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Evolution of the Word: The New Testament in the Order the Books Were Written

4.09  ·  Rating details ·  339 ratings  ·  42 reviews
By presenting the New Testament books in the order they were written, bestselling Bible scholar Marcus Borg reveals how spiritually and politically radical the early Jesus movement began and how it slowly became domesticated. Evolution of the Word is an incredible value: not only are readers getting a deeply insightful new book from the author of Speaking Christian and Jesus, bu ...more
Hardcover, 593 pages
Published August 28th 2012 by HarperOne (first published January 1st 2012)
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Average rating 4.09  · 
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 ·  339 ratings  ·  42 reviews

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Lee Harmon
Sep 15, 2012 rated it really liked it

This is a big book, 593 pages, but over half of it is a reprint of scripture. After an introduction, Borg goes book-by-book through the New Testament, providing a few pages of overview for each, primarily discussing its historical context, and then presenting the Biblical text. Borg's contributions are a little sparse and offered without much argument, so if you're looking for exhaustive commentary, that's not his purpose.

Also, do not imagine that scholars have some kind of universal
Oct 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I don't know if I'll ever read the New Testament in its canonical order again! Borg's ordering--chronologically by most likely date of composition--provides the clearest window into how the first followers of the Jesus movement understood him and how that understanding evolved over time. With lucid preface, Borg explains how each text reflects contemporaneous dynamics between the early Christians and the communities and power structures with which they found themselves in tension. As time went o ...more
Laura Lee
Aug 27, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: the-bible, reference
This is not a read it through in one sitting kind of book, but I am so pleased to have it. I had actually been reading through the New Testament in chronological order using a list I found on the Internet. I did it that way because this book didn't exist. How much easier to just pick this up. I am enjoying the introductions to each book that put them in historical context. I always respond to Borg's interpretation. I have been going back and retroactively reading the introductions for the books ...more
Mar 28, 2017 rated it really liked it
While the vast majority of this book is simply the New Testament text, this is an important and helpful book aside from that. The books in the New Testament are presented in the order in which they were written, not in the typical order in which they appear. Or at least, they are presented in the order they are suspected to have been written, or scholars' best educated guesses in some cases. We simply do not know. Still, to see and read the books in at least a semblance of their chronological hi ...more
Cyndie Dyer
May 07, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Got this from the public library but am definitely buying a copy. Clears up so many misuses of verses taken out of context. If you are fairly familiar with the New Testament then i would recommend reading just his introductions to each book the first time through. He doesn't say the current order of the New Testament is "wrong" for anyone that would find that troubling. He just explains how the historical context affects the writing and shows at what point the "Christian" movement is for each do ...more
Mar 16, 2013 rated it liked it
This book arranges the book of the New Testament in the approximate order in which they were written in order to give a better idea of the context in which they were written. I say approximate because scholars do differ somewhat on the order. Much of the book is actually the texts of the New Testament books.
Jul 28, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I am a huge Marcus Borg fan, have heard him speak several times and love his approach to Scripture.
Being a former history teacher, I enjoy reading his analysis of Biblical text and, in my view, the most realistic approach to what can be a very distorted and explosive (read narrow perspective)interpretation of this work.....a great read!
Scott Kenefake
Jun 05, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I'm a huge Borg fan--a must read for the literate Christian or anyone who simply wants to learn about how the NT developed historically.
Paul Gibson
Jun 23, 2013 rated it really liked it
Read the books of the New Testament in the chronological order they were written. Watch how conservatives toned down the earlier, more liberal/radical message over time. Worth the read.
Greg Reimer
Sep 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This book is a great tool for deconstructing misconceptions about how the Bible came to be!

You will learn so many incredible things from Borg's introductions and his ordering of the New Testament. While I am not fully convinced of all conclusions that biblical historians have on dating and authorship, I was incredibly encouraged while reading this book. It gave me a continued awareness of the importance of context and understanding each text from the perspective of each Bible writer.
Caleb Jones
Feb 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This is a great resource which takes the books of the New Testament and re-orders them chronologically based on current understanding of when they were written. Borg writes wonderful introductions to each book describing scholarly understanding on authorship, historical context, and major themes - much like other study Bibles. He is very open with his decisions on ordering, where scholarly consensus is found or isn't found on dates/topics, and justifies his ordering. He discusses how Christianit ...more
I have read the part of this book I was most interested in currently, covering the first seven books of the New Testament, those books that are believed to be the authentically written letters of Paul. Marcus Borg, a Biblical scholar, first writes about his reasons for writing a book that looks at the books of the New Testament in the chronological order in which they were written. Each book is examined for it's historical context, the audience for whom it was written, the writer's perspective a ...more
Feb 09, 2017 rated it really liked it
Dr. Borg uses as his text the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV). I found the overall introductory matter, as well as the prefaces to the various books to be enlightening. Thematic, linguistic, historical and theological information was most welcome. Concurrently with the reading of this text I also read the appropriate text using various study bibles using the NRSV as well as a study bible using the Common English Bible (CEB) translation. Reading the New Testament in the order written (as prop ...more
Glauber Ribeiro
Aug 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It's very enlightening to read the New Testament books in the order they were written, and watch the evolution of the ideas.

Borg's succinct and readable introductions are well worth the cost of the book, and the inclusion of a high quality translation of the texts themselves (NRSV) makes this an ideal book to read from cover to cover.
Pearl Loewen
Jun 13, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: marcus-borg
I love anything Borg has written. While I did not read the accompanying Scriptures, I enjoyed Borg's commentaries on the "books" in the New Testament, and tracking the developments in the traditions of the Christian communities was most interesting. Borg's comments on 2 Timothy 3:16 were also most insightful.
Sam Owen
Jul 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Well written and researched.

I have read several books by Marcus Borg and this is one of the best. He is very knowledgeable in his field.
Mar 18, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: religion
This book presents the New Testament in the order in which scholars believe the books were written. Thus it provides some insight in the development of Christianity during the first century. I found it interesting and maybe even enlightening to look at the New Testament this way. But at the same time I found some of Borg's analysis deeply disturbing to my present understanding of the Bible, so I am not ready to accept much of it.

Most of the 593 pages is a reprint of the NRSV with a general intr
Brad Rice
Feb 20, 2014 rated it liked it
This book is an excellent way to understand current scholarship with regard to authorship and dating of the New Testament books. I have a bit of a hard time accepting some of the dating as many of the traditional epistles of Paul are put into the late 1st to early second century, thereby rendering them as not authentic. Some of the reasoning is good, but I wouldn't say completely convincing. The fact that the books claim to be authored by Paul provide some difficulty in that regard, but it is tr ...more
Orville Jenkins
Jan 01, 2015 rated it it was amazing
It was a refreshing and enlightening experience reading this edition of the whole New Testament, with a historical introduction to each book, in the order scholars think they were written. Professor Borg provides a short helpful summary introduction giving some cultural and historical background to the location and topic, and reviewing briefly the various views of when each book was written.

This was a very good way to renew perspective on the individual documents and the 1st-century
Robert D. Cornwall
Sep 25, 2012 rated it really liked it
What would it look like to read the New Testament chronologically -- that is in the order in which the books were written? We're used to the way the canonical list appears -- Four gospels, Acts, Pauline Epistles, Catholic Epistles (the rest of the letters and Hebrews) with Revelation bring up the rear. But, what if you started with 1 Thessalonians and concluded with 2 Peter?

That's the purpose of Marcus Borg's Evolution of the Word. It offers us a reconstruction of the New Testament c
Denton Peter McCabe
Oct 12, 2016 rated it liked it
A good source of supplemental reading. Admittedly, I have always had trouble reading volumes of unrelated or loosely related essays, stories, and even the New Testament (which is in fact a collection). This book provides some excellent historical context and pinpoints Peter as the source of a great deal of the things that the non-Christian takes as offensive in Christianity (i.e. misogyny, homophobia, and the views associated with Right Wingers). Definitely worth a read for any theologian, histo ...more
Jan 11, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
I've read the New Testament before, but having it presented this way, in chronological order, as well as having it presented with historic context and explanation, was very useful and enjoyable. The Books are presented in a way where the text of the Book is not diminished, or altered, just re-examined in flow and context to show the changing of meanings and interpretations as the early Christian's and Jews evolved.

Through this evolution, the meaning and formation of the Books also evolved and b
Jul 19, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: religion, reference
I love this book. Admittedly, he's an outlier on the timing of Luke/Acts, but aside from that, this is such a useful reference on the New Testament documents. I use it with my congregations all the time. He is great for giving context for various letters and gospels in the New Testament. Loved, loved, loved Marcus Borg and his obvious love for the local church. He is sorely missed, and I hope we get another scholar who is even half as invested in helping lay people get an intelligent grasp on th ...more
Aug 25, 2013 rated it liked it
Using the New Revised Standard translation of the New Testament Borg presents the books of in the order he believes they were written starting with the seven letters that scholars believe were actually written by Paul (1 Thessalonians, Galatians, 1 Corinthians, Philemon, Philippians, 2 Corinthians and Romans) along with a introductions to each book as a way to point out developing strains of thought in first and early second century Christianity.
Linda Nichols
Feb 16, 2013 rated it it was amazing
It's good, to me, to know that many of the letters attributed to Paul were probably not written by Paul. He has been vilified for his attitude toward women. However, in the genuine letters he wrote, he is positive toward women -- praises them, encourages them.

It was interesting to learn the sequence in which the books of the New Testament were written. I did gain some new insights into the teachings of Jesus and his disciples.
Debbie Blane
Jan 11, 2015 rated it it was amazing
1. Fascinating read.
2. Very helpful to have the books in the order written. Makes it easier to understand in this order than the canonical order why the changes occur. The institutionalization of the books happens because the later books were accommodating to the Roman culture, this order gives more clarity, sheds more light.
Jan 24, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Excellent way to read the New Testament. Borg gives a nice introduction to each book and then you can read each in the proper historical order of composition. Of course, there is some disagreement among scholars as to the proper historical order of the books, but Borg works from the main consensus. Altogether an excellent book to own and read.
Jan 17, 2015 rated it it was amazing
We used this outstanding book as a text for Bible Study over the course of several months. It provided excellent perspective and overview of how some early Christians expressed their testimonies of faith as the Church grew from a movement toward an institution. Borg reminds us that the Church shaped the New Testament.
Frank Snell
May 15, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Evolution of the word is the New Testament in chronological order, or the order the books were written in. It is trite to say that the raw material is exceptional. But, it is interesting to read them in the order they were written in. In addition, the contextual information in the book is very interesting
(Context, the big C, is everything.) and worth reading by itself.
Jan 18, 2014 rated it really liked it
Reading the books chronologically is enlightening. I'd label this a tragedy. It started out with me thinking,"OK, this isn't bad at all. I like it," and ended with me thinking, "Yes, this is why I don't like religion. What a bunch of jerks, becoming like the Romans. What happened to Paul's love of equality?"
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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
“Roman imperial theology is the oppositional context for much of early Christian language about Jesus. The gospels, Paul’s letters, and the other New Testament writings use the language of imperial theology, but apply it to Jesus. Jesus is the “Son of God”— the emperor is not. Jesus is the “Lord” - the emperor is not. Jesus is the “Savior” who brings “peace on earth” - the emperor is not. The contrast is not just a matter of language. The contrast is also about two different visions of how the world should be. The world of the domination system is a world of political oppression, economic exploitation, and chronic violence. The alternative is a world in which everyone has enough and no one needs to be afraid. The gospel phrase for this is the “kingdom of God,” the heart, as the gospels proclaim, of Jesus’s message.” 0 likes
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