The Jesus SeM&Minar

Today in my Historical Jesus class we did one of the fun activities I have incorporated into the course each time I have taught it. To give students a sense of what the Jesus Seminar has done, and what is involved in voting on the authenticity or inauthenticity of sayings and actions attributed to Jesus, we do a sort of re-enactment. I get students to bring in bags of M&Ms, and we assign equivalents to the four beads used by the Jesus Seminar (so a red M&M would mean authentic, orange would mean the gist is authentic, blue or green would mean that it is largely inauthentic or uncertain, and black means it is completely inauthentic and the essence of the saying or action is purely a product of the later church). We then discuss a given saying/action, and then vote by dropping M&Ms discretely into a cup or box, as a secret ballot.

We call ourselves the “Jesus SeM&Minar.”

Before anyone asks, yes, we did have some other colors represented and made equivalents. And no, M&Ms with peanuts or pretzels inside didn’t count for extra.

I wonder whether I could special order red, pink, grey and black M&Ms for use when I teach historical Jesus…


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    • Excellent! I wonder whether it would be a legitimate academic expense to order a 10lb bulk bag for $162.99 the next time I teach this…

  • christthetao

    Dr. McGrath: I think I spot some common ground, here. When I worked as translator on a Russian fishing ship back in the 1980s, the “catcher boat” asked if I wanted anything from the US, and I requested peanut M&Ms, which they attached to the buoy and we hawled aboard. 

    On the other hand, I also wrote a book rebutting the Jesus Seminar and its ways, called Why the Jesus Seminar can’t find Jesus, and Grandma Marshall Could. 

    But the real reason I dropped by again, was to warn you that the attack on Tim McGrew and his wife on Carrier’s blog was bogus.  McGrew is a philosopher of science at Western Michigan University, has a doctorate from Vanderbilt, is very sharp, and a couple notches above Carrier in any reasonable intellectual pecking order, IMMHO. 

    It is especially ironic that Carrier decries “apologists,” when of course he has little other claim to fame than as a shrill and dogmatic apologist, himself. 

  • Barghest

    Didn’t the McGrews have to correct some errors in elementary probability theory in Carrier’s work? Doesn’t put Carrier in a fine position to criticise.

  • Johnashuck

    James, this is such a great idea that I have borrowed it for my youth group.  We have Jesus SeM&Minars every now and then.   When we eat our M&Ms we give thanks to James for the great idea!!  

  • Tricksterson

    How do you get through a session without eating the votes?

    • @099fb591b48898d10a3e8609d81df286:disqus ,  
      We don’t – we just have to bring enough for both purposes!  🙂

  • skinman

    I originally read the title of your post as “The Jesus S&Minars” which made me laugh.