by Bill Nugent
On June 26, 2000, Peter Jennings (of ABC News) hosted a TV show in prime time titled Peter Jennings Reporting: The Search For Jesus. The two hour show consisted in part of Mr. Jennings interviewing John Dominic Crossan, Robert Funk and Marcus Borg of an organization called the “Jesus Seminar.” The Jesus Seminar is an association of extremely liberal scholars who are quite radical in their rejection of the Gospel accounts of the life of Jesus.
It is disappointing that Peter Jennings relied so heavily on the Jesus Seminar scholars. Very little in the way of scholarship was demonstrated by the Jesus Seminar members on the show. A scholar must use reasoned arguments based on established facts. The Jesus Seminar people made bold assertions and did not properly support their statements with the facts of history or archaeology.
An example of this is Marcus Borg’s statement that the Gospels of Luke and Matthew give contradictory accounts of the circumstances of Jesus’ birth. Borg even goes so far as to say that Matthew’s Gospel account has Jesus being born “at Home.” The Gospel of Matthew makes no such statement nor does such a statement appear anywhere else in scripture. The Gospels of Matthew and Luke are clearly complementary accounts that fill in different details but are not at all contradictory.
Another example concerns a statement made by Peter Jennings himself that falsely asserts that there is no record outside the Gospels that Emperor Caesar Augustus ordered a worldwide taxation. The Gospel of Luke mentions that such a worldwide taxation was the circumstance that brought Joseph and Mary to Bethlehem. Contrary to Jennings’ statement, any credible scholar should know that historians don’t dispute the fact that Augustus ordered such taxations on more than one occasion. The ancient Jewish historian Josephus wrote about a Roman taxation that occurred during the time of Augustus. The fact that people were required to return to their homelands for registration under a Roman census related to taxation is corroborated by the historian Paul Maier.
One can imagine the millions of people watching this TV show in prime time in which sober, academic, scholarly sounding men are making statements that undermine and contradict the truth of the New Testament. The two examples of unfounded statements cited above are not even the worst of it.
The show was highly biased towards the liberal view. Many have noted that conservative biblical scholarship was grossly under represented.
I regard The Search for Jesus TV broadcast to be perhaps the worst public slander of Christianity in history. My saying this does not constitute a personal attack against Peter Jennings or any other people on the show. What I attack is the show itself which is a public statement. Any public statement is subject to public analysis and scrutiny. An excellent article that thoroughly examines the flaws of the Search For Jesus show is one written by Hank Hanegraaff titled The Search For Jesus Hoax, available online at www.equip.org. (Just click the archives link and type “search for Jesus” in the search box.) Hank’s article provided much of the material used in this DTF article.
Many books written by qualified scholars show that the historical and archaeological evidence supports the accuracy and reliability of the New Testament.