Vital Signs

A Postmodern Yahweh for Episcopalians

I had expected to find a small gathering of eccentric Episcopalians in a basement lecture hall. Instead, the National Cathedral was overflowing with a Christmas Eve-sized crowd. The draw was not a holiday but a debate between "Jesus scholars" Prof Marcus Borg of Oregon State University and the Rev. N.T. Wright of Litchfield Cathedral, England. Over 1,300 Washingtonians squeezed into the normally ample gothic sanctuary to hear these gentlemen debate whether the New Testament's accounts of a divine Jesus are history or metaphor.

Borg and Wright are touring America to tout their joint book venture: The Meaning of Jesus: Two Visions (Harper San Francisco). Wright is a theological traditionalist, although he does not like being called that. And Borg is a leader in liberal revisionism's most fertile publicity machine, the Jesus Seminar.

Both are bearded Anglicans with erudite manners, but—their avuncular protests to the contrary—their similarities end there. Borg believes the "pre-Easter" Jesus was merely an heroic spokesman for social justice. The "post-F,aster" Jesus who claimed divinity and worked miracles was actually a creation of the early Church as a metaphorical expression of its faith. Wright counters that the first Christians placed their faith in a Jewish prophet who not only claimed equality with God, but whose Virgin Birth, miracles, and Resurrection from...

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