As Chris writes, it is a project involving 50 scholars who will assess the historicity of Jesus and review the earliest traditions about Jesus. Chris wonders how the Fellows became Fellows, since it appears that at least one person who used to be listed was not actually asked. Chris has asked me to illuminate this situation.
I know nothing more than has been published on CSER's website. My name appeared on the website after the Scripture and Skepticism conference that took place in January 2007. Once I saw my name on the Fellows list along with a number of other scholars who presented papers at that conference, I just assumed that those who attended the conference were considered by CSER to be Fellows. This was only my assumption. It may be wrong. As for how other scholars became Fellows or why "50" is the magic number, these questions I do not have answers for, but Joe Hoffmann would since he is directing the Project.
I continue to have mixed feelings about the Project. As many of you know already, I am not convinced that we can really recover an historical Jesus from the types of sources that we have available let alone prove or disprove his existence. Neither of these questions are burning questions for me, although I am certainly interested in recovering the earliest traditions about him.
I do not know how the Project plans to proceed methodologically, which concerns me immensely, especially given the very divergent approaches of the current list of Fellows. I don't know how the Project plans to keep itself away from (anti-)theological agendas guised as historical, and I don't know how the Project plans to keep itself from deconstructing the traditions to nothing.
Perhaps these issues will be resolved in December when the Fellows are supposed to meet for the first time as a group. I don't know yet if I will be in attendance.
Update: August 2, 2007
Doug Chaplin writes a nice piece: a sentence of wit - "Perhaps, if they want to be taken seriously as arbiters of history, they should learn how to tell the truth about the present first, and not create a myth of widespread support from eyewitnesses who are around to deny their involvement."
Other posts I came across on the subject: Jim West, Higgaion, James McGrath