I had the good fortunate of attending a two day seminar with Dr. Funk before coming to seminary and have regularly drawn on his writings.
The goal of the Jesus Seminar has been to “renew the quest of the historical Jesus and to report the results of its research to more than a handful of gospel specialists.” The group has tried to determine what words really came from Jesus and what acts were his (click here for more background on this field of biblical inquiry and its implication).
Dr. Funk’s official biography on the Jesus Seminar site reads:
Robert W. Funk is a distinguished teacher, writer, translator and publisher in the field of religion. A Guggenheim Fellow and Senior Fulbright Scholar, he has served as Annual Professor of the American School of Oriental Research in Jerusalem and as chair of the Graduate Department of Religion at Vanderbilt University. Robert Funk is a recognized pioneer in modern biblical scholarship, having led the Society of Biblical Literature as its Executive Secretary from 1968–1973. His many books include The Five Gospels: The Search for the Authentic Words of Jesus (1993) and The Acts of Jesus: The Search for the Authentic Deeds (1998) (both with the Jesus Seminar) and Honest to Jesus (1996), and A Credible Jesus (2002).
The work of the Jesus Seminar – often controversial – has been profoundly important. Stephen Patterson, professor of New Testament at Eden Theological Seminary and also a member of the Jesus Seminar, wrote in his book The God of Jesus that the work of the Jesus Seminar has been particularly significant because:
...it invited others to listen in on this work: lay people, pastors, the news media. Scholars seldom do this. They prefer the library or the classroom to public debate. This has meant that over many years the only public voice speaking out on matters of religious faith in our culture has been a very conservative voice and, for the most part, one ignorant of biblical scholarship or opposed to it on ideological grounds.
You can learn more about the Jesus Seminar and Dr. Funk by visiting their web site. My prayers go out to his family, friends, and colleagues. We owe Dr. Funk a great debt for his work and leadership.
Related Link: Robert Funk, religion scholar