Jesus Seminar

Dear Cynthia,

A scholarly man in the Centering Prayer group I lead has been reading the Jesus Seminar material. I know only the edges of that voluminous research and its integration or lack thereof. I am concerned, though, about where I should be drawing from for pieces of Scripture for our Lectio Divina. Do I limit my use of the moving and poetic Gospel translations I’m familiar with and use instead Funk’s dreary Gospel of Jesus? I do use Gospel of Thomas, but I think that’s questioned by the Seminar too. Thanks in advance for any insight you could give me/us.


~ Anonymous


Don’t be intimidated by the Jesus seminar. They have their own rather narrow take on what constitutes “authentic” texts of Jesus teaching, and they fail to take into consideration the “added value” conferred by centuries of devoted practice by the Church and its faithful. Their purposes are different from the purposes of lectio divina. While it’s always a plus on the human side to get a reasonably accurate translation, grace will make itself known through any translation reverently embarked on.

So feel free to use the four gospels in the version your participants are most comfortable with (NRSV is generally the book of choice), plus the Pauline epistles, Psalms, wisdom texts, and Gospel of Thomas (Lynn Bauman’s edition works particularly well for lectio divina because of its readable translations and helpful commentary). There are also some wonderful, poetic new translations by Stephen Mitchell (The Gospel according to Jesus) Willis Barnstone, and Hal Taussig (The New New Testament, which includes the Gospel of Thomas and several other extracanonical early Christian texts.) You can also draw on the Revised Common Lectionary, in use across most of mainstream Christendom. The goal is not to analyze the scripture, but to pray the scripture. God will understand.