Marcus Borg, leading liberal theologian and historical Jesus expert, dies at 72

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Marcus J. Borg, a prominent liberal theologian and Bible scholar who for a generation helped popularize the intense debates about the historical Jesus and the veracity and meaning of the New Testament, died on Wednesday (Jan. 21). He was 72 and had been suffering from a prolonged illness, friends said. Photo courtesy of Trinity Episcopal Cathedral

Marcus J. Borg, a prominent liberal theologian and Bible scholar who for a generation helped popularize the intense debates about the historical Jesus and the veracity and meaning of the New Testament, died on Wednesday (Jan. 21). He was 72 and had been suffering from a prolonged illness, friends said. Photo courtesy of Trinity Episcopal Cathedral

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(RNS) A prominent theologian and Bible scholar, Borg was a leader in the Jesus Seminar, which brought a skeptical eye to the Scriptures.

  • Ken

    Bye

  • Naomi

    So happy to have caught up with you at the Borg cousins’ reunions. You’ll be missed.

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  • Borg, like Crossan, helped millions out of literalist readings of the Bible. That is a great accomplishment.

    If supposed “Holy Texts” about Jesus and other gods
    are of any value (and they may not be) it must be in the non-literal interpretations which deflate the nonsense about ‘divinities’.

    Religion is too dangerous to take seriously. It seems Borg understood that.

  • Surfers take religion littorally.

  • Gunbritt Karlsson

    His books means a lot to me. Thank you! RIP.

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  • Genine

    I just found Marcus Borg passed away yesterday. He was one my professors at Oregon State University when I was there for several classes including the Psychology of Religion. One of the most beloved professors there on campus. The students in his classes came from all walks of life, different ethnic backgrounds and diverse religious and spiritual beliefs. All of us who were fortunate to be in his classes, his teachings went far beyond the classrooms in our lives. I was so saddened to learn of his passing. My heart goes out to his family.

  • RBAddison

    My husband and I were lucky enough to have attended a 5-day retreat with Marcus and John Dominic Crossan in 2007. They were each wonderfully accessible to those attending, and knew each of us by name in very short order. His books and talks have changed my life and heart, certainly for the better. Goodbye, dear Marcus. We will miss you.

  • Doc Anthony

    I’m just glad that NT Wright and other New Testament scholars were there to fight back against Borg and Crossan. I don’t know how many people were “helped out of literalist readings of the Bible”, but certainly the number of victims would have been higher if not for the great efforts of Wright and others.

  • Jack

    I never met Borg, but the article confirms that he was a man who was able to disagree agreeably with others. NT Wright’s collaboration with him was interesting and telling. The two were on nearly opposite ends theologically. I suspect that what they had in common besides a commitment to civility was agreement in some ways with Wright’s “new perspective” on the apostle Paul.

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  • Bruce Naylor

    Without question, my favorite theologian and a completely geunine person. Those who only heard about his progressive views would have been amazed at his spirituality in person. I will miss him dearly!

  • Doc,

    “I don’t know how many people were “helped out of literalist readings of the Bible”

    Right.

    Because this has to be taken literally!

    “ZOMBIES walked around Jerusalem laughing and joking with everyone and buying rounds of beer at the local pool halls for a whole week after Jesus died.” – (Matthew 27:52)

    Only a little child would fall for this nonsense.

  • Bill Wall

    His writings helped me make sense of the bible once again (for the first time!)

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  • crosshugger

    Keep mocking Him and you will have the same conversation with your Creator as borg did. I pray for your soul and his family. I truly hope that he repented before he passed.

  • Doc, that is a most ungracious observation right now. A decidedly unflattering portrait of insensitivity in the face of others’ grieving and distress. We do not need to agree with each other to be kind.

  • Darrow Woods

    Marcus Borg has made an incredible contribution to conversation about the Historical Jesus, and the possibility of faith in something beyond ourselves, in an age in which there are still voices that seem to demand that we choose “all-or-nothing” between science that explains all and leaves no room for awe, and faith which explains all and leaves no room for mystery. Borg spoke with humility,and pointed to the possibility of a thinking person’s faith that does not depend upon certainty.

  • Borg was never assimilated. He maintained his intellectual independence and integrity.

  • Martyn Evans

    I heard him three times in the UK – at St Mark’s, Broomfield, Sheffield where he preached at Parish Communion after a conference the day before, in Edinburgh in 2010 at a Progressive Christian Network event and, I think, Sheffield again. He was always stimulating and interesting. This is sad news. His books survive him and I have 8 of them, including two written with Crossan. He wrote very clearly and persuasively. Many thanks and condolences to his family.

  • Marcus Borg could give lessons in sensitivity and being gracious. I traveled with him in Turkey a few years ago and it was a wonderful experience. Fortunately he has left a body of work that will continue to inspire and restore thousands of seekers and believers to a more realistic faith. I love quoting Dr. Borg in on-line chats and “sometimes the Bible is just plain wrong”. That explains a lot of things that have bothered individuals like me since I was a wee lad. If only I could have said that then.

  • I am sure Borg repented many times, but why are you sitting in judgment? God needs a job and you shouldn’t try to take God’s job away from God. Shame on you. This is not a Borg quote, but it is one of my favorite ones: “There is a hell…and it is empty.” Now, I don’t agree with that. I think judgmental people should go to hell. Happy landings.

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  • Larry

    Or the fact that Borg’s views were relatively tame in terms of challenging status quo interpretations. Providing just enough variance from the accepted norm that fundamentalists weren’t all up in arms ready to burn him at the stake.

    The man was an expert in theology, not history or archaeology. So his baseline assumptions were of Biblical credulity and Christian belief when discussing the “Historical Jesus”. Nothing having to do actual historical research, and more to do with interpolations based on assumed historical knowledge to fit a theological POV.

  • Dan

    Well, it doesn’t say “zombies” it says “And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose, 53 And came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many.”

    Obviously there were some who had met them when Matthew wrote that. This is the beginning of the first resurrection. It will shortly continue, and then the rapture will occur.

    The second resurrection is for the lost. That is the one where you will get your body back, before you are tossed into the lake of fire.

    You don’t have to go there, but you will if you don’t repent first!

  • Doc Anthony

    No, Ms Bush, My comment is a direct response to Mr. Max’s statement, which I’m sure you saw. There were no personal aspersions thrown against Marcus Borg himself within my response.

    You seem okay with Mr. Max’s statement (okay enough to remain silent about it, at least), but I chose to respond to the issue he raised in that post. I also chose to indirectly criticize the skepticism that was promoted by Borg, Crossan, and the Jesus Seminar.

    So I am comfotable with commending those biblical scholars who took the time and effort to fight against Borg’s and Crossan’s positions, which apparently influenced many people, as Mr. Max correctly observed.

    On separate occasions (when the Jesus Seminar was riding high), both Borg and Crossan have given university classroom lectures that I attended.in person. I am glad that I had an opportunity to hear them in person, Both men were very gracious, and very scholarly. And certainly this somber occasion of Borg’s passing, feels almost like the end of an era.

    But what they were (and are) teaching, needed countering. In fact, it still does.

  • Charlie Milford

    Marcus Borg taught us a new understanding of the Bible as a book of great truth through its stories and metaphors. With his death fresh in our deeply saddened minds we must find the strength to teach others the joy of being free of the abuse of ignorance and the damage it does to mankind. Thank you Marcus Borg for sharing with all who would listen. May you be a mustard seed.

  • Shawnie5

    It’s certainly true that the Jesus Seminar was not made up of historians, nor did it have anything to do with history.

    The idea of actual historians VOTING upon whether a person did or did or did not say the words attributed to him 2000 years ago is hilarious.

  • Barbara Melton

    I had the privilege of attending three of Professor Borg’s courses at Oregon State University. One of the remarkable things that happened during those short months is that Marc showed me a Jesus that I could unreservedly embrace and whose example I may happily work towards following. As someone who grew up in a very strict and, in my experience, unloving fundamentalist household and church I consider his teachings, and my response to them, a gift of no small proportion.

  • Yes, the challenge is communicating to our fundamentalist friends that we believe that the Bible contains many truths even when it is not true.

    No better example that the creation myths (my view, not Borg’s) when it describes the wonder of creation in Chapter One of Genesis. Lots of truths, even if it is not true, scientifically speaking.

  • When walking through ruins in Turkey, I got the impression that Dr. Borg knew a lot about archeology. And I learned a lot, looking through his eyes.

  • Being a good Christian, he probably repented for lots of things in his life time, but probably not for the things you are suggesting. And since such things are personal between an individual and the Divine, your hopes may be nice, but they are a bit irrelevant, if not irreverent.

  • Jo

    I was blessed to hear Borg speak on only two occasions…. Both were joys…. May you have a joyous journey MB and a fabulous new adventure!

  • Crosshugger,

    How do one mock a claim of Zombies?

    Are you seriously going to tell your grandchildren that Zombies hung out in Jerusalem for a week? What a tragedy it is that Priests and Pastors don’t even read their bibles – they send their congregations home to make fools of themselves.

  • @Dan,

    WHAT IS THE DEFINITION OF A ZOMBIE?

    “the graves were opened; and many bodies.. arose…And came out of the graves …and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many.” (Matthew 27:52)

    ZOMBIE – A completely dead corpse which walks.

    But Matthew goes further! He obviously claims these Zombies actually grew back their skin, their vocal chords and their eyeballs and were able to visit with the people of Jerusalem for several days! – (Matthew 27:52)

    HERE ARE YOUR PROBLEMS:
    1. It is impossible for a person to rise from the dead.
    2. If they do rise from the dead after being dead for a long time they would have no skin or eyeballs.
    3. So the dead people would have to not only rise from the dead but they would have to eat and drink to maintain their normal functions.
    4. Even if a miracle happened and all the dead zombies were able to function without food and water they would still need to talk and use energy – and there is absolutely no way to explain this.

    Grown up people should not be defending this nonsense – as if it is true!

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  • Roberta Hunt

    In 1968 at Concordia College in Moorhead, Minnesota, I reluctantly took a course Dr. Borg taught titled “New Testament”. The value of having three required religion courses escaped me. It turned out to be a very interesting class. On April 4th Dr. Borg came to class and said, “Something terrible has happened. Dr King has been shot”. He started to weep and stated, “We will not have class today.” As an impressionable 19 year old I was moved by his reaction. He turned out to be a fantastic teacher so the next year I took another course from him. The discussions and assignments in his courses provoked my thinking and inspired my faith in ways that dramatically changed my life course. In my adult life, I read all of his books, shared them with friends, grateful for the opportunity to continue my own spiritual journey. In the 1990s, he gave a fascinating talk at House of Hope in St Paul, MN parts of which I still think about. Thank you Dr. Borg and rest in peace.
    Roberta Hunt

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  • Doc Anthony

    You don’t seem to approve of the Jesus Seminar’s “voting system”, Shawnie5. The New Testament professor EP Sanders wasn’t thrilled about it, either.

    Sanders gave a university lecture at our school the year after Crossan did. At the end of the lecture, some curious soul in the audience asked, without warning, what he thought about the Jesus Seminar voting system.

    “They’re playing a fantasy game!” he replied (equally without warning), taking quite a few folks by surprise — especially the liberals. Although Sanders wasn’t really conservative (especially concerning the Resurrection), he seemed quite adamant on that issue. Your post reminded me of that interesting occasion.

  • Olaf O. Storaasli

    I had the unique experience of sitting next to Marcus in Dr. Paul Sponheim’s Chistian Ethics class at Concordia. Marcus and Paul were often in theological dialogs far above me and my classmates. Even then it appeared Marcus had a unusual intellect which he honed at Union and Oxford. May he rest in peace.

  • Mark Andrew

    Marcus Borg’s writings were instrumental in helping this former fundamentalist evangelical realize that there are other ways of viewing and interpreting the Christian gospels and message. He seemed like a polite and gracious man; these are 2 qualities this comment thread could use right about now.

  • Larry

    If it makes you feel any better, I agree with you. There is nothing in the Jesus seminars having anything to do with imparting historical information.

    Theologians are not in the business of objective rational study. Their job is to reinforce faith and in many cases, sectarian belief

  • The Spirit is clear. “Let not many desire to be teachers, for they will incur a stricter judgment” Its not a light thing to attack the Word of God and Jesus and the miracles of God and the power of God. I wouldn’t want to be in anyone’s shoes who does that. I can’t imagine being someone who spent his life doing that. The miracles of Jesus gave witness of who He was and the resurrection witnessed that God Himself had received His sacrifice on our behalf. “Behold, I am coming quickly and My reward is with Me, to render to every man according to what he has done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end. Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter by the gates into the city. Outside are dogs and sorcerers and immoral persons and the murderers and idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices lying.” Jesus Christ Revelation 22:12-13

  • Stephen Lewis

    Mark, Revelation isn’t a Christian text as it’s “Jesus Christ” completely nullifies the teachings of Jesus Christ of the Gospels and God regarding forgiveness of sins and sinners. Revelation’s Jesus doesn’t forgive nor Revelation’s God who takes revenge against sinners. This hell and damnation spiritual error is common with fundamentalist believers who don’t understand neither God or Jesus can be hypocrites about forgiveness of sins. It is an essential doctrine of Christianity that sets it apart from Judaism and Muhammadism for example in which sins are punished forever some times. One thing the liberal scholars like Borg did was to help shake up blind faith belief that rests on contradictory interpretation of Bible statements never examined for logical consistency, e.g. forgiveness of sin doctrine.

    I found my historical “Jesus” in the Talmud’s oblique accounts of a “Yeishu ben Pantera” and other references that seem most likely to apply to Jesus Christ as the Talmud becomes more specifically anti-Christianity in many other places. I once asked a Fellow at the Jesus Seminar, paying my $25 membership dues to ask the question, what he and other Jesus Seminar scholars thought about the Talmud’s accounts hoping to find out more information. But I was surprised to find I knew as much as the Jesus Scholar, forget his name now, about the Talmud accounts which isn’t much, I’m not a Talmud studying rabbi. But there are reasons to believe the Talmud version over the Gospels which are obviously written as dramatic religious propaganda. Look at the movie “The Gospel of John” where John’s Gospel is used directly as the script for the movie and it works very well dramatically. As it should, because in my Celestial Torah Christian beliefs God has used the Torah/Tanakh and traditional Judeo-Christian New Testament Gospel stories (and yes, include the Gospel of Thomas) to convey spiritual truth about the meaning of the Messiah and the Messiah’s relationship with God Most High. But taking the Gospel Jesus literally or historically was never a good idea in my opinion. Reading the Gospels carefully you can find where the Gospel Jesus isn’t even a human being, Jesus himself declaring that here in Luke 7:28 “For I say unto you, among those born of women there is not a greater prophet than John the Baptist; but he who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he.” And yet John the Baptist himself claims Jesus Christ is greater than himself and so does Jesus. So where does that leave Jesus if John is the greatest prophet “born of women”? Jesus was not born of women in John’s mind if John believes Jesus is greater than himself. What kind of being is not born of women? Not a human being. Jesus Christ is not a human being but a heavenly Spiritual Being whose Spirit inSpired writers to write of His Arrival and Presence. Like a cloud from heaven descending on Palestine for 300 years from 100 BC (Yeishu’s time which allows time for a legendary healer figure to grow to Jesus Christ proportions and explains “Christians” in Rome and in churches in Paul’s time supposedly only a few years after the death of Jesus) to 200 A.D. inspiring Jesus Christ stories and legends centered around a historical man–who I believe to be Yeishu ben Pantera of the Talmud accounts far more likely than Jesus Christ of the Gospels, a literary creation of O.T. verses and reenactments of miracles.

    Go in peace, Marcus Borg, you’re scholarship has really helped many shake loose of blind faith in ancient men’s words.

  • Renee

    One of my favorite theologians. His interpretation of biblical writings gave me hope. If I have to interpret the bible “literally”, I don’t think I could be Christian.

  • John P.S.

    Dear Stephen,
    Your dilemma about the question of the greatest prophet born of women may be solved if you see that John the Baptist was the last of the prophets and Jesus was greater than any prophet. Therefore, the conclusion need not be drawn about ‘being born of women’, but about ‘greatness’!
    John P. S.

  • John P.S.

    The problem with the interpretation of the Bible is that people confuse words and their meanings as different items to be accounted for and this applies to any literature. Words are not like labels attached to meanings. Meaning is in use of words for which the particular context and background of life of the actual users of language should be taken into account. Thus we see to get to the meanings of texts, especially the ancient ones, we need the assistance of many sciences.
    A word is a sign signifying something other than itself that is its meaning. It is like a sign post pointing to where we have to go and if someone refuses to move from the sign post, the destination shall never be reached!
    John p. s.

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  • Stephen Lewis

    John, I think you’re completely ignoring the implications of “among those born of women” as have most all readers of those words yet they say what they say. If you know where to look for the kingdom of God as the kingdom of heaven, Jesus’ words make sense as Jesus Christ of the Gospels is a spiritual being on earth as the Son of Man. You have to know where to find the heavenly Man to make sense of the Son of Man of earth.

  • Atheism Smells Bad

    The continual interaction with an atheist, especially a maxed out one, proves the value of not tossing pearls before swine. It’s like actually asking a chimpanzee in a zoo not to throw its poo at the people passing by. And of course, not realizing that that the frustrated little simian trapped in its cage really cannot understand the importance of what you are saying.

    But still though, it can be entertaining to watch the monkeys and their ape-like cousins do their thing as long as you don’t get too close.

  • Atheism Smells Bad

    – Nan,

    Have you ever heard of Max Atheist or Larry?

    Their viciousness is of the historic and rabid kind of hatefulness. Hopefully you have time to point your requests to the real thugs in the comments section. Look to the Christian-bashers (aplenty here) as the ones foaming at the mouth with vitriol and do something about them.

  • Atheism Smells Bad

    While Borg made a large salary and lived a comfortable life while putting all of his students into massive debt. You left that part out of your obit of this great Christian man. Of course, the same content of character as Judas Iscariot in that man.

  • @ASBad,

    “Their viciousness is of the historic and rabid kind of hatefulness.”

    Marcus Borg was an important voice because he questioned the veracity of the The Bible and found that it could not be taken literally – yet he still believed in it.

    I have no problem with people believing in God.
    Besides, I have NO RIGHT to stop anyone from believing and I don’t seek such a right.
    I was a Christian for almost 50 years so I understand Christians and would never hate Christians.

    But Christianity is just a hateful, despicable idea. Like Islam and other religions.
    And these ideas are on a collision course which may end the world in conflagration despite the fact that neither idea is based on any truths.

    What a waste of a beautiful planet.
    To have it all blow up over nonsense that isn’t even true.

    How can anyone not hate that?

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  • I hate religion in the same way Doctors hate smoking.

    I can’t stop you from your right to smoke – and I don’t want to.
    However, I do wish you would quit.
    And if you can’t quit, I’d like someone else to quit – who overhears my plea.

    And if they can’t quit either, I’d like them to at least ask questions.
    And if they can’t ask questions, I’d like them to keep their bad habits away from the rest of us!

    “We have avenged the prophet” – Muslim fascist knuckle dragger after killing 12 Charlie Hebdo

    “The only cure for homosexuals is that they be put to death” Pastor Robbie Gallaty
    Tennessee Megachurch, Sept 4, 2014

    Religion must not be outlawed.
    But it must be abandoned one person at a time – and replaced with reason, science and civilization.

    _____
    AM
    For Peace, Culture and the Separation of Church and State

    Click Atheist Max for the blog.

  • @Atheismsmellsbad

    Speaking of salaries…and things that stink….

    How much money did the Zombies carry as they walked around Jerusalem buying drinks for everyone? (Matthew 27:52)

    Did they have pockets to carry their change?
    What did they wear?
    When their dead eyes grew back did they have the same color eyes as when they were living?
    How was their breath?
    Did they eat like everyone else and go to the bathroom?

    “ZOMBIES walked through town” – (Matthew 27:52)

    Know what smells bad?
    dead people walking around.

    Atheism means I DO NOT BELIEVE THIS STUFF ABOUT GOD
    IS REALLY TRUE.
    That is all Atheism means!

    God seems like a completely ridiculous proposition to me.
    And the Bible is much more unbelievable every time I read it.

    EVERYONE who reads Matthew all the way through becomes an Atheist!
    It is ridiculous.

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  • Alex

    A great loss to students of Christianity.My wife & I have had the privilege of listening to his lectures while he was visiting Duke University in the late 1990s. And, having also read a few of his books, I feel that he has only strengthened my faith in the tenets of Jesus of Nazareth, which I strive hard to practice. I also liked his compilation of the “sayings” of Buddha & Jesus and placing them side by side. An enormous eye-opener for me! May Marcus’s Soul rest in peace and his memory ever remain bright in the annals of true Biblical scholarship.

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  • Caroline Braun

    Now THAT is awesome.

  • Caroline Braun

    Why are you trolling on non-atheistic websites?

  • I’m not trolling.

    I’m studying the sickness to research treatments.
    Besides, this is a religious news service not a PatRobertson love fest.

  • Stephen Lewis

    To me it is telling that Marcus Borg would embrace Buddhism as an equal teaching to Christ’s and Christianity. The stripping away of supernatural features for Jesus would inevitably lead to the fusion of the two avatars of compassion. Stripping away the supernatural also strips away God consciousness too unfortunately and so the fact that Buddha and God never met is lost in the fusion process. Also another thing is currently being lost which is how “Buddha Mind” is achieved with most severe brain manipulation, something that showed up in studies of meditating Buddhist monk’s brains where there was a one to one correlation between the monk’s assessment of how far along they were on the path to satori and their ability to shut down their brain’s sense of self center located in the parietal region of the brain. It controls our sense of self in time and space and seems also a brain region that holds our sense of ego too as when it is disabled the typical “egoless” state is reported. When brain activity is then shunted towards the frontal cortex where higher consciousness takes and where pleasure centers are also activated, you can get a great sense of higher state of being that is pleasurable and thus Buddha modeled a meditative way to get high without drugs. But its still the same goal: avoidance of psychic pain by severe brain manipulation, i.e. a Lotus Path and one that has fooled everyone for thousands of years because no one was able to see what Buddhist brains were doing. Now we know and really, is it the same as Christ and Christianity? I don’t think so as the Christian path of ego reduction is by service to others, not by serving oneself to reach one’s own escape from suffering. Life is coupled with death and all states in between. It isn’t all suffering as those who have joy in children and nature and love and music and art and dance all know. Buddhism is a false path and only for those who want to manipulate their brains to achieve higher consciousness instead of seeking a spiritual relationship with God and the Spirit of Christ.

  • Sherri

    Max, it really is mean-spirited to mock another’s faith – or lack thereof. I am sure not even literalists would twist Matthew’s verse to imply zombies.

  • Sherri

    Max, you say elsewhere that you were a long time Christian. I think that explains your vitriolic comments. Knowing that hate is not the opposite of love – apathy is – I see your hatred of fundamental Christianity as love twisting in the agony of betrayal. I, too, was a fundy and it was painful to transform to enlightened Christianity. The pain, though, was fear of “hell” and fear is what prevents literalists from questioning the rigid nature of their beliefs. They don’t understand that the fear comes from oppressive man-made doctrine, not God. You are made in God’s image and you know that. Your also know at your core that you and every other person, regardless of behavior or belief, will be drawn into the fold of God. Jesus will be there and we will see He was here in MANY manifestations, all pointing to THE WAY. Namaste.

  • Brian Braley

    stephen Lewis. Can you help me locate your references to yeishu Ben pantera in the Talmud? I would like to read this. Thanks for your help on this and for your comments.

  • For those who reject the Word of God Jesus is clear: “He who is of God hears the words of God; for this reason you do not hear them, because you are not of God.” Jesus (John 8:47) And again: “My sheep hear My voice and follow Me.” Jesus (John 10:27)

  • Stephen Lewis

    Brian, try finding on Google or wherever this rabbi’s piece on Jesus under REFUTING MISSIONARIES by Hayyim ben Yehoshua. If you can’t find it now, it’s been years since I did I do have the full text on my website but see if its still online. It’s packed with good information about the way N.T. writers were unfamiliar with Hebrew and Palestine.

    One of the main reasons I believe the Talmud’s Yeishu/Jesus version is that in it Jews alone kill Yeishu/Jesus. No Romans at all involved. This would dangerous disclosure to Christians and I do think that whenever Christians learned Hebrew and read the Talmud they might have reacted explosively. The Talmud is very anti-Christ, anti-Christianity yet rabbis are honor bound to tell the truth theoretically so this makes me think the Talmud stories are closer to the historical truth. Btw, in them Yeishu was buried after being stoned to death and hung on a tree as per Jewish law for blasphemy (see Paul’s account in Gal 3:13 I think) and buried in Lydda which still exists. Yeishu’s body could still be in a burial jar or cave or bone box. Let’s see the rush to Lydda happen! Not! You can raise all sorts of historical information about our sacred myths and icons and the information just sits as tradition clobbers any new news that really shakes things up, e.g. all the work of Israel Finkelstein and Neil Silberman.

  • Stephen Lewis

    I am compelled to share what religious information I have which often puts me at odds with established religious viewpoints and “Progressive Christianity” is one such now fairly well established liberal Christian viewpoints, something Marcus Borg and other Christian scholars have helped fashion. And it’s a good thing and I don’t mean to trash it or the scholars involved except to the point of urging moving beyond their work, especially moving the Christian dialogue away from New Testament/Church Fathers domination to more esoteric sources that may have slipped by, like the authors of the Gospels, who were these guys? Because I am like the Masons, quite impressed with the ancient Egyptian astrological/mythological embedding going on within the New Testament Gospels. I have much to offer along these lines as I teach Celestial Torah Christianity which traces the astro-theological roots of Christianity back thousands of years before Christ in Near Eastern astrologically based mythology. It does change everything we know about Christianity as when the astrological pattern is decoded running through the major stories of the Bible, we get a most Liberal Humanitarian Messiah. It’s wonderfully simply Christian and ancient. But for Marcus Borg and the rest of the Progressives you helped the Jesus scholarship open up and that’s good.

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  • Kjell Johansen

    Marcus was one of my Concordia College classmates. Unfortunately, I did not have any classes with him as Olaf did. ( see a previous comment) Because I transferred to Concordia for my Jr and Sr years, I took OT, NT, and doctrine with the frosh and sophs. i have enjoyed all of Marcus’s books because they revitalized my interest in early Christianity.
    There have been some previous comments about Marcus that I think are worth commenting on. Shawnie 5 thought if was hilarious that the Jesus Seminar actually voted on what Jesus said. It should be pointed out that voting was how much of our early Christian theology was decided. The early church councils got together and voted on what was “true” and what wasn’t.
    Doc Anthony appears to like a literal interpretation of the Bible and wished that more people would have fought back against Borg’s and Crossan’s reading of Scripture. Borg and Crossan were not the first to state that many parts of scripture were not to be taken literally. The early church father, Origen of Alexandrian, ( some time in the 2d century) stated that not all of scripture should read as allegory or metaphor. To insist in a literal reading of scripture is to overlook the obvious contradictions in many of the Jesus stories. Also, it makes the writers look like flat cardboard figures who have no intellectual or religious depth.
    In order to understand what the biblical writer meant, the critical-historical reading of the Bible with the interpretation made in terms the the mindset of the time and place a book was written is the only way to understand. You can’t interpret the books of the Bible by reading them in a 21st century mindset.
    Many people have benefited by Marcus’ writings. I feel lucky to have heard him speak and to have read his books. A kind soul who will be missed by his classmates and others who knew him.

  • I don’t know about that, that you can’t interpret books of the Bible from a 21st Century mindset. Personally, I think it’s rather naive to believe 21st Century scholarship can recreate 1st Century mindsets accurately and second, new information has come in that changes our perspective of the Gospels, namely the discovery of the Celestial Torah, the ancient astro-theological pattern embedded within the Gospels and Torah/Tanakh, (and Gnostic gospels and even the Quran to some extent) whose spiritual meanings cannot be overlooked now.

  • @Sherri,

    “mean-spirited”

    Well, if something isn’t true it is a mean-spirited LIE to say it IS true.

    “They opened their graves and walked..” (Matthew 27:52)

    That is either complete nonsense. Or it is a zombie.

    We are all overdue for a mean-spirited approach to all religious claims. They certainly do not deserve respect.

  • @Sherri,

    Look. I was a Catholic (not a fundi) for almost 50 years. I was very liberal.

    But nothing ever played with my heart and toyed with me as religion did. Just as it is toying with you and others. (“The Way”? nonsense.)

    No ex-girlfriend or ex-boss ever was more manipulative and dishonest to me than was religion.

    The filth, harm, hatred and misery and nonsense of religion infects too many.

    Marcus Borg saw it as poetry I guess. But poetry doesn’t demand murder.
    “Execute my enemies in front of me” – JESUS (Luke 19:27)

    Filthy, miserable nonsense.

  • John

    I’d explain the irony of your statement (and the profound biblical illiteracy it shows) but it would likely be lost on you.

  • Candace Peebles

    Marcus Borg helped renew my spirituality. I attended seeral of his seminars with Spong and Crossan and was renewed in my faith throughout the years. Marcus will be missed.

  • Ken

    It bears noticing that Borg is being championed by a rude and nasty militant atheist. (Yes I know that’s redundant.)

    Says volumes about the nature of Borg’s Christianity.

    By their fruit you will know them.

  • Shawnie5

    “Shawnie 5 thought if was hilarious that the Jesus Seminar actually voted on what Jesus said. It should be pointed out that voting was how much of our early Christian theology was decided.”

    Um, Kjell, the Jesus Seminar was not voting on THEOLOGY (interpretations). They were voting on HISTORY (facts)–whether someone did or did not say the things attributed to him two millenia ago–as if they were in any position to know. That is what makes it so laughable.

    And you’re talking about Nicea, they were there to decide one issue only, Arianism, using the writings that were universally accepted by the churches at that time. There was a genuine theological ambiguity involved, with some scriptural support existing on each side. Not so the issues of the Jesus Seminar. Nothing whatsoever to go on but guesswork and presupposition. That is why I say it had NOTHING to do with history even though it presumed to.

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  • jcmmanuel

    “I’m just glad that NT Wright and other New Testament scholars were there to fight back against Borg and Crossan” — Except they didn’t. They had, and probably still have, a different opinion, but Wright, and McGrath and others, will come to terms with this too one day. Religion is a human thing – which is exactly why we can still see beauty in it – even as atheists (unless – of course – we joined the party of the pissed atheists who decided to just be the universal negativists the world was waiting for). Wright isn’t so far from the point where Marcus Borg and others were. He may just not yet realize it, or – maybe more likely – he’s driven by this empathic will to find some solution that makes it more comfortable for Christians to accept the reality of religion. I can understand this. But Tom Wright is too smart not to realize that Borg was exactly right.

  • jcmmanuel

    Ken wrote: “It bears noticing that Borg is being championed by a rude and nasty militant atheist. … Says volumes about the nature of Borg’s Christianity” — I think a correct deduction would be that it tells something about the ability of some atheists to abuse every word and try turning it into some nasty atheist benefit. Even so, that’s just what some atheists do.

  • jcmmanuel

    Atheist Max, you are a troll and your blog is a sham. You are boasting about your so-called having “no right to stop anyone from believing” and even “not seeking such a right”, but that’s just a hoax because you then rely on such simplistic generalizations like “But Christianity is just a hateful, despicable idea. Like Islam and other religions”. You thereby display your binary mind, and despite of your claim of having been a Christian for many years, no one would believe, with this attitude, you ever made it beyond the first year Sunday school.

    Somewhere in your many comments you pretend – among many other things – that “Marcus Borg was an important voice because he questioned the veracity of the The Bible and found that it could not be taken literally – yet he still believed in it”. The reality is more likely that people like Borg do not believe in the simplistic ways you did when you were a Christian (before you became a frustrated troll who loves “playing atheist”). Even when a person claims belief in the Christian way, or in Jesus, it can mean all sorts of things. I’ve debated with many christians and many atheists. What I’ve learned is that serious Christians (other than fundamentalists) hardly ever believe the way most atheists think they do. I’ve seen atheists posting things about believers believing in pink unicorns, santa claus, godzilla monsters, flying spaghetti monsters, fairies, and so on – hundreds of times in debates. But never did a believer come up with that nonsense.

    When my Christian friends say they believe in certain things the Christian way, they usually express a belief in meaning, in something that is meaningful, wise, humane, ‘spiritual’ or mindful, in fact anything that humans often think of, because this is what humans do: they create meaning. They do arts. They cherish their narratives – because the narratives, the myths, convey meanings.

    I have learned, as an atheist, to respect the beliefs of people, as long as they behave like normal people. Those who misuse religion for hostile purposes are like atheists who abuse evolution theory or science to promote the atheist mindset as if that were ‘science’. All abuse is always wrong – whether it is religious or not.

    So you better stop trying to fake some kind of atheism upon us – because we can see right through it.

  • He’s “trolling an non-atheistic websites”, probably because this kind of guys may have been thrown out even on some atheistic websites. These people would rather prefer a blog about a respected Christian who just died, to post their drivel, than any other place. But, do me a favor and don’t call this “atheism”. This sounds more like a psychopath who loves playing atheist.

  • That’s interesting, Doc Anthony. I remember, when I was a (liberal) Christian, I didn’t like the Jesus Seminar either. But later on (still as a Christian) I did – because I came to understand that what the Jesus Seminar did was really good, justified, rational, and not intended to play games at all. I also came to understand that the only thing that made me dislike them is, that they seemed to undermine the last grains of belief that somehow the bible ‘should’ be somehow ‘divine’. So I couldn’t appreciate the bible stories because of their human aspects as I do now. The Jesus Seminar however approaches the stories like that from the get go – this is of course somewhat shocking for believers who hold on to the divine.

  • You are a troll. On your website you claim that Pope Francis said ”You Have No Right to Insult Religion” — and: “You are forbidden to insult religion”. None of these two claims are correct as far as I know. Do you have any source to confirm this?

  • Stephen Lewis wrote: “[I]s it the same as Christ and Christianity? I don’t think so as the Christian path of ego reduction is by service to others, not by serving oneself to reach one’s own escape from suffering.”

    I think you are greatly simplifying Buddhism here – very probably because you are reasoning from within the Christian adage. It is well known that Buddhism and Christianity both emphasize compassion – even while Buddhism doesn’t have ‘our’ word for it – but that doesn’t mean the essence isn’t as grand as the Christian vision. In Christianity too by the way, compassion and empathy have often been interpreted in more therapeutic ways, so it would be easy to reduce the Christian view. There is something to say here for a middle ground, where we realize that most if not all great religions have evolved and advanced some great ideas, and in this we could see humanity evolve, because humanity as a whole is what we see behind the religions.

    I would also say, if Christianity added a more supernatural twist to something like compassion, it isn’t necessarily improving the compassion. For instance, Christianity’s emphasis on a personal God above may more easily lead to a situation where a Christian would think: “I don’t have to act in compassion here, because this person has hurt me. For me this person is someone I have to avoid – but God may still take care of him”. — Maybe you recognize this, because there are many situations in which Christians sometimes seem to get rid of their human responsibilities by calling in divine intervention or divine responsibility – god taking over. With Buddhism, such an approach would be much harder to defend. I don’t think Buddhism is in any way less serious about those things than Christian faith. Let alone “a false path”, as you claim. It is a pity that you are looking at Buddhism through your colored glasses.

  • @jcmmanuel,

    POPE: “you cannot insult the faith of others”

    Yet
    he leads an organization which as a matter of its operations insults ALL OTHER FAITHS ON EARTH by routinely proclaiming them to be
    worthless and false!

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/world/wp/2015/01/15/pope-francis-on-charlie-hebdo-you-cannot-insult-the-faith-of-others/

  • Jcmmanuel,

    “I have learned, as an atheist, to respect the beliefs of people, as long as they behave like normal people…”

    That is nonsense.
    What you are saying is you respect people who act civilized REGARDLESS of their religion.

    There is nothing to respect in religion.
    We are racing toward an international armageddon for no good reason.

    THE PRICE RELIGION INFLICTS ON SOCIETY

    Harm to the wide community:

    1. The discouragement of rational, critical thought.
    2. Vilification of homosexuality, resulting in discrimination, parents disowning their children, murder, and suicide.
    3. Women made to be second-class citizens based on religious teachings.
    4. Children growing up to hate and fear science and scientists, because science disproves their parents’ religion – leading to appalling scientific illiteracy.
    5. Tens of thousands tortured and killed as witches (a practice which still continues today).
    6. People aren’t making the most of this life because of belief in an afterlife.
    7. People dying because they believe their faith makes them immune to snake venom, or other lethal aspects of reality.
    8. People dying – and letting their children die – because their religion forbids accepting medical help.
    9. People choked, starved, poisoned, or beaten to death during exorcisms.
    10. Genital mutilation of babies demanded by religious texts.
    11. Psychological and physiological conditions blamed on demons, preventing believers from seeking medical care for themselves and their children.
    12. Shunning. People disowning family members for leaving their religion.
    13. Friendships and romances severed or never started over religious differences.
    14. “Abstinence-only” sex education, resulting in five times the amount sexually transmitted diseases and teenage pregnancies – often leading to ill-fated “emergency” marriages.
    15. Women having septic abortions—or being forced to have unwanted children they resent—because religious organizations have gotten laws passed making abortion illegal or inaccessible.
    16. Censorship (often destructive) of speech, art, books, music, films, poetry, songs, ideas.
    17. The demonization of other religions, e.g. Christianity demonizing Pagans (“They’re devil-worshipers!”)
    18. Children using up the period of their lives when the brain is most receptive to learning new information reading, rereading, and even memorizing religious texts.
    19. People who believe the world is about to end neglect their education, are not financially responsible, and in extreme cases take part in mass suicides.
    20. Long-term environmental issues ignored because of beliefs that the rapture/apocalypse or something will happen soon, so they don’t matter.
    21. Wives told they will be tortured forever if they leave their abusive husbands (and vice versa).
    22. Holy wars – followers of different faiths (or even the same faith) killing each other in the name of their (benevolent, loving and merciful) gods.
    23. The destruction of great works of art considered to be pornographic/blasphemous, and the persecution of the artists.
    24. Slavery condoned by religious texts.
    25. Children traumatized by vivid stories of eternal burning and torture to ensure that they’ll be too frightened to even question religion.
    26. Terminal patients in constant agony who would end their lives if they didn’t believe it would result in eternal torture.
    27. School boards having to spend time and money and resources on the fight to have evolution taught in the schools.
    28. Persecution of “heretics”/scientists, like Giordano Bruno (burned at the stake) and Galileo Galilei.
    29. Blue laws forcing other businesses to stay closed or limit sales, while churches can generate more revenue.
    30. Mayors, senators, and presidents voted into office not because they’re right for the job, but because of their religious beliefs.
    31. Abuse of power, authority and trust by religious leaders (for financial gain or sexual abuse of followers and even children).
    32. People accepting visual and auditory hallucinations unquestioningly as divine, sometimes with fatal results.
    33. Discrimination against atheists, such as laws stating they may not hold public office or testify in court, or in half a dozen countries around the world, laws requiring their execution
    34. Missionaries destroying/converting smaller, “heathen” religions and cultures.
    35. Hardship compounded by the guilt required to reconcile the idea of a fair god with reality (“why is God punishing me? What have I done wrong? Don’t I have enough faith?”).
    36. Human achievements—from skillful surgery to to emergency landings—attributed to gods instead of to the people actually responsible.
    37. Mother Teresa, prolonging the agony of terminal patients and denying them pain relief, so she can offer their suffering as a gift to her god.
    38. Tens of billions annually in the US alone spent to build, maintain, and staff houses of worship.
    39. Grief and horror caused by the belief that dead friends and family members are tortured as punishment for disbelief.
    40. Natural disasters and other tragedies used to claim God is displeased and present demands to avoid similar events (it’s like terrorism, but without having to plan or do anything).

    You only shrug off these complaints because you haven’t cared enough to examine this extraordinary threat to free civilization.

  • CMR

    18 For the speech about the torture stake is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved, it is God’s power. 19 For it is written: “I will make the wisdom of the wise men perish, and the intelligence of the intellectuals I will reject.” 20 Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this system of things? Has not God made the wisdom of the world foolish? 21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not get to know God through its wisdom, God was pleased through the foolishness of what is preached to save those believing.
    22 For the Jews ask for signs and the Greeks look for wisdom; 23 but we preach Christ executed on the stake, to the Jews a cause for stumbling but to the nations foolishness. 24 However, to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 Because a foolish thing of God is wiser than men, and a weak thing of God is stronger than men. – 1 Corinthians 1:18-25
    Matthew 11:25- At that time Jesus said in response: “I publicly praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and intellectual ones and have revealed them to babes.
    John 17:17- Sanctify them by means of the truth; YOUR WORD IS TRUTH.
    [Jesus said these words in a prayer to his Father regarding his disciples]
    Proverbs 30:5-6 – Every saying of God is refined. He is a shield to those taking refuge in him. 6 Add nothing to his words, Or he will reprove you,
    And you will be proved a liar.

  • Billysees

    @ Hi Max,

    From a previously post —

    “THE PRICE RELIGION INFLICTS ON SOCIETY
    Harm to the wide community:
    Numbered 1 – 40.”

    You presented all good points especially # 7 which makes the news every once in a while. That’s the most bizarre one of all.

    And the stories about the people who came up from the dead and walked around town, I never ever heard of that before. Weird….hehehe. It’s all just a story.

    All the more reason why Paul wrote that —

    “The ‘Kingdom of God’ is not in word or scripture verse, but power…it’s not food and drink…it’s righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit”.

    Power is the work of the Holy Spirit. Jesus said the Holy spirit will guide us into all truth.

    Real and meaningful Christian practice involves the pursuit of righteousness or simply doing the right thing or doing good things. It’s nearly all “works”. And it’s nearly always the work of the Holy Spirit that’s in us. We all have been given a measure of faith. Even so called unbelievers.

    For Peace, Culture and the Separation of Church and State you say……I agree completely and I think that many others agree as well.

  • Stephen Lewis

    If God were with Paul’s words outside of his very worthy ones on love, Paul would have been given the historical true information about the stories of the Bible. God didn’t tell Paul about how ancient Hebrews told big fibs about their history, fibs that have been revealed as such by the fact the writers of the Bible didn’t exist in the times they wrote about their supposed miraculous ancestors and fantastic events. So, without historical truth behind Bible stories such as “Moses and the Exodus” how can Paul or anyone still believing Bible stories as true history be a vessel for spiritual truth? If your “truth” is based on lies it has no truth in it. You cannot derive spiritual authority from myths and fables and tall tales no matter how much “belief” is put into them.

    Now we have Jewish prophesy back again instead of Gentile overlays without comprehension such as Paul’s, very likely a product of early Church Father’s creation. The Talmud’s Yeishu ben Pantera references hold no supernatural events and are far more likely to have happened thereby than the later Gentile Christian New Testament renditions of him that were water-boarded in Rome before being handed to history as “Christianity”, believe this Story of Jesus Christ or else face condemnation to hell, not much different than Muhammad’s demands, that’s your Paul and Pauline Christianity for you. The Gospels are special no matter who authored them, they do contain spiritual truth especially the Gospel of John. But Paul? No, not Paul who single-handedly ruined Christianity by throwing Christians to the Roman wolves, with Paul’s demand Christians obey their government (Roman Empire) rulers or face condemnation to hell. Rulers took advantage of Paul’s edict and forced Christians to go to war for all sorts of evil reasons and this Pauline anti-Christ behavior still goes on in Evangelical “Christian” circles such as your post reflects. It’s a new Age and new Christian values and history even are in the works.

  • Hi Billysees,

    “Real and meaningful Christian practice involves the pursuit of righteousness or simply doing the right thing or doing good things.”

    I don’t like “righteousness” because it is the same
    as being “self-convinced that one has done God’s will.”

    The only way to know whether one has done a good deed or a moral action is to test whether you have lessened human suffering
    or improved someone’s well-being by your action.

    I live by this code:
    Treat others as you would want to be treated and do not do to others what you would not want done to you.
    No gods are needed for this moral code
    and it predates all religions.

    By eliminating “righteousness”, I have dramatically improved the chances that my actions will be morally correct.

    “Righteousness” is exactly the danger of Religion – the phenomenon where we act not explicitly to improve well-being but to satisfy random commands claimed by various gods.

    For example:
    it is very Righteous to burn a witch.
    But it is profoundly immoral to do so.

    That is why there is no kindness or goodness in Righteousness.

    Righteousness is a mix of purposefully Moral and Immoral Actions as decreed by a god.

    Morality, however, is simply a superior goal by itself.
    By eliminating ‘Righteousness’ we are free to be as helpful and moral as we can be without intrusions.

    God’s additional righteous demands are always an extra, superfluous layer of intrusive nonsense on top of any particular situation where help is needed.

  • Larry

    Actually it bears noticing that the self-styled Christians are so dismissive of Borg, and so willing to attack him, that even atheists find sympathy with him. It has less to do with Borg’s views as it does the shrill malicious quality of yours.

  • Larry

    Really Asbad? Because on this article, the most hateful and rabid rhetoric has been slung by those calling themselves Christians, against the late Mr. Borg. Projection is not just for movie theaters anymore.

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  • St. John’s Rector

    One less heretic to destroy Christianity.

  • Thomas Putnam

    Marcus Borg was able to put into words the thoughts that have been bouncing around in my dispirited soul for five years or so. As a “born-again” Christian for a number of decades, there were many things that somehow just didn’t make sense. As I discovered his work, the chains fell off and my walk with God became more wonderful. We corresponded via email a bit this past fall and he was gracious and kind and so very helpful. I only wish I had met him in person and that I had been introduced to his work a long time ago. Our journeys are varied and personal…and on-going. Blessings on his family.

  • Jack

    What an awful, hateful comment. When did Christ ever denounce so-called “heretics” who dared to ask questions? Never. You are not in a position to judge where Christ did not.

    Is Christianity, in your view, is so fragile that this man could “destroy” it? That is sad.

  • Tex Taylor

    I’ll put it in the secular perspective since in your incredibly profound ignorance, you only understand the carnal.

    The 55 Founding Fathers of the American Constitution obviously had a concept of Creator being they signed their name to that Preamble of a Declaration once upon a time. Were they zombies to, because every one of them to a man would be diametrically opposed to your atheism, Max.

    If that Creator were not Jesus, pray tell who was He/She/It then that they all signed their names too, being almost all of them whether they believed or not would have labeled themselves as Protestant Christian.

    Frankly, I’m left with the distinct conclusion your thinking not only shallow, but incredibly myopic.