Tonight's entry is about one of the most interesting books I have read. This is from January 30, 2011.
I'm not one to re-read books; one time through tends to suffice for me. However, I think I'm going to make an exception in the near future. This afternoon, I finished a book that belongs to my niece, Meagan, called The Year Of Living Biblically. This work was penned by New York author A. J. Jacobs, who writes for ESQUIRE and previously came to fame for his best seller, The Know-It-All, a look at his quest to read the entire Encyclopedia Britannica. It could be every book about the Bible that I have ever made it through had a Christian as an author. Not The Year Of Living Biblically. Jacobs, a humorist, comes from a family of Jewish folks who are non-practicing. Several years ago, Jacobs came to the decision that he wanted to spend twelve months following the scriptures to the letter, including little known rules and prohibitions. His passion became an entertaining and enlightening look at the Bible through the eyes of an agnostic. Jacobs, while consulting scholars and clergy of both the Jewish and Christian faiths, found the Bible was not at all what he imagined, nor were those who follow to varying degrees of success, its teachings. His journey made a deep impact on him and his lifestyle. He did not touch his beard for the year span. He attempted to wear no clothes of mismatched fibers. He traveled to Israel and met one of the only seven hundred remaining Samaritans. He stopped making physical contact with women in case they were in their period, making them unclean according to the Old Testament. (Jacobs had a difficult time explaining that one to ladies.) He tried to tithe, never lie, and pray three times per day. He began to see the wisdom of the laws which made up the lives of his ancient Hebrew ancestors. He chronicled the effect his project had on his wife and baby son. He listened to ultra-conservatives and ultra liberals, to Hassidic Jews and to snake handlers in the hills of Tennessee. And at the end, he found himself, while still an agnostic, beginning to believe there might be an Almighty. I pray that eventually he comes to that conclusion.
As I made my way through The Year Of Living Biblically, I found myself both laughing and finding insight to passages which I had skimmed before. Not having a Jewish background tends to limit the understanding of certain areas of the Law and its implementation in everyday lives. Jacobs had to be creative in some arenas. How do you stone someone in this century? What does it mean to keep the Sabbath in this day and age? How does one make an animal sacrifice? He stretched the imagination to satisfy himself on certain teachings. But what I liked best about this book was that it was a look at the Bible from someone who never had studied it before, who came at it from a much different point of view than I am used to. It was refreshing to force myself to consider God and Jesus from the vantage point of an outsider. And that was good for me. So often, I find myself reading the Bible and knowing what the words are before I come to a verse, which subconsciously allows me to justify glossing over the text. When they were little, I used to read to my niece and nephew, Karis and Seth. Their favorite children's story was a little library book called The Grumpus Under The Rug. I read it to them so many times that out of boredom, I would try to skip paragraphs or even pages. It didn't work- they always caught me and never allowed me to skim over even one word. A.J. Jacobs has become my adult scriptural version of Seth and Karis. I'm more likely to consider my journey though God's word as a first time adventure instead of a re-run I've seen a thousand times. That's why I plan on reading The Year Of Living Biblically one more time. Then again, maybe I should just try to act it out in my life.
Applicable quote of the day:
"In this one book are the two most interesting personalities in the whole world - God and yourself. The Bible is the story of God and man, a love story in which you and I must write our own ending, our unfinished autobiography of the creature and the Creator."
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