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Reading the Bible Again for the First Time: Taking the Bible Seriously but Not Literally

4.08 of 5 stars 4.08  ·  rating details  ·  1,804 ratings  ·  128 reviews
One of the vital challenges facing thoughtful people today is how to read the Bible faithfully without abandoning our sense of truth and history. Reading the Bible Again for the First Time provides a much-needed solution to the problem of how to have a fully authentic yet contemporary understanding of the scriptures. Many mistakenly believe there are no choices other than ...more
Paperback, 321 pages
Published February 5th 2002 by HarperOne (first published 2001)
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(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Stephanie
Feb 18, 2008 Stephanie rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Especially Christians, but people of all faiths (or no faith) who care about the Bible
Recommended to Stephanie by: Rev. Pam Worthington, St. George's Anglican Church
I've read this book again and again. At a time when I could no longer read the Bible as a divine product, literal and inerrant, Marcus Borg gave the Bible back to me in a powerful and vibrant way. Borg is a leader in the emergent church. He's progressive, but unlike many of his peers, he attempts to pull together the poles. The premise of this book is reading the Bible as a human product, written by people who had real experiences of God. Borg has departed from a strictly historical-critical met ...more
K
I know that many of us were raised as Christians and have since left the religion. I'm aware of the many arguments in particular leftists make against religion. I was happy to see a sensible way of reading the Bible that made more sense than "Some of this is the word of god and some of this is human error - you choose!" But what I found even more exciting was the argument of Christianity having a God as a liberator who destabilizes the political order in favor of the oppressed. Good stuff.
Marie
This is the stuff that people in mainline Christian seminaries and divinity schools are talking about, but you don't hear it from the pulpit Sunday morning because churches are tied to traditional doctrines and don't want to overwhelm people with too much scholarly jargon. The subtitle pretty much says it all: taking the Bible seriously but not literally. (Obviously some people will take offense immediately and presumably they won't bother reading the book). We live in a culture where "fact" and ...more
L.S.
May 19, 2009 L.S. rated it 1 of 5 stars
Shelves: 2009
The author's position in this book is culturally conditioned. His claims are not to be considered the ultimate words on reality and it is very probable that his position will be set aside and considered archaic with the passage of time. Therefore it must be discarded. The sooner the better.

Then, Borg's claims come mostly, as he aknowledges, from his own subjective experience. The book does not reflect factual reality but only some subjective opinions that are subject to error of interpretations
...more
kelly
Marcus Borg’s historical-metaphorical approach is fascinating—it’s everything they didn’t teach (but should have taught) you in Sunday school.

Topics that most interested me were: how some literature gains sacred status and what that means, seeing religion as a “cultural-linguistic world,” and Borg’s idea of “postcritical naivete,” in which one hears the biblical stories once again as true stories, even as one knows that they may not be factually true and that their truth does not depend upon th
...more
Walter
This is an excellent work, full stop, period. Prof. Borg is thoughtful, pragmatic and passionate about the Bible and his commitment to getting it right (in his view) is both evident and appreciated. His insights are as plentiful as they are insightful and his reverence for the subject matter helps the reader to appreciate just how much opportunity there is in studying the Christian Scripture critically.

As is obvious from the subtitle, Prof. Borg does indeed take the Bible seriously and not liter
...more
Katharine
The premise of this book was very interesting, but ultimately it disappointed me. Borg argues that we shouldn't read the Bible literally, but instead read it with a historical-metaphorical lens.

The first third of the book is devoted to reasons (some compelling, some not) why a literal reading of the Bible is problematic. Instead, he believes we should read the Bible either as metaphor or as historical or sometimes both at the same time. The remainder of the book goes through parts of the Bible
...more
Sarah
This book is addressed to the faithful. I didn't finish it because trying to read the next word while the past words hung unresolved over my head was exhausting. I have a new baby and I don't have time for this crap.

Look. This is what it comes down to. If the Bible is something that does not have a finite amount of correct interpretations, then all interpretations are valid. If all interpretations are valid, then no interpretation is authoritative. If no authoritative interpretation exists, then
...more
Paul Dinger
Though Borg has alot of the same ideas as Spong, his books are much less confrontational. Like Spong, he has a lot of solid scholarship and reason to fall back on. It is hard to argue against his ideas. I had a friend in college and we always argued about scripture, I can use this book if ever we meet again, and yes argue again. I liked this book, I carried it with me all thru Wonder Con, enjoying its arguments and presentations. If you are interested in the Bible, this is a book for you.
Anita
Marcus Borg presents the historical, scholarly background of various books of the Bible like other authors I've read--Etienne Charpentier and Raymond Brown. He tells of the various voices found in the Bible and how they can be used as a "lens for seeing life with God." The use of metaphors is explained. By showing how some parts having meaning as metaphor instead of actual fact, Borg made some things less confusing so that I could see the God I've come to know in them.

The areas covered are the P
...more
Ron
Marcus Borg is able to make complex issues easy to understand at several levels, making the read enjoyable without giving too short shrift to the ideas. He is honest about his biases and honest about the ideas of those with whom he does not agree. Even those who are powerfully opposed to Borg's theology will have to admit the sincerity of his beliefs and his spiritual journey. His "exposition" of the bible, and biblical themes is very likely more accessible to those people whose cultural energy ...more
Kathleen
This is a book I will return to many times. Two blurbs on the cover say it all: taking the Bible seriously but not literally and a thinking person's guide to the Bible. For me, this expanded my thinking and understanding of the Bible beyond Sunday School. It helped the Bible make sense to me in a new way. I like the intellectual excercise as it supports faith.
Michael Wardrop
It's hard to describe in how many ways this is a poor book. I'm not interested in writings a tome here, so here are just a few:

1) Scholarly ineptitude. Borg makes very few references to other works and certainly none to works of repute that disagree with his premise. Any book positing itself as a potential textbook - as this claims to - must have better referencing to have any credibility.
2) Arrogant. A 'thinking man's book'? For 'thoughtful readers'? Throughout this work are markers that indica
...more
David Metting
Fantastic overview of reading the Bible that is not literal and yet is still rich with meaning, insight, beauty, etc. Borg is highly readable, engaging, lucid, and I recommend this book to anyone looking for a different take on the Bible than what is traditionally and often uncritically accepted. Read it!
Vince Dacosta
The opening chapters are the most interesting. The rest is familiar and has been written about at length. the concept of seeing the Bible through "conflicting lens" is interesting: some see it through the lens of The Word of God, while others see it through the lens of the word of man. Also there is a danger of beginning to worship the Bible, rather than worship the God of the Bible.
Suggestions that the creation stories and other early stories are not necessarily how God saw it, but how the peop
...more
Theresa

The chapter on the Book of Revelation helped me to understand that book for the first time by explaining the genre of apocalyptic literature. Written for the popular readership, it is based on current, solid research.
Andrea
Well written and researched book about a historical-metaphorical approach to reading the Bible that pairs reading the books of the Bible in the historical context for which they were written, and with a metaphorical lens that allows the stories in the Bible to transcend time and Fact to speak to larger Truths. This is an excellent counterpoint to the Fundamentalist/Literalist reading of the Bible that is so often now portrayed as THE Christian way of reading the Bible instead of a more recent an ...more
Tiffany
As Borg summarizes at the end of the first section of the book, "we will explore what it means to read the Bible as a combination of history and metaphor. Using the tools of historical criticism, we will seek to illuminate the ancient meanings of biblical texts by setting those passages in their historical context." He differentiates between history and metaphor, making the point that the Bible isn't necessarily 100% What Happened, but that some sections are metaphors about what happened or how ...more
Kat
At first I liked this book. In his introduction, I felt like I could really relate to him questioning the Bible and the historical-metaphorical stance. But after that, it went downhill. I know the Bible is a large book but still I was expecting an in depth review of a metaphorical interpretation of specific stories in the Bible and evidence that proves I should not take them literally. I got this, but barely.

Its like he barely scratched the surface. He crammed everything into chapters (genesis,
...more
Carolyn Lind
First a few quotes:

"...major voices of the biblical tradition....share three primary convictions in common.":
1. ..."deep sense of the reality of the sacred. God is not only real, but knowable."
2."...our lives are made "whole and "right" by living in a conscious relationship with the Mystery who is alone Lord. Life with God is not about believing certain teachings about God. It is about a covenant--a relationship....it is about becoming conscious of a relationship that already exists...." "Chris
...more
Michael
I like Marcus Borg a great deal. His way of understanding sacred scripture--metaphoric truth instead of literal truth--has helped me to come to grips with some of my difficulties with reading, and believing in, the Bible. According to Mr. Borg (and this insight takes me into the Way Back Machine and my Sociological Psychology classes many, many years ago) people have 'numinous' experiences (a term I first came across in my Philosophy of Religion class!) the try to tell other about them using sto ...more
David
Apr 21, 2013 David rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: 2013
I try to always review a book for just the content of the book, but I find it impossible to do so in this case without a good bit of auto-biography, so please indulge.

It's so tempting to rate this 5 stars. It has a ring of scholarly truth and is very well researched. It is also, if only in a few ways, a radical shift of thinking. After more reading, reflection, and a discipline to return to this review, I may one day change the rating from 4 to 5 stars.

This book is the latest in a spiritual jour
...more
Just A. Bean
If this had been the first historical-metaphorical interpretation of the Bible I'd ever run into, it would have been amazing as about the sixth, it felt somewhat perfunctory.

While trying to say at least something about the major divisions of the Bible, the author often doesn't have enough room to work, and tends to miss depth. This was especially evident with the Pentateuch and Gospels. Both sections felt extremely rushed.

Creation and Revelation, where the author had more time to talk about less
...more
Sarah Daigen
I absolutely love Marcus Borg, as he's able to take some complicated concepts that have made Christianity in particular (and, probably, religion in general) either a damaging stumbling block, or a compulsive mania, for so many, and demonstrate how it can make sense, be tolerant - beyond tolerant, even radically inclusive and compassionate - and still meaningful. The subheading for this book, "Taking the Bible seriously, but not literally" sums it up in as pithy a nutshell as I can manage.

Lookin
...more
Scott Holstad
I found this book really engaging, but I can now see why so many fundamentalists/evangelicals view Marcus Borg as little more than a heretic. He argues that you shouldn't read the Bible literally, but through a historical-metaphorical lens. And he makes some great arguments, but he also makes some potentially faulty assumptions and, further, throws a number of things in the Bible right out the door without considering them seriously simply because they don't seem realistic. He writes that you sh ...more
Rudy Dyck
This is a great LIBERAL Christian book. Some of the opinions are eye-opening and would be considered blasphemous by a traditional Christian viewpoint. If you believe in a literal interpretation of the Bible and that it is 100% infallible you will not agree with much of Marcus Borg's work.

I grew up believing in the traditional Bible but the violence and some of the conflicting messages can be hard to grasp and understand. As I've read more about the Old Testament including things like the Docume
...more
Judy
I won't be zipping through this book. For one thing I need to process what I'm reading. The other is that it is the text for a church school class. Will be interesting to hear other's perspectives.
Studying a book such as this in a class setting is even more advantageous than reading it alone. But I missed the Sunday classes covering the last several chapters; so finished the book on my own. It is good to hear what other people think of the subject matter--it adds to my own understanding. Marcus
...more
Lietta
I read it some years ago, not recently. The existing reviews speak to the nature of the book. I flat out like Marcus Borg approach, would unlikely be able to give any kind of critical review. It seems to me that it is pertinent to read the bible again with fresh eyes in view of it's ancient history and application in modern times. There can hardly be a standardized take on what this book is sharing, how it has survived to modern times and more easily understood in retrospect given the grave misu ...more
Josh Maddox
"Reading the Bible Again for the First Time" is an excellent introduction to liberal Protestant Christianity. The author's tone is respectful, his writing is engaging, and his perspective is persuasive. He gives an overview of the Bible from a perspective which heavily uses historical criticism, and he does it in such a way that his conclusions flow naturally from his evidence. Highly recommended for those who want a perspective on a different kind of Christianity.
Karen
It reads a little too much like a college text book (which is not surprising as he is a college professor) but the content is great. It helps make clear what I have believed intuitively for ages and while I don't know I agree with all he says, it really is a great book on reading the Bible from a Historical-Metophorical perspective rather than a literalist view. Not exactly the book I'd bring along to a day at the beach (actually, I probably would but for most people, not so much....) but if you ...more
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Borg was born into a Lutheran family of Swedish and Norwegian descent, the youngest of four children. He grew up in the 1940s in North Dakota and attended Concordia College, Moorhead, a small liberal arts school in Moorhead, Minnesota. While at Moorhead he was a columnist for the school paper and held forth as a conservative. After a close reading of the Book of Amos and its overt message of socia ...more
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“The word “sacrament” also has a broader meaning. In the study of religion, a sacrament is commonly defined as a mediator of the sacred, a vehicle by which God becomes present, a means through which the Spirit is experienced.” 0 likes
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