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What Are The Odds?

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The Jesus Seminar’s Quest for Objectivity

image of Journal for the Study of the Historical Jesus

In 1985 a group of New Testament scholars, who came to be known as the Jesus Seminar, gathered to vote on the authenticity of the sayings of Jesus. Although the Seminar argued that it followed objective rules of evidence, critics have claimed that it did not. This paper investigates these claims using statistical models to evaluate the Seminar’s own voting records. It finds that although the Seminar’s Fellows did follow widely accepted criteria, they were also influenced by their own assumptions about who Jesus was. In particular, they appear to have assumed that Jesus was a non-apocalyptic enfant terrible who spoke in aphorisms and parables and occasionally uttered things that later embarrassed the early Church.

Affiliations: 1: Associate Professor, Defense Analysis Department, Naval Postgraduate School Monterey, ca,


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