Dr. Marcus Borg, an American biblical scholar, author, and former Cobber, presented a lecture Dec. 4 entitled “Telling the Story of Jesus Today” for Religion 100 students and the community.
Borg was born in Fergus Falls, Minn., but spent his childhood in Park River, N.D. and attended high school in Moorhead, which he said was “bright lights, big city” compared to the rural area of Park River.
He graduated from Concordia in 1964. He never planned on going to seminary but received a Rockefeller Fellowship and decided to give it a try. After attending Union Seminary in New York, Borg went on to receive his doctorate of philosophy from Oxford University. He then taught at Concordia, Carleton College, and South Dakota State University before moving to Oregon, where he is the Hundere Distinuished Professor of Religion and Culture and an endowed chair at Oregon State University.
Borg’s lecture was based on his most recent book, “Jesus: Uncovering the Life, Teachings, and Relevance of a Religious Revolutionary,” although as Dr. Ernest Simmons noted in his introduction, he already has a few books to be released in the upcoming year. Borg began to tell about why the way in which the story of Jesus is told matters.
“I believe the story of Jesus is the most important story I know,” Borg said.
He explained that how the story is told is important because it can make the story of Jesus difficult to believe or persuasive; Jesus is the decisive disclosure of the character of God and the importance of Jesus in contemporary American culture. He described how Jesus is viewed in contemporary American Christianity, citing popular culture references such as Mel Gibson’s controversial film “The Passion of the Christ”, “Superman”, and “The Left Behind” series. Simmons said, “He sees himself as a popularizer, but not in the negative sense.” Simmons explained that much of what Borg presented isn’t new to biblical scholars, but Borg translates and interprets the scholarly work into language that can be easily understood by the general public.
Borg then described the importance of reading the Bible in a historical-metaphorical way, rather than a historical-literal interpretation. He emphasized that the Gospels combine memory and testimony, and that much of the language is metaphorical. He differentiated between the pre-Easter and post-Easter Jesus, relatively new terms that replace the historical Jesus and the Christ of faith. Borg said that Jesus is estimated to have been five feet, one inch tall and 110 pounds, based on archeological remains from that time period. Dr. Simmons agrees that finding information about the pre-Easter Jesus requires hard evidential data, as well as textual analysis.
Borg closed with the meaning of “The Kingdom of God,” which means the dream of God for the earth according to Borg.
“The world matters profoundly to God,” Borg said.
He advocated attendees to participate in God’s passion for the world; to change the world, which may sound vaguely familiar to Cobbers.
All Religion 100 students were required to attend on Thursday for the enrichment lecture requirement of the course. Simmons said that Borg was received very well and most students found him to be an interesting speaker.
“He had a unique way of teaching [the story of Jesus],” sophomore LaRissa Nelson said.
Marisa Paulson is a senior and the news & features editor of The Concordian, although she still writes when she can. She plans to attend the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University in fall 2011.