Tuesday, August 7, 2007

My questions about The Jesus Project

Mark Goodacre has made an interesting post regarding The Jesus Project, followed quickly by a second post. The second post mentions Robert Price's opinion about The Jesus Project. Robert, also a Fellow, seems to think (as I suspected) that the Fellows list came from the Scripture and Skepticism conference list (those who attended or had planned to attend).

I don't think that The Project is "shut down," an opinion that is now circulating on the blogs. The Jesus Project website says that an UPDATE is in progress.

I continue to encourage the wait-and-see attitude, and I will continue to post information as it comes my way. I will continue to worry about methodology and reserve the decision about my involvement until later when I know more.

These are the concerns that I would like answers to before getting involved in The Jesus Project. I offer them not as criticism of The Jesus Project, but as serious reflections on it.
  • What is the actual question of The Project? Did Jesus exist? What do the earliest materials tell us about Jesus? or something else?
  • How will the question be approached in terms of methodology and division of literature-material remains? The scientific approach (which CSER lays claim to) isn't going to tell us much. If that is the approach, we could probably be done with The Project in a couple of hours.
  • In what way is The Jesus Project to be differentiated from the Jesus Seminar?
  • What will happen when different scholars come to different conclusions or solutions? How do you maintain a group project when all scholars have individual agendas that they want to protect?
  • How and when are the "findings" going to be disseminated?
  • How are apologetics (either theological or anti-theological) going to be kept from coloring the picture?
  • How is the group going to ensure that it doesn't just deconstruct the traditions, so that we learn nothing from The Project except that there is nothing we can know for certain about Jesus?
  • How will the group make sure that they aren't creating Jesus in their image?


Timothy Goering said...

Thanks for the post! I have been asking myself exactly the same questions. I think the question, how the Jesus Project relates to the (in)famous Jesus Seminar is pivotal and could reveal the most vital information.
Looking forward to hearing more about what you have to say about it.

Anathema said...

All good points and I look forward to seeing how they will be answered at the first meeting in December. I'm also one of the 'wait and see' people.

All the best,

Justin Meggitt

Geoff Hudson said...

I think all attempts to discover the 'historical prophet' are doomed to failure in the present academic climate.

Robert M. Price said...

April's questions are good. To see if my answers are, take a look at: http://www.robertmprice.mindvendor.com/proceed.htm

John Shuck said...


I am amused by your last question, which I think you might have meant to be amusing:

"How will the group make sure that they aren't creating Jesus in their image?"

They will not of course, because we cannot remove ourselves. That is the beauty of religious texts, is it not?

I am thinking of Walter Wink, a former member of the Jesus Seminar, who went his own way. In his book, The Human Being, he wrote something that I found quite provocative.

To paraphrase, he said the the past 300 year quest for the historical Jesus was really a quest for the myth of the human Jesus, even though the questers did not admit that.

As you know, I appreciate your work!

John Shuck said...

As soon as I commented, I saw Robert Price! My hero! Hey Dr. Price, you gotta get into the bloggin' thing! Not for me to tell you what to do, but I would love to read your stuff on-line!