Beliefnet
Q1. Submitted by Phil Baer and others:

Could you comment on the Jesus Seminar, and the scholarly merits of its work? Also, what did you think of the program "Searching for Jesus?" They sure did not believe in the eyewitness accounts of Matthew, Mark, and Luke, did they?


While it it is certainly true that the works of members of the Jesus Seminar need to be taken seriously and evaluated on a case-by-case basis, the historical claims made particularly by John Dominic Crossan and by Robert Funk do not represent a majority of New Testament scholars, but rather could be characterized as the opinions of a few of the most radical North American scholars. Please see my "The Jesus Quest" (Inter Varsity Press) for a full response to both these scholars and to Marcus Borg as well.

I found the show quite unbalanced in the scope of scholarly opinion represented on the program. Only N.T. Wright could even remotely be considered a conservative scholar from among those interviewed, and the bulk of the airtime was given to the more radical scholarly opinions of people like Crossan and Funk, and to the eccentric views of Murphy-O'Connor and Borg. These opinions do not adequately represent most New Testament scholars' views.

Q2. Submitted by steven:

Could you provide contemporary, documented evidence as to how the apostles died?

If by contemporary evidence one means evidence from those who lived in the 60s C.E. and witnessed Peter and Paul (and other apostles) die, there is no such extra-biblical evidence really, unless one counts Josephus' reference to the death of James the Just. However, it would appear that the author of Luke-Acts (probably a younger contemporary and sometime companion of Paul), writing in the 70s or 80s, did indeed know what happened to Paul (cf. Acts 27:23-24). As a Roman citizen, Paul would have been executed by beheading, not by crucifixion, which is also what later Christian tradition affirms. It is also possible that there is an allusion to the means of Peter's death in John 21:18.

Q3. Submitted by anonymous:

How does the Gospel of Thomas fit in with the historical evidence of Jesus and his teachings?

The Gospel of Thomas seems to have been written in the early second century C.E. It represents an esoteric approach to the Jesus tradition, an approach influenced by Gnostic theology. It may include one or two genuine Jesus sayings not found in the canonical Gospels and one or two earlier versions of sayings found in the canon, but on the whole it is not much use in reconstructing what the historical Jesus said or did.

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