The Five Gospels

“There is nothing so vulgar in the human experience for which we can not fly in some professor from somewhere to justify it.” (George Will)

The occasion was the Tonight Show. Jay Leno was filling for Johnny Carson and the late Sam Kinison was center stage delivering a monologue. Kinison, forever the cynic, had set his sights on the latest ironic foible of Music Television, The “Rock Against Drugs” commercial. The thirty-second appeal showcases a famous musician, usually with a notorious background of drug abuse, making a plea for young people not to indulge in illicit drug use. Commenting on the “sincerity” of the campaign Kinison quipped, “Rock against drugs, that would be like – Christians against Christ.” The humor, of course, rests in the absurdity of the proposition; for who could imagine such an inane relationship?

At Christmas, 1993, Macmillan published The Five Gospels: The Search for the Authentic Words of Jesus. The book is the result of the misguided efforts of a group of “scholars” known as the Jesus Seminar. It is the latest attempt of the liberal pseudo-intellectuals to sterilize Scripture and to render the Lord Jesus Christ impotent. One might wonder just how would these learned Titans attempt to breach a wall of evidence that has withstood assault after furious assault for nearly two millennia? Have they devised some shrewd philosophy that will cut into the heart of Christianity, something Nietzsche and Voltaire had missed? No! Have they uncovered some indisputable historical evidence that will prove the Gospels fraudulent and Christ a hoax? No! Having garbed themselves in “Christian” robes, these theological Don Quixotes have come to lay siege to Christianity. In one hand they grip the Gospel of Thomas, a brief text of questionable authenticity, and in the other, a handful of colored marbles.

The Jesus Seminar is a group of Ph.D.s convened by Robert Funk back in 1985. The group met twice a year, (presumably on Mt. Olympus), to examine the sayings of Jesus and jhen vote on their accuracy. Each “scholar” was given four colored marbles, each color representing a different level of reliability. For example, if the text was “really Jesus” the scholar would drop a red marble into a vote box, a pink marble would signify “sounds like Him,” a grey marble would mean “slight chance it is Him” and a black marble – “This is not Jesus.” The book that represents the outcome of this highly advanced survey strategically goes through the Gospel accounts and highlights the Lord’s sayings in corresponding colors. It should be noted that all passages that speak of Jesus having an exalted status (as Messiah, Son of God, light of the world, bread of life, etc.), all passages that speak of Jesus’ dying for the sins of the world, all the second-coming passages, and virtually all of the Gospel of John are printed in black. Curiously, the panel did not include any fundamentalist scholars or anyone with an evangelical background.

The basis of this entire book is the fragmented second-century Coptic text called the Gospel of Thomas. Professor Don Carson of Trinity Evangelical Divinity School put it this way, “The Gospel of Thomas is neither the gospel nor is it by Thomas.” Christian apologist Ravi Zacharias commented, “The methodology they employed is an affront to respectable scholarship. One of the ironies of their argument is that the very assumptions they bring to test the authenticity of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John would utterly destroy the validity of this so-called Gospel of Thomas before doing any damage to the gospels.” Even the liberal scholar Marcus J. Borg admits “…one cannot settle historical questions by voting…What voting can do is measure the degree of scholarly consensus.” To that I would refer Mr. Borg to Lady Margaret Thatcher’s recent remark, “Consensus is the death of leadership” and, in this case, the death of truth as well. An interesting aside to this whole story is that recently Mr. Zacharias, when asked to respond to these writings on CNN, suggested the show also include one of the authors for the discussion. The network representative tried to line it up, but the author refused to even a preliminary discussion on the program saying he would not go on with an “evangelical”—so much for the confidence and integrity of this scholar.

True Christianity must always stand up to heresy, no matter what shape or color it takes on, within or without the body of Christ. It should be remembered that it was not an atheist that came bearing a kiss in the garden of Gethsemane, nor was it pagan Rome that brought about the death of our Lord. The most despicable enemies of the cross are usually the most religious. These Trojan- horse philosophers claim objectivity and scholarship but when faced with defending their agenda in the face of truth, they scurry back into the woodwork like a cockroach caught in the beam of a flashlight. For further information regarding The Five Gospels, write to Macmillan Publishing House in New York. If a copy of the book is desired, be sure to include the obligatory thirty pieces of silver.


The GRACE BELIEVER does not endorse every view of every author. Through this column and its literature ministry, the Grace Believer seeks to aid Christians in building an interesting and informative Home Library that will add to their understanding of God’s Word, enhancing personal growth and increasing effectiveness in ministry.

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