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

4.14  ·  Rating details ·  3,268 ratings  ·  223 reviews
Many Christians mistakenly believe that their only choice is either to reconcile themselves to a fundamentalist reading of scripture (a "literal-factual" approach) or to simply reject the Bible as something that could bring meaning and value into their lives. In Reading the Bible Again for the First Time, Marcus Borg shows how instead we can freshly appreciate all the esse ...more
Paperback, 321 pages
Published April 7th 2015 by HarperOne (first published 2001)
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Feb 18, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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
Dec 19, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
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
Feb 01, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: spirituality
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.
May 18, 2009 rated it did not like it
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
Dec 27, 2007 rated it really liked it
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
Dec 07, 2014 rated it liked it
I started this book when Marcus Borg was still alive, after having a conversation about him with my sister. I was interested in what he had to say, so I started with this book as it was relatively short and I was able to get it inter-library loan.

There isn't enough room in this book for anything in-depth. It's a look at how to read the Bible in a non-literal fashion while still having faith. (Taking the Bible Seriously but Not Literally is the tag line on the cover.) The sections are like teaser
R.J. Gilbert
Jul 29, 2017 rated it liked it
For starters, I recommend this book to Christians who are beginning to question the modern interpretations of sacred scripture or even the so-called “spirituality” of the church. However, I must add a few cautions due to my own experiences.

To begin with, Marcus Borg describes a “sacred” experience in many of his books, and I am familiar with what he is describing. I had a powerful, spiritual experience when I was a teenager, but, being only a teenager, I did not have the vocabulary to describe i
Mike Wardrop
Jan 20, 2014 rated it did not like it
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
Jan 13, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Ken Hammond
May 14, 2020 rated it it was amazing
A relationship with God and your lasting fidelity. We either choose to follow God or follow Man that's it.

Trey Nowell
Jun 13, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I feel often people have this image that the Bible was a golden book that fell from the sky from God and was bestowed upon man. Marcus Borg tries to show the individual works as they were intended by each individual author of each work. This is probably the best book I can suggest for someone wanting to understand the Bible through a modern perspective and as I believe, many people of the day saw each work. Borg is able to address books from Genesis to Revelation, examining many of the controver ...more
Dec 06, 2011 rated it it was ok
Shelves: faith
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
Aug 05, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
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
Mar 25, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is a breath of fresh air and shows how the Bible can be read productively and with great spiritual insight, without being bound in the straight-jacket of literalism. There are many portions of the Bible which are obviously not intended to be taken literally, even though many Christians insist on doing so. Borg's primary premise is that the Bible was written by humans, not by God, in the direct sense that many Christians assume. This does not mean that the some parts of the Bible are th ...more
Zane Akers
May 31, 2019 rated it really liked it
This was my first time reading Borg, although I have seen some videos with interviews of him, and his approach to reading and understanding the Bible is woven all throughout contemporary Christian thought, both in the academy and from the pulpit. Therefore I thought it good to dig into his stuff myself.
In this book, Borg first tackles Biblical literalism, discussing it from its roots as a reaction to Biblical criticism emerging in the 19th century, its use as a bulwark against modernity and per
Mack Hayden
Mar 16, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: religion
Flannery O'Connor's depiction of the South as "Christ-haunted" is an apt description of my own 20s. While I've departed from Christianity, I can't seem to escape Christ. Borg's a very down-to-earth teacher and theologian so this is a great one to read if you're looking for a less literal, more inclusive and all-around (in my opinion) better approach to Christianity than is typically offered in American evangelicalism. He didn't really show me anything flabbergastingly new here because I'd seen a ...more
Emmy Brett
Oct 02, 2019 rated it liked it
Lots to commend about this book. As an overall primer on non literal interpretations of the Bible, it's great, but there's also a lot of grand large statements and personal conjecture that seem to be miscategorized as fact. There are a ton of footnotes the author attaches to big claims that would seem to require citation, but when you review the footnotes at the end of the chapter, it's often just the author repeating the statement without referring you to the source of the info. This seems misl ...more
Damon Glassmoyer
May 19, 2020 rated it really liked it
Full of excellent insight into how to read and understand the Bible, and take it seriously, without making into something it isn't (namely, straight dictation from God), and thereby hear what it actually says.
May 15, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: heresy

Big Ideas:

+ A typical faith journey moves from pre-critical naivete (this must be true) to critical thinking (this can’t literally be true) to post-critical naivete (this is true in a different, more important sense)

+ Models of God’s relationship to creation
- Production model: God is separate from creation
- Procreative model: God is present within His creation. Since God is the source of everything, Being as Being is good. All that exists is good, although not all that happens is good

+ Alternati
Rudy Dyck
Apr 05, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
Sarah Daigen
Apr 06, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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.

Joel Wentz
Aug 13, 2015 rated it really liked it
I personally find Borg to be remarkably encouraging and pastoral in his writing, though many lump him in with the "skeptical, Jesus Seminar, liberal scholars," I consistently am surprised by his gentle passion for following Jesus and knowing God. This book directly spoke to many questions and tensions I feel when reading scripture, but am unable to address in my predominantly Evangelical-conservative Christian communities.

This all being said, the subtitle of this book is, "taking the Bible serio
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
Oct 14, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
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
Steven Jacke
Apr 05, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-christian
This is my first encounter with Marcus Borg, I picked it up because the ebook was on same for $3.

This book is in the same vein as Peter Enns Kent Sparks - a literal reading of the Bible is bad. It spends less time explaining why a literal reading is bad than the other authors. about 2/3 of the material is devoted to finding meaning in the Bible through its "historical-metaphorical" approach (vs historical-critical). I truly appreciated this, as I have been searching for more, "now what?" books.
Jun 30, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
AJ Nolan
Aug 09, 2014 rated it really liked it
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
Cathy Wilcox
This is a great book for anyone who is interested in the historical/metaphorical approach to reading sacred texts and is uncomfortable with a strict literal interpretation. I loved it, often nodding and thinking "Exactly" as I read. Borg discusses the Old Testament and New Testament, offering insights into the cultural contexts in which they were written.

I borrowed it from the library and wish I had purchased it, as I may use it as a reference in the future.
Paul Dinger
Apr 27, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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.
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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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