On the Lunatic Fringe
By Jack Kinsella
The other day, I caught another rerun of the National Geographic special, “Doomsday – the Book of Revelation” produced by Morningstar Productions and broadcast on the National Geographic Channel.
I was hesitant to participate in the program when invited, but decided to go ahead after many assurances that the purpose of the program was to take a serious look at the prophecies of the apocalypse and not to present believers as members of the lunatic fringe of Christianity.
Instead, the program was divided between ‘serious scholars’ and ‘believers’ who, of course, were portrayed as being on the lunatic fringe of Christianity.
The ‘scholars’ chosen to exegete the last Book of the Christian New Testament included a Jewish rabbi and a Jesuit, whose role was to explain where the lunatic fringe believers (like me) had gone wrong in their understanding of Scripture.
Debunking the Gospels has been elevated to an art form in this generation — particularly when it comes to those parts of the Gospel that deal with eschatology (the study of the last days.)
The “Jesus Seminar” came into being in 1985 for the express purpose of “demythologizing” the Scriptures, especially the wave of apocalyptic preachers who had begun building on the work of my friend Hal Lindsey’s “Late Great Planet Earth.”
Hal was among the first to popularize the fact that the prophecies of Scripture for the last days had started to fall into place, beginning with the restoration of Israel to her ancestral homeland in 1948 as predicted by the Hebrew prophets of antiquity.
Hal was by no means the first to recognize the significance of the existence of a Jewish state called “Israel” as a harbinger of the last days. Matthew Henry’s “Exposition of the Old and New Testaments” (published in 1710) addressed Israel’s restoration as the key to unlocking the prophecies of the last days.
The purpose of the ‘Jesus Seminar’ (according to the seminar’s founder, Robert Funk) is to use ‘historical methods’ to determine what Jesus, as an historical figure, may or may not have said or done.
The group retranslated (actually, they rewrote) the New Testament and then used their own translation as their primary source of reference. The Jesus that emerged from their reconstruction of the Gospels was nothing more than an itinerant rabble rouser. Their Jesus was just a “wise man and a good teacher”. The Resurrection, they concluded, was a myth.
The seminar treats the Gospels as filled with fabrications — especially the Gospel of John. They concluded that the Gospel of Thomas (upon which the “Davinci Codes” was based) was more authentic than the Book of John and that the Gospel of Thomas rightly belongs among the Canon of Scripture.
That single conclusion encapsulates the Jesus Seminar’s incredible arrogance. Irenaeus, (130 – 202) dismissed the Gospel of Thomas as a Gnostic heresy as did virtually all the early Church Fathers — many of whom lived within living memory of the events described in the Gospels.
The Jesus Seminar’s Gospels are not prophetic — and neither is their “Jesus.” According to these alleged scholars, Jesus preached what they call ‘sapiential eschatology’ (repairing the world) rather than the traditionally understood ‘apocalyptic eschatology’ (the end of the world).
Therefore, they dismiss the Olivet Discourse (What will be the sign of Thy coming and of the end of the world? -Matthew 24, Mark 13 Luke 21) as a pack of lies.
Indeed, according to the Jesus Seminar, of all the sayings of Jesus, only fifteen quotes attributed to Jesus were”authentic” and other fifteen were “probably authentic.” They conclude that the remaining 82% of the Gospels were complete fabrications.
The Jesus Seminar concluded that the only part of the Lord’s Prayer that was actually uttered by Jesus were the words, “Our Father.” (I kid you not)
Among their other conclusions were:
Jesus was born during the reign of Herod the Great, but He had a human father whose name may or may not have been Joseph.
Jesus was not born in Bethlehem, but in Nazareth.
Jesus was an itinerant “sage” Who shared meals with social outcasts.
Those who were healed by Jesus were suffering from psychosomatic illnesses.
He neither walked on water, fed the multitudes with five loaves and seven fishes, changed water into wine at Cana nor raised Lazurus from the dead.
Jesus was executed for being a public nuisance, not for claiming to be the Son of God.
Jesus was not raised from the dead, and the empty tomb was a fiction perpetrated by Paul, Peter and Mary, all of whom were suffering from delusional hysteria.
Of the 74 ‘scholars’ listed in their publication, “The Five Gospels” only 14 could be considered leading figures in New Testament studies.
Almost half got their degrees from the same three liberal universities, Harvard, Claremont or Vanderbilt. The majority teach at such bastions of higher education as local community colleges.
Among the “scholars” are Catholics, Jews, mainstream Protestants, admitted atheists, various professors at universities and seminaries, one pastor, three members of the Westar Institute in California which sponsored the project, one filmmaker, and three others whose current occupations are entirely unidentified.
Noted William Lane Craig in his paper, “Rediscovering the Historical Jesus: Presuppositions and Pretensions of the Jesus Seminar:
“The real, historical Jesus turns out to have been a sort of itinerant, social critic, the Jewish equivalent of a Greek cynic philosopher. He never claimed to be the Son of God or to forgive sins or to inaugurate a new covenant between God and man. His crucifixion was an accident of history; his corpse was probably thrown into a shallow dirt grave where it rotted away or was eaten by wild dogs.
Now if these conclusions are correct, we who are Christians today are the victims of a massive delusion. To continue to worship Jesus today in light of these conclusions would be either idolatry or mythology––idolatry if you worship the merely human figure who actually lived, mythology if you worship the figment of the Church’s imagination.”
It is no accident of history that the Jesus Seminar came into being in this generation. When Jesus was asked to outline the signs of His soon return, the first thing He said was, “Take heed that no man deceive you.” (Matthew 24:4)
He warned; “And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many.” (Matthew 24:11)
The Apostle Peter warned; “Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, And saying, Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation.” (2nd Peter 3:3-4)
Peter called such ‘willfully ignorant’ — which is a pretty good description of the so-called ‘scholars’ of the Jesus Seminar.
I have always found it fascinating that so many have invested so much effort in ‘proving’ the Gospels are fiction and that Jesus was just a wise man and a good teacher.
As we’ve discussed on many occasions, Jesus claimed to be the Son of God sent to redeem the world from its sins and to restore fellowship between God and man.
If it were not true, He could not have been a “good teacher.” Good teachers do not teach lies. Neither could He have been very wise. Wise men don’t go to their deaths for a lie.
If Jesus was not the former, He could not logically have been the latter, either.
We have people who claim to be the Son of God in our world today. You can usually find them in nice, clean rooms, dressed all in white and playing Scrabble with the guys who claim they are Napoleon, not universally acclaimed by their critics as wise men and good teachers.
All of the Apostles (except John) were put to death for refusing to recant their testimony of Jesus Christ, His Deity, His Resurrection and His miracles.
(The Apostle John was boiled in oil but was miraculously delivered from death. Unable to kill him, the Emperor Domitian ordered his banishment to the Isle of Patmos.)
Matthew was run through by a sword in Ethiopia. Mark was dragged to death by horses in Egypt. Luke was hanged in Greece.
Peter was crucified upside-down. James, the brother of Jesus, was thrown from the pinnacle of the Temple. (James survived the 100 foot plunge and was finished off by beaten to death with a fuller’s club)
James, son of Zebedee was beheaded in Jerusalem. Bartholomew was whipped to death in Armenia. Thomas was speared to death in India. Jude was killed by archers.
Mathias, chosen by lot to replace Judas Iscariot, was both stoned and beheaded. Paul was beheaded in Rome on orders from Nero.
Every single one of the Apostles were ostracized by their families and friends for their witness of Jesus Christ. They lived as homeless beggars, were beaten and imprisoned on a regular basis, and each could chosen to recant their witness to save their own lives.
What else would motivate them to live the lives that they did and willingly embrace the deaths that they suffered? (Every single one of them — without exception?)
The Jesus Seminar has yet to offer an alternative explanation apart from mass hysteria. Instead, they simply argue that it never happened.
It is easy for me to understand why Christians want to preach the Gospel to the lost. The Gospels offer hope. They extend the promise of eternal life and reconciliation with God. The Gospel message answers the age-old question, “What is the meaning of life?”
What I cannot understand, in the natural, is the zeal with which atheists, agnostics and “scholars” like the Jesus Seminar preach their empty message.
The message they carry is utterly empty. The meaning of life remains an unanswered and unanswerable question. It offers no hope of redemption, holds out no promise of eternal life, and provides no incentive for doing good.
All that life offers is a cold grave at the end of a miserable and painful existence. If they are right, why should they care if others believe in an eternal existence in either heaven or hell? It isn’t any more real than believing in the Tooth Fairy or Santa Claus.
Why expend so much effort to proclaim a gospel of misery? It makes no sense whatever.
There is only one context in which such devotion to emptiness makes sense. If God exists, so does Satan. As God is the embodiment of love, so too, is Satan is the embodiment of hatred.
The Bible says that Satan’s hatred of mankind is so intense that he will expend any effort to ensure that man eventually joins him in hell.
C.S. Lewis once remarked that Satan’s most effective tool is the belief that he doesn’t exist.
The most effective way to ensure he will have plenty of company in his eternal place of torment is to convince man that there is nothing beyond the grave to either aspire towards or fear. Which is precisely the ‘gospel’ advanced by the Jesus Seminar.
Logically speaking, there can be only one answer that explains such dedication to debunking the Gospels as myths and portraying Jesus as just another historical nut case.
Because Jesus was EXACTLY Whom the Gospels portray Him to be; the Son of God, sent to make atonement for the sins of the world.
No other answer passes the logic test.
This Letter was written by Jack Kinsella on February 14, 2007.