Our History

Scholarship in public and for the public

Westar Institute began in 1985 when Robert W. Funk invited 30 New Testament scholars to join him in a new, collaborative inquiry about Jesus as a figure of history. The project was called the Jesus Seminar. The focus was on identifying evidence about what, in all probability, Jesus actually said and did without privileging any traditional religious claims about him. The invitation included a commitment to making the results of the inquiry available to the general public as a contribution to religious literacy.

Bob Funk believed scholars of religion have an ethical responsibility to report their findings to the public, openly and clearly. And he argued that there is a large lay constituency eager to join scholars in public conversation. The continued vibrancy of Westar has proven him right. Over the years, Westar has had a profound effect on the public awareness of scholarship in religion and has helped inaugurate a new kind of academic environment that is both collaborative and cumulative.

Since its founding in 1986, Westar has conducted a series of innovative seminars on the historical Jesus, the Acts of the Apostles, the apostle Paul, and other topics. Currently, Westar scholars are conducting seminars on the origins of the Christian tradition, God and the human future, and on the image of Christ as a liberating metaphor. Westar is not affiliated with any religious institution or denomination and does not advocate a particular theological point of view.

Westar relies on collaborative scholarship that is open to the public, accessible, and rigorous. Its academic seminars engage leading scholars from accredited institutions worldwide. Seminars typically meet twice a year online for spring and fall sessions.

Westar invites the general public into conversation with scholars of religion through regular Zoom webinars and meetings, for in-person events at sponsored locations, and at in-person annual meetings. Westar scholars have travelled across North America and beyond to promote religious literacy.