Let’s stop the assault on the scriptures

Are the four Gospels good enough? It depends on whom you ask.

The Jesus Seminar, a group of New Testament scholars who have been seeking the "authentic Jesus" since 1985 don’t think so. They are calling for the addition of two Gospels and the elimination of numerous writings such as the Pastoral Epistles and the book of Revelation from the New Testament canon. It isn’t simply the canon of Scripture that is under assault here, but the divinity of Jesus Christ and in turn, the very foundation of the Christian faith.

According to the Jesus Seminar, Jesus only said 20 percent of the things attributed to him in the Gospels. Furthermore, there was no virgin birth, no transfiguration, no resurrection, no ascension and never a single miracle. The Jesus of history is not the Jesus of faith found in the Bible, which — not surprisingly — the seminar denies as being an inspired document.

It may seem inconsequential that a marginal, liberal group in the corner of the world purports this heresy, but the truth is that most movements start small and then, when nobody is watching, take on a life of their own.

"Under the guise of ‘scholarship,’ they are attacking the heart of Christian faith," history Professor Alberto Ferreiro said about the Jesus Seminar, "most especially the historicity of the Gospels by dismissing them as mythology."

Should Christians be concerned about this assault on the Bible? Yes. But more than that, Christians should be prepared to defend the authenticity of Scripture, and that requires understanding that the Bible is not an accident.

David Dungan, a University of Tennessee professor and author of "History of the Synoptic Problem," will be giving a lecture at 7 p.m. tomorrow in Demaray Hall 150 on this topic. His lecture is titled "Who Created Our Bible and How Accurate Is It?"

"Dungan’s work is good because he investigates how political and social factors have historically influenced the interpretations of New Testament scholars," history Professor Michael Hamilton said.

Dungan, who has studied the question of the origins of the Gospels and their relation to each other and the Apostle Paul, will speak to the implications of biblical criticisms that have emerged in recent years from groups like the Jesus Seminar.

"These groups have much greater influence than people are willing to admit," Dr. Ferreiro said. "The discussion of alleged New Testament ‘mythology’ started as a minority opinion and has become a view held by the majority."

The Jesus Seminar still receives a lot of media attention; therefore, its influences are still present. Jesus Seminar perspectives dominate television history programs that promote the ‘mythological’ view of the Bible as fact.

"Our culture, it seems, likes a dumbed-down Jesus," Dr. Ferriero said. And a dumbed-down Jesus is exactly what the media portrays when it takes away his divinity, his miracles, his teaching and his purpose.

The notion that the Gospels are mythological, that supernatural occurrences are automatically pious legend, might have started as a purely scholarly discussion, but has since taken on a life of its own. Mainline seminaries and divinity schools are ripe with professors who purport the Bible as legend and seek to "enlighten" students with their mythological views of Scripture. The erosion of Christian faith then trickles down from seminaries, to pulpits and finally to the people who absorb these ideas.

If the Gospels are mythological, if the Jesus of history is not the Jesus of faith, if the claims in the Bible about Christ’s divinity, purpose and ultimate sacrifice are nothing but pious legend, then what is the point of Christianity? What is the point of going to church on Sunday? If it’s all just a story, then what is the difference between "The Fellowship of the Ring" and the Gospel of Mark? Is there one? Not really.

It is important for Christians to defend the faith from the assault on the canon of Scripture. Furthermore, it is important for Christians to recognize the danger of the ideas circulating in the arena of New Testament scholarship. It is important to see the danger of separating the person of Christ from the Christ of faith. It is important, if not imperative, to have confidence in the Bible — both in its origins and its accuracy — so that faith is not compromised in the face of modern day scholarship.

Part of being confident is being prepared and knowing the arguments against Christian faith. That way the truth can be defended.

Many modern thinkers dislike tradition. It is the legacy of the Enlightenment that tradition is suspect, Dr. Hamilton said. But aren’t there some traditions, like the Bible, that are too important to remain suspect?

The "scholarship" of the Jesus Seminar and groups like it represents a threat to the Christian faith. As Christians, we can defend the faith and Scripture by investigating for ourselves the Bible’s origins and accuracy and understanding the implications of the ideas circulating in New Testament scholarship. David Dungan’s lecture is one place to start.

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Title: Let’s stop the assault on the scriptures | Author: Sheryl Mahaffey | Section: Opinions | Published Date: 2004-04-28 | Internal ID: 3944