AJ Jacobs was raised in a secular family, but after the birth of his son, became increasingly interested in the relevance of faith in our modern world. So he decided to dive in and attempt to obey the Bible as literally as possible for one full year. He vowed to follow the Ten Commandments…to be fruitful and multiply…to love his neighbor. But he also wanted to obey the hundreds of more obscure rules…to refrain from wearing clothing made of mixed fibers…to learn to play a ten-string harp…to stone adulterers.
AJ’s experiment changes his life even more radically than the year he spent reading the entire Encyclopedia Britannica for his first book…The Know-It-All. He does many extreme things…he immerses himself in prayer, tends sheep in the Israeli desert, battles idolatry…and tells the absolute truth in all situations with some interesting results.
Jacobs also explores other communities that take the Bible literally…he visits a Kentucky-based creationist museum and the Pennsylvania Amish. He dances with Hasidic Jews in Brooklyn and does Scripture study with Jehovah’s Witnesses…he discovers ancient biblical wisdom of startling relevance…and he wrestles with archaic rules that baffle the modern brain. His quest yields unexpected epiphanies and challenges. The Year of Living Biblically is part Cliff Notes to the Bible…part memoir…and part look into an unimaginable world.
I was really intrigued when I picked this book up in the airport bookstore a few months ago. It took me a while to get to it, but once I did, I was so glad I did…I really enjoyed it a lot.
Having gone to Catholic school, I’ve spent some time studying the Bible. In high school, one of our teachers suggested that the Bible should not be taken literally…that it was a nice story written to explain complicated events to simple people. I always liked that explanation…it made more sense to me than a literal interpretation. So the fact that AJ Jacobs was going to literally carry out all the rules of the Bible was really interesting to me. It was a whole new way to look at things.
The book also delved more deeply into the Old Testament than I’ve ever really gone before. Being Catholic, our lessons usually focused on the New Testament and the teachings of Jesus. When it came to the Old Testament, we hit on the big stuff, but left out the more obscure stuff. So I feel like I learned a lot of things that I didn’t already know.
This book was in no way an expert study of the Bible. It was about a guy who had a crazy idea that he thought would make an interesting book. It was written for purposes of entertainment…and it does its job very well…it’s very entertaining. But it’s also thought provoking…and it made me more aware of my own spirituality and faith.
I highly recommend this book.
Have you read it? What did you think?