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The JESUS database is an online annotated inventory of the traditions concerning the life and teachings of Jesus that have survived from the first three centuries of the Common Era. It includes both canonical and extra-canonical materials, and is not limited to the traditions found within the Christian New Testament.
The goal is to provide a collection of Jesus materials that will be of interest to scholars, to educators, to students, to clergy, to church members, and to the wider public.
The following outline of the rationale behind the collection may be of interest.
Anyone wishing to collect and study the ancient traditions about Jesus soon has to choose between various strategies. Is it best to consider sayings separately from the acts of Jesus? How best to handle the multiple variants in which some items occur? Can we avoid excessive fragmentation of the materials into almost 2,000 items, or even more if the Johannine discourses are divided into individual sayings?
The collection is being constructed around the clusters of Jesus material first identified by John Dominic Crossan in his Sayings Parallels: A Workbook for the Jesus Tradition (Fortress Press, 1986). That collection of 522 items served as a basic tool for the ground-breaking work of the Jesus Seminar, and also underlay Crossan's own major works: The Historical Jesus (HarperSanFrancisco, 1991) and The Birth of Christianity (HarperSan Francisco, 1998). A complete list of the items included in Crossan's inventory is also available on this site.
While Crossan's inventory provides the rationale for the selection and arrangement of the traditional materials in this database, the project seeks to take account of other voices from the field of historical Jesus studies. The information gathered here reports the voting decisions of the Jesus Seminar, for which Crossan was co-chair throughout its most productive period, where those decisions relate to any of the items within each cluster. In addition, where other major Jesus scholars have published an opinion on the historicity of specific traditions, these are being noted within the collection.
This collection began as a personal research project by Dr Gregory Jenks, a Fellow of the Jesus Seminar and formerly Associate Director of the Westar Institute. Its initial purpose was to identify points of convergence and difference between leading Jesus scholars as part of the preparation for a book on the implications of historical Jesus research for contemporary Christian faith communities.
The project developed a wider scope when the growing collection of materials was adopted by the Hodos community—an online community of practice with a focus on developing personal spiritual journeys informed by the wisdom and the practice of the historical Jesus—as a resource for its weekly cycle of discussion and reflection.
It was soon recognized that the Crossan clusters could provide the basis for an online collection of secondary materials (educational resources, liturgies, sermons, etc) of interest to a diverse audience. Subsequently the JESUSdatabase became a core element of the FaithFutures Foundation with its focus on resources for faith communities concerned to refashion their religious traditions in the light of current scholarship.
Gradually a team of people is being assembled to work on this project. With technical assistance from Don Spencer, and the collaboration of various participants from the Hodos community, the collection has begun to take shape. If you would like to contribute to the development of the JESUSdatabase, we would welcome your help. The following are some of the ways in which you may wish to contribute:
If you are interested in helping in any way with this project, we would love to hear from you.
As always, we also welcome contributions of educational resources, liturgical materials and sermons that may be of wider interest. Please refer to the guidelines for authors for additional information.
Most importantly, we hope that you find the materials collected here of interest.
Thank you for your interest and support.
Gregory C. Jenks
on behalf of the JESUS database team
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