The attitude of the Jesus Seminar towards science and the supernatural is reminiscent of a famous comment made by Rudolf Bultmann decades ago: “It is impossible to use electric light and the wireless and to avail ourselves of modern medical and surgical discoveries, and at the same time to believe in the New Testament world of spirits and miracles.”^6 Applying his conclusion to Jesus’ resurrection, Bultmann asks later: “But what of the resurrection? Is it not a mythical event pure and simple? Obviously it is not an event of past history . . . .”^7
Some members of the Jesus Seminar, following other more radical scholars, appear to echo views like those of Bultmann. Regarding Jesus’ miracles, Seminar Co-Founder John Dominic Crossan asserts that Jesus “did not and could not cure that disease or any other one . . . .”^8 He continues later: “I do not think that anyone, anywhere, at any time brings dead people back to life.”^9 Jarl Fossum comments on the same subject, including a derisive jab at conservatives: “Or it can be asserted that Jesus really did raise the girl from the dead—which would only reflect fundamentalist naivete.”^10
Like Bultmann, the Jesus Seminar extends this same sort of criticism to Jesus’ resurrection. They assert: “Whenever scholars detect detailed knowledge of postmortem events in sayings and parables attributed to Jesus, they are inclined to the view that the formulation of such sayings took place after the fact.”^11 But it appears from their work that they have more than a mere “inclination” to rule out any post-death details from Jesus’ life. In fact, they rule out every saying from the resurrection narratives. Later they provide insight into their thinking: “By definition, words ascribed to Jesus after his death are not subject to historical verification.”^12
1. A priorirejection of miracles
One characteristic of Bultmann’s rejection of the supernatural is that he failed to provide any actual reasons for his rejection; he simply assumed that such things do not happen. We have already seen in an earlier chapter how John Macquarrie, a leading commentator, specifically chides Bultmann for rejecting the resurrection due to “an entirely arbitrary dismissal . . . because of some prior assumption in his mind.” Macquarrie then adds that “Bultmann does not take the trouble to examine
5 Ibid., p. 5.
6 Rudolf Bultmann, “New Testament and Mythology,” p. 5.
7 Ibid., p. 38.
8 John Dominic Crossan, Jesus: A Revolutionary Biography, p. 82.
9 Ibid., p. 95.
10 Jarl Fossum, “Understanding Jesus’ Miracles,” Bible Review, Vol. X, No. 2 (April 1994), p. 50. It should be noted that Fossum is notlisted as a Fellow of the Jesus Seminar.
11 Funk, Hoover, and the Jesus Seminar, Five Gospels, p. 25.
12 Ibid., p. 398.
what evidence could be adduced to show that the resurrection was an objective-historical event. He assumes that it is a myth.”^13
Bultmann’s rejection of the resurrection really does appear to be arbitrary and a priori. He does not even think that we should be interested in the historical question at all.^14 Interestingly, the Jesus Seminar takes a similar route. We have already noted that they are honest enough to state at the outset their aversion to the supernatural, including the deity and resurrection of Jesus, preferring to think that the modern scientific worldview simply rules out such matters.