Monday, May 4, 2009

The Year of Living Biblically, by A. J. Jacobs

The sub-title is, "One Man's Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible." This is a fabulous book. It is listed in the comedy genre but the only explanation I can see for that is the publisher imagining better sales there than in the theology section of the book store. I found nothing comedic and many things thought provoking.

The best part of the book is the clarity about the dangers of selective literal interpretation of the Bible. Even the most devout fundamentalist Christians and fundamentalist Hasidic Jews just can't do it - even they have to decide that some lines are metaphor.

For the more moderate who choose to pick and choose lines from the bible to defend their hostility towards homosexuality or to defend their desire to over-rule a woman's right to choose how to handle her own body, there is ample evidence that this is a fool hardy approach.

There are more examples than I can count (read the book and you'll just set yourself up for a time-wasting scavenger hunt through a Bible concordance to find yet more examples of your own). (Oh, maybe that's just me.) Here are a couple from Jacobs' book:

"...kick women out of church for saying hello ('the women should keep silence in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak...' -- 1 Corinthians 14:34) and boot out men for talking about the 'Tennessee Titans' [football] ('make no mention of th enames of other gods...' -- Exodus 23:13).