The Jesus Seminar and the Gospel of Thomas

by Dr. James White

“Simon Peter said to them, “Make Mary leave us, for females don’t deserve life.” Jesus said, “Look, I will guide her to make her male, so that she too may become a living spirit resembling you males. For every female who makes herself male will enter the domain of Heaven.”1

A glance at the ancient text reproduced above immediately tells the reader that the author knew little, if anything, of biblical teaching concerning the roles of men and women, and of the fact that both men and women were created in the image of God. Such false teaching comes plainly from Gnostic sources that vilified the body and exalted the spirit, and in the process often denigrated the feminine and exalted the masculine. The early church struggled long and hard against Gnosticism, which constantly threatened her. As early as Paul’s epistle to the Colossians, we find a strong warning against “proto–Gnosticism,” telling us that Christ cannot be placed in any position other than that of Creator (Col. 1:15–18; 2:8–9).

Anyone who thinks Gnosticism no longer has proponents should be advised that the truth is just the opposite. In fact, if the self–aggrandizing press releases of the Jesus Seminar are to be believed, the consensus of scholarship now believes that documents thoroughly influenced by Gnosticism, such as the Gospel of Thomas, from which the above citation is taken, are far more reflective of the actual teachings of Jesus Christ than the “canonical Gospels” familiar to most Christians — Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.

The Jesus Seminar is a small group of extremely liberal scholars.2 Yet they seem to have a lock on the major media outlets so that their pronouncements are taken as the final word by major magazines, newspapers, and public broadcasting programs. As a result, headlines proclaiming that scholars have “discovered” that Jesus never said He’d return (so He won’t), and the like, are common fare. What is worse, this kind of material finds its way into the college classroom as the “assured results of critical scholarship,” and young Christians are faced with the specter of this imposing group of Bible scholars condemning their faith in a risen Savior as mere myth.

The leaders of the Jesus Seminar confidently proclaim themselves to be the standard bearers of the scholarly consensus. While they are, in reality, far away from the vast majority of biblical scholars, they vigorously deny their own marginality by proclaiming that everyone else is marginal.
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The Lunatic Fringe of The Jesus Seminar

In the political spectrum, there are folk on the left and the right (and in the middle of course). Then there is the LUNATIC fringe – SO FAR to the left or SO FAR to the right that they are just waaaay ouuuutttt theerrrre in wacko land.

When it comes to experts in the fields of textual criticism, there are liberals on the left and conservatives on the right, and then there is the LUNATIC fringe.

On the right, the lunatic fringe is probably identified by the King James Only advocates who believe God re-inspired the text of the 1611 King James Version of the Bible in English. It is hard, if not impossible to reason with such people, and the miltancy and venom with which they express their misguided views has wrought havoc in local Churches both here in the USA and elsewhere.

The lunatic fringe on the left are the Jesus Seminar people, who are often portrayed as “experts” by the media, while those who know something of the field are stunned that these people are even listened to.

Dr. R. C. Sproul commented, “In my opinion, from an academic since, I believe the Jesus Seminar is a lunatic fringe of scholarship.”

Dr. James White says, “The Jesus Seminar is an organization of ultra left, I’m not talking about liberal scholarship, they are outside the pale of liberal scholarship. They are so far out there that you can’t even get a radar fix on them… they’ve started with their conclusions, and they’re now working on establishing what they started with their conclusions. It’s the exact opposite of meaningful scholarship….”

For more on the Jesus Seminar see this article here by Timothy D. Oliver.