Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time: The Historical Jesus and the Heart of Contemporary Faith

Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time: The Historical Jesus and the Heart of Contemporary Faith

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by Marcus J. Borg
     
 

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Of the many recent books on the historical Jesus, none has explored what the latest biblical scholarship means for personal faith. Now, in Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time, Marcus Borg addresses the yearnings of those who want a fully contemporary faith that welcomes rather than oppresses our critical intelligence and openness to the best of

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Overview

Of the many recent books on the historical Jesus, none has explored what the latest biblical scholarship means for personal faith. Now, in Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time, Marcus Borg addresses the yearnings of those who want a fully contemporary faith that welcomes rather than oppresses our critical intelligence and openness to the best of historical scholarship. Borg shows how a rigorous examination of historical findings can lead to a new faith in Christ, one that is critical and, at the same time, sustaining.

Drawing on his own journey from a naïve, unquestioning belief in Christ through collegiate skepticism to a mature and contemporary Christian faith, Borg illustrates how an understanding of the historical Jesus can actually lead to a more authentic Christian life—one not rooted in creed or dogma, but in a life of spiritual challenge, compassion, and community.

In straightforward, accessible prose, Borg looks at the major findings of modern Jesus scholarship from the perspective of faith, bringing alive the many levels of Jesus's character: spirit person, teacher of alternative wisdom, social prophet, and movement founder. He also reexamines the major stories of the Old Testament vital to an authentic understanding of Jesus, showing how an enriched understanding of these stories can uncover new truths and new pathways to faith.

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Editorial Reviews

Elizabeth A. Johnson
“It is impossible to read this beautifully written book and remain unenlightened by the results of Jesus research, or untouched by the power of Jesus’ way.”
Sandra M. Schneiders
“Just the sort of book on Jesus that we really need--a classy wedding of first-rate biblical research and solid spirituality in beautiful, clear English that makes it a pleasure to read.”
L. William Countryman
“A book of rare excellence.”
Rosemary Radford Ruether
“For many contemporary Christians, Biblical scholarship is seen as the enemy of faith. In a personal and highly readable account, Marcus Borg shows how Christians can explore contemporary scholarship as a way toward a far more dynamic and meaningful faith.”
Praying
“Borg has done a great service for all of us in drawing upon contemporary research to present a fresh and imaginative picture of Jesus that has profound implications for contemporary faith.”
Alan Jones
Borg Liberates 'Jesus' from the rigidity of fundamentalism and the aridity of intellectualism. He also graciously liberates readers from the shackles of what many have thought they were supposed to believe about Jesus if they were to remain Christians. . . . What a relief to see Jesus in a totally new light.
Walter Wink
In every generation there is a handful of writers of whom it can be said, 'Read everything they write.' Marcus Borg is one of these today: a writer of rare lucidity, original scholarly insights, profound spirituality, and the universal capacity to connect it all to life in the present . . .

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780060609177
Publisher:
HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
03/28/1995
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
160
Sales rank:
115,307
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.25(h) x 0.40(d)

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Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

Meeting Jesus Again

We have all met Jesus before. Most of us first met him when we were children. This is most obviously true for those of us raised in the church, but also for anybody who grew up in Western culture. We all received some impression of Jesus, some image of him, however vague or specific.

For many, the childhood image of Jesus remains intact into adulthood. For some, that image is held with deep conviction, sometimes linked with warm personal devotion and sometimes tied to rigid doctrinal positions. For others, both within and outside of the church, the childhood image of Jesus can become a problem, producing perplexity and doubt, often leading to indifference toward or rejection of the religion of their childhood.

Indeed, for many Christians, especially in mainline churches, there came a time when their childhood image of Jesus no longer made a great deal of sense. And for many of them, no persuasive alternative has replaced it. It is for these people especially that this book is written. For them, meeting Jesus again will be--as it has been for me--like meeting him for the first time. It will involve a new image of Jesus.

Images of Jesus
and Images of the Christian Life

Images of Jesus matter. The foundational claim of this book is that there is a strong connection between images of Jesus and images of the Christian life, between how we think of Jesus and how we think of the Christian life. Our image of Jesus affects our perception of the Christian life in two ways: it gives shape to the Christian life; and (as we shall see later in this chapter) it can make Christianity credibleor incredible.

The way images of Jesus give shape to the Christian life is illustrated by two widespread images and their effects on images of the Christian life. The most common image of Jesus--what I call the "popular image"--sees him as the divine savior. Put most compactly, this image is a constellation of answers to the three classic questions about Jesus. Who was he? The divinely begotten Son of God. What was his mission or purpose? To die for the sins of the world. What was his message? Most centrally, it was about himself: his own identity as the Son of God, the saving purpose of his death, and the importance of believing in him.

The image of the Christian life to which this image of Jesus leads is clear: it consists primarily of believing--that Jesus was who he said he was and that he died for our sins. We may call this a fideistic image of the Christian life, one whose primary dynamic is faith, understood as believing certain things about Jesus to be true. Though belief may (and ideally does) lead to much else, it is the primary quality of this image of the Christian life.

Only slightly less common is an image of Jesus as teacher. A de-dogmatized image of Jesus, it is held by those who are not sure what to make of the doctrinal claims made about Jesus by the Christian tradition. When these are set aside, what remains is Jesus as a great teacher. His moral teaching may be understood in quite general terms (the Great Commandment of love of God and love of neighbor, or the Golden Rule of doing to others as you would have them do to you), or in quite specific terms as a fairly narrow code of righteousness. But in either case, the image of the Christian life that flows out of this image of Jesus consists of "being good," of seeking to live as Jesus said we should.

Just as the first image of Jesus leads to a fideistic image of the Christian life, so this image leads to a moralistic image of the Christian life. Both images, it seems to me, are inadequate. Not only are they inaccurate as images of the historical Jesus, as we shall see, but they lead to incomplete images of the Christian life. That life is ultimately not about believing or about being good.

Rather, as I shall claim, it is about a relationship with God that involves us in a journey of transformation.

The understanding of the Christian life as a journey of transformation is grounded in the alternative image of Jesus that I develop in this book. This image flows out of contemporary biblical and historical scholarship. Though it may seem fresh and initially unfamiliar, it is very old, going back to the first century of the early Christian movement. Meeting this Jesus will, for many of us, be like meeting Jesus again for the first time.

Meeting Jesus Again:
My Own Story

To recall the ways in which we have met Jesus before is illuminating. The occasion for my first doing so came unexpectedly. About two years ago I was invited to speak to an Episcopal men's group that had been meeting weekly for over ten years. Because of the nature of the group, whose times together were marked by personal sharing, their instructions to me were twofold: "Talk to us about Jesus, and make it personal."

Nobody had ever asked me to do that before. I had givenhundreds of lectures about Jesus, but nobody had ever said,"Make it personal." It was a challenge. Not being sure how toproceed, I wrote the words Me and Jesus on a piece of paper,began to think about them, and was led into memories and reflections about Jesus in my own life. It was a rich and illuminating experience, and I encourage you to try this yourself sometime. Simply begin, as I did, with your earliest childhood memories of Jesus, track them through adolescence and into adulthood, and then see what has happened to your image ofJesus over the years.

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What People are saying about this

L. William Countryman
“A book of rare excellence.”
Elizabeth A. Johnson
“It is impossible to read this beautifully written book and remain unenlightened by the results of Jesus research, or untouched by the power of Jesus’ way.”
Sandra M. Schneiders
“Just the sort of book on Jesus that we really need—a classy wedding of first-rate biblical research and solid spirituality in beautiful, clear English that makes it a pleasure to read.”
Rosemary Radford Ruether
“For many contemporary Christians, Biblical scholarship is seen as the enemy of faith. In a personal and highly readable account, Marcus Borg shows how Christians can explore contemporary scholarship as a way toward a far more dynamic and meaningful faith.”

Meet 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.

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Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 22 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
What I love about Borg is his ability to make you think about WHY you believe the things you do and recognize that further evaluation is necessary. His writings educate me without threatening my core beliefs. I feel more strongly about my beliefs after reading this book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is aimed at Christians whose belief has grown stale. The author describes a radical new way of looking at Jesus which will appeal to anybody who is sincere in their desire to grow in Christ but feels hopelessly stuck with an unsatisfactory image of Jesus.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Much of Borg's book is based on the author's conception of the historical Jesus. According to Borg, Jesus was a cosmopolitan Jew who did not intend to start a new religion. He had a profound religious experience and at some point became associated with John The Baptist. Jesus started his own ministry after John went to prison. The message of Jesus was God-centered and He probably did not think of Himself as the Messiah. Jesus was one of many mediators of the Sacred. Instead of learning and believing certain facts about Jesus, the author views the Christian life to be a journey with the Spirit of Christ towards a deepening and transforming relationship with God. Borg asserts that the gospels were written for Jews and Gentiles in the wider Mediterranean world. They reflect the developing tradition of early Christianity and are not eyewitness accounts. This book will appeal to Christians who are struggling with their faith and looking for a fresh image of Jesus. For those who are firmly rooted in any of the many Christian sects, Borg's book can only promise to be unsettling.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book has wonderfully illuminated the 'journey' I am on in my search for a fuller understanding of God, Christ, and the Christian 'Way'. Clarifying and awesomely inspirational, it has strengthened my faith and blown right out of the water many of the old ways of thinking that held me back in my faith. It makes re-reading the Bible an absolute must,in the light of new discoveries contained in Borg's book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Makes you think about what the Bible is really telling us and what the writers were thinking when they were alive.
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Joe-NewYork More than 1 year ago
In recent years, there has been new interest in the Jesus tradition. Rightfully, this has involved looking at the biblical texts with new eyes, and bringing the best of contemporary scholarship to that task. Borg is one of the best exponents of this new movement. In this book, Borg not only displays astute analytical skills, but he is also able to present a fresh and engaging interpretation of the subversive Jesus. This is a great book for searchers, jaded Christians and open-minded agnostics. Beautifully written.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
One of the most interesting facets of MEETING JESUS AGAIN FOR THE FIRST TIME is the author's treatment of the historical Jesus. Borg believes that the images of Jesus in the synoptic gospels are very different from that presented in the Gospel of John. Since John's Gospel was written at a much later date, he argues that the Johannine image of Jesus is nonhistorical. For the development of the historical Jesus Borg relies on the early layers of Matthew, Mark and Luke as well as the Gospel of Thomas which was discovered in Egypt in 1945. There is much more to this book than just a discussion of the historical Jesus. However, for anybody seeking a highly readable introduction to the subject, Borg's description in the second chapter of his own quest for the historical Jesus will be very useful.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The writer seems to want to discredit Jesus for who Christians believe him to be. Borg is all over the intellect of Jesus but is missing the spiritual faith. He refers to Jesus as a mystic and put him in the company of many other spiritual people having vision quest and altered states of reality all the while believing Jesus Himself one day had a conversion to become religeous. Jesus isn't 'one of those people' or even being put in a class of mortals who 'share a compelling sense of having experienced something'. He's Jesus, where's your faith. Luckily he ran into John The Baptiser. Wow, what a coincidence. The book is peppered with terms like 'historically reliable', 'fanciful tales' and 'in all likelihood'. Anyone could argue that 'it seems more likely' that Jesus all night Prayer was more like ' a form of contemplation'. Don't think I'm not getting the book. I get it. In the end your paintbrush stains the canvas with opinions of Jesus only being a smart public speaker with a religious conversion. Otherwise, the rest of the book is decent.