What Are The Odds?

The Jesus Seminar’s Quest for Objectivity

in Journal for the Study of the Historical Jesus
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In 1985 a group of New Testament scholars, who came to be known as the Jesus Seminar, gathered to vote on the authenticity of the sayings of Jesus. Although the Seminar argued that it followed objective rules of evidence, critics have claimed that it did not. This paper investigates these claims using statistical models to evaluate the Seminar’s own voting records. It finds that although the Seminar’s Fellows did follow widely accepted criteria, they were also influenced by their own assumptions about who Jesus was. In particular, they appear to have assumed that Jesus was a non-apocalyptic enfant terrible who spoke in aphorisms and parables and occasionally uttered things that later embarrassed the early Church.

What Are The Odds?

The Jesus Seminar’s Quest for Objectivity

in Journal for the Study of the Historical Jesus

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References

2

WheelanNaked Statistics p. xv.

3

WheelanNaked Statistics pp. 1 2.

4

Nate SilverThe Signal and the Noise: Why Most Predictions Fail but Some Don’t (New York: The Penguin Press2012).

10

Funk and HooverThe Five Gospels p. 36.

11

Funk and HooverThe Five Gospels pp. 36–37; Also see Marcus J. Borg Jesus in Contemporary Scholarship (Valley Forge pa: Trinity Press International 1994) p. 162.

12

 See for example Jesus Seminar‘Voting Records: Sorted by Weighted Average’Forum6 (1990) 139–91.

13

Robert J. MillerThe Jesus Seminar and Its Critics (Santa Rosa: Polebridge Press1999) pp. 52–53.

15

Funk and HooverThe Five Gospels pp. 16–34.

17

Funk and HooverThe Five Gospels p. 31.

26

Funk and HooverThe Five Gospels pp. 54–55.

30

Funk and HooverThe Five Gospels p. 5.

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