Sunday, Jan 04, 2004: “The Meaning of Jesus: Two Visions #1”

St. Mark’s Adult Education Meeting Summary

Session One: The Meaning of Jesus: Two Visions

By Marcus Borg and N.T. Wright

Sunday, January 4, 2004

Mike Kreutzer led off the first session by asking everyone what were their impressions of the first two chapters of the book co-written by Borg and Wright. Everyone seemed to agree that the passage written by Borg was more readable. It appears as if the authors are setting us up to explain something more in-depth about Jesus. Both the first and second chapters have to be read in their entirety to get the full meaning of their intentions. Borg starts out with a premise as regards the pre- and post-Easter Jesus. Wright takes a more scientific approach.

In the late 1800’s, Biblical scholars began to look at the Christ of history and the Christ of faith. Jesus is divine and knows all, yet Jesus is a man. The fundamentalists approach to the interpretation of Jesus is actually only a couple hundred years old. This was not the original way that was used to interpret the Bible.

With the scientific approach, experimental findings can be reproduced each time and by any individual who “follows the rule” in conducting the experiment. If a person, such as Wright, has a special meaning or connection with God, this cannot be proven or denied since is a personal experience.

Some scholars believe there was another source for the Gospels, which has been designated as “Q.” (This symbol comes from the German word “quelle,” meaning “source.” When one reads the Bible, it needs to be looked at as an entire entity and considered from both the historical and cultural contexts. Meanings are lost or distorted when individual verses are pulled out of context. Sometimes the Bible is looked at as a “proof text.” You decide what you wish to be true, then find a text to back it up. As cited by a Biblical scholar: “A text without a context becomes a pretext for whatever we want it to mean!” It was also noted that in Matthew, many verses are used to justify the prophesies of the Old Testament.

An example was given about a scientist who was assigned to study the shroud of Turin. Although it was proven that it did not originate at the time of Jesus, the scientist’s faith was nonetheless deepened. In many instances, scientists who study the wonders of the universe, have also felt closer to God. In a recent science magazine, the greatest discovery of the year was that the universe is much stranger than we first thought with 70% made up of “dark energy,” 25% made up of “dark matter,” and only 5% made up of the matter as recognized by humans! Findings like this could alter our concept of God and reality as we currently understand it.

In trying to prove the historical Jesus, the fact that two independent writers report the same events is significant. It is thought that the later version may sometimes take a more simplified form so that people can understand it better. One example noted was Matthew’s interpretation of the Beatitudes compared with Luke’s. Jesus was a first century Jew and there was much turmoil and change going on in general with the Jewish religion at that time. The final question asked concerned the emotions that Jesus must have had a man. What made him laugh and what made him grieve? In fact, what may make Jesus laugh today!?