Item description for The Meaning of Jesus: Two Visions (Plus) by Marcus J. Borg & N. T. Wright...
Overview Two well-known theological scholars debate the most important biblical questions of the time and discuss what these differences mean for Christians today.
Was Jesus born of a virgin? Did he know he was the Messiah? Was he bodily resurrected from the dead? Did he intentionally die to redeem humankind? Was Jesus God? Two leading Jesus scholars with widely divergent views go right to the heart of these questions and others, presenting the opposing visions of Jesus that shape our faith today.
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Marcus J. Borg is Canon Theologian at Trinity Episcopal Cathedral in Portland, Oregon. Internationally known in both academic and church circles as a biblical and Jesus scholar, he was Hundere Chair of Religion and Culture in the Philosophy Department at Oregon State University until his retirement in 2007.
He is the author of nineteen books, including Jesus: A New Vision (1987) and the best-seller Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time (1994); The God We Never Knew (1997); The Meaning of Jesus: Two Visions (1999); Reading the Bible Again for the First Time (2001), and The Heart of Christianity (2003), both best-sellers. His newest books are Jesus: Uncovering the Life, Teachings and Relevance of a Religious Revolutionary (2006), a New York Times Best-Seller; Conversations with Scripture: Mark (2009), and three books co-authored with John Dominic Crossan, The Last Week (2006), The First Christmas (2007), and The First Paul (2009).
His novel, Putting Away Childish Things, was published in April, 2010.
Described by The New York Times as “a leading figure in his generation of Jesus scholars,” he has appeared on NBC’s “Today Show” and “Dateline,” PBS’s “Newshour,” ABC’s “Evening News” and “Prime Time” with Peter Jennings, NPR’s “Fresh Air” with Terry Gross, and several National Geographic programs. A Fellow of the Jesus Seminar, he has been national chair of the Historical Jesus Section of the Society of Biblical Literature and co-chair of its International New Testament Program Committee, and is past president of the Anglican Association of Biblical Scholars.
His work has been translated into eleven languages: German, Dutch, Korean, Japanese, Chinese, Indonesian, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Russian, and French. His doctor’s degree is from Oxford University, and he has lectured widely overseas (England, Scotland, Austria, Germany, Belgium, Hungary, Israel and South Africa) and in North America, including the Chautauqua and Smithsonian Institutions.
Marcus J. Borg currently resides in Portland, in the state of Oregon.
Reviews - What do customers think about The Meaning of Jesus: Two Visions (Plus)?
Amazon sent the wrong book Dec 28, 2007
This review is to notify anyone who wants to purchase this book from this site that they do not have the 2nd edition ("Two Visions Plus"). They sent me the first edition when I ordered the second edition and when I notified them they indicated that they would not be able to send me the correct edition. They refunded the cost of the book and, with a little encouragement, the cost of the postage as well.
informational dialogue Mar 28, 2007
this is a book for serious people interested in finding out more about the "liberal" and the conservative view of contamporary christian belief.
For those who want their mind blown about Jesus Nov 22, 2006
The book is presented by two acclaimed authors who both graduated from Oxford, but have differing views. Marcus Borg is a liberal in his theological thinking and N.T. Wright is rather conservative in his views. Both square off in a dual fashion to address critical issues related to the historical Jesus in eight parts.
The first section deals with how we have come to know about Jesus. Both use the New Testament, especially the Gospels, and other historical documents to come to their conclusions about who Jesus is. Interestingly enough, they both draw from the same material but come to extremely different conclusions about who Jesus was. Borg thinks of Jesus in terms of pre and post Easter. The pre-Easter Jesus as a person who was a "mystic" and the post-Easter Jesus, the Messiah, the one we talk about in Church tradition. Wright thinks of Jesus as someone who knew He was the messiah and that Jesus was the person and the divinity in one. Borg does not place a lot of historical value to the Gospels pointing out that the Gospels are embellished while Wright would say that they indicate pretty closely to what happened.
Next Wright and Borg spend time discussing what Jesus did and taught. Wright presents Jesus as a prophet who was there to usher in God's kingdom and made a call to the early Judeans to abandon their current view and join him. Wright believes that Jesus knew who He was in terms of the Messiah and that Jesus knew His role in God's plan while Borg's discusses Jesus as a Jewish mystic, healer and exorcist.
Moving on, the authors deal with the death of Jesus and what it meant. Borg presents two important issues regarding the death of Jesus. First Borg indicates that Jesus did not see himself as the way to God, or that He did not know that salvation was going to be made possible through His death and second Borg believes that Jesus died as a martyr because He stood up against the current structure of the time. Wright paints a picture where as Jesus death was planned by Jesus and He was very aware of His role in salvation. Wright points out that Jesus knew that only through great suffering could salvation be bought for all and Jesus knew this. Wright does note that while Jesus prepared His own death, he did it unwillingly. Jesus did not want to die, but He knew that it was His duty to do so for us.
Next we find something that the writers can agree on, that the resurrection of Jesus is a central key to Christianity. Both agree that without resurrection there would be no Christian movement. Both agree that something happened after the death of Jesus that caused the disciples to continue to teach of Jesus, and at this point the agreements end. Wright believes in the resurrected Christ. He believes that Jesus did rise from the dead. Borg presents a risen Jesus of almost myth, an apparition if you will. He indicates that the disciples and even other believes have had Jesus experiences that have lead to the forward movement of Christianity.
After the resurrection, we then need to address a fundamental question, which in my opinion should not even be a question. Was Jesus God? Borg indicates that Jesus did not see Himself as divine and that after Easter, Jesus becomes one with God. Wright agrees in some respect with Borg in that he does not think that Jesus thought He was God. Instead, Jesus thought He was the anointed one of God called to fulfill the God's promises to Israel.
The discussion then turns to Jesus and His birth. Wright indicates that Jesus' birth has gotten far more press than it should have. Wright believes that the focal point of Christianity is the death and resurrection. Wright does not believe that Mary's virginity is of large consequence to the person of Jesus, but he does believe that she was a virgin at the time of Jesus' birth. Borg claims that the birth is not historically factual. He points to differences in the stories as presented by Luke and Matthew as reasoning for the story to be more embellishment than truth. These two writers use this story as an example of imagery more than history.
Next is the discussion of the return of Christ. Borg believes that the end time theology has come from the church as a whole and not from Jesus. Borg also says that he does not believe that a physical Jesus will return to this Earth. Wright contends that end times discussion have come from Jewish tradition and transformed into beliefs of something that is not as impending as we sometimes believe. He believes that in the end there will come a time when heaven is shown to us and that Jesus will be a living being that we can see and touch, the dead will rise and we will all share in Jesus' new world for us.
Finally, Borg and Wright discuss the implications of their versions of Jesus and what that means for the Christian life. Wright focuses his attention on worship and missions as the centerpieces of the Christian way. Borg calls for a life for Christians that is full of God, a life where each and every moment is an experience with a God who is accessible to us all. Borg writes that he thinks Jesus is the epitome of what it is like to have a life that is full of God.
I believe that the authors have come to their beliefs based on the ways they view the sources of evidence regarding Jesus. Borg is very literal about the sources of Jesus and looks at the historical value of the written words about Jesus. He tries to eliminate any such embellishment or literary device that could have been used to mask the true evidence of the historical Jesus. Wright on the other hand, leaves open that embellishments and literary devices can have historical value and could have happened they way they were written. I believe that given these filters the authors use to aid them in their research, this is why we have two acclaimed authors who studied under the same New Testament professor at Oxford with very different thinking.
This is a good book to get you thinking about who Jesus is, but it can be difficult to read if you have not had some study in New Testament background. It is generally not a good read for the lay person.
Great introduction to the issues Nov 7, 2006
As others have noted, this book is a fantastic introduction to the major issues and attitudes in the "who was Jesus?" debate. Both Borg and Wright were excellent choices for each view. The tone between the two is cordial and the debate, such as it is, relatively gentle and mutually respectful.
I agree with other reviewers that Wright's case is by far the stronger. Borg's entire argument rests on the supposed late dating for the Gospel of Mark, which he says was the first Gospel written. He then states that sayings which appear in later Gospels, esp. John, were "read" back into the mouth of Jesus by the church as it developed the idea of Jesus as the Christ, the Son of God and saviour of the world.
Peel back those layers, Borg says, and you will find a simple Jewish peasant, who performed what he calls "paranormal" healings, railed against social injustice and initiated a movement based on equality and inclusiveness.
In short, Borg sees Jesus as a first century version of a 21st century American liberal. To him, anything which makes Him look more like the Jesus of orthodox Christianity is simply mythology. These myths are fine, so long as modern Christians reinterpret them in the light of modern ideas of tolerance and pluralism, in his view. To Borg, Jesus is "his" way to know God, but not the only way.
On the issue of the resurrection, Borg sees it as occuring in the hearts of believers, as they became aware of Jesus' closeness to God and the importance of carrying on his mission of inclusiveness an social justice. He says that it is irrelevant whether the body of Jesus was revived in any way. "He rose in our hearts, and that's what is important" is an apt way of phrasing this stand.
Wright defends the Jesus of the historical creeds of the church, the one who knew he was going to die for the sins of humanity, who was the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, and who literally rose from the dead.
So, who's right? As someone who majored in biblical studies in college, I can offer some opinions on that question. First, it can be said with confidence that most so-called "New Testament scholarship" is simply guesswork. No one knows for sure which Gospel was written first. The current favorite is Mark, but a close look at the reasons for that position reveals them to be faulty.
Traditionally and logically it has long been believed that Matthew was written first. This is the option I favor, for reasons too lengthy to cover here. If this is so then the foundation on which Borg builds his house of cards crumbles.
In the end, however, it's simply anyone's guess.
Second, Borg writes from the assumption that the New Testament wasn't divinely inspired, and bases his views on this premise. For example, he says that Jesus' prayer in Gethsemane as recorded in John was obviously invented by the church, since no one was around to hear it.
This is only a problem if one discounts the guidance of the Holy Spirit in the writing of John. An omniscient God could certainly have led John to pen a correct account of that prayer.
Borg is quick to call apparent problems in the text fictional statements invented decades later and placed in the trxt as true. An example: since the trial of jesus was held in secret, he says that the details about it recorded in the Gospels have to be mere speculation.
Besides the answer from divine revelation mentioned above, there are other alternatives to Borg's position. There could have been eavesdroppers outside the building. One or more of the persons present may have spilled the beans afterwards.
Borg reads anti-Semitism into the text even where there is no evidence for it. An example he cites is Pilate's washing his hands before the crucifixtion. He says this scene was put into the text to infer that Pilate was reluctant to kill Jesus, laying the blame more on the Jewish people.
This is pure assumption on his part. I have no trouble believing the account is factual. As hard as Pilate was in his governing style, it is entirely possible that he was so impressed with Jesus that he was truly reluctant to sentence him to death. The hand washing may have actually occured, as an attempt on his part to assuage a guilty conscience.
History records similar events. Attila the Hun spared Rome from being destroyed after meeting with Pope Leo 1. The Muslim sultan Melek-el-Kamel was so impressed with St. Francis of Assisi in their 1219 meeting that he permitted the Christian monk to preach to his troops. Even members of the Mafia show reverence for the Catholic church. It would seem that cruel, hard men are often reluctant to harm someone they perceive as especially pious.
Wright points out these sorts of errors in Borg's approach to the Bible, citing reasons to believe in the accuracy of its accounts. By American standards his tone is incredibly civil, given how much he and Borg disagree. I suspect this is simply due to the emphasis on civility still prominent in British culture.
All in all, this volume is a fine way to begin a study of the differing views of Jesus. I give it a strong recommend. I also recommend the book "Will the Real Jesus please Stand Up?" as a follow up reading.
a nice introduction to the Jesus debate Apr 4, 2006
There are a ton of books out there dealing with the person of Jesus. Which one to choose? This book isn't a bad place to start.
Here two Christians offer different understandings of what Jesus was like. Wright is a traditionalist. He says Jesus was divine and paid for humanity's sins. Wright also believes in a resurrection at the end of time. Borg, on the other hand, is a revisionist. He says Jesus wasn't God but a person (or window) through which we see God. For Borg, when we see Jesus, we see what God is like. Borg doesn't hold to a literal view of the resurrection and is silent on the question of the afterlife.
This debate was easy to read and each topic was covered thoroughly. With all the Jesus books out there (including the books both Wright and Borg have written) I'd start with this one first. There are fringe liberals who would disagree with Borg and ultra right-wings who would disagree with Wright, but if you're looking for an introduction to the issues of historical Jesus scholarship, this book is a nice place to begin.