Subject: Group concludes: Jesus didn't say it Keywords: organized religion, religion, life

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Subject: Group concludes: Jesus didn't say it Keywords: organized religion, religion, lifestyle trends, trends, misc social issues, social issues Date: 4 Mar 91 18:41:20 GMT LOS ANGELES (UPI) -- A controversial group of bibilical scholars has concluded six years of voting by ruling that about 80 percent of the words attributed in the Gospels to Jesus were probably made up by later authors. The picture of Jesus that emerges from the meeting that concluded Sunday in Sonoma, Calif., is one of a prophet-sage who told parables and made pithy comments, but never spoke many of the words that have, in modern times, become pulpit favorites. Virtually all of Jesus' words in the Gospel of John were voted down by the Jesus Seminar, a 200-member group of mainline biblical scholars from around the country who came together, in part, to counteract literalist views of the Bible. The group has stirred controversy since its first meetings in 1985, when scholars participating in the group voted down the apocalyptic voice of Jesus when he is quoted as saying he will return one day to a world filled with turmoil. Scholars felt that the doomsaying words were put on the lips of Jesus to bolster hopes of gospel writers about 30 to 60 years after his lifetime. Robert Funk, founder of the Jesus Seminar, acknowleged in an interview with the Los Angeles Times that his group has critics. ``Televangelists on talk shows say it's the work of the devil,'' Funk said. Many academic colleagues have criticized, among other things, the seminar's unconventional voting techniques. Scholars drop red and pink beads into a ballot box for probable or possible authentic sayings. Gray and black beads are used for sayings that allegedly reveal the theological bias of the gospel authors or the beliefs of beleagured early Christians, but not necessarily the messages of the historical Jesus. The only saying in John that received a pink vote was one (4:44) that has parallels in other gospels -- that a prophet has no honor in his own country. The group black-beaded parts of John that include 3:16: ``For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life,'' and 14:6: ``I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.'' In John, Jesus says, ``I am the good shepherd ... I am the light of the world ... I am the bread of life.'' That, Robert Fortna of Vassar College said, ``is mostly the work of the author.'' Jesus rarely refers to himself in the other gospels. Because the Gospel of John is a favorite source in sermons, Fortna said the Jesus Seminar results ``will be startling to most people and deeply offensive to many, not just fundamentalists.''

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