The quest for the historical Jesus is one of the major themes of this book. Borg’s perspective on this topic strongly reflects the consensus of the members of the Jesus Seminar. This controversial group of scholars and lay persons meets semiannually to evaluate the historical significance of all the documents about Jesus from antiquity (30-200 c.e.). Members of the group use color-coded beads to vote on things such as the probability that Jesus actually said or did certain things. Only about 20 percent of the sayings of Jesus received red votes, meaning Jesus undoubtedly said it or something very close to it. In this book, Borg steps out of the world of academia to offer a very personal spiritual reflection on these findings.
Another major theme of this book concerns the Christology of Jesus. Christology deals with the role or identity of Jesus, including the relationship between Jesus and God. Borg states that because of the Nicene Creed, most people see Jesus’ relationship to God as Son of the Father. According to Borg, this is not the only Christology, and he proceeds to explore a variety of Christological images from the New Testament period. While father/son imagery was used, there was also a Christology that saw Jesus as the embodiment of the wisdom of God. Borg offers an indepth discussion about the personification of wisdom as a woman (Sophia). Early Christians saw Jesus as the Son of the Father, the incarnation of Sophia, the child of Abba, and the child of Sophia. None of these images should be taken literally. They are metaphors used to describe the intimate relationship between Jesus and God.
Borg states that the foundational claim of the book is that there is a connection between how people think of Jesus and how they think of the Christian life. According to Borg, Jesus did not speak or think of himself as the Son of God, and his message was not about believing in him. Rather, he was a spirit person and a movement founder who invited people to enter into a journey of transformation. This journey involves giving one’s heart to the spirit of Christ and becoming a person of compassion.