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The Five Gospels


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I'm browsing through Robert Funk's 'The Five Gospels' which basically gives us the results of the findings of the Jesus Seminar, a very dynamic translation by members of the Seminar, and liberal, critical notes about the gospels which, I assume, come mostly from Funk.

 

The notoreity of this book (and the Seminar) is that it postulates that only 18% of the "red letter" sayings of Jesus in our Bibles goes back to Jesus himself. The other 82% is, it is thought, early church interpretations or explanations read back into what Jesus actually taught and is, therefore, "Christ of faith" additions.

 

I'm finding the book interesting, probably because it is something that I NEVER would have picked up 6 or 7 years ago. While some Christians would be shaken or perhaps cast into despair because scholars tell us that we can't get at the actual words of Jesus, I find it interesting (and progressive) to see that what we have preserved for us is not the objective Truth itself, but the gospel writers' understandings of Jesus and his truth.

 

Has anyone else here read or browsed this book? If so, what did you think of it? Did you find it to be hyper-critical? Or did it resonate with you? Does the Seminar's claim that only 18% of Jesus' sayings actually go back to him bother you? Or are you content with that?

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I'm browsing through Robert Funk's 'The Five Gospels' which basically gives us the results of the findings of the Jesus Seminar, a very dynamic translation by members of the Seminar, and liberal, critical notes about the gospels which, I assume, come mostly from Funk.

 

The notoreity of this book (and the Seminar) is that it postulates that only 18% of the "red letter" sayings of Jesus in our Bibles goes back to Jesus himself. The other 82% is, it is thought, early church interpretations or explanations read back into what Jesus actually taught and is, therefore, "Christ of faith" additions.

 

I'm finding the book interesting, probably because it is something that I NEVER would have picked up 6 or 7 years ago. While some Christians would be shaken or perhaps cast into despair because scholars tell us that we can't get at the actual words of Jesus, I find it interesting (and progressive) to see that what we have preserved for us is not the objective Truth itself, but the gospel writers' understandings of Jesus and his truth.

 

Has anyone else here read or browsed this book? If so, what did you think of it? Did you find it to be hyper-critical? Or did it resonate with you? Does the Seminar's claim that only 18% of Jesus' sayings actually go back to him bother you? Or are you content with that?

 

 

Hi Bill,

 

Never read it but am not surprised at what you report it to say and would not be shocked or bothered at all if it were proven to be true. After all, Jesus is not recorded writing anything himeself and i perceive there was good reason for this. I take the position that of the teachings we have that are recorded to be from him, if they witness deep within me and bring forth fruit then they are excellent teachings. If they don't 'resonate' as you say, i simply let them go. Perhaps at a later time they will resonate? Perhaps not? Either way my trust, as i have been shown, can never reside in a book.

 

Just my response,

Joseph

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I haven't read Robert Funk's book but I've read other books by biblical scholars that discussed the findings of biblical scholarship and the Q gospel theory. The contradictions that are impossible to reconcile played an important part in my deconversion from fundamentalism and changed the way I looked at the bible and Jesus. I think it is important for we as progressives to accept whatever historical evidence is discovered about the life and teachings of Jesus even if it initially makes us feel comfortable or challenges cherished traditional beliefs. Even if one persistently believes the traditional teachings of Jesus are authentic, tradition doesn't make the facts go away. We shouldn't let church tradition get in the way of accepting the facts but at the same time, I don't think that means we need to discard tradition completely and I think tradition can co-exist with the facts if we acknowledge tradition for what it is. I like the way Marcus Borg distinguishes between the pre-Easter Jesus and the post-Easter Jesus. The pre-Easter Jesus is the miracle-free and flawed human Jew who was executed for challenging the religious and political authorities of his day though we may never know for certain about everything about what the life of Jesus was really like. The post-Easter Jesus is the mythical divine Christ who rose on the third day and was the perfect sacrifice for humanity's salvation. Both views of Jesus can be powerful and inspiring and still have value if we admit one is traditional and the other is factual and not let tradition over-ride the factual while accepting the value of the teachings of tradition. One example of this is the parables of Jesus. No Christian I know of would argue that the parable of the prodigal son is historically accurate or that there must have been a real prodigal son in order to believe in the message of the prodigal son parable. In fact, even most literalists would agree that focusing on the factual details of the prodigal son parable misses the point of the parable and the parable has a deeper spiritual truth to it because it's not literally true.

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  • 2 weeks later...

While some Christians would be shaken or perhaps cast into despair because scholars tell us that we can't get at the actual words of Jesus, I find it interesting (and progressive) to see that what we have preserved for us is not the objective Truth itself, but the gospel writers' understandings of Jesus and his truth.

Hello, Bill...

 

I haven't read Funk's book, but have read others that discuss the same general subject such as Bart Ehrman's 'Misquoting Jesus', 'Lost Gospels', and 'A Brief Introduction to the New Testament' all of which I highly recommend. Studies as to the origin and authors of the gospel writings as well as quotes attributed to Jesus abound and have been around for more than a century. 'Orthodox' Christian churches and their authorities naturally ignore these studies, regardless of how old they are or who the author was, because they immediately call into question the validity of literal interpretations and the authority of the authors themselves. The fact is that we do not have original manuscripts (except for some of the letters of Paul) and the surviving 'first copies' of the original manuscripts are in Greek. When we begin to examine the gospel writings, we see similarities indicating the 'borrowing' of sections of text from an earlier gospel and used in another later gospel, a shift in themes from the immediate coming of God's Kingdom to one of a future coming of an unknown time, a change in story lines to give Jesus a connection to Old Testament prophesy concerning the coming of the Messiah, etc. Personally, I feel the gospel writings in the New Testament are human constructions used initially to continue the early Christian church after Jesus' execution and then went on to become mythology.

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