Borg vs. Wright (The Meaning of Jesus)

I’m about halfway through this book, and I admit, I’m a bit disappointed.

But maybe just in an intellectual sense. I think it’s having a positive effect on my faith.

From the copy of the book I have, this is what the title states on the front:

The Meaning of Jesus: Two Visions: The Leading Liberal and Conservative Jesus Scholars Present the Heart of the Historical Jesus Debate

Yeah; it’s a bit long. N.T. Wright presents a more conservative viewpoint of the historical Jesus; Marcus J. Borg’s view is a bit more liberal.

At first, I got into the debate. But then it started to get pointless. Even when they disagree, they seem to agree. So often it seems like semantics. And there seem to be so many logical problems, it starts to get annoying.

Borg has his share. He’s constantly referring to a “majority of mainline scholars” who agree with what he says, but never gives any evidence. He suggests that Mark was written first, containing the most accurate stories of Jesus, but then reverses himself and uses some passages in Mark to prove that other passages in Mark aren’t true. And he suggests that Jesus was a healer, states that this was some sort of paranormal ability, but that His healings weren’t miracles. Huh?

But Wright has his problems, too. One that stands out is the idea that the eyewitness testimonies of Jesus after his resurrection contradicting each offer some sort of proof that the eyewitnesses were real. (The fact that they don’t match proves that they are true?)

It seems like some of the arguments are so bad that even when I agree with the conclusions, I want to throw out the assertions.

Plus they continually refer to their own work – it’s as if they can’t explain their points without going back to their entire body of work. But doesn’t that make them poor scholars if they can’t?

Everything Borg argues seems to be dependent on the fact that Jesus was basically two different people before and after he died (a pre- and post-Easter Jesus). Before he died, he didn’t know he was the Messiah; but became the Messiah at His death.

According to Wright, Jesus knew he was God and the Messiah while he lived.

So far, pretty much all of their arguments rest on these assertions. (Maybe that’s an oversimplification, but for the purposes of a blog post, I think it’s fair.)

And I’ve gotten to the point in this debate where I’ve said, “Who cares?”

And maybe this is good. Before reading this book, if someone suggested that there could still be a body in the tomb of Jesus and still keep their faith, I wouldn’t have thought it made sense. (Borg suggests this stating that he thinks that the resurrection was different from a bodily resurrection.) But now – I’m almost done with a lot of this discussion. Whether Jesus knew he was the Messiah when he was on earth or the exact nature of the resurrection of Jesus – I don’t really care because it doesn’t impact my faith.

But maybe the discussion is good – because I think it’s helping me see clearer the meaning of Jesus…even if (or especially if) all this arguing over semantics is pointless.


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