Did Jesus claim to be God? Arguments from Marcus Borg

(Don Carroll) #1

A friend of mine says that Jesus never claimed to be God. He says that historians, after Jesus’ death, attributed these words to him. No matter which versus I reference where Jesus claims

  • I am
  • He is in Me and I am in Him
  • To know Me is to know the Father
    my friend says that Jesus never really said these words. Writers came up with these words and ascribed them to Jesus one to several generations after His death.
    He references a few books written by Marcus Borg.
    How can I address these statements?

(Don Carroll) #2

I just watched a video of Borg, where he discusses his beliefs. He doesn’t believe the literal death, burial and resurrection of Jesus. Is there a video where Mr. Zacharias discusses the philosophy of Borg as a whole?

(C Rhodes) #3

@DonC. Your friend’s question immediately brought to mind all the inferred or referenced designations we assign to others. There is no legalistic listing for these designations, but, they are never-the-less true and accurate.

Our mother’s names are not listed anywhere as Mrs. Mommy So & So. Or Ms. Mommy So & So. Our father’s nor our other relatives as well. Yet the titles are true and accurate. We assign those titles by virtue of the roles that are filled in our lives. Those are their names whether we can ever find a legal description or not.

Often because of anger or disappointment, we deny that an individual is our mom, or dad, or (fill-in-the-blank). Sometimes we believe this is true because we are unaware of the connection.

The Courts of the land can legally sever or terminate the association between us, but the biology remains.

It is unfortunate Mr. Borg believes he has identified who JESUS is by the failure to see a legalistic moniker. It is sad that a verse like John 10:30 doesn’t clarify the identity of JESUS.

I suspect that the real issue is a desire to sever the association that would make us debtors to this truth. Or, avoid an association that clearly justifies the need for homage, respect, love, and submission to the Lordship of JESUS.

But, the biology remains. Acknowledge it or not.
" In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
The same was in the beginning with God.
All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.
In him was life; and the life was the light of men.
And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not." John 1:1-5.

(Roger Greene) #4

Hi Don, this is unsurprisingly a very common statement in regard to the Bible. I’ve mostly heard it argued by Muslims and I can’t say that I’ve ever heard of Borg or read/listened to anything by him. If you look behind his objection, he isn’t so much rejecting the divinity of Christ as he is rejecting the Bible as authoritative. If you can prove the Bible today is the same as it was when it was written prior to 100AD, then he would have to move his argument to some other ground.

So really you’re looking for information on how we got our Bible and there is an unbelievable amount of information on that subject.

Compass Bible Church did an excellent 12-part series on that subject back in 2009 which you can watch for free here:


There are also numerous books on the subject. For example:

Those resources will give you tons of information on the subject, but by way of a quick summary: the Bible is the most heavily scrutinized and well attested to book in history. People have been trying to disprove it’s authenticity for about 2,000 years and it still holds up. That is because the Bible was so widely circulated and translated into so many languages immediately after being written. We have thousands of manuscripts, fragments, and letters dating back to around the time the books were written that attest to the fact that the Bible you hold in your hand today is the same as the one that was written back then.

The idea that the church made it up hundreds of years later or that the church councils modified scripture is simply not true. There is no serious scholarship that can hold up those arguments.

(Kathleen) #5

Hi, @DonC! I concur with what @rgreene said above, namely that this line of argument, ultimately, is a dismissal of the reliability of the eyewitness testimony contained in the Gospels. In a nutshell, ‘The Jesus Myth’ is a pretty common assertion in ‘skeptical’ scholarship, where it is claimed that all of Jesus’ recorded declarations to divinity were made up by his followers…or that the worship of Jesus as God was much later development.

John Dixon is a writer, scholar, and one of the founders of the Centre for Public Christianity in Sydney, AUS and is one of my favourite people to read and listen to on the question of the historical Jesus. A number of his books address this and other correlating subjects, and he dismantles the arguments pretty handily. I loved his Jesus: A Short Life. It was both thorough and concise. But here are some others in case you were interested. :slight_smile:


There’s also this lecture on YouTube: https://youtu.be/nNsWOZSu4VE, which begins around the 10-minute mark, which may be helpful as well.

Happy studying!

(Tim Ramey) #6

There have been excellent sources mentioned here. Another one that I think is excellent is Nabeel Qureshi’s book, “Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus” as Nabeel was an adamant Muslim who was not easily just to roll over. His book does a great job exploring the divinity of Jesus as well as other issues. If you have not read it, do - it is a superb book. I’ve read it repeatedly. You’ll find further materials in the appendix of his book to read more sources. Pick it up and read it - you’ll be glad that you did.

(Anthony Costello ) #7

You might want to watch this debate between William Lane Craig and Marcus Borg.

This is one of Craig’s older debates, so the quality isn’t great, but it will be useful in clarifying the distinctions between what is ultimately a metaphysical view of the Bible (Craig) and a metaphorical view (Borg).

in Christ,

(Anthony Costello ) #8


Does it matter to your friend if the Gospel writers and Paul believed Jesus said these words, or if they believed He claimed to be God?

The Gospel writers, Peter, Paul and James are our earliest witnesses to Jesus’s claims. I think, at best, your friend could claim that we don’t know what Jesus said; but if he is going to say that he knows that Jesus didn’t make these claims, then I think you need to question him how he knows that?

Marcus Borg, I don’t think, ever claimed to know that Jesus didn’t say these things; I think he just argued that we couldn’t know. But that is a different claim. That is to remain agnostic with regard to the truth of the matter.

That said, does it matter to your friend if the Gospel writer Mark thought Jesus was God? If yes, then one could demonstrate that Mark, written perhaps as early as the mid-50’s AD, has a high Christology. So, it seems that there is evidence from both Paul’s early letters, and our earliest Gospel, Mark, that at least these writers, and the early followers of Jesus thought He was God. So, if they thought He was God, then that would be good evidence that He made some claims along those lines, and also that their belief in his divinity was grounded in something more than just a feeling; something like a bodily resurrection.

For the demonstration that Mark’s Gospel presupposes a High Christology, see this excellent work by Duke scholar Richard Hays.

hope that helps,


(Jimmy Sellers) #9

If you want a good treatment of the “Jesus Seminar” I recommend JVG NT Wright my favorite author on all things Jesus and all things Paul. he

I do agree with @rgreene that at the heart of your friends question is, can you trust the Bible that we have today?
The Jesus seminar is the most recent attempt at dealing with the problem of Jesus. Who was he? A political Jesus, a wise teacher Jesus, a prophet Jesus, a criminal Jesus a poor unfortunate who was hanged on a cross.
From JVG Wright says this about Jesus:

Why then did people go on talking about Jesus of Nazareth, except as a remarkable but tragic memory? The obvious answer is the one given by all early Christians actually known to us (as opposed to those invented by modern mythographers): Jesus was raised from the dead. This, of course, raises other questions which can only be dealt with in another book: what did they mean by that? What actually happened? Was it something that happened to Jesus, or simply to the disciples? Why did whatever-it-was-that-happened generate the sort of movement that emerged? The resurrection, however we understand it, was the only reason they came up with for supposing that Jesus stood for anything other than a dream that might have come true but didn’t. It was the only reason why his life and words possessed any relevance two weeks, let alone two millennia, after his death.
Wright, N. T. (1996). Jesus and the victory of God (pp. 658–659). London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge.

(Emphasis mine.)