By way of explanation and justification, the Seminar scholars provide more than three dozen “rules of written evidence”^15 and often report that various sayings of Jesus are editorial summations. To be fair, we should not require that they always provide reasons for their comments. But the fact is they seldom attempt to provide reasonsin order to justify their opinions. Rarely is there an attempt to verify their rules, except to say that certain things are accepted by scholars. Throughout, like Bultmann, their theological method is assumed and their conjectures can be thoughtfully challenged throughout. In short, we might say that these scholars exhibit a flare for the a priori.
For example, we are regularly told that since a certain passage fits the particular writer’s motif, this indicates that the saying was not uttered by Jesus.^16 But how do we know this to be the case? Does the presence of a certain theme requirethat it did not originate with Jesus? Does not the critical method itself indicate that the writer may have presented the message, perhaps in his own style and words, precisely becauseit was the teaching of Jesus? We are certainly not required to imitate the Seminar leap from authorial motif to the subsequent invention of the message!
Another point of logic concerns the Seminar’s commission of the genetic fallacy, which occurs when one challenges the origin of an idea without actually addressing its facticity. In other words, if it is thought that merely attributing a Gospel report to the author’s style, or to other ancient parallels, or to a pre-modern mindset thereby explains it away, this is a logical mistake.^17 These charges do not preclude historicity.
However, it is noteworthy that the Seminar scholars are not unanimous in their dismissal of the supernatural. While Crossan rejects the existence of demons,^18
13 John Macquarrie, An Existentialist Theology, pp. 185–186.
14 Bultmann, “New Testament and Mythology,” p. 42.
15 Funk, Hoover, and the Jesus Seminar, Five Gospels, pp. 19–35.
16 Some instances are found in Ibid., pp. 199–200, 270, 399–400, 439, 468–469.
17 After his above comment concerning “fundamentalist naivete,” Fossum explains that “raising the dead was not considered impossible in the ancient world” (p. 50), apparently considering this to be an adequate explanation. But this is an instance of the genetic fallacy. For all we know, every ancient, miraculous report could be true, or some false and others true. This approach fails to disprove the Gospel accounts.
18 Crossan, Jesus: A Revolutionary Biography, p. 85.
Bruce Chilton perceptively observes that although rejecting the existence of demons sounds attractively rational, “it would seem to reduce history to a priorinotions of what is possible.”^19 Again, while Crossan asserts that Jesus never really healed a disease or raised the dead,^20 Marcus Borg is not quite so sure. Much more guardedly, Borg thinks that we do not know whether Jesus resuscitated some who were actually dead.^21
For our purposes, we will conclude at this point that it solves nothing to state one’s views to be correct, regardless how vociferously the claim is made. However helpful it may be to report the conclusions of other scholars, neither does this solve the issue unless one also provides reasons why their views are correct. Additionally, to reject rival positions in an a priorimanner is likewise illegitimate. Both believers and unbelievers could respond this way, revealing why these detrimental attempts need to be avoided. Such approaches are inadequate precisely because they fail to address the data. There is no substitute for a careful investigation of the possibilities. The Death and Burial of Jesus