Marcus J. Borg

  • Born: March 11, 1942
  • Died: January 21, 2015
  • Location: Portland, Oregon


Liberal theologian dead at 72

The Associated Press

NEW YORK (AP) — Marcus J. Borg, a prominent liberal theologian who attracted praise and controversy by helping to lead efforts to analyze Jesus as a historical figure, has died at age 72.

Borg died Wednesday at his home in Portland, Oregon, according to his publisher, HarperOne. The publisher announced Thursday that Borg had been suffering from idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, a scarring or thickening of the lungs that makes it difficult to breathe.

A popular speaker, frequent television commentator and the author or co-author of more than 20 books, Borg was among a group of scholars known as the Jesus Seminar that emerged in the 1980s and offered a skeptical look at the accounts of his life in the Gospels.

The Jesus Seminar was founded by Robert W. Funk and included John Dominic Crossan, a frequent collaborator with Borg. Through such books as "Jesus: A New Vision," Borg is credited with bringing scholarly debates about Jesus to a broad readership. His work drew much criticism from more theologically conservative Christians and others, who argued his methods were unsound and his work undermined faith. But Borg wrote that he had conducted his research within the context of his "unbelieving past" and his "believing present" as a Christian.

"Marcus was unafraid to follow the scholarly evidence where it led him while both communicating complexity fluently and remaining a man of faith," HarperOne publisher and senior vice president Mark Tauber said in a statement. "In these times when writing and speaking (and illustrating) messages and stories that seek truth are dangerous, Marcus Borg was a hero and a beacon."

He was born in Fergus Falls, Minnesota, and raised in a Lutheran family. He studied politics and philosophy at Concordia College and became interested in liberal theology while on fellowship at Union Seminary. He taught at several colleges but spent much of his academic career at Oregon State University, from which he retired in 2007. Two years later, he was named canon theologian at Trinity Cathedral in Portland. His other books included "Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time," ''The Heart of Christianity" and "Convictions," published last year and described by Borg as "a bit of a memoir."

Condolence & Memory Journal

Helped me to validate my insistence in being a Christian of Christ.

Posted by Manuel J. Torres-Anjel - Greer, SC - Insistent reader and admirer   September 15, 2015

A great mentor through his books. Thanks for his inspiration.

Edgar Zelle, Waverly, Iowa

Posted by Edgar Zelle - Waverly, IA - Reader of his books   January 29, 2015

I am so incredibly sad to hear of his passing. He was my professor in college and was not only an amazing professor but an incredibly kind individual. My thoughts and prayers go out to his loved ones at this time. He will be missed.

Posted by Carrie Richards - Austin, TX - Student   January 27, 2015

My husband and I attended Marcus Borg's lectures over the years at the Washington National Cathedral, Washington, D.C. I have most of his books. His speaking and writing has been such an inspiration for me and I will miss him. Thanks be to God for his life. My prayers for his family and loved ones.

Posted by Sara Henry - Greenbelt, MD - lecture attendee, reader   January 27, 2015


In thanksgiving for his life, his scholarship, his passionate faith. And with thanks that all of that gave me (back) a place in Christianity. Your life has been a lamp to me. Thank you.

Posted by Heather Sandilands - Pierson, MB, Canada near, ND - learer thru his books & YouTube   January 26, 2015

Read all of his books, then read them again! His work will continue to speak boldly to seekers of truth everywhere. He will be missed most perhaps by those he never knew.

Posted by Joe Damewood - Princeton, WV   January 24, 2015

A truly great man who will be greatly missed.

Posted by Rueben Thompson - Amarillo, TX - Friend and admirer   January 23, 2015

So many of us were shaken by Marcus ... and we are better for it. My thoughts and prayers are with the family and all who were challenged to a more realistic examination of their faith.

Posted by Tom Martin - Hot Springs, AR - a student of his books   January 23, 2015

Family Album