What Are The Four Strokes of Jesus?

I like what Marcus Borg refers to as the four strokes of Jesus:  spirit person, teacher of wisdom, social prophet and movement founder.  Let me briefly share each stroke. [1]

Spirit Person

As a spirit person, Jesus had an experiential awareness of the reality of God.  Jesus prayed and fasted.  Jesus often went off on his own and prayed for hours at a time.  It is quite possible that he practiced wordless prayer.

He addressed God as Abba, his Father.  This was very intimate and personal.  This was not a common tradition at this time.  For Jesus, God was not just an outside source.  God was in Jesus and Jesus was in God.  The Spirit of God emanated from Jesus.  He lived his life connected to God.  God nourished his soul.

Jesus spoke with authority that flowed from his spiritual experience.  As a spirit person he taught the need to die to the conventional wisdom of the world and to die to the self.  Jesus wanted the Spirit to transform lives.  Jesus wanted people to be centered in God.

Wisdom Teacher

As a wisdom teacher Jesus taught in parables and memorable short sayings (aphorisms).  Jesus was both a teacher of wisdom and the embodiment or incarnation of divine wisdom.  His parables and aphorisms invited his hearers to see something they might not otherwise see.

He wanted to open eyes to a new way of seeing.  He invited people in and made them think for themselves.  He did not give them the answer.  He wanted them to find the answer themselves.

Social Prophet

As a social prophet he criticized the economic, political and religious elite with his alternate social vision.  Jesus was often in conflict with the authorities.  Jesus emphasized compassion.  The dominant social vision was centered on holiness and purity.  Jesus stressed that compassion not holiness was the dominant quality of God.

God was not concerned if people obeyed purity rituals that were important to the Jewish temple priests and officials.  God was concerned that compassion be enacted in the community.  Everyone was welcome at the table.  For Jesus purity was on the inside not the outside of a person.

Movement Founder

Lastly, Jesus was a movement founder.  He reformed Judaism.  It was an inclusive movement.  It included all:  women, untouchables, the poor, the sick, the tax collectors, the prostitutes, the marginalized.  It also included those people of stature who found his vision attractive.

Jesus went to Jerusalem to make his final appeal to the people at the center of the national and religious life.  Jesus was sentenced to death by Pilate on the charge of treason and executed by the Romans as a political rebel.  Jesus did not create Christianity.  After his death and resurrection, his early followers spawned Christianity.

Go Further

Marcus J. Borg, Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time:  The Historical Jesus and the Heart of Contemporary Faith

Marcus J. Borg, Jesus: Uncovering the Life, Teachings, and Relevance of a Religious Revolutionary

Marcus J. Borg, The Heart of Christianity: Rediscovering a Life of Faith

Marcus J. Borg, Reading the Bible Again For the First Time: Taking the Bible Seriously But Not Literally

N. T. Wright, Simply Jesus: A New Vision of Who He Was, What He Did, and Why He Matters

John Dominic Crossan, Jesus: A Revolutionary Biography

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[1] Marcus J. Borg, Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time:  The Historical Jesus and the Heart of Contemporary Faith, (HarperOne): 1995

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