gospel of Matthew, magi (ancient Persian astrologers) travel west to
Jerusalem and Bethlehem following a star and asking "Where is
he...?" (Matt 2:1-2). The direction of Christian movement for most of
history was also largely westward, from western Asia to Europe to the
Americas. Now north American scholarship has taken the lead in many fields of
research, including Bible and early Christianity. The name Westar reflects
research focused on clarifying both ancient Christian sources and the
religious heritage of modern Americans.
Westar Institute was founded in 1986 as an advocate for religious
literacy. It is a scholarly "think tank." Through its conferences
and publications, it addresses questions like the following:
was Jesus? What did he say and do --- really?
did the Bible come into being? What was the impact of these writings
on their original audience? Can a modern translation convey an accurate
impression of the original texts?
is the role of a scriptural canon? What criteria were used to form the
New Testament? Can a collection of writings made more than 1000 years
before the printing press have the same function in the age of electronic
information? What other ancient sources are necessary to know to have an
accurate impression of Christian origins?
is the proper relation of Christians and Jews? Are the sources of
tension between these traditions based on fundamental differences in
principle or upon poorly informed prejudices? Are the impressions of Jews
conveyed by Christian scriptures fact or misinformation?
violence an essential part of religion?
the Bible really predict that the world is coming to an end?
are the American myths? What stories --- religious and secular --- do
Americans really live by?
The Westar Institute was created to bring reputable scholars
into dialogue with all persons interested in reclaiming their religious
heritage. The academic study of religion has been well established in colleges
and universities since the seventeenth century. The treasures of that
scholarship, however, have been buried in tombs of unintelligible jargon. Westar
proposes to translate that scholarship into the common idiom.
Westar is a private, non-profit research institute. It is not
affiliated with any religious institution nor does it advocate a particular
theological point of view.