Jesus: The Life, Teachings, and Relevance of a Religious Revolutionary

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  1. A few highlights from an ok book by NT scholar (and devout Christian) Marcus Borg:

    – Reminds us that the literal-factual approach to scripture, all too common nowadays, is a relatively recent phenomenon in the last few hundred years, as opposed to ancient Christian interpreters who emphasized the meaning of the Gospels as metaphor.

    – Has a fresh, new perspective (for me at least) on some of Jesus’s most well known teachings, especially as tips and tricks that Jesus provided for nonviolent resistance against the domination system that characterized society then, including interesting interpretations of turning the other cheek, giving your cloak as well, and going the second mile. He suggests that the meaning of these nonviolent resistance maneuvers was different then, and amounted to a way discombobulate the aggressors in those situations.

    – Unlike other New Testament scholars endorsing the view of Jesus as an apocalypticist – or a believer in what Borg calls immanent eschatology (such as Bart Erhman, John Meier, Dale Allison, EP Sanders), Borg in this book rather makes the case that Jesus was a believer not in immanent eschatology, but rather in what he calls participatory eschatology. NT scholars are roughly divided on whether Jesus was an apolcalypticist or not. (It seems to me – not a NT scholar – that Bart Erhman, arguably a better NT scholar, is right that Jesus was an apocalypticist, for whatever my opinion is worth [not much].)

    – He sees the notion of substitutionary atonement as bad theology and bad history. Amen to that! (Here he and Bart Ehrman would certainly agree!)

    – Why was Jesus killed? Was it a divine necessity? The dominant answer today for Christians is yes, for our sins, ie, he died in substitutionary atonement. Yet this does not clearly exist in the Gospels, but instead was a later addition by men to the theology, starting with Asselm, archbishiop of Canterbury in 1097, and took the next 1000 years to become dominant. Mark doesn’t say anything about it, and the other Gospels have it, Borg argues, only if it is read into them. (Yet, as Bart Ehrman points out in his blog, and as any reader of the Bible can see, other NT authors clearly say that this is why Jesus was killed.)

    See also the comment on Mere Christianity, referencing this Marcus Borg book.

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