Jesus Database

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This page is part of the Jesus Database series.

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The JESUS DATABASE is intended to be an online annotated (and continuously evolving) inventory of the traditions concerning the life and teachings of Jesus that have survived from the first three centuries of the Common Era. It will include 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 database will include at least the following components:

  • texts of sayings and events involving Jesus or attributed to him
  • commentary, discussion and related notes
  • liturgies, poems, prayers and sermons that relate to these items
  • graphics and photographs relevant to any of this material

Using wiki technology, this database can become a truly collaborative and international project:

The original version of the JESUS DATABASE was developed as a set of HTML pages.[1] It may be still be accessed online, but the remaining pages provide little more than the inventory data from John Dominic Crossan and the relevant texts.

More recently, the JESUS DATABASE has been developed within a dynamic web site using content management system software.[2] While this has allowed dynamic linking of a large set of pages, one unfortunate result has been a slowing of the development process.


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 (HarperSanFrancisco, 1998).

While the Crossan 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 Greg 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[3] — 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 JESUS DATABASE 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.

A team of people is forming to work on this project. With technical assistance from Don Spencer, and assistance from Barbara Barry in editing the original HTML files, the collection began to take shape.

The priorities by which we are proceeding are as follows:

  • We aim to publish a complete collection of the items identified in Crossan's inventory, so that his database can be used by scholars, students and interested members of the public.
  • The initial pages will provide simply the title, the references, the text(s) in English translation and a summary list of Crossan's analysis of the material.
  • The pages will be progressively expanded with annotations and commentary, including links to other related materials.
  • In adding these annotations, priority will be given to texts used in the weekly Advanceword notes on the Sunday lectionary readings, and also to texts needed for discussion within HODOS.

How you can Help with this Project

If you would like to contribute to the development of the JESUS DATABASE, we would welcome your help.

One of our first taks in moving the material from the present CMS database to wiki, will be to determine a working model for organising pages. Most likely this will be done by creating a page for each of the 522 items in Crossan's historical Jesus inventory, using models and structures developed for the Wikipedia project. See Jesusdatabase:Protocols for information about this design.

The following are some of the specific ways in which you may wish to contribute:

  • preparing wiki markup files of the texts involved
  • locating discussions of specific texts in various scholars
  • cataloging resources by cluster and individual texts
  • technical support
  • preparing original language pages to match the English versions
  • scholarly notes and brief essays on points of interest
  • financial gifts to underwrite the costs

If you are interested in helping in any way with this project, we would like to hear from you.

Most importantly, we hope that you find the materials collected here of interest.

Thank you for your interest and support.

Greg Jenks
on behalf of the JESUS DATABASE team