Wednesday, February 3, 2010

The Year of Living Biblically

The Year of Living Biblically, by A. J. Jacobs, was exactly what I expected.  Jacobs, an agnostic of Jewish descent, decided he would try to live out the laws of the Bible as literally as possible.  To do this, he enlisted the help of many religious scholars, rabbis, and friends.  Jacobs really did his research; not only did he completely read the Bible, but he read many books on the interpretation of the Bible, and learned how the laws of several millenia ago pertains to life today.

The book is split up by months, and within that section a Bible verse is listed before the particular day that verse played a part in Jacobs' life.  This made it very easy to follow and easy to find a place to stop.  However, it didn't necessarily lend itself to swift reading.  This was a book I took my time with and, while I was never bored with it, sometimes I had had enough Bible laws for the day.

One thing I didn't care for was the way Jacobs' wife, Julie, was presented.  She just didn't seem very supportive and Jacobs only seemed to relate the instances where he was particularly annoying her.  Of course, that made it funnier, but it just didn't seem very nice.

I learned a lot through this book.  For example, I did not know that ultra-Orthodox Jews and ultrafundamentalist Christians both need the Third Temple in Jerusalem to be built; the Jews need it so their Messiah will come, and the Christians need it because they see the Jewish Messiah as the false Messiah, or antichrist, which will cause the true Christ to begin the apocalyptic battle and begin the thousand-year reign of peace on earth.  And how does all of that start?  With a red cow.

I also learned that Spock's famous "live long and prosper" split-fingered salute is also a sacred hand position used by the Jewish priestly class.

Jacobs' wrote a book that is chock full of information I never would have learned even if I had read the entire Bible, as well as funny anecdotes that can only occur when one is trying to live as a Bible literalist in the 21st century.  Overall, I'd give this 3 out of 5 stars.  It kept me interested, but it didn't keep me hooked.

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