“The Five Gospels: What Did Jesus Really Say?” is a book written by Robert W. Funk, Roy W. Hoover, and the Jesus Seminar. Published in 1993, it presents a unique approach to studying the words attributed to Jesus in the New Testament Gospels.
The book focuses on the four canonical Gospels—Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John—and an additional non-canonical text called the Gospel of Thomas. The authors, who were part of the Jesus Seminar, a group of scholars and researchers, conducted extensive analyses of these texts to determine the authenticity and historical reliability of the words and teachings attributed to Jesus.
In “The Five Gospels,” Funk and his colleagues employed a method known as “historical-critical analysis.” They sought to distinguish between the actual sayings and teachings of Jesus and the later interpretations, additions, or modifications that might have been introduced by the Gospel writers or the early Christian community.
The authors used colored beads to vote on the authenticity of individual sayings attributed to Jesus. They assigned different colors to indicate their level of confidence in the historical accuracy of a particular saying. For example, a red bead indicated a high probability that Jesus actually said those words, while a black bead suggested a low probability.
Through their analysis, the Jesus Seminar scholars identified and compiled a list of sayings that they considered to be more likely authentic to Jesus. These sayings formed the basis for what they referred to as the “red letter” words of Jesus.
“The Five Gospels” presents the findings of the Jesus Seminar’s research and provides readers with a new perspective on the words and teachings attributed to Jesus. The book includes the English translations of the selected sayings along with detailed commentary and analysis.
It’s worth noting that the Jesus Seminar’s approach and conclusions have been a subject of debate and criticism within the field of biblical studies. Scholars hold varying opinions regarding the criteria and methodology used by the Jesus Seminar. Therefore, while “The Five Gospels” offers an alternative viewpoint on the historical Jesus, it is important to approach its findings with critical discernment and consider the wider scholarly discourse on the subject.