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Age: Over 65
3 Stars Out Of 5
Interesting But Flawed
September 8, 2013
Age: Over 65
The author of this book is an academic, and a member of the so-called "Jesus Seminar". One has the impression that he is attempting to reach beyond the severely impoverished picture of Jesus which the Seminar, in pursuit of the Q hypothesis, endorses. Well and fine, except that, like typical academic writers, he allows basic distinctions, for example, between the pre-Easter and the post-Easter Jesus, to defeat the holistic view of Jesus which makes the gospels so compelling. Rather than improving on the more traditional (and equally abused) distinction between the Jesus of history and the Jesus of faith, the author creates a dichotomy where none exists, and then finds himself having to work around it via an appeal to a concept of "experience" which creates more puzzles than it solves. If faith is a component of my experience of Jesus, then the holism of the gospels is my ground. Surely, therefore, I accept what they say about Jesus, absent a compelling reason not to. This is exactly contrary to the typical present academic approach, which binds its adherents to deny what the gospels say about Jesus, absent a compelling reason to accept. If, on the other hand, faith is not a component of my experience of Jesus, then, not being a resident of first century Galilee, I have no such experience. In that case, I would do better with my time to study something else. Let me just take two examples of the flaws embedded in the propounded distinctions. The author claims that Jesus is a teacher of "alternative wisdom", which is contrasted with "conventional wisdom". The latter demands strict adherence to the "purity laws", including tithing of produce, by which the produce is made pure. So, the author cites Jesus' criticism: "Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith:" (Mt. 23:23a; the author uses a different version than KJV), as a prelude to radical departure from purity laws in favor of an alternative to be explained. The problem is that the cite is exactly not such a departure, as the rest of it indicates: "these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone." (Mt. 23:23b), that is, do both, not do the greater and ignore the lesser. Instead of the author's reading (which omits half of the saying), the better reading is that Jesus is critical, not of all adherents to the purity code, but of those who practice it selectively, or who, arguably, take the easier parts and ignore the harder parts. As a second example, the author claims that "wisdom" (sophia) is essentially reified in certain texts of the Old Testament because it its cast as a female, for example, starting with Proverbs 1:20. This ignores the abstract characterization which precedes it (in this case, Proverbs 1:2), suggesting that the Jewish author(s) of Proverbs intended nothing more than a literary device (wisdom crying out against folly, in particular, based on ignorance of God's law and its practical application to the moral guidance of daily life). So, lo and behold, to the author of this book, "sophia" becomes Sophia, all but God's co-eternal consort. Suddenly, one finds oneself wondering if, in the author's secret heart, the monotheism of Judaism is simply so much window dressing for its polytheistic roots. The analysis degenerates into absurdity when the author insists that "Sophia" may be read in place of "Logos" in the open passages of the gospel of John. I leave the reader to assess this further. Why, then, read the book? There are some points which are informative, for example, Jesus' inclusiveness of "outcasts" (e.g., lepers, prostitutes, tax collectors) as a political statement, as well as a religious statement of God's inclusiveness. Likewise, I find the author's idea of "sketching" Jesus with broad conceptual strokes appealing, even if the results leave much to be desired. I have no doubt that many will be offended by the book. Read it with caveats of the sort outlined above, and take from it at least the idea that traditional theology has buried the authentic Jesus, even if the author has not uncovered him.
This book is not for those who wish to believe in a literal Bible, it is for those believers who have questions about what Jesus taught to His early followers, what would bring out thousands of peasants to listen to this 'Son of Man' who changed so many tenents of the Jewish law that it lead to a new understanding and religion. It answers questions that many who want to believe have asked or have tried to rationalize on their own with a logical, historical, biblical perspective. Borg is clear and leads to a wholesome understanding of Christianity
This book brought me back into the Church in a meaningful way. It accurately described my experience (and perhaps the experiences of others in my generation's cohort) and it provides an understandable and compassionate picture of what had separated me from God's love, and more importantly, how I can continue to experience the good news of Jesus in my life every day! There is a good spirit in-filling the message of this book, and I thank God's Spirit for bringing it to my attention. I'd give it a higher review but I'll wait until I study it in a group setting.
As a Biblical Christian, I found this book extremely offensive. Mr. Borge seems determined to discredit the Gospels and replaces it with his own version of how Jesus' life and death logically should have gone. I would have returned it to the store but, I wouldn't want anyone else to read it either.
Borg is a leading member of a group of arch-skeptics known as "the Jesus Seminar" which claims that the only record, if any, we have that such a person as Jesus ever existing are the words, "give to Caesar what is Caesar's." The "Spirit" to which they are attuned has no time for traditional Christianity or for honest scholarship, but asks questions assuming there is no answer. A very sad case, indeed!