Thursday, November 6, 2008

Marcus Borg speaking at my school Nov 18th

As I've mentioned before, Marcus Borg will be speaking at East Carolina University on Nov 18th at 7pm in Wright Auditorium. I'm excited about seeing him, but a little confused as to why he's coming here.

What I mean is: a lot of our religion professors are billing him as "one of the top New Testament scholars today" and I just think - "Really?" Perhaps I'm just very out of the loop, but Borg doesn't seem like one of the big movers and shakers in today's NT studies world. I've read his books and there wasn't anything in there that I thought was amazingly revolutionary or terribly insightful. And that's fine - I don't expect that every person who teaches the NT and writes books is going to rock the world of NT, nor do I think that would be very desirable. I guess what I'm most surprised about is that we have UNC and Duke right down the road, but we've gone out of our way to get Dr. Borg from halfway across the country. Why not Richard Hays, or Mark Goodacre, Joel Marcus, or Bart Ehrman? They're right down the road from us and I'd consider any of them to be bigger players in the NT world than Dr. Borg.

Last Spring we had William Dever speak and again I was left wondering why they went through all the trouble of getting him to speak here. Granted, he was one of our professor's doktorvater, but during his whole talk he kept showing artifacts from archaeological digs and saying, "Not exactly what the Bible tells us, eh?" and giving a little look to the crowd. It was...odd.


Brant Pitre said...


The people who pitched Marcus Borg that way are reflecting the state of Jesus research back in the early 90s. (In other words, they're behind the times.) You might not remember this (how old are you, by the way?), but if you're an old geezer like me, you'd recall that back in the early 90s Borg was BIG in historical Jesus research.

He was on every panel at SBL when I first started going back in 96ish, he put out several books that sold VERY well ("Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time," "Politics and Holiness in the Teaching of Jesus," his most academic), and was right up there with J. D. Crossan for those inclined to a liberal Protestant reconstruction and 'retrieval' of Jesus.

But he quickly faded from the picture, and went totally to popular publications. I haven't seen an academic article from him in years. He scratched an itch that was very much alive in the 90s by appealing to mainstream liberal Protestant baby-boomers. I suspect those same people are probably running your university.

This is probably a more long-winded answer than you wanted, but if I'm anything, it's long winded...

Hope you've been well, and sorry I haven't been in touch.

Will I see you at SBL? Drop me or M. Barber a line with contact info and we'll have to meet up.

Josh McManaway said...

Hey Dr. Pitre,

That's precisely the answer I was looking for - I like long-winded.

And that's kind of what I was thinking - I've read his books, but I haven't really seen any articles recently or any major work done by him since.