Books That Helped Me Read the Bible: #4, Reading the Bible Again For the First Time

As someone whose earliest years as a Christian were spent amongst conservative-minded Pentecostals and Evangelicals, it may be a surprise that one of the books that helped me learn to read the Bible in my early 20s is Marcus J. Borg's Reading the Bible Again: Taking the Bible Seriously, But Not Literally. This morning as a browsed through the contents of this book once again I noticed two propositions within the book that have stuck with me for a while now. The first being the idea that the Bible is a human response to God. Now, I think I make more room for the idea that the Bible is also a divine response to humanity than does Borg, but Borg's emphasis on the humanity of the Bible was very necessary for me back then, especially since I had been fed a view of the Bible that did little to account for it's earthly origins. As the Bible was presented to me the only natural question was, "Why not just drop this from the sky fully intact and canonized?" 

The second propositions, which was reiterated by the Roman Catholic theologian Scott Hahn several years ago, is that the Bible is sacrament. Borg explains a sacrament as a place where we meet the divine. My first post of Kunst's book alluded to this idea as well. The Bible as "a place of encounter" may be my primary understanding of inspiration. I thank Borg, in part, for that idea.

Here is the blurb from the newer edition:

One of the vital challenges facing thoughtful people today is how to read the Bible faithfully without abandoning our sense of truth and history. Reading the Bible Again for the First Time provides a much-needed solution to the problem of how to have a fully authentic yet contemporary understanding of the scriptures. Many mistakenly believe there are no choices other than fundamentalism or simply rejecting the Bible as something that can bring meaning to our lives. Answering this modern dilemma, acclaimed author Marcus Borg reveals how it is possible to reconcile the Bible with both a scientific and critical way of thinking and our deepest spiritual needs, leading to a contemporary yet grounded experience of the sacred texts.

This seminal book shows you how to read the Bible as it should be examined—in an approach the author calls “historical-metaphorical.” Borg explores what the Scriptures meant to the ancient communities that produced and lived by them. He then helps us to discover the meaning of these stories, providing the knowledge and perspective to make the wisdom of the Bible an essential part of our modern lives. The author argues that the conventional way of seeing the Bible’s origin, authority, and interpretation has become unpersuasive to millions of people in our time, and that we need a fresh way of encountering the Bible that takes the texts seriously but not literally, even as it takes seriously who we have become.

Borg traces his personal spiritual journey, describing for readers how he moved from an unquestioning childhood belief in the biblical stories to a more powerful and dynamic relationship with the Bible as a sacred text brimming with meaning and guidance. Using his own experience as an example, he reveals how the modern crisis of faith is itself rooted in the misinterpretation of sacred texts as historical record and divine dictation, and opens readers to a truer, more abundant perspective.

This unique book invites everyone—whatever one’s religious background—to engage the Bible, wrestle with its meaning, explore its mysteries, and understand its relevance. Borg shows us how to encounter the Bible in a fresh way that rejects the limits of simple literalism and opens up rich possibilities for our lives.