it more of a point, because quite obviously the different possible “we”s would all have a different destination in mind. Where do you want to get? or are you so close minded, such a black and white thinker that you are already there, totally convinced and unchangeable in the opinions you have arrived at you are at your Jesus destination and there is no going back under any circumstances?

    2. Henrey 3:09 “Where do ‘we’ want to get?”
      You and I would both want to find the truth. Was there a Jesus who could walk on water? Did that Jesus come back to life? Neither of us knows the answer to either question for certain.

        1. entech

          Having faith in the truth of those statements does not make them true, no matter how much you want them to be true. Neither does “the Atheist”s lack of faith make them false. It is simply that the non-believer looks for some kind of substantial evidence, for the faithful to look for evidence would, somehow, seem to be a betrayal of that faith.

          Your yes and yes, seems to be making a positive statement, a claim that, by extension, it is all true; that is the kind of extraordinary claim that we say needs extraordinary evidence.

          1. entech

            11:51 if you want to put it in those terms, it is a lot more than your faith that is rejected.

            11:52 anything substantial to back up the statements?

          2. Henry

            11:52 Three witnesses on one account. Four witnesses on another account.

            It doesn’t matter. You reject. No matter the level of evidence, it is lost on you.

          3. entech

            I wonder if that kind of evidence would be accepted by a jury. Four members of the same gang said ???

            Something perhaps a little more independent, the Bible is not really a good source for the veracity of the Bible, tends to get a little bit circular.

          4. Henry

            Of course, if you view it as (1) one source. It doesn’t matter. You reject. So it becomes (1) one source in your eyes and becomes discredited.

          5. entech

            Of course your right, I do come from the position of one who was raised in the tradition and, over time, came to reject the credibility and veracity of the stories I was taught in school.
            From that position I do need something more than a set of books which were cobbled together to produce “The Bible”, some books rejected by the compilers, others maybes – maybe true maybe apocryphal, and some cannonised 🙂

            From your contrary position anything seems to be acceptable as proof, if it agrees with your idea of what scripture says (or perhaps with what you think it should say).

        2. Jinx

          Of course we know the serious problems with eyewitness accounts!!! Lots of research on that in muti-disciplines or jsut ask a good trial lawyer. Add in the passage of 1700-2500 years, translation problems,ancient languages, destruction of texts by agents of social control, error and good old bias and one wonders what in the hell is the TRUTH!!!

  2. eric haugen

    “It was unthinkable that a small, despised movement from a corner of Palestine could move out to become the dominant faith of the mighty Roman Empire, an empire steeped in fiercely defended traditional pagan religions. The spread of the Christian church in its earliest centuries is one of the most amazing phenomena in all of human history. The church was considered a religio prava , an illegal and depraved religion. Wave after wave of persecution was unleashed to squash it. At least two of the persecutions were empire-wide and intended to destroy the church. So how did this young fledgling movement make it?” (Ken Curtis, PhD). I do not know any background to the guy I am quoting. I simply post this because after all these years Jesus is still with us. There were dozens of people who claimed to be the messiah back around the time of Jesus. None of their claims survived. To claim that he was a myth or some fabrication also requires an explanation as to how this movement has changed the world.

    1. entech

      To claim that he was a myth or some fabrication also requires an explanation as to how this movement has changed the world.
      The Jesus as myth idea is not widely held amongst serious scholars. Bart Ehrman can be found arguing against this position and comes out very strongly for the existence of a historical Jesus.

      It is surely unthinkable that an itinerant, probably illiterate, merchant who had a habit of disappearing into the mountain caves. Maybe caves with nothing to eat but fabulous fungi. Should have been the chosen vehicle for receiving the true word and final word of God. That the merchant was going against all the beliefs of all the desert tribes from which he came. That he was frightened to speak out but was somehow drawn back to the cave, was commanded to go and recite the words the angel taught him. That the local scribes wrote it down, that an influential relative had to protect him from the charges of going against all the local religious beliefs and tempting the wrath of the gods [1]. When the relative died and support was lost he was driven from town and hunted down; ran through the desert from Mecca to Medina with only a few followers with all attempts being made to wipe him and his followers out of existence. I simply post this because after all these years Islam is still with us.

      [1] This closely related to the reasons the Romans were so anti-Christian. In the beginning they were tolerated as a sect of Judaism, which was a religio externa, recognised but Romans were not permitted to be members as oppose to religio licita, after the trial and conviction of Paul the Christian religion was declared depraved “prava” because it was held that Jesus had admitted to be “king of the Jews” and was being held up to be God himself. (Thanks for the religio parvo thing in your quote had a lot of fun looking all that stuff up). So essentially this “small, despised movement from a corner of Palestine” was to become in effect an enemy of the state, a group with a history of insurrection its originator already executed by Pilate. Of course Christians weren’t alone there was a lot of cults and sects making their presence felt, most Bacchanalian, Dionysian with terrible things, such as women priests and drinking and having a good time, not that Christians by all accounts were anything but pure and modest and preached and practised charity etc.
      Some reasons put forward for the increasing popularity and growth of the movement were such things as: preaching equality for all in the site of God – accounts for the high proportion of slaves and servants among the membership: a paradise in a life to come: the commitment, to the point of martyrdom of existing believers – under the law at the time they only needed to swear allegiance to Rome to be freed. That the movement spread to the masters of the servants and other higher stratas could well be simply the beneficial changes observed in the slaves that had converted.
      The main reason for Roman persecution was that they were considered a threat to the state. Quite rightly because eventually the leadership passed from emperor to pontiff and the persecution of the opposition continued without pause, only a change of who was persecuting whom.

    2. eric 4:08 “To claim that he was a myth or some fabrication also requires and explanation as to how the movement has changed the world.”

      You are correct in that Christianity has survived for two centuries and is popular. If that makes it “true”, and its god real, then was need to also consider Hinduism. Hinduism is older and also vast in its world coverage. Its gods must be real as well.

      The social science explanation for Christianity, Hinduism, Islam and other major religions is that they fit the social and political circumstances of the times and that is why they became and remain popular. When these conditions change, they will mostly disappear. Also, some of all these faiths grew large at the end of the sword.

      At the other end of time is Europe today. Recently polls showed Christianity has become a minority religion. In S. America, the Catholic version is slipping and pentacostalism–really a different relgion altogether I would argue–is on the rise.

      I would caution you on using popularity to justify legitimacy.

  3. Michael Ross

    “Every year, millions of dollars are spent by taxpayers “. . .” paying for research into what Jesus said, what Jesus meant and whether Jesus performed miracles or experienced a miracle by being dead, coming back to life and then swooping up to heaven”

    Where do you get this? Taxes are theft on the part of the government. The Bible teaches personal property rights. Christians should be the first to object to taking money from individuals, families, businesses, theft in the name of Christ.

    1. Wolfy32

      My parents reminded me numerous times that the bible says to “Respect and honor the laws of the land.”

      Kinda funny how Christianity is based on disobedience of the laws of the land, but teaches to obey the laws of the land.

    2. StanB

      If someone would post links to tax money spent on Christian research it would be helpful. Both of the seminars quoted were private concerns if I remember right.

      1. Stan 6:26 There must be about 100 med. to large state universities with religion/philosophy departments. In many of those departments will be people studying Jesus, not usually advocating Christianity, but studying the Jesus who, what, when and where. Sometimes this work will be funded by a source other than taxpayer’s money, but some of it will be done on a university’s dime. That’s what I was referring to.

  4. H.P. Drifter


    Really what a good set of responses so far today, from Henry’s “WE” to Michael pointing out taxes are government theft in the name of Christ (I wonder how many millions of people believe this, most likely a whole lot of people) . Not to mention all of Entech’s astute observations.

    Personally I have have to go along with the studies. Believing an eye witness account being written 50 years after the fact is a little hard to believe. Then more is written after that and refined after that a hundred times or more, that’s what I call team writing, a very effective effort and approach to writing on any subject. Just look at the number of people that get thanked in the beginning or end of most modern literature.

    To Eric all I can say is humans will do anything to get high and feel good about themselves and you don’t to have to use drugs to get there. The bible is living proof, to be able to get that fuzzy feeling and some good practical advice at the same time, not just the buzz. The bible is the most popular book. Though a little too violent for my taste.

    As far as the despised group from a small corner of Palestine spreading the word all I can say to is that if you get a chance to go to that small corner of the world, the Jews, Christians and Arabs that live there, have the ability to sell you anything, though they are not pushing religion at this time, goods and services they have, I can personally attest to that, they hit me up good the last time I was there, I came home with something for everyone.

    Literally thousands of people are dying to get high or going to jail for their right to get high in America today. Of course here we don’t threaten to kill you and your family to join in on what other people think about how you should get high (warm and fuzzy) like the religious zealots have done in the past. Though I know a few people who would like to perpetuate this tactic. Most hold elective offices.

    H.P. Drifter

    1. Henry

      “Literally thousands of people are dying to get high or going to jail for their right to get high in America today.”

      Yes, from the man who receives the word of lsd/meth heads as his own gospel. “We” hear you loud and clear.

      1. Wolfy32

        Well, Drifter is right in that, religion does give a chemical high.

        Well, here’s an interesting article of the role of the brain in religion. It is interesting to note that a belief system played a large role in an early communities survival. However, it noted that some of the communities to survive the best weren’t Christian. It implied that it didn’t really matter what the beliefs were as long as the beliefs were shared community based.

        Very interesting research:

  5. H.P. Drifter


    When I mentioned LSD/METH people, I was using it as an illustration also making fun, on how some people (not me) get to where they want to be. It may not be good for them, but neither is drinking alcohol which is legal and does more damage than any combination of drugs, in the long run. Unless you had alcohol them, then it is deadly combo.

    I am with Entec, Meditation works fine for me and has for many years without any side effects. I don’t get angry, I get up out of bed everyday, thankful to be alive, with a smile on my face and go about my business. I don’t discuss with anybody what I am thinking, no need. The only exception is here on this blog or if I am invited to debate.

    We all strive to be, where want to be, everybody has a different way of getting there and has a different concept of where to be. Most of us like being in own shoes, were happy. At the same time many of us are curious what others are thinking. That’s why we are all here on the blog having this discussion. A free wheeling discussion, no holds barred.

    This makes life for me and others just a little more interesting and keeps us on our toes, so as to not give others the wrong impression, about what we do, and how we think and why the way think the way we do. And maybe learn something from others in the mean time


  6. Wolfy32

    Just an amusing observation… A Costco in LA placed the bible in the fiction section of Books…. A minister noticed it and took a picture, sent it to his congregation. The company issued a formal national apology for this mishap…

    I have to wonder..what if the minister took all the bibles and put them in the fiction section? ….

    Either way… An interesting freudian slip… besides who determines if it fits into fiction or non fiction? Heh?

  7. H.P. Drifter


    I enjoy posting here and listening to other people that consciously think about the human condition. Coming from the big city moving out here, This is one thing I have missed, interacting with like minded people. This blog gives me that opportunity to do that.

    The countryside gives the artist room to create, the phone is not ringing night and day, the air is clean, no crime, I can leave the keys in the car. It really takes the stress of living away.

    It makes time for me to take care of business in a wonderful setting far from the real troubles of this very troubled world and it gives me more time to be thankful for every little thing.

    Keep throwing those question out there!


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