The Meaning of Jesus

The Meaning of Jesus by Marcus J.Borg and N.T. Wright SPCK, 1999 was reviewed by Lloyd Geering in SofNZ Newsletter 33, September 1999.

Tom Wright has recently been engaged in a lecture tour in NZ at the same time as John Dominic Crossan, a member of the fellowship of New Testament scholars known as "The Jesus Seminar". Tom Wright defends a fairly conservative position in New Testament Studies and is quite critical of The Jesus Seminar. Nevertheless he is keen to enter into open and public dialogue with those who differ from him.

This is well illustrated by this book which started from the friendship between Tom Wright (an Anglican) and Marcus Borg (an American Lutheran and member of The Jesus Seminar). The book documents dialogue between the two on the chief areas of difference, as they write alternative chapters. I met Tom Wright a few weeks ago in London and he told me that earlier this year he and Borg were engaged in a joint lecture tour to promote the book in USA.

The issues covered in the book are: how much do we really know about Jesus, what to make of the story of the virgin birth, why was Jesus crucified, what happened at the first Easter, in what sense was Jesus divine, what is meant by the second coming of Jesus. The book is well worth reading, being a good summary of the chief New Testament issues being currently discussed and setting out very clearly the differences between the liberal and conservative positions. The dialogue is conducted in a good spirit and readers are left to make their own judgments. The book would make a very good basis for a group wishing to discuss these topics.

Wright is a very competent scholar, is far from being a fundamentalist and yet defends fairly traditional views on each issue. It is clear from his writing that where the historical evidence leaves uncertainty, his prior convictions lead him back to the orthodox position. Borg expounds a much more liberal and sceptical position, though to some in the SOFN he may still not appear to be radical enough.

Lloyd Geering