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The Meaning of Jesus

Marcus Borg

Theologian Marcus J. Borg passed on this week at age 72. His most recent book Convictions, was written two years ago, as he reflected upon his life and experiences at age 70. I can clearly hear his gentle voice in my head, with his carefully selected words and measured professorial delivery, from the progressive Christian DVD series Living the Questions.

We heard Borg speak in October 2010 in Willow Glen, CA, six months after hearing theologian N. T. Wright speak in Wheaton, IL. The two men, both¬†historians, churchmen and huge intellects, had a warm and collegial relationship that exuded from their joint 2009 book The Meaning of Jesus: Two Visions.¬†Michael Joseph Gross described the book as “a record of a lively and loving friendship between two of the best Christian scholars alive.” While maintaining¬†fastidious politeness, the two authors differed on numerous topics of traditional Christian doctrine. Both men agreed that knowledge of the historical context of the time of Jesus is essential to understanding his message of the coming Kingdom of God, but they differed on whether Jesus himself understood his role as the messiah (who intentionally died to redeem humankind); whether Jesus was bodily resurrected from the dead; was God; and literally born of a virgin. Conservative Christian scholars seemed to struggle to remember kind things to say about Borg, whom they label a “liberal Jesus scholar and friendly provocateur.

I remember Marcus Borg for his kindly nature; his humility; for advancing the notion of Jesus’ political agenda of social justice; and as a Christian mystic, comfortable with mystery and a panentheistic understanding of God. I remember Marcus for his full life and what may be at stake.