Marcus Borg passes away at age 72
Pulmonary fibrosis brought down 72-year-old Marcus Borg on Wednesday, January 21, 2015. Borg entered the world stage with his work with the Jesus Seminar—a project that grabbed international headlines as a collective of scholars came together to vote on each saying and deed of Jesus in the Gospels to determine if it was authentic of the historical Jesus. His work in this area made him known as one of the fathers of the modern Quest for the Historical Jesus. While many members of the Jesus Seminar have been accused of attacking the faith of the church, Borg steadfastly maintained a belief in God, according to his memoir, Convictions: How I Learned What Matters Most, published in 2014.
Even after retiring in 2007 from Oregon State University, where he had taught since 1979, he still maintained an active publication life and in fact was planning to write a column for BAR at the time of his death. Borg was trend-setting by often writing not for the academy, but for the general public, and bringing the scholarship of the day to the people. Leif Vaage, also of the Jesus Seminar, commented that Borg “certainly demonstrated how a Biblical scholar could be in conversation with both the tradition of modern academic Biblical scholarship and open to the encompassing world.”
He published more than 20 books and often coauthored them with scholars who span the theological spectrum—from John Dominic Crossan to N.T. Wright. Despite his radical vision of Christianity, Borg himself was not a polarizing figure, but one who enjoyed deep discussions with his dissenters.
“Borg very clearly aimed to embody the kind of ‘spiritual’ calling he attributed also to the historical Jesus,” New Testament scholar Vaage reflected. “He was a decidedly gentle man in a milieu where such gentleness was regularly dismissed as somehow insufficiently ‘manly’ for a real Biblical scholar.”
Born in Fergus Falls, Minnesota, on March 11, 1942, Borg was raised in a traditional Lutheran home. His interest in the historical Jesus was piqued while doing his Ph.D. at Oxford. Borg lived in Portland, Oregon. Married to an Episcopal priest, Marianne Wells Borg, he served as a canon theologian to Trinity Episcopal Cathedral.
Borg is survived by his wife, a son and a daughter.
“The Palestinian Background for a Life of Jesus,” in Hershel Shanks, ed., The Search for Jesus: Modern Scholarship Looks at the Gospels (Washington, D.C.: Biblical Archaeology Society, 1994), pp. 37-57.
“Portraits of Jesus,” in Hershel Shanks, ed., The Search for Jesus: Modern Scholarship Looks at the Gospels (Washington, D.C.: Biblical Archaeology Society, 1994), pp. 83-106.
“What Did Jesus Really Say?” Bible Review, October 1989.
“Different Ways of Looking at the Bible,” Bible Review, August 1992.
“The First Christmas,” Bible Review, December 1992.
“Why Was Jesus killed?” Bible Review, April 1993.
“Faith and Scholarship,” Bible Review, August 1993.
“Jesus in Four Colors,” Bible Review, December 1993.
“Thinking About Easter,” Bible Review, April 1994.
“Thinking About the Second Coming,” Bible Review, August 1994.
“Profiles in Scholarly Courage,” Bible Review, October 1994.
“Homosexuality and the New Testament,” Bible Review, December 1994.
“How Did Jesus Die for Our Sins?” Bible Review, April 1995.
“Revelation and the Militias,” Bible Review, August 1995.
“What Did Jesus Know?” Bible Review, December 1995.
“East Meets West: The Uncanny Parallels in the Lives of Buddha and Jesus: Part II,” Bible Review, October 1999.
“The Search Begins: The Fathers of Historical Jesus Scholarship,” Bible Review, Summer 2005.
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