The first of my spiritual desires is to get to know God better, and one of the best ways of doing that is to get to know Jesus better.
So the first two books to be finished in 2013 were about Jesus. Curiously, both of them have covers created from the same image though in different ways.
I began Marcus J Borg’s Jesus: Uncovering the life, teachings, and relevance of a religious revolutionary well before Christmas. I have read a number of Borg’s books and appreciated them, particularly The Last Week, which he wrote with Dominic Crossan. I don’t always agree with Borg’s approach, but I do like to see his logic, and he does open up to me aspects of Jesus’ life. Borg’s Jesus challenges the power and domination systems of the world. Because God is Lord, we can have no other lords. Because God is Father, we can have no other fathers (and thus all earthly patriarchy is subverted).
Borg’s epilogue in Jesus is profoundly personal. I found it very moving. This is not just a picture of Jesus by a liberal New Testament scholar, but a picture of Jesus from one who seeks to understand and through understanding love him.
He ends thus:
“… for Christians, the unending conversation about Jesus is the most important conversation there is. He is for us the decisive revelation of God – of what can be seen of God’s character and passion in human life. There are other important conversations. But for followers of Jesus, the unending conversation about Jesus is the conversation that matters most.” (p. 311)
John Dickson’s Jesus: A Short Life: The Historical Evidence was a Christmas present from my sister (thank you Frances) and was a quick and easy read. It sets out what mainstream scholars know about Jesus over against the claims made about him by various contemporary writers and commentators such as Richard Dawkins and John Shelby Spong. Concentrating on the historical evidence, Dickson doesn’t tackle the meaning of Jesus’ actions, for example, the crucifixion. This is a useful book to lend to someone who is confused because of the different claims made about Jesus. It could be a good text for a study group.
Both books have their place. But of the two, it is Borg that helps me encounter Jesus afresh.
Marcus J Borg, Jesus, 2006, SPCK
John Dickson, Jesus A Short Life, 2012, Lion Hudson