Robert Funk Dies: Scholar Questioned Miracles of Jesus





Robert W. Funk, founder of the controversial Jesus Seminar, which called into question New Testament miracle stories and the authenticity of many of the statements attributed to Jesus, has died. He was 79. Associates at the Westar Institute, which sponsored the Jesus Seminar, said Tuesday that Funk died Saturday at his Santa Rosa, Calif., home of lung failure. He had undergone surgery in July to remove a malignant brain tumor.

Robert W. Funk, founder of the controversial Jesus Seminar, which called into question New Testament miracle stories and the authenticity of many of the statements attributed to Jesus, has died. He was 79.

Associates at the Westar Institute, which sponsored the Jesus Seminar, said Tuesday that Funk died Saturday at his Santa Rosa, Calif., home of lung failure. He had undergone surgery in July to remove a malignant brain tumor.

After many years in academia, Funk's rise to public recognition came after he founded the nonprofit Westar Institute in Santa Rosa in 1985 to promote research and education on what he called biblical literacy. Its first project, the Jesus Seminar, renewed the quest for the historical Jesus.

In the course of those studies, the think tank stirred controversy among conservative Christians even as liberal Christians applauded its scholarship for making Christianity believable and relevant in the postmodern world.

Among the Jesus Seminar's assertions was that many of the miracles attributed to Jesus never occurred, at least in a literal sense. Nor, the Jesus Seminar concluded in 1995, did Jesus rise bodily from the dead. The scholars also agreed that there probably was no tomb and that Jesus' body probably was disposed of by his executioners, not his followers.

But scholars -- who included Burton Mack, Marcus Borg and John Dominic Crossan -- also concluded that the religious significance of Jesus' resurrection did not depend on historical fact.


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