Monday, March 24, 2008

The year of living biblically by A.J. Jacobs

Overall, this book provided some fascinating insights into the Bible. I had difficulties with his goal in approaching the project of living one year following the Bible literally - he wanted to show how ridiculous it was to take it literally. In light of this goal, and his tendency to be self-focused and independent, it was hardly a humble quest (as the title seems to suggest).

Nonetheless, he captures some of the beauty of the Bible: the wonder of Sabbath, of ritual, and of celebration (see end of the chapter on December for a good quote on the beauty of ritual and laws). He shows how trying to live following the rules really shapes how you see the world. He also shows how going to far (following the letter of the law instead of the intent of the law) can lead to some problems. He addresses these problems somewhat by noting the choices he had to make of which rule to break in certain situations. And he illustrates how there is more going on in following the Bible than what might be immediately apparent.

He is changed somewhat by the experience, although that he is not a Christian in the end is a bit of a disappointment. And yet, it is perhaps not so surprising - after all, how many Jews (especially Pharisees) who were good at following the regulations actually became Christians?

1 comment:

Cindy said...

I was going to recommend this book to you. I just read it. I didn't quite know how to take it at first, as I agree with you in that his aim seemed to be to show the ridiculous in the Bible. I'm not sure if that was really his intent, or just how he came across. I thought he had good insights on religion as a communal thing (in the chapter with the trip to Israel), on how giving thanks for everything shapes your outlook, and I liked the part in Israel where he was sitting on the steps and was suddenly overcome by the wonder of creation, and moved to spontaneously praise, even though he admits to doing so without really "believing." I also appreciated how he went to see the real hardline fundamentalists, and got beyond the stereotypes that we so often see portrayed.