St. Mark’s Adult Education Meeting Summary
Session Three: The Meaning of Jesus: Two Visions
By Marcus Borg and N.T. Wright
Sunday, January 18, 2004
Mike Kreutzer led off discussion of the third session by asking everyone what were their impressions of the fifth and sixth chapters of the book co-written by Borg and Wright, which deals with what Jesus’ death. It was commented that Wright’s writing style was quite wordy and that the core meaning seemed to lie deep within. He looked at a Bib-lical narrative and subsequently tried to support it. Borg, on the other hand, seemed to look at the same narrative and openly question its validity. Wright also noted that regarding atonement, the sins forgiven were the sins of Israel, not original sin. On a more philosophical note, it was asked if the group was approaching the discussion from the inter-pretation that the Bible, as the Word of God, it to be taken literally as the writings of people directed by God, or if interpretations can be read into the various passages. It was noted that the fundamental type of Biblical interpreta-tion is a rather recent development, which arose during the 19th century. Much of the Bible was first passed down through generations by word of mouth before being captured in writing. It also started as many more writings than are in the present day Bible and it was the church that decided many years after Jesus’ death which of the writings to include. Also, the writing style of the day often contained embellishments. Thus, if one chooses to interpret the Bible literally and discounts the numerous inconsistencies, then there is no room for discussion or debate. However, if the Bible is accepted as the writings of a number of inspired people who each told the story from their point of view, then various points may be open for debate as to their true validity. Truth is more than literal truth. The important point is that in their own way, each author is attempting to show that Jesus is the savior and redeemer, and the true Son of God.
Next, discussion turned towards whether Jesus knew he was going to die. What was his mindset? Was he aware of his ultimate goal in life? Mike noted that depending upon which New Testament author you choose to believe, the answer can vary as to when Jesus became aware he was the Son of God. These included, at birth, at his baptism, at the beginning of time, and at his crucifixion. This is not implying that any of the Gospels were wrong, but that we need to achieve a deeper understanding of the true meaning. Then it was noted that if one of Jesus’ missions was to herald a new kingdom to overcome evil, based upon the conditions of the world today, it would appear as if this mis-sion was a failure. However, it was noted that Jesus seemed to approach one sinner at a time and take on a more in-dividualistic approach. So perhaps, evil in the world may still be defeated one day. Jesus may well have known that he was risking his life when he challenged the Jewish authorities. By spreading the word of the new kingdom of God, he undermined the power of those same authorities. Since the top Jewish leaders were also in partnership with some of the Roman authorities, as they served each other’s purposes, it could only be a matter of time before Jesus’ minis-try would be brought to and end one way or another. Finally it was noted that the synoptic Gospels tended to look at Jesus as more of a human figure, especially in Mark. John, on the other hand, conveys the message that Jesus knew from the beginning of time that he was the Son of God and the chosen one.