Book review: Evolution of the Word

by Marcus Borg


This is a big book, 593 pages, but over half of it is a reprint of scripture. After an introduction, Borg goes book-by-book through the New Testament, providing a few pages of overview for each, primarily discussing its historical context, and then presenting the Biblical text. Borg’s contributions are a little sparse and offered without much argument, so if you’re looking for exhaustive commentary, that’s not his purpose.

Also, do not imagine that scholars have some kind of universal agreement about when each of the N.T. books were written! Borg humbly admits there is no consensus, and in places, admits his opinion differs from the majority. In general, Borg dates many of the books just a little later than I do.  For example, he follows the recent trendy dating of Luke/Acts well into the second century, while I remain unconvinced and still date these two books around 85-95. And, of course, we won’t agree on Revelation, since in my own book I rely heavily on a historical-critical interpretation to place its date right around the year 80 CE, which differs from almost every New Testament scholar.

But while there’s no exact consensus, that’s not really the point. The point of Borg’s book is to portray how Christianity evolved in its earliest years, as evidenced in the writings we have in our Bible. Indeed, the New Testament itself is an evolutionary outgrowth of the Old Testament. Quite a bit of the discussion centers on Paul, and on the letters written in his name, as this is where the most serious change occurs over the span of the New Testament … issues like the role of women in the church and of how to regard Christian slaves like Philemon.

Overall, I enjoyed the book but found few surprises, and the reading went fast since I didn’t take time to reread all of the scripture.

1 Comment

  1. Terry, I received an email of a comment you posted here, that doesn’t seem to show. If you are looking to reach me, I’m at


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