Posted by: smstrouse | March 15, 2013

Revelations from the Jesus Seminar

I have been a fan of the Jesus Seminar for many years. That makes me suspect in the eyes of many other Christians, including some of my own tradition.  I am, at best, a poor scholar and at worst, a heretic (by the way, I’m much more agreeable to being called a heretic than a poor scholar). I have great respect for the scholarship of those who have contributed and those who continue to contribute to the unfolding story of Christianity. Which is why I’m at the Spring Meeting of the Westar Institute in Santa Rosa: “Home of the Jesus Seminar.”

Elaine Pagels was the big draw this year, speaking and answering questions about her latest book, Revelations: Visions, Prophecy, and Politics in the Book of Revelation. Note that the title is Revelation(s) on purpose (how many years have I been ranting about the correct name of the final book of the New Testament?!); Pagel’s point is that there were more revelations than the only one that made it into the canon. Not unexpected from the author who brought us The Gnostic Gospels and Beyond Belief: the Secret Gospel of Thomas.  And really good stuff!  Pagels is a brilliant scholar and engaging speaker.

Other good stuff was “The Underground Church: Reclaiming the Subversive Way of Jesus” and “Mary Magdalene Leads the Way.”

But what turned out to be the best ‘revelation’ of the event is the launch of a new initiative: the Christianity Seminar.

Why a Christianity seminar?  According to the Westar web site (http://www.westarinstitute.org):
“The Jesus Seminar uncovered the historical figure of Jesus behind the New Testament gospels. The next challenge is to uncover the history of Christianity behind the New Testament. The Christianity Seminar will take the next step to reimagine how the movement that began around Jesus eventually became Christian orthodoxy and the official religion of the Roman Empire.”

This is exciting to me and I’ll wait expectantly for the studies, controversies, arguments, and maybe (gasp!) heresies that will be forthcoming. What will this mean to the local congregation?  I hope that it will be part of our ongoing discussions about what it means to be a Christian today.

Right now, I’m listening to a forum discussing the possibility of a God Seminar, which would include theologians and scientists, along with the biblical scholars.  Whoa! More good stuff!  I can’t wait until next year’s Spring Meeting!

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