Historical Jesus Theories: Marcus Borg
The purpose of this web page is to explain and explore some of the theories offered up by contemporary scholars on the historical Jesus and the origins of the Christian religion. Issues include the nature of the historical Jesus, the nature of the early Christian documents, and the origins of the Christian faith in a risen Jesus Christ.
Borg makes two negative claims about the historical Jesus: he was nonmessianic
, which means that he didn't claim to be the Messiah or have a message focused on his own identity, and he was noneschatological
, which means that he did not expect "the supernatural coming of the Kingdom of God as a world-ending event in his own generation" (Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time
, p. 29). Borg summarizes his view of the historical Jesus in these words: "he was a spirit person, subversive sage, social prophet, and movement founder who invited his followers and hearers into a transforming relationship with the same Spirit that he himself knew, and into a community whose social vision was shaped by the core value of compassion" (op. cit., p. 119). By "spirit person," Borg means that Jesus was a "mediator of the sacred" for whom the Spirit or God was a reality that was experienced. Based on his experience of the sacred, for the historical Jesus compassion
"was the central quality of God and the central moral quality of a life centered in God" (op. cit., p. 46). Jesus spoke against the purity system in sayings like "blessed are the pure in heart" and in parables like that of the Good Samaritan. The historical Jesus challenged the purity boundaries in touching lepers as well as hemorrhaging women, in driving the money changers out of the temple, and in table fellowship even with outcasts. Jesus replaced an emphasis on purity with an emphasis on compassion. The historical Jesus spoke an alternative wisdom in aphorisms and parables that controverted the conventional wisdom based upon rewards and punishments. The earliest Christology of the Christian movement viewed Jesus as the voice of the Sophia. The images of Jesus as the Son of God and the Wisdom of God are metaphorical, just as much as the images of Jesus as the Lamb of God and the Word of God.
Please enjoy exploring the varied Historical Jesus Theories offered by these authors through the links below.
For more information on the debate over the historical Jesus, visit the Christian Origins web site.