on October 11, 2000
Conservative and evangelical Christians often attack the audacity and impiety of the Jesus Seminar. Just imagine - a collection of scholars proposing to vote on the authenticity of the New Testament record of Jesus life and words! As one once anchored in contemporary fundamentalism, I find it easy to understand this offense.
Borg challenges this reaction. He writes with a sensitivity, honesty and spirituality that is much to be admired. Like so many others, he found traditional and conservative beliefs about Jesus unsatisfying in early adulthood. His personal hold on traditional Christian beliefs waned as he embraced a modern worldview and liberal religious scholarship. He became a closet agnostic, then a closet atheist. Yet, Borg was somehow drawn to always keep searching. This book is a record of his search; a moving description of Truth as Borg has found it; a very personal answer to the question, "Who is this Jesus?"
His essential premise involves the importance, even primacy, of our personal image of Jesus. Is Jesus the savior who requires faith? Or, is Jesus a great teacher of moral ideals? Borg rejects both in chapter one. Borg imagines Jesus as one to whom spirit, and the experience of spirit, was foundational. Accordingly, Borg does not understand the Christian life to be "about believing or about being good .... It is about a relationship with God that involves us in a journey of transformation."
Reconstructing the pre-Easter life of Jesus with historical criticism, Borg explains that Jesus was a spirit person (chapter two), a social prophet and movement founder (chapter three), and a teacher of wisdom (chapter four). In these chapters he does not heed the consensus opinion of the Jesus Seminar, but provides his personal conclusions with sensitivity to their implications for the Church and Christian life.
The concluding chapters (five and six) deal with the metaphorical use of language in Christology and the macro-stories of Scripture as imaginal material for contemporary living of the meaning of Scripture.
In 1 Timothy 1:18-19, two are mentioned by name, Hymenaeous and Alexander. Their faith had become a "shipwreck" (KJV). Today their name is legion. I recommend this book for anyone who feels the water leaking in. There is more to the experience of God than conformity to denominational patterns and the exaltation of obedience. Let Borg point the way for you, too.
on March 11, 2004
I am glad I read this book. I think it has helped to redirect my search for God and to help me rebuild my faith in Him, so that I move from a fearful relationship with an angry Supreme Master to one with a loving Supreme Parent.
I first read the Bible cover-to-cover on my own as a youngster. This was probably not a good thing, as I mostly came away with an impression of an Angry God. And I certainly was in no position to understand at the tender age of 11 the cultural background of the world of the Hebrews or Jesus.
The trouble is that in some ways reading about the life of Christ is a bit like reading a mystery. Sure you can read the book again, but you already know whodunit the next time you go back to it, and having that knowledge changes the way you see things from then on. "Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time" has clarified for me the difference between pre-Easter and post-Easter Jesus. Before this when I reread the Gospels and looked over what Jesus said or did prior to his death and resurrection, I looked at it as though He was the post-Easter Godly Jesus the entire time, that He was always God right from the get-go. Now I am looking at Him more in the sense of His humanity as it was recorded in the first 3 gospels. When I stop to think about it, I expect He was a pretty normal kid, and I am not sure that He really saw Himself as God as that point waiting around to be worshipped. Rather I do think He was very much a man constantly in touch with His Father, so I am giving more consideration to the example He set where he showed me how to live and how to be in touch with the Father all the time. (Or at least try to be.)
Also, as a woman who was raised in a Baptist church, I was always hurt and angry at the way women seemed to be second class citizens, and folks always seemed to back up the reason for this with Scripture. But Borg's book showed me that there was a possibility that God has a feminine side (His Wisdom or Sophia) and that this idea of femininity was dropped in translations made from the Greek texts. Perhaps that does not mean much to some, but to a girl who heard most of her life how everything was Eve's (and therefore women in general) fault, it meant a lot to me.
I also appreciated Borg's information about purity codes and particularly about how Jesus confronted the Pharisees about their mile long lists of who was ok and who was not and how badly they treated those on the "not ok" list. I can see that this type of thinking is still present in many churches today, which is too bad. A relationship with God should not be about following rules, rules, and more rules but rather about his Grace. I wish I had known this years ago, so that I might have actually _felt_ God before now.
So I would recommend this book to people who feel that they are just going through the motions at church (or have given up on church altogether) but could use some fresh insight to get their search for God jumpstarted again. It's also good for folks who are just starting out on the path of Biblical scholarship. However, people who believe the Bible is inerrant may be uncomfortable with some of the ideas presented in this book. It doesn't mean they should not pick it up, but they should be forewarned that they may find their beliefs tested.
on March 2, 2000
Say what you will, Borg's Meeting Jesus Again is a great book if you want to build your faith on something other than blindness. Although this book did not answer all my questions, when added to other books (i.e. Robert Funk's Honest to Jesus and several of Shebly Spong's books and John Dominic Crossan) you arrive at a complete and satisfying understanding of Jesus & of Christ and through that develop a mature and intelligent faith.
Borg's message is simple - we see in Jesus a model of a relationship with the divine and eternal that we call God. Through our understanding of Jesus, we can enter into a relationship with that eternal.
To understand Borg's book, you must be willing to ask real questions about not only the bible, but about God and Jesus; if you refuse to abandon the belief that the Bible is literal and inerrant truth, you will hate this book.
on June 2, 1999
This book is excellent. It liberated me from the views of Jesus advocated by conservative Christians, which I could not accept and caused me to leave the church. Borg showed me to focus on changing my heart, rather than believing in doctrine. If you are an educated, open thinker with confused views about Christianity, or if you just want to reaffirm that there are others out there that can't accept what the fundamentalists insist is Gospel, then please read this book. It will free you and change you. Also, Borg is an excellent writer, and is easy to understand. If you buy only one book about Jesus in your life, buy this one.
on March 9, 1998
In addition to its insightful and new views of the historical versus Biblical Jesus, Marcus Borg's book serves as an excellent companion to beginning Bible study. What I found most helpful was Borg's explanation of "how" Jesus taught, especially the in-depth study of the aphorism and parable formats. Sermons across the globe have connected Jesus' teachings to life as we know it, but rarely do they explain how Jesus taught. Also, Borg helps us to understand the synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke), and how and why they are different from John. The understanding of the larger picture, that is, the relationship of the four Gospels and the tools Jesus used to teach, necessarily preceed one's understanding of "what" Jesus taught, and continues to teach. At least one United Methodist Bible study group here in Denver, Colorado, is actually studying Mr. Borg's book in addition to the Gospels. Thanks to Mr. Borg for an outstanding book!
on June 3, 2006
Borg says, "GOD does not refer to a supernatural being 'out there' - GOD refers to the sacred at the center of existence, the holy mystery that is all around us and within us. God is the nonmaterial ground and source and presence in which 'we live and move and have our being.'
"...the key truth about Jesus: that in addition to being deeply involved in the social world of the everyday, he was also grounded in the world of the Spirit. ...Jesus' relationship to the Spirit was the source of everything that he was."
Borg states that what they are teaching in seminary is NOT what they are preaching in church - "the popular image of Jesus as the divine savior who knew himself to be the Son of God and who offered up his life for the sins of the world - was not historically true....that was not what the historical Jesus was like."
"The basis for this mind-boggling realization was the understanding of the gospels that has developed over the last two hundred years of biblical scholarship...the gospels are neither divine documents nor straightforward historical records. They are not inspired directly from God....nor are they eyewitness accounts..."
"...the gospels represent the developing traditions of the early Christian movement. Through careful comparative study of the gospels, one can see these authors at work, modifying and adding to the traditions they received...the traditions about Jesus were adapted and applied to the changing circumstances of the early Christian movement. As the decades passed, the early Christian movement increasingly spoke of Jesus as divine and as having the qualities of God."
When the book MEETING JESUS AGAIN FOR THE FIRST TIME was published in 1994, it caused quite a stir. The book was the product of Biblical scholar Marcus Borg, a member of "The Jesus Seminar." This group of scholars retranslated the Gospels of Jesus Christ, including the Gospel of Thomas, generally considered to be a Gnostic text and therefore not included in the canon of scripture. The major controversy surrounding the group centers around the sayings of Jesus Christ that the group considers actual words of Jesus Christ and those which the scholars believe are additions by the evangelists or some of Jesus' other disciples. The seminar's intention is good enough. It wants to strip from Jesus Christ some of the layers of tradition that these scholars believe obscure the true message of Jesus Christ. The major difficulty is that the members of the Jesus Seminar discount the role of tradition in understanding Jesus Christ, which turns out to take away some of Jesus' most critical teachings.
Borg, more than any other member of the group, tries to make his research applicable to believers today. This book is one of his efforts. While readers will more than likely find Borg's ideas interesting, and will know that they are reading the book of a scholar who has done a great deal of research, readers may also find that the book seems to be lacking something. The Jesus of this book is comforting, but not very challenging. If the Jesus of this book lived today, he would probably live in a nice community, be active in somewhat progressive and liberal organizations, vote Democrat, and attend a mainline Protestant denomination or liberal Catholic Church. This Jesus would have a social consciousness but would not be as strong in social justice issues as a reader of the catholic Worker or Sojourners would be. Jesus Christ would be somewhat upper middle class and followers such as Mary Magdalene would be soccer moms.
While some of this review might sound a bit tongue in cheek, or even a bit sarcastic, I do believe the book is important. Even if people do not agree with all of Borg's findings, he does challenge us to rethink what we know and believe about Jesus Christ. Such a rethinking keeps Christian communities alive. I also know people who have read the book who have been alienated from Christianity due to the harsh way in which the faith was taught, differences with mainline Churches regarding sexuality, or people who are simply uncomfortable with formal religion yet want to belong to a religious group. This book has helped these readers that everyone can find a home in Christianity. If people disagree with this finding, I do not recommend rereading Borg's book, but the gospels on which the book is based to see that Borg's inviting words are in keeping with the teachings of Jesus.
on January 21, 2000
This is a remarkable book. It is relatively short, very approachable and mercifully short on jargon. But most of all it speaks with a refreshing directness and sincerity. Marcus Borg has walked the path of many of us, from the comfortable church beliefs of childhood, to open questioning, agnosticism, and then back again to confront the figure of Jesus once more, this time with eyes wide open. I suspect that, if Christianity is not to fade away, like the smile on the Cheshire cat, over the course of the Third Millennium, it will be because of the courage of Christians like Borg, who are not afraid to confront the inadequate theological models of the past and deal with them honestly. Fundamentalists will not enjoy this book, but it is none the less a profoundly Christian testimony.
on December 10, 2001
Although fellow conservative colleagues may find it anathema to say so, I found Borg's work very reflective of the Christ I worship as the unique Son of God. This book has created a riddle that is rumbling in my head--the irony of the tension between theological conservativism and theological liberalism. The more conservatives push the envelope their way, the less they preach a Christ who resembles the Christ of the gospels. Yet the more liberals push the envelope their way, the more material about and by Jesus evaporates, leaving no one to emulate. So it may well be that conservatives and liberals desperately need each other, to help us recognize that it is this amazing God-man reaching to us existentially and transformatively who reveals God and helps us live our lives in a way pleasing to Him.
on November 29, 2001
I'm so thankful that I've discovered Marcus Borg and I look forward to reading more, if not, all of his books.
This book opens with the author reflecting/reviewing his childhood, adolescent and young adult memories of Jesus. Eventually discussing college courses that brought him to the point of reassessing his understanding of Jesus and the Christian faith.
One of the important new concepts that I particularly appreciate is Borg's description or identification of a Pre-Easter Jesus contrasted with a Post-Easter Jesus. This highly illuminating and thought-provoking view of the historical Jesus has been (is) an important revelation.
While not answering all of my questions, the author is the first Jesus scholar I've read that tackles many of the critical questions that tend to create doubt in the minds of many "believing" Christians.
I particularly appreciated the book's format, use of "white" space, section headings, large print and extensive annotated notes at the end of each chapter.
This would be an excellent book for a religious study group, far better and more rewarding than the typical fundamentalist retelling of biblical themes.