Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Year of Living Biblically (copy)

I noticed a theme running through recent books read. Most stories occur within a year time frame. For example, Mudbound focuses on the first year the McAllans dwell on the farm. The Diving Bell and the Butterfly was written in a year by a victim of stroke who communicated through eye blinking. In High Cotton one follows Zack Killebrew through a full year of cotton production. Even this year’s book discussion choice, Eat, Pray, Love, takes place within a calendar year.

Continuing the theme, The Year of Living Biblically by A.J. Jacobs, is packed with twelve months of entertainment. Author Jacobs is a writer for Esquire magazine and author of The Know-It-All where he read the Encyclopædia Britannica from A to Z. This new book is another daunting task which he manages to write without being sacrilegious.

Jacobs plans to spend a year taking the Bible literally and growing closer to God. First, he cannot decide which version of the Bible to follow, thus he gathers a stack: Revised Standard Version, King James Version, Good News Bible, Torah, and a copy of The Bible for Dummies. Secondly, he needs to omit dangerous rules. Any rule that ask one to cut off or gouge out a body part is skipped. If, by freak accident, he kills another man’s cow, he will pay for said cow instead of purchasing one to kill in return. Thirdly, he must breakdown the Bible parts to thoroughly cover all rules. His decision turns out to be the format of the book, eight months (first eight chapters) within the Old Testament and the rest within the New Testament. Lastly, he needs advisers such as rabbis, ministers, and priests with both conservative and liberal backgrounds. Furthermore, he promises to visit with, “the ultra-Orthodox Jews, the ancient sect of Samaritans, and the Amish.” On day 46 he actually out visits a visiting Jehovah Witness.

By day 62, Jacobs is becoming comfortable obeying rules; although, many like the wearing of tassels still baffle him, but now he faces Leviticus 20:27, “They shall be stoned with stones, their blood shall be upon them.” He knows legally he cannot heap stones at another person. His solution (loophole) is to gather small pebbles from New York City’s Central Park and pummel people. Every Saturday and Sunday he walks by the newspaper guy and chucks pebbles at the small of his back for not observing the Sabbath. The funny thing, the man never feels them.

After reading The Year of Living Biblically, I now have a better understanding of the word literal as it pertains to the Bible.