Author, teacher, and leading New Testament scholar Marcus J. Borg, 72, died on January 21, 2015, of pulmonary fibrosis.
The author or co-author of 21 books, Borg played a central role in articulating new scholarship on the historical Jesus vs. the Jesus of faith. In Jesus: A New Vision (HarperSanFrancisco, 1987), Borg presented Jesus as a Jewish social prophet driven by his deep relationship with God. Borg followed that thread in later books, including Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time (1994), and in two books co-authored with John Dominic Crossan, The Last Week (2006) The First Christmas (2007), all published by HarperSanFrancisco.
Frederick W. Schmidt, the Rueben P. Job Chair in Spiritual Formation and director of the Rueben P. Job Institute for Spiritual Formation at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary in Evanston, Ill., said, “In the space of just three decades, Marcus shifted the conversation about the historical Jesus, charted basic understandings that are the underpinning of progressive Christian thought, and offered what many believe is one of the few ways to remain in conversation and contact with the Christian tradition.”
Borg taught at Oregon State University for 28 years and was canon theologian at Trinity Episcopal Cathedral in Portland, Ore. Mark Tauber, senior v-p and publisher of HarperOne, said, “Marcus was not afraid to stand on his scholarship and write what he believed to be true, while still being a proud man of faith, and doing his work in order to help readers with their own [faith].” Borg’s editor, Mickey Maudlin, senior v-p and executive editor at HarperOne, called him “a gift to the church. While many people initially saw him as an opponent of traditional views of Jesus and the Bible, Marcus surprised them by becoming a friend and prophet to the church, giving voice to those seeking to faithfully integrate biblical scholarship with a life dedicated to God.”
Borg reflected on his mortality when he spoke to PW last year about his newest book, Convictions: How I Have Learned What Matters Most (HarperOne, 2014): “The combination of Lent being a season of mortality and my turning 70—the main character in one of John Updike's last novels reflects that half of American men who live to the age of 70 do not live to 80—led me to reflect on what matters most to me and on my own convictions, those settled ways of seeing that are not easily shaken."
Marcus Borg is survived by his wife Marianne, a son, a daughter and son-in-law, and a grandson. A public memorial service will be held on Sunday, March 22, at Trinity Cathedral in Portland, Ore.