A Review of The Year of Living Biblically: One Man’s Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible by A.J. Jacobs (2007)

Overall, this book provided some fascinating insights into the Bible. I had difficulties with his goal in approaching the project of living one year following the Bible literally – he wanted to show how ridiculous it was to take it literally. In light of this goal, and his tendency to be self-focused and independent, it was hardly a humble quest (as the title seems to suggest).

Nonetheless, he captures some of the beauty of the Bible: the wonder of Sabbath, of ritual, and of celebration (see end of the chapter on December for a good quote on the beauty of ritual and laws). He shows how trying to live following the rules really shapes how you see the world. He also shows how going to far (following the letter of the law instead of the intent of the law) can lead to some problems. He addresses these problems somewhat by noting the choices he had to make of which rule to break in certain situations. And he illustrates how there is more going on in following the Bible than what might be immediately apparent. And in the end, he is changed by the experience, perhaps not as much as I’d hope for but definitely more than might be expected with such a non-humble beginning. And his story illustrates that there’s something special about this book – and maybe we should all take a closer look at it again.

adapted from a previously written review.


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