CORVALLIS, Ore. - Six of the most renowned religion scholars in the world will gather at Oregon State University Feb. 8-10 for a symposium to explore the historical, religious and cultural significance of Jesus.

The purpose of "Jesus at 2000" is to explore what scholars have to say about the man described as a mystic, a healer and the Son of God.

The symposium title refers to the upcoming 2,000th anniversary of the birth of Jesus, which scholars believe actually occurred in about 4 B.C. The OSU symposium, which will be nationally televised, is the first major commemoration of the anniversary.

"It should be a dynamic event," said Marcus Borg, the Hundere Professor of Religion and Culture at OSU and symposium organizer. "The speakers, who truly are world class, each will discuss a different aspect of the significance of Jesus."

Speakers include John Dominic Crossan, professor emeritus of DePaul University and, perhaps, the best known Jesus scholar in the world; Huston Smith, whose writings and television appearances have made him the best known religious scholar in North America; Harvey Cox, best-selling author and the Thomas Professor of Divinity at Harvard University; Alan Segal, author and professor of religion at Barnard College and Columbia University; Karen Jo Torjesen, the Margo L. Goldsmith Chair of Women's Studies and Religion at Claremont Graduate School; and Borg, also a best-selling author.

Each speaker will deliver a lecture during the symposium and then participate in a concluding panel discussion Saturday at 2 p.m. During the panel, they each will speak five minutes on the topic: "What Do You Find Most Striking (or Appealing, or Challenging, or Disturbing) About Jesus?"

Following their presentations, the panelists will answer questions from the studio and national television audiences. The symposium is being broadcast live via satellite to approximately 225 downlink sites around North America. The Trinity Institute of New York City is sponsoring the telecast.

The symposium is open to the public and more than 1,000 people have pre-registered, paying the $35 admission. Many thousands are expected to watch the telecast. Clearly, Borg said, the subject of Jesus is hot once again.

"Historical Jesus studies have undergone a renaissance during the last decade," Borg said. "For years, the subject was the province of only a very few academicians. In the last couple of years, however, Jesus as a historical figure has gone mainstream, making the cover of Time and Newsweek magazines, and becoming a widely debated topic on radio and television."

The OSU symposium will open on Thursday, Feb. 8, with a video presentation called "Jesus Christ, Movie Star," which will be introduced by Cox. It begins at 8 p.m.

The lectures begin Friday following 8:45 a.m. welcoming addresses, and continue Saturday. The schedule includes:

  • "From Galilean Jew to the Face of God: The Pre-Easter and Post-Easter Jesus," by Marcus Borg, OSU, 9:15 a.m. Friday.


  • "Jesus and the Kingdom: Peasants and Scribes in Earliest Christianity," by John Dominic Crossan, DePaul University (emeritus), 11 a.m. Friday.


  • "Jesus, Judaism and Early Christianity," by Alan Segal, Barnard College and Columbia University, 2 p.m. Friday.


  • "'You Are the Christ!': Second Century Views of Jesus," by Karen Jo Torjesen, Claremont Graduate School, 3:45 p.m. Friday.


  • "Jesus and Generation X," by Harvey Cox, Harvard University and Divinity School, 9 a.m. Saturday.


  • "Jesus and the World's Religions," by Huston Smith, Syracuse University (emeritus), 11 a.m. Saturday.

The Oregon State University-hosted conference is sponsored by the Hundere Endowment for Religion and Culture at OSU and the Trinity Institute of New York City. The conference lectures will be part of a series the Trinity Institute has co-sponsored for more than 25 years; this is the first time they have been held outside of New York.

Information about conference registration is available by calling the Department of Philosophy at OSU, 541-737-2955. Information about local downlinking sites is available by calling the Episcopal Cathedral Teleconferencing Network at 1-800-559-3286.

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Marcus Borg, 503-246-8151