Tuesday, April 1, 2008

The Year of Living Biblically : One Man's Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible

I'm about 75 pages into The Year of Living Biblically by A.J. Jacobs. After he decided this was what he wanted his next book to be about, Jacobs spent four weeks reading the Bible cover to cover, writing down all the "rules" he came across. At the end: 72 pages and more than 700 rules. So, for the next year, he planned to live by the Bible. At first he takes it for its literal meaning, but as with anything, there are plenty of meanings for different passages. He forms an advisory board of pastors, rabbis (Jacobs was born Jewish, though non-practicing), and other people who can help him with this translation. Instead of trying to live by all 700 rules each day (which he found very tiring the first few days - like he couldn't even leave the house), Jacobs decided to focus on certain ones each day. The book follows his day-to-day journey. A few things that made me laugh:

1. Thou Shall not Lie: Easier said than done when your child wants a bagel but all you have is an English muffin. Instead of "lying" and saying the muffin IS a bagel, you tell the truth. Thirty-minute tantrum follows.

2. Within certain sects of the Jewish faith, a man and woman aren't allowed to touch for 12 days after she starts menstruating. Nor is a man allowed to sit where she sits. Or lie on the same sheets as she does. Before Jacobs comes home from work one day, his wife (who feels like a leper because of this) sits on every surface in their home.

3. Thou Shall not Covet: He starts with just the wanting of "things" (planning to tackle the coveting of other pretty women for later). Different followers believe different things here, as Jacobs found out by interviewing his advisory board. If your coveting means you'd cause harm to your neighbor, then you should refrain; but just liking that Porsche down at the dealership - not a big deal. But, some believe any and all wanting is forbidden. The author talks about how he covets for his two-year-old son every day. My favorite example: A girl his son's age can say words like 'helicopter,' while his son still just gurgles and grunts. Jacobs covets that girl's vocabulary for his son.

It's a very entertaining read. Plus, I'm learning a lot about other religions (and my own). Just this morning I read about his encounter with a Jehovah's Witness. (The author actually invited the man into his home and talked so much, the man kind of had to beg to leave...)


Anonymous said...

Since you are a journalist, try the history pages in following----


The following website summarizes over 500 U.S. court cases and lawsuits affecting children of Jehovah's Witness Parents, including 350 cases where the JW Parents refused to consent to life-saving blood transfusions for their dying children:



The following website summarizes over 500 lawsuits filed by Jehovah's Witnesses against their Employers, incidents involving problem JW Employees, and other secret JW "history" court cases:



A. said...

Jacobs actually makes mention of Jehovah's Witnesses feelings about transfusions. The source he talked to said he felt it was the most controversial part of his religion.

I've been meaning to post about Under the Banner of Heaven, John Krakauer's book on Mormon Fundamentalists. Also a fascinating read.

Whether you believe in particular religions or not, it's always interesting to learn about how other people view our world.

Sarah said...

My brother in law likes to invite Jehovah's Witnesses and Mormons in to have philosophical discussions. Mainly I think he's pretentious and just wants to show off. They always decide to leave.

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Anonymous said...

This book reminded me of the blog for Living Oprah. It's one woman's quest to do what Oprah says for a year and report back on the results. Check it out: www.livingoprah.com