Marcus Borg, Tony Jones and the body of Jesus

bodily resurrection cartoon by nakedpastor david hayward
“Resurrection and Hell” (by nakedpastor David Hayward)

The angel Michael and Satan argued over the body of Moses (Jude 9). The church continues to debate over the body of Jesus. As I think it should.

  1. Last week Tony Jones wrote his opinion of Marcus Borg’s theology of the resurrection.
  2. Marcus Borg says that Jones misrepresented what he said and believes.
  3. Jones came back with his own clarification and defense.
  4. Borg responded, concluding that they simply do not agree on the physical material resurrection of the body of Jesus.

It’s an interesting exchange.

Which is why I drew this cartoon. Perhaps the theology of the physical material resurrection of the body of Jesus and the concept of Hell belong in the same category.

Jones believes in the physical material resurrection of the actual body of Jesus. His reasons are that the church always has; the gospels say so; Paul says so; no other explanation sticks.

Borg doesn’t believe in the physical material resurrection of the actual body of Jesus. If a news team was there they would have had nothing about a physical resurrection to report. He believes the resurrection was real in that believers experienced Jesus after his death. The resurrection serves as a parable for this reality.

Then you have others who believe the whole Jesus story is an elaborate conspiracy theory concocted by the Roman Empire to pacify the Jewish population.

I suggest that the whole biblical narrative, the gospel stories and the Pauline corpus all serve as an extended metaphor attempting to explain as best as humanly possible a present reality.

I’ve written about this a great deal in my z-theory.

"Nice vid David - hilarious! We'll miss you and wish you all the best! (and ..."

nakedpastor’s goodbye video to patheos
"Good idea! I look forward to exciting developments at your own site. I like Patheos, ..."

nakedpastor’s goodbye video to patheos

Browse Our Archives

Follow Us!

What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • I think that there are normal, decent evidence for concluding that some disciples discovered a empty tomb and that many people experienced visions of the risen Jesus.

    However this is a far cry from saying that this shows the bodily resurrection to be true, for the tomb might have been stolen or the body misidentified and the first disciples might have dreamed or hallucinated.

    To my mind, the discovery of an empty tomb would give a good natural explanation for the easter faith in a resurrection which was not present in other messianic movements whose heroes had been shamefully killed.

    Whether or not Jesus bodily rose from the dead is going to heavily hinge on one’s epistemology and worldview


  • Your understanding works for me. I think all narrative is a way to make sense of our world, a way to integrate ourselves into our world, and a way to draw people into our agendas to increase our sense of security in the world. When dealing with the “big picture,” we call it myth.

  • My observation in talking with Christians is that many of the more fundamentalist flavor want (or need) there to be objective evidence for the resurrection (like one minute a body there, the next minute the body is not there) – like if a camcorder were set up in the tomb pointed at Jesus’s body, we could play the recording back and see the resurrection event where the body magically disappears or rises up.

    The more progressive Christians I’ve talked to seem to view the resurrection on a more spiritual plane not involving material substance. For many of them, this hypothetical camcorder playback would not show any difference with the dead body of Jesus. Any resurrection involves a spirit presence that does not show up with recording equipment. Of course some on the more progressive end of the progressive spectrum view the resurrection as a metaphor (available to everyone in the present) in getting your life back on tract.

    I wonder if Jones and Borg will next argue how many angels can dance on the head of a pin?

  • Caryn LeMur

    David: I like to think I have no good definition for ‘new body’, or ‘resurrection from the dead’. I know I want those two things. However, I cannot define what body the risen Jesus had, or what exactly is ‘resurrection from the dead’.

    For that matter, I cannot explain ‘to be absent from the body is to be present with Christ’.

    Yet, my entire philosophy of life is built upon ‘hope of eternal life’.

    I normally take refuge from these undefinable-to-me terms by Jesus’ use of the Parable of the Rich Man (and Lazarus). Jesus was careful to show cognition, self-identity, personality, and ability to socialize in that parable.

    My great hope is that this thing called ‘death’ will prove to me that Jesus’ choice of phrases in that parable was more than just an accident.

    Much love in Christ always and unconditionally; Caryn

  • Robin Slater

    Why not? I believe in the impossible.

    This coming from a woman who has given up on any hopes of having a baby…


  • Josh Magda

    It is one thing to believe in a physical resurrection. It is another thing entirely to bully those of us like Borg who, for very good reasons, including reasons coming directly out of the tradition, do not affirm it. Do we or do we all not believe that God is the author of life and death, and that living or dying, we are totally safe within Her? And if we must continually insist and reinsist that one particular exegesis of the resurection stories, the hyper-literal version, must be true order in order for God to be really real, especially when all religious traditions including the Jewish and Christian ones affirm that Reality is much deeper and richer than the surface world of physical appearance, do we really and truly know the that we are safe? There is now, and has always been various interpretations of the Jesus event. Perhaps the Scriptures themselves record different modalities for the Resurrection because people are different and need different things, Many of these interpretations have been suppressed by so-called orthodoxy in the past out of fear. The obsession with correct belief is a part of Christian history that is not worthy of being brought forward into God’s future. Why can’t theological plurality, the true state of affairs anyhow, and faith in God be enough for us?

  • Josh Magda

    Josh Magda And to those who would require a physical resurrection in order to affirm the dignity of flesh and this world- the totality of Jesus’ life and ministry was a vindication of this. And what is his church if not his body now? To top it off, the panentheist Knows that God is present with/to/in the whole of Creation, past, present, and future. What would She be doing hanging out here for all this time if She had a problem with bodies? The whole of Creation participates in the paschal mystery!

    On one side of the evidentiary ledger we have Creation in its entirety, to which Christ is and always will be totally present, to convince us of the goodness of the body. On the other side we have whether or not one individual walked around in a resuscitated cadaver for just over a month 2000 years ago. It’s fine to believe this in addition to the former if you believe it to be true. It is not OK to negate the faith of those of us for whom the former is and always will be quite enough.

  • UnhappyHippy

    Impossible to prove one way or the other.
    Wait and see!
    Factor in our lack of understanding of Quantum physicality.
    See Him and Be Like Him – I don;t expect to be someone else’s vision or parable, I expect to have renewed scars, eat fish, walk, talk and be ‘Glorified’ whatever that means!

  • John L

    Not sure it matters to me any more, David. I remain unmoved by the
    concept of some future salvation/afterlife (heaven and hell) and OT/NT
    anthropomorphic ideas of deity. I remain liminal (somewhere between agnostic
    and faith) on the NT miracle stories. But I also remain convinced of
    the primacy and preeminence of love, whether or not Jesus “lived again”
    after his death (whatever that actually means physiologically). I hope
    the NT miracles are true, but love does not fail because of MY opinion
    of 2000 year old stories. The fact that a Roman-era rabbi was teaching
    others to “love their enemies” is truly miracle enough for me.

    I disagree with Paul that “if Christ has not been raised, our preaching
    is useless and so is your faith.” What Paul is really saying here is
    that “if you don’t believe in metaphysical miracles, you can’t truly
    love others.” I find that both contrary to the NT itself, and contrary
    to the nature of supreme love. That we have the ability to love and
    forgive not just our friends, but also our enemies — is that not the
    greatest miracle of creation ever conveyed?

    Later, Paul seems to contradict himself, reminding us that of faith, hope, and love, the greatest is love. So regardless of our faith or our hope (in miracles, etc.), love remains supreme and unmoved, not the other way around.

  • Carol

    Whether the Resurrection is an historical fact or a myth ( a myth is not something that never happened, it is something that happens all the time–an archetypal event) like the Genesis Adam and Eve narrative it does not change the message.
    I am a traditional Trinitarian Christian, but one of my favorite quotes comes from a 16the century Unitarian pastor: “We don’t have to think alike to love alike.”
    Scripture plainly teaches that Christians are to be known by their loving deeds, not for their doctrinal purity. Doctrine has its place in the life of the Church and the lives of individual believers, but Truth and Love come together in pastoral, not dogmatic, theology.