PRESS RELEASE – Monday, October 21, 2013
Scholars to Challenge Traditional Story of Christian Origins at First Baptist Church in Jackson, Michigan

Religion scholars from the Jesus Seminar on the Road program will hold a public forum on diversity and conflict in early Christianity on November 8–9 at First Baptist Church in Jackson, the Jesus Seminar announced Monday.

The last 150 years have witnessed a wide range of exciting new discoveries of early Christian literature not found in the New Testament. The Gospel of Thomas, Gospel of Mary and The Thunder: Perfect Mind, among others, have revolutionized our conceptions of early Christianity. Scholars are now reassessing the story of Christian origins, led by the groundbreaking work of Westar’s Acts Seminar, a decade-long research project that examined the historical reliability of Acts of the Apostles. “Reframing Christian Beginnings and Christian Scriptures” will evaluate the impact of these new discoveries on early Christian history and its relevance in the 21st century.

Scholars Dennis Smith and Hal Taussig will lead the forum. Dennis Smith, who holds a ThD from Harvard University, is LaDonna Kramer Meinders Professor of New Testament at Philips Theological Seminary in Tulsa, OK. He is the editor of the newly released Acts and Christian Beginnings: The Acts Seminar Report (2013). Hal Taussig, who holds a PhD from The Union Institute, is Visiting Professor of New Testament at Union Theological Seminary, NYC, and Professor of Early Christianity at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College in Philadelphia. He is the author of several books, including A New New Testament (2013).

“Reframing Christian Beginnings and Christian Scriptures” will take place on November 8–9 at First Baptist Church, 201 S. Jackson Street in Jackson, Michigan. This program, part of the Jesus Seminar on the Road series, is sponsored by Westar Institute, a non-profit organization dedicated to religious literacy, as well as Arbor Grove Congregational Church, First Baptist Church, and Universalist Unitarian Church of East Liberty, all in Jackson.

All sessions are open to the general public. Registration is $75 for all three events ($60 pre-registration by Oct 25th), and $50 for additional family members. The individual cost is $20 for Friday evening and $30 each for Saturday morning and afternoon sessions. Register by phone, 503-375-5323, or online at  Questions on local arrangements should be directed to Sandy Maher, 517-750-1031.

Founded in 1985, the Jesus Seminar was organized to discover and report a scholarly consensus on the historical authenticity of the sayings and events attributed to Jesus. A 2007 Pew Forum survey found that 37% of Americans read the Bible or other Holy Scriptures at least once a week, but 48% “say they ‘seldom’ or ‘never’ read books (other than Scripture) or visit websites about their own religion.”