The Jesus Seminar cut its teeth on controversy and, after moving to Oregon last year, will take on more if it advances its cause. This fall, the independent group of biblical scholars from public and private colleges, universities and seminaries will publish a new translation of Paul's letters that they say will challenge the way Christians think about the apostle.
The 25-year-old Jesus Seminar -- and its umbrella nonprofit, the Westar Institute -- moved to Oregon in July, accepting an invitation from Willamette University. The relationship promises to be mutually beneficial: Westar and its scholars become a research center in Willamette's department of ancient studies and archaeology, and Polebridge, Westar's publishing arm, will function as the university press for Willamette professors.
Polebridge Press will publish "The Authentic Letters of Paul," an original translation of seven of Paul's letters, divided into their original parts and arranged chronologically. Because Paul is often quoted in discussions on divisive topics -- homosexuality or women's role in the church -- the book is likely to be controversial. So is its premise, that Paul did not write all the letters attributed to him in the New Testament. That's fine with Westar and its scholars, who've endured controversy before and aren't afraid of it now.
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