Two professors from the controversial Jesus Seminar - a group of scholars who examine the authenticity of acts and words attributed to Jesus - will present much of their latest work on biblical archeology in Solvang this weekend as part of the “Jesus Seminar on the Road” series. Open to the public, the presentations will focus on debates over what the historical Jesus actually said and did during his life, issues that have been resurrected in popular culture largely because of the success of books like The Da Vinci Code and The Jesus Family Tomb.
Dr. Milton C. Moreland of Rhodes College, one of the event’s two main lecturers, said the seminar is an attempt to present the history of early Christianity in a way that is both scholarly and easy for the average person to understand. “Typically, at the Jesus Seminar, we try to focus on the cutting edge scholarship and not particularly on issues of faith : Though clearly the questions of faith and questions of history sometimes intersect : and that makes for some interesting discussion,” he said.
The talks will take place at Bethania Lutheran Church, 603 Atterdag Rd. in Solvang, and are sponsored by the Westar Institute, a nonprofit founded in 1986 that aims to promote religious literacy. Neither the Westar Institute nor the Jesus Seminar has specific religious affiliations, although the event takes place in a church. The seminar has come under fire from several Christian theologians because, among other concerns, it focuses on Jesus as a historical figure rather than as the Son of God. Religious broadcaster Pat Robertson, in 1991, called the seminar an attempt by participants to “accommodate the Bible to their own unbelief.”
Moreland and Dr. Jonathan L. Reed of the University of La Verne - both of whom come from religious backgrounds - will give three lectures between Friday and Saturday. The talks on Friday at 7:30 p.m. and Saturday at 9:30 a.m. will introduce and analyze new fieldwork that may challenge the way scholars view Jesus’ life and words. Saturday at 1:30 p.m., the professors will examine how Paul and early Christians proliferated the Gospel to cities such as Ephesus and Corinth and use archeological data to map out the socio-political context of those places and times.
Attendance of all three events costs $60. Friday’s talk alone costs $15 and the Saturday lectures are $25 apiece.
For more information, go to this Web site or call (877) 523-3545.