There are few people who are interested in the Bible and have not heard of the Jesus Seminar. This group of hypercritical New Testament scholars has been featured on the pages 0f various news magazines and in numerous television shows. They are probably best known for their use of colored beads to determine whether or not a saying of Jesus in the Gospels is authentic or not.
Red beads – indicated the voter believed Jesus did say the passage quoted, or something very much like the passage.
Pink beads – indicated the voter believed Jesus probably said something like the passage.
Grey beads – indicated the voter believed Jesus did not say the passage, but it contains Jesus' ideas.
Black beads – indicated the voter believed Jesus did not say the passage—it comes from later admirers or a different tradition.
These folks have generated a lot of controversy over the years. But whether you agree with them or not, they have done a lot for elevating biblical scholarship in society. Although I do not subscribe to their methodology and sometimes groan at their conclusions, these people do play an important part in the give and take of New Testament interpretation. They make us frustrated, mad and sometimes make us want to shout at the TV. But they also make us think! Without people provoking us, prodding us, and challenging us the field of biblical studies would be pretty boring and there would be little impetus for us to look at things from different angles and with new methodologies.
So as the seminar celebrates 25 years let’s hear it for critical scholarship and the way it makes us better interpreters of the Bible.