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Reading the Bible Again For the First Time: Taking the Bible Seriously But Not Literally Hardcover – February 20, 2001
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Reading the Bible Again for the First Time is Marcus Borg's follow-up to Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time. Like his earlier book, this one is written for lay people whose faith has been frustrated by their misapprehension that fundamentalism's claim to be the one true faith is valid. Borg, a professor of religion at Oregon State University, describes an alternative to fundamentalists' so-called "literal" readings of scripture. (He believes that such "literal-factual" readings do not live up to that description, and that the limitations of such readings have alienated many people who would otherwise remain part of the church.) Borg calls his alternative "historical-metaphorical" reading, a way of "taking the Bible seriously without taking it literally." Reading the Bible begins with a history of recent conflicts regarding biblical interpretation. Borg navigates the minefields of his subject with sensitivity and precision, explaining, for example, the important distinction between evangelical and fundamentalist readings of the Bible. He then offers historical-metaphorical readings of some key texts from both the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament. Throughout, Borg writes with calm assurance and respect for those who would disagree with him. Reading the Bible is a credible guide to the project it names. It is a faithful exercise of reason, undertaken to help Christians hear more clearly the many voices recorded in the Bible. --Michael Joseph Gross
From Publishers Weekly
The title of this book comes from the author's experience of "unlearning" his literal reading of the Bible from childhood in favor of a "historical-metaphorical" reading derived from his 35 years of studying the Bible as an academic. Borg, an Episcopalian who teaches at Oregon State University, is a member of the Jesus Seminar, author of The God We Never Knew and the counterpoint to evangelical N.T. Wright in The Meaning of Jesus: Two Views. Borg offers a highly readable and succinct introduction to biblical criticism, outlining the kinds of cultural, theological and historical lenses through which people read the Bible and explaining how those readings affect their relation to God. The historical-metaphorical reading that Borg presents includes both the "historical illumination of a text in its ancient context" and a metaphorical approach that "enables us to see and affirm meanings that go beyond the particularity of what the texts meant in their ancient setting." He applies this approach to the Bible in sections, wending his way from the creation stories to Revelation even as he advocates a journey from "precritical naivete" (the acceptance that the Bible is literally true) through "critical thinking" to "postcritical naivete" (accepting again that the Bible is true even if that truth does not depend upon factuality). The book is copiously footnoted without being in the least stodgy, and is open about Borg's own spiritual journey without being didactic or disrespectful of the tradition he has left.
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
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I found the book to be very inspiring.
Among the many points made by Borg are that the Bible is a human product reflecting the culture and the historical period in which it was written. It tells us about how the two ancient communities (Hebrew and early Christian) saw things, not how God sees things. Much of the Bible is not written to be understood literally, but to a great extent in metaphors. For example, Borg quotes a Native American storyteller relating his tribe's story of creation: "Now I don't know if it happened this way or not, but I know this story is true." This expression could apply equally well to many of the stories in the Bible including not only the early Hebrew scripture, but those written by the Apostles as well.
There is a troublesome passage in the Gospel of John where Jesus is quoted as saying, "I am the way and the truth and the life; no one comes to the Father except through me." Borg explains the metaphor of the "way" or the "path" or the "journey" not as literal entities, nor are they a set of beliefs. Borg says for John the "way" or "path" of Jesus is the metaphor for being born anew (another metaphor) into a new way of being. In short, "The way of Jesus is a universal way, known to millions who have never heard of Jesus."
While many of these interpretations may be troublesome to some readers, it can be refreshing to those who are willing to reconsider traditional, fundamentalist understandings of the Bible and at least hold open the possibility that there are profound truths to be found beneath the literal word.
Ernest G. Barr
In our Episcopal church, a small group of us started a "bible study" group to become familiar with the views consistent with a progressive Christianity approach. Our rector suggested this book. Borg's first 53 pages put me off because he spent so much time justifying why it wasn't necessary to take the Bible literally. However, after that, I've very much enjoyed his writing and message (consistent with the book's subtitle -- taking the Bible seriously but not literally). We're up to page 200 now in our 2hr, 2ce/month meetings.
When we finish this book I may come back and add more comments.