the year of living biblically

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

i first heard of TYOLB when a.j. jacobs was on the cover of relevant magazine two years ago.  the second i saw the title i remember thinking that i wanted to read the book.  when i found out that a.j. isn’t a christian it made me want to read it even more.  my little sister gave it to me last year for my 30th birthday.  i started it in january and JUST finally finished it on our way home from texas 10 days ago (it’s pretty average these days for me to take a few months to finish a book…sadly).

anyway, a.j. jacobs is agnostic.  i didn’t even really understand what that was before i read this.  (if you don’t know either: an agnostic is basically someone who believes in some sort of higher power, but isn’t sure or doesn’t care exactly what that higher power is.)  the fact that he isn’t a christian made this book even more enjoyable for me.  it was refreshing to hear about the bible from someone a) who’d never read it and b) really didn’t understand what he was getting himself into. 

when i started the book, i had a hint that it might turn out to be sacreligious.  not true.  there is no mocking tone whatsoever.  jacobs does not believe that the bible is inspired by god, but shows great respect to the men who wrote it and the words it contains.  he takes 4 weeks to read the bible and then throughout his year is constantly trying to soak in more and more knowledge about it.  he reads many many other books and commentaries and even sets up a “board of advisors” of people from different sects of biblical faith (orthodox and non jews, conservative and liberal christians, etc).  he also goes on several trips throughout his year to get a closer look at many aspects of the bible (my favorites were: the creation museum, a snake-handler’s church, and an amish farm).

he spends 3/4 of the year in the old testament, since that’s the largest half of the bible and the portion with the most laws.  i won’t try to list all of the hundreds of laws he follows, but many of them fall under the categories of food, clothing, and the ten commandments.  jacobs is jewish by heritage and he makes it fun to watch him learn about “his people” in this way.  at first he feels awkward about everything, but after a few months, many laws become habit to him.  he forces himself to pray, which is very mechanical at first, but toward the end of the year, he catches himself doing “reflex” praying instead of just standing in the corner of his office with his eyes closed.  he follows the sabbath and comes to appreciate the beauty of truly taking a day off.

he has a harder time when he gets to the new testament because many of the o.t. laws are thrown out the window when jesus steps into the picture (thank you lord!).  it was funny to read about him trying to follow “laws” that aren’t really there.  many of his spiritual advisors tried to explain to him that the things jesus talked about are usually practiced out of a desire to please God and improve your relationship with Him after you’ve accepted Christ as your saviour.  it was cool how he began to see how following Jesus’s teachings affected his life and the lives of people around him. 

jacobs’ account of this year of his life is honest and endearing.  the book is a great balance of contemplation, humor, and education (i’ve been around the bible my whole life and i learned many things i never knew).  of course, the whole time i was rooting for him to get to the new testament and realize that he needs jesus, but i know that was alot to ask.  i highly recommend it.


3 Responses to “the year of living biblically”

  1. thanks for writing this. makes me want to read it. see you sooon!

  2. YAY i am so happy that you finally got a chance to read it !!!! i really loved that book, and had a feeling that you would too! love you


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