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One star is two too many
on 29 December 2011
In the book "The Five Gospels", a particularly daft book of pseudo-scholarship put out in 1993 by the late Robert Funk and other members of the self-proclaimed "Jesus Seminar", we find a single bullet point in bright red print on page 5 which is described as the Jesus Seminar's "final general rule of evidence". And it goes like this:
"Beware of finding a Jesus entirely congenial to you."
Which is kinda strange. Since that is exactly what various members of the JS did in their own books - including Marcus Borg in "Meeting Jesus".
If we boil this book down to it's core message that message appears to be that there wasn't just one Jesus, there were two. One was the "pre-easter" Jesus, who was nothing more than a rather intelligent Jewish peasant with the gift of the gab.
This Jesus was arrested, crucified and stayed dead. Though why either the Sanhedrin or the Romans would have thought it necessary to execute an intelligent peasant is never explained in any convincing detail.
On this basis Borg is convinced that either Jesus was never put in the tomb belonging to Joseph of Aramathea, or if he was then his body remained there.
The "resurrection", then, was of some other "Jesus" - a purely spiritual character. To use Borg's own description, if someone with a camera or video camera had taken pictures of any of Jesus' followers whilst (after Jesus' death) they were allegedly in Jesus' company then there would be no sign of a physically resurrected Jesus.
Which leaves us with a problem that Borg never deals with. If the physical Jesus stayed dead, what is it that was resurrected - "brought back to life"? Surely not Jesus' spiritual self, since in Jewish belief that would at most be "sleeping", awaiting some kind of re-awakening process at the end of the world.
Borg claims that this "resurrected" being was the "real" Jesus, but not the "literal" Jesus. Moreover he holds the view that the whole question of the empty tomb is irrelevant to his position on the subject of the resurrection. But here again he has a problem. In a debate on the subject of the resurrection, featuring Borg, Daryl Schmitt (a fellow member of the JS), William Lane Craig and Darrell Bock, Borg made his point about the state of the tomb being irrelevant - yet thereafter stated over and over agained that he didn't believe that the tomb was empty.
"Methinks the Borg doth protest too much", to paraphrase Mr Shakespeare.
In short, when pared down to it's essence, Borg's stated belief is incoherent. And certainly imcompatible with any mainstream version of Christianity. For a precis of Borg's "explanation" see the relevant short article on Borg's own website. In it he denies that the resurrection was either "physical/bodily" or "spiritual/mystical". Instead he comes up with the following:
"The central meaning of Easter is not about whether something happened to the corpse of Jesus. Its central meanings are that Jesus continues to be known and that he is Lord. The tomb couldn't hold him. He's loose in the world. He's still here. He's still recruiting for the kingdom of God."
As I said - Borg simply doesn't answer the question at all, just as he provides no coherent answer in this book.
Which makes it ideal for people who don't really want an answer in the first place.
For anyone who takes the subject seriously it is a waste of time and money, unless you're looking for a book length example of the kind of pseudo-scholastic nonsense the members of the Jesus Seminar have put out.
To get a fuller experience of Borg explaining his ideas, look out for the DVD of the public debate on the subject of the resurrection (and the contents of this book), between Borg and fellow JS member Daryl Schmitt on the one hand, and William Lane craig and Darrell Bock on the other.
It throws some useful light on the things Borg says in this book.