Shuck and Jive

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Jesus Seminar in the Tri-Cities, October 21-22

We are thrilled to host our fourth Jesus Seminar on the Road, October 21st and 22nd. If you are anywhere close I hope you will attend and encourage others. The theme is Jesus in the First and Twenty-first Centuries.

Robert J. Miller and Jarmo Tarkki will be coming to East Tennessee.

Here are the blurbs about the lecture and workshops:

Friday, 7:30–9 P.M.

The Search for the Historical Jesus

The gospels portray Jesus as the Messiah and divine savior. Within the gospels, however, we can glimpse another Jesus, the Jewish teacher and healer with a radical vision of the kingdom of God. The search for the historical Jesus examines the gospels in order to discover who Jesus was before he became the object of Christian belief.

Saturday, 9:30–Noon

The Jesus of the First Century

What do we know about the historical Jesus? This workshop will examine selected sayings of Jesus, showing why scholars consider them authentic and suggesting surprising ways they might have been understood. In the process, they will introduce participants to the methods of modern scholarship used to distinguish the words of the historical Jesus from those later attributed to him.

Saturday, 1:30–4 P.M.

The Jesus of the Twenty-first Century

What does the rediscovery of the historical Jesus mean for the heirs of the Christian tradition? Does this Jesus have any relevance for contemporary culture and for people who claim no allegiance to Christianity? The presenters offer their insights and engage participants in a discussion about the relation of the historical Jesus to these questions.
There is a great deal of misconception about the Jesus Seminar, its methods, conclusions, and what it accomplished. Some of the criticism directed toward them instead should be leveled at the entire project of higher criticism (not just the Jesus Seminar). They didn't invent "Q" for instance, or the study of history, or the various forms of biblical criticism. They did, however, do much in bringing this criticism to the public arena.

That does not mean that all of the conclusions of the Jesus Seminar are held by all scholars. I would love to witness a civil yet spirited debate between Bart Ehrman and Robert J. Miller on whether or not Jesus was apocalyptic.

I would like to see Luke Timothy Johnson and Bernard Brandon Scott kick it back and forth regarding the meaning(s) of the resurrection of Jesus.

From another end, it would be fun to have Robert Miller and Robert Price debate whether or not Jesus even existed.

I have used the book by NT Wright and Marcus Borg,
The Meaning of Jesus: Two Visions, in adult studies so that folks can see what is at stake for each of those scholars.

All that said, much of the criticism against the Jesus Seminar has been misplaced. The real scandal of the Jesus Seminar is that they wrote and published their materials for the non-specialist in mind. In so doing, they let the cat out of the bag. Those who wanted the Bible, Jesus, and their faith to be "just so" were scratched.

An excellent book that I encourage all to read is
The Jesus Seminar and Its Critics, by Robert J. Miller.

We have it in our library and will have copies for sale at the JSOR in October. You will get even more out of the JSOR if you are familiar with this book and the issues it raises.

From Harold Attridge of Yale about the book:

"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."

Before reading the book, you might read a paper Miller submitted to the SBL in 1996 with the same title.

This is going to be a great weekend!


I hope so!

Register on-line or contact me.

I can give you information about lodging as well.


  1. I likely won't drive down I-81 this time, but one of these days . . .

    However, I can't praise the Jesus Seminar on the Road program enough.

    For a really interesting read on the Apocalyptic Jesus debate, read "The Apocalyptic Jesus, A Debate" edited by Robert J. Miller, and featuring Dale C. Allison, Marcus J. Borg, John Dominic Crossan, and Stephen J. Patterson. Available from Polebridge Press.

    Finally -- shameless self promotion alert -- I have a piece coming in the October-November 4th R, rebutting a paper on Paul and Communion.

    And, I'm attending the Fall Meeting of the Westar Institute (Jesus Seminar) in Berkeley, November 17-20. You can still sign up at, and Southwest Airlines still has special fares available.

  2. I am going to miss the Fall gathering this year. I am interested in hearing your report and reading the 4th R article! Good for you! Thanks for the tip about the Apocalyptic debate. I have that book. Perhaps a good time to review it.

  3. I'll report back for sure.

    It seems to me that it's normal for humans to be apocalyptic. . . we are the only beings (that we know of) who are aware of the length and meaning of our lives -- unlike the Redwoods and the sea turtles. Looking at an ending that may or may not be peaceful, and at the consequences of our corporate actions, lend a lot of weight to ideas about end times, etc.

    Whether Jesus subscribed to the Daniel hypothesis may not be the question. The question may instead be, was he the judgmental Jesus, or was that judgmentalism created by the gospel writers?

    Interesting debate.