Robert W. Funk (July 18, 1926 - September 3, 2005), was founder of the controversial Jesus Seminar and the nonprofit Westar Institute in Santa Rosa, California.
Funk, an academic, sought to promote research and education on what he called biblical literacy. His approach was historical and critical, with a strongly sceptical view of traditional Christian belief, particularly about the historical Jesus.
Funk has a bachelor of divinity and masters degree from Butler University and its affiliated Christian Theological Seminary in 1950 and 1951, a PhD in 1953 from Vanderbilt University and was a Guggenheim Fellow and a Senior Fulbright Scholar.
He taught at the American School of Oriental Research in Jerusalem, was chairman of the graduate department of religion at Vanderbilt University and executive secretary of the Society of Biblical Literature.
By the time Funk launched the Jesus Seminar, scholarly work on the "search for the historical Jesus" had been underway for many years. See for example The Quest of the Historical Jesus: A Critical Study of Its Progress from Reimarus to Wrede, by Albert Schweitzer in 1906.