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Historical Jesus Theories: Robert Funk

The purpose of this web page is to explain and explore some of the theories offered up by contemporary scholars on the historical Jesus and the origins of the Christian religion. Issues include the nature of the historical Jesus, the nature of the early Christian documents, and the origins of the Christian faith in a risen Jesus Christ.

Robert Funk

The Five Gospels:  Buy at! Robert Funk is founder of the Jesus Seminar, a group of scholars whose purpose was to examine the historicity of the sayings and deeds of Jesus. The reports of their deliberations are available in The Five Gospels and in The Acts of Jesus. The premises and rules of evidence are available in the link above, and some of the deliberations in favor of authenticity are also linked above.

One claim of the Jesus Seminar is that the historical Jesus was not apocalyptic: "The views of John the Baptist and Paul are apocalyptically oriented. The early church aside from Paul shares Paul's view. The only question is whether the set of texts that represent God's rule as present were obfuscated by the pessimistic apocalyptic notions of Jesus' immediate predecessors, contemporaries, and successors. If Jesus merely adopted the popular views, how did sayings such as Luke 17:20-21 and Luke 11:20 arise? The best explanation is that they originated with Jesus, since they go against the dominant trend of the unfolding tradition. Fellows of the Jesus Seminar are convinced that the subtlety of Jesus' sense of time - the simultaneity of present and future - was almost lost on his followers, many of whom, after all, started as disciples of John the Baptist, and are represented, in the gospels, as understanding Jesus poorly." (The Five Gospels, p. 137) The Fellows also note that most of the parables do not evince an apocalyptic view of the kingdom.

Honest to Jesus:  Buy at! Although Robert Funk does so in Honest to Jesus, the Jesus Seminar did not attempt to make a sketch of the historical Jesus on the basis of their decisions on individual sayings. Yet a distinctive portrait does emerge from the data, as indicated for example in the comments on Lk 12:22-31: "In these sayings, Jesus depicts the providence of God who cares for all creatures - birds, lilies, grass, and human beings. Fretting about food and clothing does not produce food and clothing. Serene confidence that God will provide undergirds Jesus' lifestyle as an itinerant, without home or bed, without knowing where the next meal will come from. This is the same sage who advocates giving both of one's everyday garments to someone who sues for one; who advises his followers to give to every beggar and to lend to those who cannot repay; who humorously suggests that a rich person can no more get into God's domain than a camel can squeeze through the eye of a needle; who sends his disciples out on the road without money, food, change of clothes, or bag to carry them in; who claims that God observes every sparrow and counts the hairs on every head. This bundle of sayings, all of which commanded red or pink designations by the Fellows of the Jesus Seminar, indicate why they also believe the heart of this collection on anxieties originated with Jesus, although not precisely in the words preserved for us in Q. When these sayings are taken together, a portrait of the historical Jesus begins to emerge." (op. cit., p. 340)

Please enjoy exploring the varied Historical Jesus Theories offered by these authors through the links below.

Jesus the Myth: Heavenly Christ

Jesus the Myth: Man of the Indefinite Past

Jesus the Hellenistic Hero

Jesus the Revolutionary

Jesus the Wisdom Sage

Jesus the Man of the Spirit

Jesus the Prophet of Social Change

Jesus the Apocalyptic Prophet

Jesus the Savior

For more information on the debate over the historical Jesus, visit the Christian Origins web site.

Go to the Chronological List of all Early Christian Writings

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Early Christian Writings is copyright © Peter Kirby <E-Mail>.

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Kirby, Peter. "Historical Jesus Theories." Early Christian Writings. <>.