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

4.11  ·  Rating details ·  2,673 Ratings  ·  185 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

Paperback, 321 pages
Published January 5th 2002 by HarperSanFrancisco (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
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.
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
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 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
Michael 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
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
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
Jul 03, 2007 rated it it was ok
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
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
Mack Hayden
Mar 16, 2017 rated it liked it
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
Robert 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
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.

Greg Dill
Apr 01, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Excellent read. All my life all I have ever known is a mostly literal understanding of scripture. Rarely, have I read or understood the Bible as a metaphorical narrative. In this book, Borg humbly takes you through the entire Bible and provides what he believes could be a metaphorical understanding of much of the stories contained within it. He doesn't claim to be right or have all the answers, and he provides several possibilities of what these stories may mean. But, I am glad that I have now b ...more
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
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
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
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.
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.
Aug 05, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
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.
David Metting
Nov 04, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: spirituality
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!
Jun 10, 2009 rated it it was amazing

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.
May 03, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: theology
I want to know more! Would like to use this as a base for a group sharing and bible study.
Jun 05, 2007 added it
interesting, but some of it i feel is misled
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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 way of Jesus is thus not a set of beliefs about Jesus. That people ever thought it was is strange, when we think about it — as if one entered new life by believing certain things to be true, or as if the only people who can be saved are those who know the word "Jesus". Thinking that way virtually amounts to salvation by syllables.

Rather, the way of Jesus is the way of death and resurrection — the path of transition and transformation from an old way of being to a new way of being. To use the language of incarnation that is so central to John, Jesus incarnates the way. Incarnation means embodiment. Jesus is what the way embodied in a human life looks like.”
“The past is a foreign country. They do things differently there.” 1 likes
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