The Meaning of Jesus: Two Visions (Plus) Paperback – 2 Aug 2007
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“...Strongly argued and well-written.” (Biblical Archaeology Review)
About the Author
Marcus J. Borg (1942–2015) was a pioneering author and teacher whom the New York Times described as "a leading figure in his generation of Jesus scholars." He was the Hundere Distinguished Professor of Religion and Culture at Oregon State University and canon theologian at Trinity Episcopal Cathedral in Portland, and he appeared on NBC's The Today Show and Dateline, ABC's World News, and NPR's Fresh Air. His books have sold over a million copies, including the bestselling Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time, Reading the Bible Again for the First Time, Jesus, The Heart of Christianity, Evolution of the Word, Speaking Christian, and Convictions.
N. T. Wright, one of the world’s leading Bible scholars, is the chair of New Testament and Early Christianity at the School of Divinity at the University of St. Andrews, an Anglican bishop, and bestselling author. Featured on ABC News, The Colbert Report, Dateline, and Fresh Air, Wright is the award-winning author of Simply Good News, Simply Jesus, Simply Christian, Surprised by Hope, How God Became King, Scripture and the Authority of God, Surprised by Scripture, and The Case for the Psalms, as well as the recent translation of the New Testament The Kingdom New Testament and the much heralded series Christian Origins and the Question of God.
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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.
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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