Death of Robert W. Funk, Biblical Scholar & Founder of Jesus Seminar Hot

Death of Robert W. Funk, Biblical Scholar & Founder of Jesus Seminar

Robert W. Funk

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Robert W. Funk, founder of the Jesus Seminar, dies of lung failure at the age of 79. In July he had had surgery to remove a brain tumor.

Robert Funk was a widely respected and cited biblical scholar and chairman of the graduate department of religion at Vanderbilt University.

After his retirement, he founded the Westar Institute in Santa Rosa, California, an organization dedicated to research on religion, and his first project was the Jesus Seminar, a "search for the historical Jesus."

The Jesus Seminar became very controversial over the years, despite the involvement of leading scholars like Marcus Borg, John Dominic Crossan, and Burton Mack. The reason was simple: they called into question many popular beliefs, assumptions, and traditions which Christians had long held about the Bible, the New Testament, the earliest Christian communities, and of course, Jesus.

The Jesus Seminar used a procedure created by Robert Funk for voting on various statements attributed to Jesus: colored beads that signify differing levels of confidence for how likely it is that the saying could have been said by Jesus. This system and its conclusions were rejected by theologically conservative churches, but accepted and even praised by theologically liberal churches.

Karen L. King, a professor of the history of early Christianity at Harvard Divinity School, and a Westar Institute fellow, said:

"The Jesus Seminar really managed to put Jesus scholarship on the national agenda. Bob recognized as we all did that the academy had become isolated from the public, but he made it a priority to communicate biblical scholarship with the public rather than expecting some kind of trickle-down effect through journals or churches."


Funk: Jesus for a New Millennium

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