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Jesus For The Non Religious: Recovering The Divine At The Heart Of The Human
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Jesus For The Non Religious: Recovering The Divine At The Heart Of The Human

4.03 of 5 stars 4.03  ·  rating details  ·  658 ratings  ·  92 reviews

Bishop John Shelby Spong has been on a life–long quest to rescue the church from irrelevancy. In FREEING JESUS FROM RELIGION'S PRISON, he takes aim at the church's core belief: who is Jesus. He first strips the superstitious barnacles that have attached themselves to this incredible person: such as that Jesus was born of a virgin in Bethlehem, that his father was Joseph, t

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Paperback, 316 pages
Published 2007
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Mysterium
I could fill pages with a proper review of this book, but I shall refrain and let you the educated reader make your own conclusions. This book transported me back to my seminary days, when we studied critical bible analysis and the historicity of Jesus of Nazareth and the proverbial light bulb came on..it not only came on, but it flashed, flickered, transformed into neon and then a spotlight!!!

For a very, very long time, scholars, pastors, seminarians, and professors have known the truth regardi
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Lee Harmon
The phrase "spiritual but not religious" has become such a common description that an acronym has developed: SBNR. Are you an SBNR?

I'm not. As much as I want to belong, it doesn't really describe me. I'm more of a JBNR guy (Jesus but not religious). Jesus' dream of a kingdom of heaven on earth, and his humanitarian solution for inaugurating that kingdom, is my inspiration. I love church buildings, I love music, and I especially love church music, but when it comes to the real Jesus, he's hardly
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Bob
Spong begins his book with the end in mind. He has already decided that anything beyond the realm of science is to be rejected as purely fiction. If he cannot see it, touch it, understand it, and scientifically verify it, he rejects it. Given that the Bible is written in a time period with a pre-scientific worldview, Spong asks questions of the text that the text cannot answer. When the text does not answer, Spong rejects it.

After a few chapters, I began checking facts on him from the Old Testam
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Elizabeth
I'm giving this book 5 stars not because it was flawlessly written (it wasn't) or immaculately researched (not sure), but because it's one of the most provocative things I've ever read. You don't expect an Episcopal Bishop to systematically deconstruct everything we know about the Christian religion and still proclaim himself to be a follower of Jesus, but that's exactly what Spong does here. While this book is ostensibly about Jesus, it's more broadly a call for a progressive Christianity that ...more
Darlene
As a burned out, lapsed Catholic girl, I wasn't sure what to expect when I started reading this book, Jesus for the Non-Religious by John Shelby Spong. One I got past the fear and trepidation I had that perhaps I would be struck dead because I had put my immortal soul in jeopardy by reading something which might be considered blasphemous, I actually felt amazed by this book!

Bishop Spong has written an eye opening, thoughtful, radical and (dare I say it?) heretical book about Jesus of Nazareth a
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Kayte
Spong's theme is that since the Gospel stories of the man called Jesus are meant as literature rather than fact, one needs to strip away the fiction from the portrait of Jesus to find the man who so excited and energized his friends that they were willing to die in his name.

Some new interpretations of scriptural material; sort of libertarian in his mindset. Alas, sometimes sloppy editing and even sloppier research. I had expected better from him. I've followed up on some his references and I'm n
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Angela
Jesus for the Non-Religious by John Shelby Spong is an amazing book.

To quote the author: "Being a Christian...in Dietrich Bonhoeffer's words, is not to be a religious human being; it is to be a whole human being. Jesus is a portrait of that wholeness; and that is why he is, for me, in his complete humanity, the ultimate expression of God".

In his book, Bishop Spong looks closely at the traditional understanding that has surrounded the Jesus of history and challenges his readers to look at Jesus "
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Nancy
Long ago (I think because of Oprah) I learned about John Shelby Spong, an episcopalian priest who wrote about Christianity in ways that interested me. Most importantly, ee seemed not to be about a literal interpretation of the Bible. I sought out his work, reading (I think) "The Easter Moment," a piece in which he argues that something powerful must have happened during Easter, something so powerful that it changed the way some Jewish people at the time lived.

Recently, I read more Spong, his wo
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Rob the Obscure
This book is in 3 parts. In the first two parts Spong uses the discoveries of decades of biblical scholarship, including textual criticism, historical criticism, etc. to call into question many of the traditionally held beliefs concerning the historical person of Jesus of Nazareth. He takes a number of core theological positions on who we understand Jesus to be and central events of his life, and systematically dismantles these beliefs, at least from a rational point of view...i.e. based on reas ...more
Ymfoo1
An interesting book. I urge all Christians and even non Christians to read this with an OPEN mind. Some Christians may be offended since the author is questioning the Word of God (Bible); hence the reader should approach this with an unbiased frame of mind and view this author’s viewpoint. I won’t say I agree with all what he wrote, but the gist of the author’s interpretation of Jesus can be sum up in the simple poem found at the end of the book:
Christpower
Look at him!
Look not at his divinity,
B
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Stephanie
“Seek the truth; come whence it may, cost what it will.”

It has taken me a long time to warm up to Spong. This is probably because, among progressive Christian academics, he seems to me the most bruised, the least hopeful. But his audience, here, is not his adversaries—it’s the post-Christian or Christian-in-exile who can no longer tolerate the pre-modern worldview of the church and yet cannot let go of Christ. Spong asks, "Can a full understanding of Jesus be developed by looking at him as a ful
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Melani
I would have given this book more stars had Spong limited himself to simply demonstrating the likelihood that much of the NT was constructed (using the OT as its guide) to make a messiah out of Jesus. Instead of this more humble undertaking, Spong makes grandiose conclusions about theism and science, which are outside the scope of his knowledge, not to mention logic. He seems to be quite fond of the fallacy - appeal to ignorance - if there is a lack of evidence for the hypothesis, then it must b ...more
Ron
About 2/3 into listening to the audio book. Interesting. Informative treatment of contrasting liturgy with focus on historicity of the early formation of the Judeo-Christian movement.

Update: Just finished audio book. Found several books by him at the local library, but am choosing to take the easy(?) way of listening before chosing what to read. Have enjoyed his distinction between knowing Jesus as an exclusivistic experience and as a liberating all-inclusive portal to the I Am. His style seems
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Lyn Elliott
Spong has been an important part of my reading in the last 10 years. I was brought up in a strongly Protestant family and school, but stopped believing in the literal truth of the Christian doctrine since I was about 16 and had come to think of myself as non-religious.
In this book on Jesus, he takes us to the heart of what Jesus taught and what his teachings meant, both for his first, fellow-Jewish followers, and for us now. It clears away the dogmatic clutter imposed by the church ( or churches
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Justin Tapp
If you're a Christian considering this book, then know that if you're a deist who believes that God intervenes in human history either in the miraculous or in the form of sending a Messiah named Jesus to save us from our sins then Spong says you are, knowingly or not, engaged in "heresy" (his word). Jesus performed nothing miraculous, fulfilled no prophecies, and there was no crucifixion for the atonement of sins nor a resurrection or eternal life. To believe otherwise means you are at best "ign ...more
Izzie Kikue
Enlightening! John Shelby Spong, through this book, introduced an inspiring way of viewing Jesus in this modern world we live in today. It has me thrilled and excited about the future of the Christian church, which I believe is craving just such a spiritual breakthrough during this age. Excellent reading.
"Jeff" Hall
Terrific book! Spong shatters myths and replaces them with an intelligent, modern approach to the man Jesus. With Spong's direction, we see how Biblical stories were told, embellished, and later inflated into supernatural happenings. We are reminded that the Bible was written by many, imperfect authors who attempted to describe what they had not seen and explain what they did not understand. I was fascinated by Spong's account of how the Gospel writers incorporated so much of the Old Testament. ...more
Becci
This is a very challenging book--I read dit slowly to try to absorb and ponder his ideas. Spong strips away old "beliefs" about the Biblical message before he attempts to reconstruct the life of the historical Jesus.
Mark
I own the book - Always a reason to be diverted to other books unfortunately - and I bought it after seeing the author give a talk so know the main points already. A fascinating analysis of how the bible came to be with discussion on the timing and make up of gospels, the interrelationship to Jewish law, custom and mythology and what should really be read as symbolic rather than literal. Includes thinking of bible historians - I suspect would get diverse reviews but something all should read and ...more
Joe
Spong continues to do it for me. His grasp of biblical scholarship and the readability of his writing style pretty much swept me along, especially in Parts 1 and 2, leaving me nodding my head with such assents as "uh-huh," "yes, of course," "that sounds right," "oh, so that's what that was all about," etc. Part 1 is "Separating the Human Jesus from the Myth," and, in case you haven't guessed, he states his case very plainly and very boldly. There was no star over Bethlehem...the parents of Jesus ...more
Starling
One of the problems with this book is that he goes over what he DOESN'T believe for most of the chapters. And when he is done talking about what he doesn't believe in there isn't much left.

I'm not a conservative Christian. I do not believe God wrote the bible, for example. I believe people wrote it. And they wrote it for their own time and for their own reasons, so you have to read it as a historical document. There are mistakes and inconsistencies. And as long as you understand it is a human pr
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Marshall
This an attempt by an Episcopalian bishop to re-frame Jesus in a non-religious way. I expected it to be a "kinder, gentler" introduction to Jesus' teachings, without the fire and brimstone. To my surprise, he spends most of the book relentlessly ripping the Bible to shreds, pointing out its absurdities and horrors. He didn't come up for air very much, so I kept waiting for the punchline.

He finally got to it at the end, where he spells out just how radical Jesus was. The way he lived and taught,
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Erin
This review might be my longest ever. :) This book was pretty interesting. The author is a former pastor who has a deep and profound relationship with Jesus, but is trying to move away from Christianity as it currently is being practiced. I'll say that I enjoyed the first and last sections, and thought it was pretty weak in the middle. The author does a good job of backing up his thoughts with proven research at first. Then he strays into a lot of assumptions. And, while the assumptions could be ...more
Katie
Jul 11, 2008 Katie rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Christians who are losing their faith
Recommended to Katie by: Someone at church
Shelves: religion
I like the reassessment of the Gospels based on the Hebrew scriptures, but I don't think the nonreligious will understand the book. Ex-Christians will probably appreciate it. From the title, and from my friend's recommendation, I was hoping for something aimed at the deeply unchurched, those with little or no experience of church, Christianity or Judeo-Christian faith or mythology. The title should be "Jesus for the ex-religious," or for ex-Christians, since Spong seems to be preaching to the di ...more
Glesnertod
Repetitive. When you start with the presupposition that there is no God, and naturalism is all there is, that any mystery in the universe can be explained by powerful energy, then I'm not sure what the point of the book is when he states that he desires to model his life after Jesus. Spong effectively tells us that we can be Christians that have nothing to do with Christianity as understood for the last 1900 years. He argues that the early Christians didn't believe in the resurrection, divinity ...more
Graham
I listened to this audio book while jogging. It's read by Alan Sklar who has a rich, deep, American accent. It was a bit surreal listening to him read a book about religion when I previously listened to him read science books on primatology and The Enlightenment. But actually, Spong's "Jesus for the Non-Religious" is not inconsistent with these other books.

Like Thomas Jefferson before him the retired Episcopalian Bishop, John Shelby Spong, attempts to remove the supernatural additions from the p
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Jonathan
I was initially turned off by this book: Spong's introduction and first chapters have the bitter tone of a man who has been ignored and ridiculed, and who is making one last, comprehensive case for his view. This turned me off, but the topic of the book was so interesting, that I kept on. I am glad that I did. As soon as Spong began explaining his ideas, he became an engaging, excited author and I wanted to keep reading. That said, Spong is writing for a lay, nonacademic audience, and at times I ...more
Jeff
Retired Episcopal Bishop John Shelby Spong takes a new look at the person and the experience of Jesus.

In three parts, Spong strips away the mythology of Jesus, shows how the gospels cannot truly be understood but through the lens of first-century Judaism, and explains how Jesus's story remains relevant and important.

The first two-thirds of the book, I honestly wondered what would be left of Spong's Christianity after he stripped away so much of the mythology and miracles. But he reveals in the f
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Jonathan Minnick
Terrible book. I would give it 0 stars but that might look like I was too lazy to rate it, so it gets a fake 1 star rating. The author professes himself to be wise, but he is quite the fool. He somehow things that in this age (farther removed than any other point in history from the actual events of Jesus' time) that we somehow have such a great newfound understanding of Jesus' life than any other people before us. He proceeds throughout the book to tear apart every aspect of Jesus' divinity to ...more
Erin
On the advice of my very wise father, I only read the last section (the first 2 seemed redundant if you're familiar with Spong's other books). Spong attempts to untangle religion from Christ's life by focusing on Christ the man. I had come to some of these conclusions--religion only exists to allow for a sense of security in humans as the alternative is a meaningless existence and the focus on sin is a manipulative tool used by The Church in order to hold onto power and ultimately constantly foc ...more
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John Shelby Spong was the Episcopal bishop of Newark before his retirement in 2000. As a leading spokesperson for an open, scholarly, and progressive Christianity, Bishop Spong has taught at Harvard and at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, California. He has also lectured at universities, conference centers, and churches in North America, Europe, Asia, and the South Pacific. His books in ...more
More about John Shelby Spong...
Why Christianity Must Change or Die: A Bishop Speaks to Believers In Exile Rescuing the Bible from Fundamentalism: A Bishop Rethinks the Meaning of Scripture The Sins of Scripture: Exposing the Bible's Texts of Hate to Reveal the God of Love A New Christianity for a New World: Why Traditional Faith is Dying & How a New Faith is Being Born Eternal Life: A New Vision: Beyond Religion, Beyond Theism, Beyond Heaven and Hell

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