Marcus J. Borg
Borg begins his re-introduction of Jesus by telling us he is writing from the perspective of two worlds—the world of a religious scholar and the world of a Christian.
Images of Jesus are important. As children, Christians learn about Jesus as divine savior and teacher, but there’s more. He then tells us of his stressful spiritual struggle as a teenager.
In my early teens, I began to have doubts about the existence of God. It was an experience filled with anxiety, guilt, and fear. I still believed enough to be afraid of going to hell because of my doubts. I felt that they were wrong, and in my prayers I would ask for forgiveness. But I couldn’t stop doubting, and so my requests for forgiveness seemed to me not to be genuine. (p.32)
As many have before, Marcus prayed for help.
“Every night for several years, I prayed with considerable anguish, “Lord, I believe. Help thou my unbelief.” (p. 33)
Following years of study, Borg came to see differences in the gospel texts. The early gospels (Mark, Matthew, Luke) offer glimpses into the life of Jesus the person, but the Gospel of John presents the Christ of Faith. Borg sets up a division between two images of Jesus as pre-Easter and post-Easter. Borg closes with his new understanding of the Christian life as one of relationship with God rather than an emphasis on beliefs.
In chapter 2, Borg introduces us to scholarly work on the pre-Easter Jesus. Scholars look at the various stories of Jesus’ life with a view to separating the sayings and works of Jesus from the views of the Christian community that developed following Jesus life on earth. Scholars also include information from the Gospel of Thomas. Like other writers (e.g., Spong), Borg reminds us that Jesus was Jewish. He sets aside some of the folklore to emphasize Jesus as a “spirit-person,” wisdom teacher, social prophet, and founder of Christianity as a movement of Jewish renewal.
Two concepts are central to Jesus–his spirit and his compassion. Borg sees Jesus’ compassion as a key to understanding what it means to live a life centered on God. This compassionate view is not just about individuals but about community. Later, Borg contrasts Jesus' compassionate foundation of morality to a morality based on purity or holiness. Examples show how Jesus attacked the “purity system” of his day. This purity system was a political system that structured society into people, places, things, times, and groups that were either clean or unclean.
Wisdom is about how to live life. In Borg’s view, Jesus is teaching a way of wisdom that is about a relationship with God and not about living well in our contemporary culture that emphasizes the “3 As” of achievement, affluence, and appearance.
Borg continues the exploration of Jesus as the wisdom of God. He notes John’s metaphors of Jesus as the Word of God and the Son of God. In short, these are more images to consider when understanding the Jesus of faith.
In this final chapter, Borg presents Jesus in the context of three “macro-stories” within the Bible as a whole. Two of these are from the Hebrew Bible—The Exodus and the Babylonian exile and return. The third is the Jewish way of worship involving the temple, priesthood, and sacrifice. Borg brings these stories together in themes of liberation and life as a journey of compassion as one lives in relationship with the Spirit of Jesus.
The Truth of Easter. Borg presents the importance of the Easter stories by looking at the metaphors of grace.
I recommend reading Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time to those who find the childhood stories about Jesus lacking in credibility and value for life. Too often we have seen “bumper sticker theology” and trite posts or uncontextualized bits of Scripture posted on personal social media pages and platforms. I am also aware of many friends who have walked away from Christianity because no one engaged their minds to see the powerful story of compassion and depth of spirituality present in the metaphors spoken by and about Jesus.
This is not a book for those who are happy with a fundamentalist view of Jesus and the Christian life. It is not a book that encourages seeking God for earthly or heavenly rewards. As with his other works, Borg takes the Bible seriously but not literally. Meeting Jesus Again offers a spiritual path to inner peace, rest for the soul, and compassion for others. At a deep level, Borg understands our psychological need for relationship and entices readers to find a spiritual relationship with God as revealed in the Jesus’ way.
Marcus Borg on Why Jesus Matters YouTube
Cite this book review
Sutton, G. W. (2020, September 1). Meeting Jesus again by Marcus Borg. Sutton Reviews. Retrieved from https://suttonreviews.suttong.com/2020/09/meeting-jesus-again-by-borg.html
Borg, J.S. (1995) Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time. New York: HarperOne.
Marcus J Borg Bio
Marcus J. Borg (1942-2015) was an American theologian from Fergus Falls, Minnesota whose research focused on the historical Jesus. He was educated at the University of Oxford, Concordia College, Union Theological Seminary, and Mansfield College. He was associated with the Anglican communion and was a professor at Oregon State University until his retirement in 2007.
Geoffrey W. Sutton is a psychologist and Emeritus Professor of Psychology whose research focused on various topics in the psychology of religion. He earned his PhD in psychology from the University of Missouri. See below to find books and other publications.
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