The Jesus Seminar was a group of about 150 critical Biblical scholars founded in 1985 by Robert Funk (1926-2005). Although never formally disbanded, the seminar effectively ceased functioning in 2006. Their goal was to reconstruct the historical Jesus and find out what exactly Jesus said. The result was that they portrayed Jesus as an itinerant Hellenistic Jewish sage, a faith-healer, who preached a gospel of liberation from injustice. However, they believed that Jesus did not hold an apocalyptic worldview, as indicated in the canonical writings. The methods and conclusions of the Jesus Seminar came under very harsh criticism by some biblical scholars, historians, and clergy. However, this Jesus Seminar produced a significant number of publications for over 20 years, especially articles about the Gospel of Thomas.
The Q source is a hypothetical written or oral collection of Jesus’ sayings that was common to the Gospels of Matthew and Luke but not in the Gospel of Mark. This Q source included many parables and the beatitudes. According to this hypothesis, these sayings of Jesus was taken from the early Church’s oral tradition. In the 19th century, some New Testament scholars favored Mark as the first written gospel. They assumed that that the authors of Matthew and Luke had used the Gospel of Mark. However, there were large sections of the gospels of Luke and Matthew that were not found in Mark. They suggested that neither gospel drew upon each other, but from a second common source, termed Q, from the German word Quelle. Many scholars have tried to reconstruct this lost source with limited success. Another group of scholars thought that the 20th century discovered Gospel of Thomas might be that source. Others have maintained that this similarity also demanded a written rather than an oral document. Did Q even predate the Gospel of Mark? Another question is whether Luke used Matthew instead of having a common source, the older hypothesis.
The most famous non-canonical gospel stories come from the 2nd and 3rd centuries, such as the Gospel of Thomas, the Gospel of Peter, the Gospel of Judas, the Gospel of Mary, the Gospel of Barnabas, the Infancy Gospel of Thomas, the Gospel of Truth, the Odes of Solomon, and the Gospel of Philip. Finally, there are a series of gospel harmonies, where the 4 canonical gospels were selectively recast as a single narrative to present a consistent text. The Syrian Tatian (120-180 CE) compiled a harmonization called the Diatessaron around 175 CE.