Tuesday, November 20, 2007

the year of living biblically

A few weeks ago I finished A.J. Jacobs' The Year of Living Biblically. Judging from the jacket, the premise was interesting enough for me to want to buy the book, but after I read it I was a bit disappointed by the execution. The basic subject of the book is the author's attempt to spend an entire year following every rule in the Bible literally. Unfortunately, I don't think that he spent much of the year taking the Bible seriously. Admittedly, he grew a beard, wore white, avoided mixed fibers, refrained from eating pork, and went through some effort to follow certain obscure rules. But at times his rule-observance comes off as merely a gimick to legitimize his religious views. Jacobs is a secular agnostic Jew (as he puts it, he is Jewish in the same way that the Olive Garden is Italian) and he actually wanted to underscore the defects of literalism through this project. So he didn't try very hard to be a thoughtful or sympathetic representative of Biblical literalism.

In fact, the most enjoyable sections of the book describe how he went out to spend time with other "literalist" communities; the Amish, Hassidic Jews, Samaritans, Snake-handlers, Creationists, "red-letter" Christians, along with a "cult" in Israel led by Jacobs' weird ex-uncle Gil. A much more interesting project would have been produced if Jacobs could have cut out the gimicky beard and robe and simply had gone to the various communities for an extended period of time and had allowed them to speak for themselves (a la Jesus Camp.)

Bible and Grenada
encyclopedia of biblical errancy
interview with a christmas card
"i've seen ethiopians knocking out rome" (part two)
"i've seen ethiopians knocking out rome"
"god gave noah the rainbow sign..." (part one)
the number of the beast
the reason for the season
the wise men


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Anonymous said...

I really want to read this, although my impression of it is mostly bad.

--Dave, http://parallelsidewalk.wordpress.com