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The Meaning of Jesus: Two Visions (Plus)
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on 1 February 2013
I read this book a little while ago and read it straight the way through. It blew the top off my mind, opening up similarities of liberal and conservative views on the historical Jesus and what that means for us today, but also presenting differences in a clear and respectful way, not bashing each other for their difference in beliefs, but engaging in their differences.

Over the last couple of weeks I have been engaging with different chapters in this work as I research and do background reading for my course (I am studying a degree in Biblical studies and Theology) and this time, making notes as I work through both N. T. Wright's and M. Borg's views, ideas and beliefs on different aspects of the Jesus narrative and its value for today.

Both scholars have exceptional arguments, personally I prefer the place N.T Wright comes from, engaging with a first century Jewish or Greco-Roman mind-set to try and workout what the texts would have meant to them, as they heard them being read for the first time and trying to see why (Paul for instance) wrote what he wrote and the place he came from through his epistles.

Though the approach M. Borg takes is fascinating, he is also, in my opinion a better writer and his arguments more fluid and tight, though this does not mean I agree with his metaphorical approach to anything physically unlikely or hard to reason.

Both scholars present their arguments well and clearly come from a place of mutual respect and friendship when voicing their views within this work! A must read for anyone interested in gleaning an understanding and foundation to the historical Jesus debate and a great platform to work from in continuing studies in this field thereafter.
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22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
on 16 February 2009
Wow! What a match! Reading the Meaning of Jesus is like sitting at Centre Court in Wimbledon seeing two tennis greats volleying with all their might! Enjoyable and exciting reading, as you wait to see how the other author will return the serve!

There are 8 parts in the book, with two chapters per part. Borg plays for the more progressive (or liberal) side, while Wright represents the more conservative side, but both are devout Christians. The good thing is that there is no hostility between them as they argue their points with respect, humour and clarity.

In part one Borg serves, and Wright returns, the Bible: Metaphorical vs Historical?
In part two, the historical Jesus: Jewish Messiah or Jewish Mystic?
In part three, the question is the Death of Christ: political martyr, or something more?
In part four, the Resurrection: was it the actual same body of the historical Jesus, or some kind of Visionary experience?
In part five, was Jesus God?: What was the defining moment - his Birth or his Resurrection?
In part six, the Virgin Birth: A Metaphor about great things, or a Literal event?
In part seven, the Return of Christ: a Failed expectation or an Alternative interpretation?
In part eight, the Christian Life: a Life of Love vs a Life of Love?

Throughout the book, I would find myself agreeing with one author, only to be challenged by a view I had never considered! Wright and Borg are both very good writers, but Borg is a bit more readable while Wright can be slightly 'wordy'. However, you will find that both of them have very good arguments for their case.

Some reviewers have said "Don't bother with Wright", or "Forget Borg, he's wrong". I would suggest that you don't support one or the other just because they agree with your views, but look at the arguments objectively.

I can honestly say, that my interpretation of the meaning of Jesus has been affected by the arguments presented in this book - an apt title for such an impactful book. The good thing, is that in the end, both authors believe that the purpose of being a Christian is to love others, and bring social justice to this world. And that is one thing we can all agree on!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 26 September 2013
This is an excellent and enlightening book. Marcus Borg and Tom Wright give a wonderful example of how to debate without ducking divisive issues and yet maintaining mutual respect and, indeed, evident Christian love.

Previous reviewers have remarked on Borg's exceptional readability and clarity of argument, and I agree that he scores very highly. He is, however, faced with much the easier task in communication. Following the self-limitation of science to the repeatable and measurable, he takes it as axiomatic throughout that physical miracles do not happen - with the exception of healing. This he does allow, on the basis of anecdotal evidence regarding the powers of mystics and ecstatics in many cultures. Much follows smoothly and logically unexceptionably from these assumptions:

Jesus must have been a mystic of exceptional powers, so Borg can accept that healing was an integral part of
His ministry;

Gospel stories describing other miraculous events must be inventions of the early church; enrichments added
for good metaphorical reasons, no doubt, but certainly not to be taken literally;

so Borg must use theories about the stages in development of the gospel stories to determine what is to be
taken as literal history and what is metaphorical;

this leads on to judgements as to which sources are to be trusted as to what Jesus himself actually might
have said;

hence, so far as the pre-Easter Jesus is concerned, we are left with a `stripped-down' version of the gospel
accounts to be taken as literal truth, the rest being deeply meaningful expressions of the early church's
Spirit-guided reflections in the light of their subsequent spiritual experiences.

BUT logical deductions are unlikely to be any more reliable than the axioms from which one begins...!

Tom Wright's approach is much more complex. He takes the gospels as a whole, as sources to be investigated without adding a prior filter. He takes seriously the testimony of Israel to its life with Yahweh in the Old Testament; he has studied deeply the Jewish world views at the time of the Second Temple, and seeks to show that the Jesus of the gospel accounts represents the completion and fulfilment of God's salvific plan, through Israel, for mankind: the inauguration of the long-promised Kingdom of God `on earth as it is in heaven'. He also concludes that `the gospels are what they are precisely because their authors thought the events they were recording--all of them, not just some--actually happened'.

To make his case with the care and detail it requires took some 2000 pages in his magisterial 3-volume series: `Christian Origins and the Question of God'. He makes a pretty good job of encapsulating his material for the purposes of this debate, but it could not possibly read as smoothly as Borg's contributions.

All-in-all the book is a most valuable introduction to two widely-differing schools of thought, from two deeply-devoted Christian men, and I highly commend it.
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on 18 February 2013
Over the last few months I have rather obsessively been doing a lot of reading about Jesus, the Gospels and New Testament, buying a wide range of books on the subject. I've been utterly fascinated by the sheer depth and breadth of views scholars have about what the Bible tells us from a historical and spiritual perspective. Having been greatly impressed by Tom Wrights Reflecting the Glory: Bible Readings and Reflections for Every Day in Lent, a series of scriptural readings and interpretation for every day of Lent (highly recommended), and subsequently bought some other book that I believe this book inspired (Lent for Everyone: Matthew Year ALent for Everyone Mark Year B), all of which focus on the spiritual interpretation and meaning of these Gospels, I wanted to read more from the scholarly side of Tom Wright.

This book seemed ideal. I hoped that by having two prominent authors of New Testament scholarship of opposite schools of thought argue their views on the meaning of Jesus in one book I would get the benefit of understanding N.T. Wrights views better with the bonus of gaining a wider perspective of alternative views. I had never read any of Marcus J. Borg books, but his name had frequently cropped up in footnotes in other the books I had read, so I knew he was prominent in the field of New Testament understanding and that has views worthy of consideration. In short, I hoped to get a broader perspective on modern scholarship views on Jesus and deepen my understanding of who Jesus was and what he means.

The blurb on the front cover of the book reads `a not to be missed gateway into the current debates about Jesus'. I can unreservedly concur. This book The Meaning of Jesus: Two Visions by far exceeded my expectations. This was not a dry academic read, nor a medium for the two participants to rubbish each others views. It was in-fact a highly readable, utterly fascinating and most thought provoking book. Jesus: Two Visions contains a series of essays on particular subjects that just happen to be core to Christianity and the meaning of Jesus, and what subjects they are. I list the eight parts of book below:

How do we know about Jesus?
What did Jesus do and teach?
The death of Jesus
`God raised Jesus from the Dead
Was Jesus God?
The Birth of Jesus
`He will come again in Glory'
The Jesus and the Christian Life

Within each of the eight sections each author has a chapter to put their point of view on the particular subject. Because as part of the process of writing this book they then read each others essays, commented on them, and then they were then able to go away and refine their own essays in light of what the other had written, the end result is more cohesive than you would think possible. Their depth of knowledge of the gospels and their skills of interpretation are deeply impressive You not only get a clear presentation of how they themselves view the meaning of Jesus but also, where necessary, reasons why they agree or disagree with the other persons point if view. This approach makes for a most illuminating and revealing coverage of the topics. Their points of view are presented clearly and convincingly, and as N.T Wright and Marcus J. Borg had been friends for 15 years prior to writing this book together, their mutual respect they have for each other shines throughout. So too does their understanding of each others views, and their need to present their respective positions, clearly and thoroughly if they are to win the argument. The degrees of difference in view point and approach to interpreting the New Testament are in many cases quite extreme opposites, and yet given this, there is a surprising degree of areas of common agreement too. At the end of the day, they have one very important thing in common; they are both deeply religious people that believe in the redeeming power of Jesus.

Having bought this book with a degree of familiarity of N.T Wright, the big plus of this book for me was infact the discovery of Marcus J. Borg. He has a refreshingly clear writing style and was able to present his arguments simply but effectively. What he had to say was very different in view point of the other books on Jesus I have read. The way he interprets the New Testament comes across as being quite pragmatic and commonsensical, although maybe a little bit too black and white from my perspective. However, this approach makes how he interprets the Gospels a far easier proposition than that of N.T Wright, who I feel has to work extremely hard to rationally arrive at his own views of who Jesus was and what He means. Both authors do an excellent job at joining all the dots to arrive at convincing portraits of who Jesus was and what he means as a result of their way reading and interpreting the Gospels. There were merits to both authors' positions but equally both had areas of belief and interpretation which I would question, and continue to ponder, so this was a book that really got me thinking. The end result is that I have come away with a far clearer understanding of the issues involved in New Testament scholarship interpretation of the Gospels, but more importantly, a much deeper and meaningful understanding of who Jesus was and what He stands for. It's also raised some really big questions on what I myself believe. Good. As I had hoped, I have greatly benefitted from the highly intelligent arguments presented by both authors.

To conclude, this is a really excellent book that really succeeds in its objectives and execution of having two leading New Testament scholars with radically different ways of looking at the New Testament coming together to discuss their approach and what it tells them about Jesus. I actually reread it very shortly after reading it the first time and I know that I will certainly be reading it again. Not only is it highly readable, the subject matter is utterly fascinating and demands repeat reading and reflection to get the most out of it. I certainly think I got more out of this book than if I had bought one or two books on the subject from each author separately.

Inevitably when you have a book of two scholars arguing different views of how to interpret the life and meaning of Jesus, the question of who won arises. Who won? Christianity did. And I believe you will too if you buy this book. It's outstanding!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 12 April 2015
I find the compare and contrast method adopted by Borg and Wright very interesting. It helps that they are good friends who do not waste time on fruitless bickering - they stick to the title and do it well.
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on 6 March 2013
This is an excellent book. Borg and Wright help their readers to reach their own conclusions about key areas of Christian theology through the example of their own thought-provoking and courteous dialogue.
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10 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on 2 August 1999
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It answered almost all my questions how the early church interpreted the meaning of Jesus and how we today have turned their writings into things that we are taught to believe as fact. Borg's understanding makes so much more sense than to have to believe some of the things the church requires us to believe to be Christian. Most of what he stated in this book I had already come to believe through prayer, reading, studying, and searching for the truth. He just put it in language that I could understand and which made perfect sense. Hopefully he will write more books like this for those of us who want to make Jesus and our faith more real to our everyday lives.
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10 of 19 people found the following review helpful
on 7 June 1999
Borg is the liberal one, Wright is more of the conservative one. My beliefs are closer to Wright's, but, by God, his writing style is so stilted consisting mostly of jargons ("eschatology", "exegetical" "Epicureanism" - and that's just for the letter E) and long, windy paragraphs. In contrast, Borg language is lucid and intelligible.
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