Reading the Bible Again For the First Time: Taking the Bible Seriously But Not Literally

by Marcus J. Borg

Paperback, 2002



Call number




HarperSanFrancisco (2015), Edition: Revised ed., 336 pages


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.… (more)

User reviews

LibraryThing member alfredd
If you are a Christian who has broken from the conservative wing of the church, this book might really help you.

As for me, I really wanted to love this book but I can't honestly say that I enjoyed it much. I guess I was already reading the bible the way Borg recommends.

However, I think Borg is
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doing a tremendous service to the church and the bible itself. In my experience, there are _many_ Christians who love the bible but have only been taught the conservative literalistic "flat book" way to read it.

If one is at all a critical thinker, this conservative method of reading the bible sets up a clash between ones faith and our modern understanding of the world. Borg fixes that.

Borg gives modern Christians a way to read the bibloe as true and relevant without having to fear that the whole house of cards we call Christianity will fall down if some bible passage is proven wrong by modern science or world view.
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LibraryThing member mms
An anthropological look at the Bible - the environment, both political and social, that was responsible for poor segues, unrelated language and apparent nastiness from a "loving God". Great Bible reference.
LibraryThing member jpsnow
This changed how I look at the Bible. Borg successfully advocates a "historical-metaphorical" approach to interpretation. The Bible is a lens through which we see God rather than God itself. It made me wonder how often the literalists have more faith in the Bible than in God.
LibraryThing member Czrbr
Book Description: Published Feb 2002, HarperSanFrancisco. Paperback.
LibraryThing member jellyfishjones
I found this a very accessible and useful tool for developing my own approach to reading the Bible. Borg is very readable, and I feel he does a good job of presenting the most common approaches to Bible reading along with his own (which is also a popular one), and presenting historical perspective
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as well as potential strengths and weaknesses of each. His overview of the Bible's organizational structure is concise and helpful. Both elements make it a good resource whether you are reading the Bible from a spiritual perspective or simply as one of the Great Books of Western civilization.
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LibraryThing member ajlewis2
Marcus Borg presents the historical, scholarly background of various books of the Bible like other authors I've read--Etienne Charpentier and Raymond Brown. He tells of the various voices found in the Bible and how they can be used as a "lens for seeing life with God." The use of metaphors is
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explained. By showing how some parts having meaning as metaphor instead of actual fact, Borg made some things less confusing so that I could see the God I've come to know in them.

The areas covered are the Pentateuch, Prophets, Wisdom, Gospels, Paul's writing, and Revelation. The book has a refreshing look at each of these.

In the Epilogue he says, " the core of the biblical vision of life with God: a sacred Mystery at the center of life, with whom we are to be in a conscious relationship and who is passionate about the well-being of the whole creation. We are called to participate in the passion of God."
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LibraryThing member bness2
This book is a breath of fresh air and shows how the Bible can be read productively and with great spiritual insight, without being bound in the straight-jacket of literalism. There are many portions of the Bible which are obviously not intended to be taken literally, even though many Christians
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insist on doing so. Borg's primary premise is that the Bible was written by humans, not by God, in the direct sense that many Christians assume. This does not mean that the some parts of the Bible are therefore "correct" and others are not, but rather that the Bible must be read differently. Also, recognizing that some events are fully embedded in the cultures at the time the stories were written, means not that God was different then, but that people of those times saw God differently. I highly recommend Borg's "historical-metaphorical" approach to reading the Bible.
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LibraryThing member SABC
"A thinking person's guide to the Bible"
LibraryThing member bribre01
Really made me think! Very interesting ideas. Learned a lot of history as well.
LibraryThing member drbubbles
The chapter on Paul is weak but the rest is great.
LibraryThing member jepeters333
Many Christians mistakenly believe that their only choice is either to reconcile themselves to a fundamentalist reading of scripture (a "literal-factual" approach) or to simply reject the Bible as something that could bring meaning and value into their lives. In Reading the Bible Again for the
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First Time, Marcus Borg shows how instead we can freshly appreciate all the essential elements of the Old and New Testaments—from Genesis to Revelation—in a way that can open up a new world of intelligent faith.

In Reading the Bible Again for the First Time, Borg reveals how it is possible to reconcile a scientific and critical way of thinking with our deepest spiritual needs, leading to an insightful experience of ancient text. This unique book invites every reader—whatever his or her religious background—to engage the Bible, to wrestle with its meaning, to explore its mysteries, and to understand its relevance. Reading the Bible Again for the First Time shows us how to encounter the Bible in a fresh, new way that rejects the limits of simple literalism and opens up the rich possibility of living a life of authentic faith.
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Physical description

336 p.; 7.9 x 0.9 inches


0060609192 / 9780060609191
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