The Arizona Republic reports this week on a visit to Phoenix by The Rev. Dr. Stephen Patterson, a professor from Eden Theological Seminary (where I attend). Dr. Patterson was in Phoenix to give a presentation on his work with the Jesus Seminar.
Stephen Patterson of Eden Theological Seminary in suburban St. Louis, said the Jesus Seminar has concluded that the Bible is closer to a sermon than to history.
"The Gospels' primary interest was to interpret Jesus to the community," said Patterson, a professor of the New Testament….
Patterson said that almost all Christians, from biblical literalists to Christian liberals, share the same underlying assumptions.
"There is an enormous gap between what scholars know and assume and what lay people know and assume," Patterson said. "Most people, not just conservative Christians, assume that what the Bible says happened actually happened."
Understanding the Bible from a scholar's point of view can result in a whole new approach not just to religion, but to life, he said.
"When you take your blinders off and don't assume the Bible is history, you begin to look for the meaning of the story," Patterson said. "You begin to ask about the meaning of life and the meaning of life before God."
The meaning can be found in basic human qualities, not possessions or wealth, he said.
"Jesus asks people to realize that most of what passes for an acceptable, respectable life is foolishness," Patterson said. "Striving for status, convenience, money and things seems trivial. What really counts is the experience of love and care that comes from authentic human relationships, and openness to things that really make us human."
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In these comments Dr. Patterson is articulating a theological viewpoint shared by many on the Eden campus. How we view the Bible has obvious implications for how we view the world today. We are fortunate to have such notable scholars on our faculty.
Dr. Patterson’s book The God of Jesus: The Historical Jesus & the Search for Meaning is a must read for those seeking to make sense of the Christian faith in the post-modern world.