New Testament scholar, Jesus Seminar fellow, and liberal theologian Marcus Borg passed away this last month. He authored many books1 and studies. A number of thoughtful, admiring posts have been written in his memory. While I don’t always share Borg’s interpretations,2 his strong emphasis on the political nature of Jesus’ ministry can be a much-needed breath of fresh air in the midst of today’s hyper-individualized, over-spiritualized Christianity.3 For example, he explains that the cross in the first century “represented execution by the empire; only the empire crucified, and then for only one crime: denial of imperial authority…It meant risking imperial retribution.” By the time Mark’s gospel was written, first-century Christians saw the cross as “the ‘way’…the path of personal transformation.”4 Though talk of redemption and the Atonement often start at Gethsemane and end (sometimes) after the Resurrection, we cannot and should not separate these things from the life of Jesus.
I’m thankful to Borg for helping Christians remember this.