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Reading the Bible Again For the First Time: Taking the Bible Seriously But Not Literally Hardcover – February 20, 2001

4.2 out of 5 stars 213 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

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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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: HarperOne; 1st edition (February 20, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060609184
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060609184
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1.1 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (213 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #310,749 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
I am one of the people to whom Borg is referring when he states that a literal reading of the Bible has made it "incredible and irrelevant". I was brought up in a fundamentalist Christian environment, attending church in a denomination that purports to "speak where the Bible speaks and be silent where the Bible is silent", and indoctrinated similarly in a church operated school which censored its curriculum to exclude any view that contradicted its view of reality as seen through a literal reading of the Bible. As Borg stated, I experienced a growing inability to accept this view during early adolescence, which is for most people the time when critical (that is, discerning) thinking is developed. As I studied the knowledge accumulated by science and history, I came to reject the religious views of my childhood as contradictory to settled fact. Having no model of an alternate view available to me, I became atheist.

The peculiar situation I found myself in, however, was that I continued to have a fascination with and curiousity about the Bible. Surely, somehow, there was a way to glean some greater truth from the Bible without having to buy into fantastic and utterly unbelievable claims made by that book. With that purpose in mind, I bought this book along with several others in a similar vein.

This book has been very helpful toward reconciling my non-rational feeling that there is in fact a God or Higher Power and my rational rejection of the bibliolatry practiced by many churches especially here in the deep South. Viewing the Bible as a story of how pre-modern peoples experienced God rather than as a purportedly factual account of supernatural intervention in human affairs goes a long way toward reclaiming the Bible as a spiritual resource.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Despite his penchant for catchy titles, Borg is arguably amongst the most accessible Christian theologians writing today. He has the disquieting ability to read the poorly framed questions in my mind, state them crisply, and then provide clear, studied, and believable answers. And he is a careful researcher: in some chapters, the length of the notes section almost matches the length of the text itself.
Occasionally I was left with the sense that Borg rushed his writing in this book; some chapters ended before I was ready to leave the topic. And he made only passing reference to the NT epistles that were not written by Paul. Nevertheless, his discussion and interpretation of Revelation alone was worth the price of the book.
If you are new to Borg's work, I would suggest starting with Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time. It will give you an excellent grounding in the central tenets of the faith. And you may find some surprises there. Reading the Bible...... then expands the beachhead to cover the core text of the faith.
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Format: Hardcover
I have read the books "The God We Never Knew" and "Meeting Jesus Again" by Marcus Borg and this new book is a wonderful addition to those. All of these works have been mind and spirit opening. I could not put this one down after I bought it.
This book is very intelligently written and the concepts are articulated in a manner that opens the Bible to deeper understandings. Borg brings the Bible to life and reading it in a metaphorical way, within the proper historical framework, enables one to unearth the deep spiritual treasures that are within.
I do not want to go into a deep theological discourse on my beliefs. This is not the place. But I will echo the author's words and agree with him when he says that God is bigger than, or trancends any religion, or any book. I want to move closer to an experiencial relationship with God, not one based on requirements of faith or dogmatic belief. My challenge remains the same. Read any of the books by Marcus Borg...it will change your life...if not that...at least your perspective.
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Format: Paperback
As a pastor from a conservative, evangelical background, I have increasingly become uneasy with traditional ways of understanding the scriptures that I love. Marcus Borg has opened, for me, a whole new way of understanding and reading the scriptures. His "metaphorical" approach blesses something in me that has been jelling for a long time and is helping me find the scriptures more exciting, meaningful, and spiritual than ever before. The idea that everything does not have to be understood literally to have powerful metaphorical and spiritual meaning is something I find quite liberating. I can't say I agree with everything Dr. Borg writes, but I like a lot of it, and am still reflecting on much of the rest of it. Plus, he has freed me to reflect more meaningfully on the meaning of scripture and to preach more creatively in sermons, without feeling like a heretic for doing so. His approach to the scriptures has freed me to hear the scriptures spiritually in a way I never had before. If you're a Christian and not afraid to think new thoughts about the Bible, and you're hungry for some new angles on the faith, this book is fascinating. It is written with warmth and humility. Dr. Borg seems, himself, to be very spiritually minded, even though his approach to scripture and Christian faith may be quite new to many. This is a good book and I recommend it to those open to grow and reflect in new ways.
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