As I opened Twitter last night I was surprised to find that Marcus Borg, the influential New Testament scholar and theologian, had died. I was introduced to Borg through his books when I was doing my undergrad work at Hardin-Simmons University. I don’t agree with all of Borg’s positions but I enjoyed his fresh perspective and debating his ideas against those of other New Testament theologians, as well as, my own opinions.
My favorite book by Borg is Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time: The Historical Jesus & The Heart of Contemporary Faith. What I find interesting is that the book begins with Borg telling his own faith journey from faith to doubt and back to faith again. It is from that book that I want to share ten quotes from the late Marcus Borg. These are sentences and passages that I find intriguing and that have caused me to look at things in a new way.
10. “The gospels contain both their memories of Jesus of Nazareth and their ongoing experience of the post-Easter Jesus.” (20)
9. “It is the claim that I emphasized at the end of chapter 1 and that will emerge yet again in this book: that the Christian life moves beyond believing in God to being in relationship to God.” (39)
8. “The historical Jesus was a spirit person, one of those figures in human history with an experiential awareness of the reality of God…Jesus was a teacher of wisdom who regularly used the classic form of wisdom speech to teach a subversive and alternative wisdom…Jesus was a social prophet, similar to the classical prophets of ancient Israel. As such, he criticized the elites of his time, was an advocate of an alternative social vision, and was often in conflict with authorities. Jesus was a movement founder who brought into being a Jewish renewal or revitalization movement that challenged and shattered the social boundaries of his day, a movement that eventually became the early Christian church.” (30)
7. “The dominant social vision was centered in holiness; the alternative social vision of Jesus was centered in compassion…He directly and repeatedly challenged the dominant sociopolitical paradigm of his social world and advocated instead what might be called a politics of compassion.” (49)
6. “Now I no longer see the Christian life as being primarily about believing…Rather, the Christian life is about entering into a relationship with that to which the Christian tradition points, which may be spoken of a God, the risen living Christ, or the Spirit. And a Christian is one who lives out his or her relationship to God within the framework of the Christian tradition.” (17)
5. “We see the challenge to the purity system not only in Jesus’ teaching but in many of his activities…One of his most characteristic activities was an open and inclusive table…The open table fellowship of Jesus was thus perceived as a challenge to the purity system. And it was: the meals of Jesus embodied his alternative vision of an inclusive community.” (55-56)
4. “Strikingly, the most certain thing we know about Jesus is that he was a storyteller and speaker of great one-liners.” (70)
3. “Secondhand religion is a way of being religious based on believing what one has heard from others. It consists of thinking that the Christian life is about believing that the Bible says of what the doctrines of the church say.” (87-88)
2. “Firsthand religion, on the other hand, consists of a relationship to that which the Bible and the teachings of the church point- namely, that reality that we call God or the Spirit of God.” (88)
1. “The gospel of Jesus- the good news of Jesus’ own message- is that there is a way of being that moves beyond both secular and religion conventional wisdom. The path of transformation of which Jesus spoke leads from a life of requirements and measuring up (whether to culture or to God) to a life of relationship with God. It leads from a life of anxiety to a life of peace and trust. It leads from the bondage of self-preoccupation to the freedom of self-forgetfulness. It leads from life centered in culture to life centered in God.” (88)
I hope you have found these quotes fascinating, like I have and I would encourage you to read more from Marcus Borg.
* All quotes taken from: Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time: The Historical Jesus & The Heart of the Contemporary Faith by Marcus J. Borg, HarperCollins Publishers, New York, NY, 1994.