The Pre-Easter Jesus

There was to Jesus a spirit dimension, a wisdom dimension, and a political dimension.

~ Marcus Borg

Marcus Borg offers three summaries of the pre-Easter Jesus which:

  • Draw on cross-cultural study
  • Use typology of religious personality
  • Are different versions of the same understanding

Summary in three strokes


Jesus was:

  • A Jewish mystic and healer
  • An enlightened wisdom teacher
  • A social prophet

There was to Jesus a:

  • spirit dimension
  • wisdom dimension
  • political dimension

Summary in five strokes

Jesus was a:

Jewish Mystic / Spirit Person: One of those figures in human history who had frequent and vivid experiences of the sacred.

Jewish Healer: The historical evidence that Jesus performed paranormal healings is very strong; he must have been a remarkable healer.

Jewish Wisdom Teacher: He taught a subversive and alternative wisdom.

Jewish Social Prophet: Jesus stands in the tradition of the great social prophets of ancient Israel who challenged social systems.

Jewish Movement Founder / Initiator: A movement came into existence around him which embodied his alternative wisdom.

Summary in one minute and 15 seconds

~ from Marcus Borg’s appearance on the “Today Show”

Jesus smilingHe was a peasant, which tells us about his social class.

Clearly, he was brilliant. His use of language was remarkable and poetic, filled with images and stories. He had a metaphoric mind. He was not an ascetic, but world-affirming, with a zest for life.

There was a social-political passion to him. Like a Gandhi or a Martin Luther King, he challenged the domination system of his day.

He was a religious ecstatic, a Jewish mystic, if you will, for whom God was an experiential reality. As such, he was also a healer. And there seems to have been a spiritual presence around him, like that reported of St. Francis or the Dalai Lama.

And I suggest that, as a figure of history, he was an ambiguous figure. You could experience him and conclude that he was insane, as his family did, or that he was simply eccentric, or that he was a dangerous threat, or you could conclude that he was filled with the Spirit of God.

Questions to ponder...

How do you summarize the pre-Easter Jesus?

The focus here is on the historical Jesus, Jesus of Nazareth, the man who lived and taught in Galilee in the first century.

What three or five points would you use to summarize his life?

If you only had one minute and 15 seconds to describe Jesus, what would you say?

NextSpirit Dimension

Jesus was a spirit person: a religious ecstatic and a healer. Explore the cross-cultural context of spirit persons and learn how Jesus is seen as a spirit person in touch with the sacred.