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on 28 June 2014
I have struggled for a few years to get to grips with the many problems presented by the bible. The classic evangelical approach is that every word is to be taken as literal truth. I did a talk a few years ago about Joshua and the levels of violence were disturbing. I found myself admitting that I had very little to say. Then there are the inconsistencies in the gospels and the frankly unbelievable stories such as Adam and Eve, Jonah and Balaam's ass.

The warning has always been that if you select only those parts of the bible that you like that you water down the whole.

This excellent book by Marcus J Borg addresses those very concerns. He present s the bible in a new way - from the point of the view of those who wrote the various documents and those who would have received them. He places the bible within the world that it came into being, rather than as a guide book to be interpreted as if it was written last week.

So, for example, the gospels might be history - a factual narrative, testimony - statements of the impact of Jesus or metaphor - stories to tell readers what Jesus was like. But Borg does not write this in a way that dilutes the bible. On the contrary he points out that each of these is valid. The underlying truth remains the same.

He writes as an academic but in a way that does not hide his own passion and love for the scriptures.

A great read and highly recommended for anyone seeking the truth behind the most popular book in history.
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on 30 July 2015
This book has helped me put the Bible into perspective. As a Quaker my faith does not depend on literal adherence to it (rather I go along with the view traditionally described that we sit in God's presence). But with so much distortion of religious texts by fundamentalists it is excellent for our 'compass bearings' to be reviewed!
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on 10 November 2014
This book illuminates different ways of reading the Bible and of understanding its meaning and authority. For me it helped resolve the discomfort in reading passages which are at variance with my understanding of God.
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on 31 December 2009
A highly recommended exploration of the Bible and a book we were prescribed on a biblical studies course. Borg would be considered at the cutting edge of accessible biblical studies. He covers the main features of the Old and New Testaments. He is a great writer and very easy to read. He takes an appealing objective attitude towards the writings in the Bible even though he is a devout Christian. He makes the point it is written by people and not by God. A very well structured work, Borg manages to reconcile the objectivity of literature with the reality of faith. He is also very politically correct in his treatment of e.g. women in the Bible. He doesn't cover every angle in a book of this size and don't expect a thorough exploration of the teachings of Jesus. However there are plenty of book references for those wishing to explore further. Borg is a gargantuan mind. I would highly recommend this book to anyone seeking to explore the Bible or their faith.
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on 22 April 2008
A gentle presentation of the historical-metaphorical way of reading the Bible: both the Old and New Testaments.

Borg writes about "postcritical naivete" as a way of listening to Bible stories once one can no longer believe they are literally true.

There's much good material about the Old Testament. I especially found the chapter on "Reading the Prophets Again" helpful. As for the New Testament, it was "Reading Paul Again" that has helped me most so far. Borg presents key themes in Paul and speculates how Paul may have reached individuals with his message about Jesus. Borg's discussion of "justification by grace" as being the basis of our relationship to God in the present seemed well said and a good correction to what seems an inappropriate focus on the future.
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on 2 July 2002
READING THE BIBLE AGAIN FOR THE FIRST TIME gives the reader a fresh look at the Scriptures. Borg points out that the gospels make extraordinary claims about Jesus such as that He is one with God and the revelation of God. Jesus lifts the Christian out of death and into life. The Christian, according to Borg, can make such claims without saying that God is known only through Jesus.
Borg states the Bible can teach us that God is not only real, but knowable and He is a God of justice and compassion. Furthermore, our lives can be made whole by living in a conscious relationship with the mystery of the Lord. The latter is the most important benefit we can receive from reading the Bible again with a new outlook.
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on 17 June 2002
Borg repeats some of the opinions he has given in previous books. Most important is that being Christian is not about believing in the Bible or about believing in Christianity. It is instead about having a relationship with the God to whom the Bible points. The Bible itself contains a combination of history and metaphor. Critical thinking allows the reader to integrate the Bible stories into a larger whole. Although the Bible speaks with many voices, a major theme throughout is the conflict between the royal theology of pharaohs, kings and caesars and the prophetic protest against it by Moses, the prophets, Jesus, Paul and John of Patmos.
Borg never fails to provide an uplifting experience for me. It helps that he writes with so much clarity.
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on 5 April 2002
In many ways this book has the feel of a history of social and political protest in the ancient world. Borg's emphasis on what he refers to as 'opposition to systems of domination' is repeated often and he points out in his chapter on Paul that Christianity is the only major religion whose two most influential personalities were put to death by established authority. The clear implication then is that the messages of Jesus and Paul may be very threatening to systems of domination.
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on 17 August 2013
It suggests a more free way of having the Bible communicate to you the Divine message than has often been the case, or at least as much of it as the Bible includes. The Bible contains and alludes to ideas at many levels, some of which have been shrouded through translations and revisions, but some of the revelation of this "pearl of great price" was never given at the time of its writing. For both of these reasons the most informative way to read it (or any other text, for that matter) is with the help and interpretation of the "Still small voice" that is within each of us. Course, there seems to be a "Catch - 22" situation implied here, in that the Bible seems to be the manual for learning how to hear that voice.

Incidentally, if anyone is objecting to my suggestion that the Bible is not a complete courier of the Divine message, this is clearly so because, by any reasonable measure, its most illuminated and transformative part is the Gospels and Jesus' teaching, ..... and it clearly reports that before his departure he states "I have yet many things to say unto you but ye cannot bear them now". There are also many other references to becoming still and listening for further guidance and clarity.

So, what about the "Catch - 22" referenced above? Well, it turns out not to be a problem because the source of the "Voice for Truth" within us (that for which the shorthand label is the word "God") has many ways to communicate with us and it will find a way to get through to anyone who has reached a state of willingness to hear, .... the only thing that ever blocks it is our confidences in what we have decided is how things work, ..... what we have learnt through "eating from the tree of knowledge", .... very little of which has any absolute truth to it, as we are, from within the human condition, "seeing through a glass darkly", ..... or more informatively we are observing through a lens of misperception, .... this idea that, from the human egoic perspective, what we observe and believe to be reality is actually an illusion is a recurring theme in many schools of religious belief (and Plato's cave). And science does not address this issue because it simply assumes that what we are observing is real.

Now, what about this book? ..... well, the choice and process of backing out of the beliefs we have incorporated (and the extreme limitations of life apparently as a body) can be likened to retracing a path over a series of stepping stones, .... as we retreat from the ignorance, frustration, limitation, mortality, repeated sickness, etc. of this completely unreal experience, ... which, incidentally, death is not the escape hatch from, .... unless one chooses it at that point, ..... as we do that (which each one does eventually) what is beneficial depends on where one is on the chain of stepping stones, .....

As regards this book, it could be of enormous value to one just releasing himself from the shackles of a literal reading of the Bible. It is well written and argued with abundant references. However, to one "further on", if I may use that phrase, it seems to me that it risks writing out the mystical content. The author discusses at some length the concept of "reading lenses", .. i.e. "interpretational lenses", ..... but it seems to me (as I am sure he would admit) that he brings his own credibility lens sharply into play, ..... almost offering authoritative direction on what is literal and what is symbolic, .... and, in particular the limits on the possibility of the miraculous, ..... which, if they really did occur as recorded (or close to it), rather undermines the purpose of at least some of Jesus' ministry, ....

One of the greatest difficulties with the Bible is discerning what is literal and what is symbolic, .... for some this book may facilitate a softening of previous confining convictions, ..... and it does have some magnificent uplift to share on many of the Bible stories, .... but as one might expect, falls some way short of God's explanation of them, .....

However, it may of course, be an essential ingredient for some towards the opening of that door.

Finally, I have alluded above to translation and revision risking dilution and corruption of the original writings or, more particularly, the actuality of the event that was being described, ..... i.e. the effect of the passage of time on these sacred works being lossy, ..... however, if the transcribers are themselves open to revelation, as I believe those commissioned by King James (and others at different times) may have been in some form, whether able to hear the "Voice for Truth" or not, then we also have the possibility of Divine accretion, ..... i.e. an "adding unto" the previous content, ..... so I do not agree with Borg's statement that the Biblical writings are always and only an account of the Hebrews' and Israelites' beliefs, meanings and understandings at that time.
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on 3 May 2013
This is a good book for anyone who is so used to the Bible being preached as literal truth and who doesn't know how to free their mind so as to see its richer meaning.

This author is good at explaining things in simple terms. I have been involved in book groups in the past where we have discussed his work, especially his book Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time: The Historical Jesus and the Heart of Contemporary Faith

Christianity is about a about relation with God not `believing in the bible'. The current upsurge in interest in spirituality is because of the barren literalism perceived to be in mainline religion.

Fundamentalism and liberalism feed off each other. They are both caught up in same inerrantism - facts - of Bible of or science.

Like me, the author listens to radio programmes where fundamentalists assert things - so he is not an out of touch academic.

I don't understand why the author accepts healing miracles but rejects nature miracles as myths. He believes that other humans could do paranormal healings but that nobody else has walked on water. Conservative Christians will argue that Jesus is not like any other humans being because he is God incarnate.

I don't agree with the author when he dismisses natural accounts of the ten plagues in Egypt. He argues that the whole pointy of the story is that God did these things. But doesn't God work through nature?

He is good on Jews - Jesus and First Century `Christians' were Jews.

The chapter on the Book of Revelation is excellent. Against the nutcases who look for signs of the end of the world, who think the European Union or the Roman Catholic Church is the mark of the beast, who think they will be `raptured' like the `Left Behind' stories of `Tim LeHaye, Borg draws on the work of the two Walters - Bruegemann and Wink, to show that the subject matter is the Roman Empire in which the recipients of this book lived and its current application is the dominion systems under which we live.

For some amusement, look at the last page of reviews on the US Amazon website, where Borg is misquoted, accused of not being qualified (by some pompous reviewer who lists his PhD and other degrees), of being a hippie. There is also a reviewer who keeps talking about someone called Lord Eesho who is coming again to slay all evildoers.

Some good bits:

The word "sacrament" also has a broader meaning. In the study of religion, a sacrament is commonly defined as a mediator of the sacred, a vehicle by which God becomes present, a means through which the Spirit is experienced. This meaning thus in¬cludes the two (or seven) Christian Sacraments even as it is broader. Virtually anything can become sacramental: nature, music, prayer, birth, death, sexuality, poetry, persons, pilgrim¬age, even participation in sports, and so forth. Things are sacra¬mental when they become occasions for the experience of God, moments when the Spirit becomes present, times when the sa¬cred becomes an experiential reality. p. 31

To see the Bible as a sacrament of the sacred also connects us back to the Bible as a human product. The bread and wine of the Christian sacrament of the eucharist are manifestly human products. Somebody made the bread and somebody made the wine. We do not think of the bread and wine as "perfect" (whatever that might mean). Rather, to use a common eucharistic phrase, we affirm that "in, with, and under" these manifestly human products of bread and wine, Christ becomes present to us. So also "in, with, and under" the human words of the Bible, the Spirit of God addresses us.
In the worship services of many denominations, including my own, the following words are spoken after the reading of a pas¬sage from the Bible: "The Word of the Lord." With my emphasis on the Bible as a human product, I sometimes joke that we should say instead, "Some thoughts from ancient Israel," or "Some thoughts from the early Christian movement." But when I am being serious rather than flippant, I find the words used in the New Zealand Anglican Book of Common Prayer exactly right: "Hear what the Spirit is saying to the church." The Spirit of God speaks through the human words of these ancient docu¬ments: the Bible is a sacrament of the sacred. pp. 32-3

The word "criticism" is perhaps unfortunate, simply because in popular usage it often has the negative meaning of fault-finding (as when we say, "Oh, don't be so critical"). But in the phrase "historical criticism," "criticism" means "discernment"--in other words, making discerning judgments about historical matters. p. 38

as Mark tells the story, the dis¬ciples and Peter see who Jesus is in two stages (Mark 8.27-30). (1) Jesus asks the disciples, "Who do people say that I am?" and they respond with various reports. (2) Jesus then asks them, "Who do you say that I am?" and , Peter responds with, "You are the Christ" (Christ = messiah). As with the blind man of Bethsaida, their "seeing" who Jesus is involves two stages pp.; 52-53

If God ceased to vibrate the universe (and us) into existence, it (and we) would cease to exist. In traditional Christian language, God as creator is also the sustainer of everything that is.
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