Marcus Borg and the Two Christs

Marcus Borg (d. 2015), Hundere Distinguished Professor of Religion and Culture at Oregon State University until 1997, and Fellow of what was known as the Jesus Seminar, enjoyed a certain vogue around 1994, when his best known book, Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time, was published. He made the rounds of parish Bible study groups and media, including our affluent Episcopal parish. The people loved him, tweeds, tea, crumpets, and all; about as privileged and well positioned as a man could be, presenting himself as an avatar of Jesus the political revolutionary, 

One of Professor Borg’s slogans is “original message,” which he used as warrant for privileging parts of scripture over others; particularly the parts of the synoptic gospels that narrate Jesus’ ministry before his crucifixion. Whatever was said earlier is taken as more authoritative than later “accretions.” He didn’t invent this; it goes back at least to Thomas Jefferson, who took a razor to the pages and excised what he considered corrupting “miraculous” elements. Borg follows a long, dubious tradition by dividing the Gospel up to valorize his favored fraction. His criterion for making excisions is a distinction between pre-resurrection and post-resurrection Jesus. The first is a Jewish spiritual healer who has a gift for aphorism and midrash, and who, in a friend’s words, “tells us how to live.” The other is a product of tradition, dogma, the stock in trade of an old (1950s) finger-wagging God.

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