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The Meaning of Jesus

3.97  ·  Rating details ·  1,838 ratings  ·  142 reviews
Was Jesus born of a virgin? Did he know he was the Messiah? Was he bodily resurrected from the dead? Did he intentionally die to redeem humankind? Was Jesus God?

In The Meaning of Jesus two leading Jesus scholars with widely divergent views go right to the heart of these questions and others, presenting the opposing visions of Jesus that shape our faith today.

In alternating
Paperback, 288 pages
Published March 22nd 2000 by HarperOne (first published December 30th 1998)
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Average rating 3.97  · 
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Lee Harmon
Jan 25, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Two of my favorite scholars, Marcus Borg and N. T. Wright, debate the meaning of Jesus. One is decidedly more conservative, but both are thoughtful and well-studied. And, raising hope for the future of Christianity, I would venture a guess that they are best friends despite their differences.

Wright believes the gospels are what they are “because their authors thought the events they were recording—all of them, not just some—actually happened.” This may sound self-evident to conservative Christia
Oct 28, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Jesus asked his disciples, "Who do you say that I am?" Two of today's leading theologians, Marcus Berg and N. T. (Nicholas Thomas) Wright, give their answers in alternating chapters on eight different aspects of Christology.

I will admit that I relate more closely to Wright's views than Borg's, and find Wright's more readable. And admit further that half way through the book I gave up reading Borg's chapters. (The book was due back at the public library and I wanted to finish with it before I sta
Aug 17, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: christianity
I am not a theologian, and as such, I can't review or evaluate this book on that level. I am a Christian who was raised in the Anglican Church, and I've always been fascinated by questions of Biblical inerrancy. I approached this book as someone who clearly believes in Jesus as Son of God and Saviour, yet who is open to different ways of approaching the Bible.

Borg and Wright both make well written, clear arguments to explain their views around Christ both as a spiritual and historical figure. T
This is a good book for those who desire to compare two different ways of understanding Jesus, Christianity and the Bible. The cover states that the two authors are the leading "conservative" and the leading "liberal" scholar in the historical Jesus debate. Perhaps true, though it would not be difficult to find scholars much more conservative than Wright and much more liberal than Borg.

I am a huge fan of NT Wright so it was not surprising that I found myself agreeing with much of what he wrote,
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 se
Apr 06, 2008 rated it liked it
Shelves: religiosity
Basic questions about Christianity are examined...was Jesus born of a virgin? Did he know he was the Messiah? Was he God? Did he die to redeem mankind? The amazing thing to me is that any Christian scholar who professes to believe in Christ (Borg) would ever dare to ask these questions in the first place. The Jesus Seminar is, to me, a classic example of the "wolves" spoken of in the New Testament. They profess to be believers but use their "knowledge" to undermine people's faith in Christ. They ...more
Feb 20, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2009
Reading the Meaning of Jesus is like sitting at Centre Court in Wimbledon seeing two tennis greats volleying with all their might! Enjoyable and exciting reading, as you wait to see how the other author will return the serve!

There are 8 parts in the book, with two chapters per part. Borg plays for the more progressive (or liberal) side, while Wright represents the more conservative side, but both are devout Christians. The good thing is that there is no hostility between them as they argue thei
Ben De Bono
Jan 09, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: theology
The Meaning of Jesus is a fascinating debate between two of the big names in contemporary theology. Coming into this book, I've read a great deal of N.T. Wright but nothing previously about Marcus Borg. Both men are excellent writers and thinkers who agree that Jesus is hugely important both historically and presently. When it comes to details, however, they disagree on virtually every issue.

As a conservative evangelical I naturally agreed with Wright throughout the book. I expected that to be
Tylor Lovins
This is Marcus Borg and N. T. Wright's exchange via book. It is useful if you want to understand where many Evangelical Americans see the historical Jesus debate stands right now. I think, mostly, this book misses the point, however, in light of Bultmann's stuff on the meaning of faith. I would recommend Bultmann's Kerygma and Myth instead of this if one, in my opinion, wants to really understand the issues of the historical Jesus in a way that involves honesty without intellectual suicide. Alth ...more
Chauncey Lattimer
The Meaning of Jesus: Two Visions, co-authored by Marcus Borg and N.T. Wright is an excellent read for the student of N.T. interpretation/hermeneutics. By design, the book provides the reader with two quite different approaches (one is more traditional, the other more revisionist) to eight very important topics in ‘Jesus’ studies. Each of the essays provided by N.T. Wright utilized both scriptural and historical background information in a very logical presentation of his thesis. Borg, on the ot ...more
Dec 01, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction, theology
I was assigned this book for class, and I found myself more into it than most reading assignments. I like the idea of liberal and conservative scholar-friends writing a book in dialogue, and they did it well, though the back-and-forth aspect of it could have been presented more creatively (i.e. shorter chapters, interview/conversation format, I don't know). When I finished it I felt like I didn't retain much, but since then I've mentioned it in discussions, so I suppose some of it stuck. I thoug ...more
Mason Wren
Oct 02, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I found this book to be very helpful. It's two authors, Marcus Borg and N.T. Wright, each cast their vision of Jesus and what his life and work mean in light of first century Jewish perspectives and historical Jesus scholarship. I see true things in the visions of Jesus from both of these wise scholars, and there is a lot of common ground with different ways of expression. The beauty of this book for me is being able to see the unwritten underlying core in which both of these visions of the mean ...more
Glen Grunau
In their Introduction, Borg and Wright make an important observation: “There is, after all, no such thing as objectivity in scholarship. Anyone who supposes that by setting scholarship within a modern secular university, or some other carefully sanitized, nonreligious setting, they thereby guard such work against the influence of presuppositions that can seriously skew the results should, we suggest, think again.”

This amounts to a confession by both that their contrasting views of Jesus are subj
Oct 08, 2010 rated it really liked it
The Meaning of Jesus is an intriguing tête-à-tête between two friends with very different Christian worldviews. N.T. Wright is the Bishop of Durham who takes up the standard of orthodox Christianity and Marcus Borg is, to put it mildly, a very liberal Lutheran. Both argue well, and Borg is most fascinating when he lays out his methodology in analyzing and interpreting the written documents we have on Jesus (He focuses on the Gospel of Mark because it is the oldest of the written traditions, he d ...more
Charles Moody
Oct 26, 2012 rated it really liked it
This book is constructed as an alternating-chapter debate between two scholars. Their central topic is distinguishing those items in the Gospels and in Christian belief that can actually be traced to the life of the historical Jesus from those items that were creations of the early Christian church in the decades after Jesus’s death. This is anything but a dry and sterile debate; it leads them to disagree on topics that are seemingly critical and potentially explosive. For example, did Jesus act ...more
Mar 14, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: religion
Two Jesus scholars present their sometimes similar, more often conflicting accounts about Christ. Wright presents a classical "orthodox" view of historical Jesus, and Borg presents a liberal, view. I came to the book wondering why liberal scholars like Borg still bother to believe in Jesus at all (he does believe that Jesus existed and was crucified, but discounts a lot of the gospels as either a metaphor that has morphed into a historical meaning it was never intended to convey or made up accou ...more
Nov 09, 2013 rated it really liked it
Marcus Borg states that much of the New Testament, if not all, should be understood as metaphor. He claims that we should not take the written accounts of Jesus' life and ministry as true historical fact. We should look for the meaning behind the stories. He understands The Bible not as a divine work of God but written by a group of people, Israel for the Old Testament and the early Christian community for the New Testament, about how they see God. He calls it a lens in which we can get a glimps ...more
Peter Sullivan
Feb 17, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Well I finally finished it! haha! It only took me almost all year. This is not a super tough read, but it is written by two theologians so it's not a super light read either. I love to constantly have my notions about faith shaken up, to really ask myself why I believe what I believe. I am first and foremost a Christ follower, and I have tried very hard not to be roped in by the culture and dogma of the church but by what Jesus said and did. This book is a great read for someone who wants to be ...more
Robert Clay
Mar 17, 2011 rated it really liked it
A worthwhile look at several of the major, foundational topics about who Jesus was and what His significance is, from the perspectives of two good friends who have significantly different views. Each topic (e.g. His teachings, His death, His resurrection, His divinity, His second coming, etc.) is addressed first by one author, then the other.

Though I generally agree more with Wright, I was surprised by the extent to which I could respect Borg's views. For example, prior to reading the book, I wo
Oct 28, 2013 rated it really liked it
When I reviewed "Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time," I lamented that the book didn't delve deeply enough into Borg's views of the historical Jesus. This book does a far better job of that, and as a bonus contrasts Borg's views with those of N.T. Wright.

Although the book is framed as a debate between these two scholars, it isn't a "debate" in the vein of Chesterton-Shaw, approaching diametrically opposed viewpoints. Borg and Wright agree on far more than they disagree on. In broadest terms,
May 26, 2009 rated it really liked it
I am both confounded and very happy that these two very different theologians co-authored this book about Jesus. They go to great lengths to find common ground and to treat each others writing respectfully. In the preface they say it is because they are friends. That's just so wonderful. But they do not avoid their major differences, and this makes the book a lively (but friendly) debate.
Tom Wright brilliantly describes a faith in the resurrected messiah Jesus that is historically grounded and
May 30, 2009 rated it it was ok
I ploughed through this book,and parts of it were really very interesting. I felt like I was reading a book for an upper level college class. It stretched me. I think it would be a great book to read in a Sunday School class or a small group where readers could discuss it chapter by chapter. It's definitely NOT a summer beach read. I felt bad that Marcus Borg thought that Jesus' first miracle, turning water into wine during the wedding at Cana, was simply a metaphor. Waaaaaa!!!! I love that mira ...more
Apr 19, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: anyone interested in religion and history
This is a fascinating debate about the historical Jesus between renowned liberal and conservative scholars Marcus Borg and N.T. Wright, respectively (both of whom also happen to be close friends).

The book presents one essay by each of them in response to a question or topic ("How do we know about Jesus?", "The Death of Jesus", "Was Jesus God?", etc.)
At the heart of the matter is their disagreement about whether the truth of a gospel story is dependent on it being grounded in a particular histori
Marvin Gumba
Apr 01, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: christian
My Thoughts On The Authors

1. Marcus Borg
a. I enjoyed reading Marcus Borg
b. Marcus' writing is very clean, concise, and easy to follow unlike Wright.
c. I appreciate the challenging that Borg brings to the table.

1. N.T. Wright
a. Wright unfortunately lost me most of the time. This wasn't because of my inability to understand the reading level. Every time the chapter would transition from Borg to Wright, I hoped that Wright would ease off of his fetish with creating sentences that resemble run-on's
Joel Wentz
Aug 06, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A fantastic book, written passionately by two friends with opposing viewpoints. This hits all the "hot topics" within the Jesus debate: how do we know the gospels are reliable? Was Jesus really born of a virgin? Was the resurrection really physical, or just a spiritual metaphor? After responding to each other, with solid historical scholarship, both Borg and Wright supply a chapter at the end of the book on living the Christian life. This last section, in my opinion, is worth more than the rest ...more
Carolyn Lind
After reading three books by N.T. Wright and three books written by Marcus J. Borg, it was interesting to read the one they did together. It helped define the differences between these two Bible scholars, as with alternating chapters they shared very different perspectives. I recommend this book for persons who have read and enjoyed other books by these two fine authors. Wouldn't it be wonderful if all Christians could follow their example and remain friends even when their viewpoints of scriptu ...more
Rudy Dyck
Apr 05, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This is an excellent book between two Christian heavyweights. Tom is conversvative while Marcus is very liberal. An excellent read to get the viewpoints on both sides of the equation.

The book tackles some strong topics - topics traditional Christians may not have even considered worth debating. They debate whether the virgin birth story was real, whether there was an empty tomb and how important a full resurection is, the composition of the new testament (Q theory, dates of writing, etc), etc. T
Nov 27, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction, religion
I wish I had read more about the historical Jesus earlier in my life. If I had, I would better understand Jesus' mission and message. Although Wright and Borg have very different understandings for the implications of the historical Jesus and are willing to or unwilling to accept debatable aspects of Jesus life, I still come out of the reading with a greater respect for Jesus' mission and message. I consider this book to be another read that is helping me to deconstruct the evangelical and funda ...more
Justin Wiggins
Feb 11, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book changed my life, and was an epic theological read, and has given me much to think about, pray about, and by Grace, to live out in my life.
It took me forever to finish this book. At first I really enjoyed the style, but then I found it tedious.

I think that the back and forth writing was certainly thought-provoking and, at best, conversational, but at worst, argumentative in a weirdly passive way.

I realized toward the end that this book was published in 1989, so I would be interested to know how these two evolved their research and positions since.

Ultimately, I found Borg’s position way more annoying due to his hyper-concern with
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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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“Jesus died for our sins” has been understood. Among some Christians, it is seen as an essential doctrinal element in the Christian belief system. Seen this way, it becomes a doctrinal requirement: we are made right with God by believing that Jesus is the sacrifice. The system of requirements remains, and believing in Jesus is the new requirement. Seeing it as a metaphorical proclamation of the radical grace of God leads to a very different understanding. “Jesus died for our sins” means the abolition of the system of requirements, not the establishment of a new system of requirements.” 5 likes
“Other prophets, other messiahs, came and went in Jesus’ day. Routinely, they died violently at the hands of the pagan enemy. Their movements either died with them, sometimes literally, or transformed themselves into a new movement around a new leader. Jesus’ movement did neither. Within days of his execution it found a new lease of life; within weeks it was announcing that he was indeed the messiah; within a year or two it was proclaiming him to pagans as their rightful Lord. How can a historian explain this astonishing transformation?” 3 likes
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