This volume comprises papers presented at the First International Symposium on "Jesus and the Gospels" held in April, 1985, at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan. The program was under the auspices of the Committee for the Scientific Examination of Religion and its Religion and Biblical Criticism subcommittee. Distinguished scholars from Europe and America presented papers pertaining to Jesus in myth and history.
This particular conference was, in actuality, the fourth of a series. In 1982, a symposium held at the University of Buffalo, Buffalo, New York, dealt with "Science, the Bible, and Darwin." In 1983, a conference convened in the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., addressed the theme of "Religion in American Politics." The third meeting, held at the University of Southern California, Los Angeles, California, in 1984, focused on "Armageddon and Biblical Apocalyptic." Papers from these symposia were published in issues of Free Inquiry magazine.
The Religion and Biblical Criticism Project came into being immediately after the 1982 meeting. The purpose of the project was not to develop new critical research, but to disseminate the results of scholarly investigation of the Bible. The best systems of critical research were to be employed, together with findings from studies in comparative religion and folklore, scientific archeology, historical and literary analyses of texts, etc. Eminent scholars were invited to participate.
The history of biblical research has been anchored in synagogue and church. Over the centuries, intelligent Bible readers raised questions about inconsistencies, contradictions, anachronisms and inaccuracies, and the linguistic confusions in some texts. Different literary forms have been identified in the Bible including history, legend, myth, folktale, fable, allegory, maxims and aphorisms, parables and novella, letters and tracts, varying types of poetry, differing kinds of prophetic oracles, and so on. Near-eastern archeology continues to uncover structures, artifacts, and