Last week I read "The Year of Living Biblically", a memoir by A.J. Jacobs. The premise is that Jacobs will spend one year living his life according to the literal word of the Bible. (Old and New testaments.) He assembles a group of spiritual advisors, since he is a secular, agnostic New Yorker without much in his history regarding biblical law and customs.
What could have been a completely blasphemous (if not hilarious) book is actually a well written, very funny, sincere, non judgmental account of Jacobs trying as hard as he can to try to live a truly Biblical life. He immerses himself to make it as genuine and earnest as possible – taking it all very seriously. His self-deprecating humor lets us laugh at his attempts to follow the laws and codes of the bible, and his take on following the purity codes of Leviticus had me rolling. (His wife, Julie, was not on this journey with him – although they remained living under the same roof. Her actions of sitting on each chair, bed, and sofa in the apartment during her “time of the month” just so he couldn’t did provide me with a good laugh.) The dietary restrictions he followed were also amusing in this day and age.
Jacobs visits all sorts of people during his year. Conservative orthodox Jews, Creationists, Evolutionists, several types of fundamentalist Christians, even a Snake handler in Virginia are all a part of his journey. He worships with gay Christians, hangs out with real Samaritans, gets to know an Amish gentleman, and has a bit of an epiphany coming to understand that they all have the heartfelt belief that they are guided by the true words of God through the Bible.
He is a seeker himself, and embraces things such as tithing, charity, truthfulness, and even learns to appreciate keeping holy on the Sabbath – which is something he really ends up looking forward to each week. He naturally doesn’t perform animal sacrifice, but does try to mentally put himself in to the shoes of those who performed those types of rituals. (Actually, I take that back. He does sacrifice a chicken with some Hasidic Jews now that I think about it.) He performs acts and follows commandments that I didn’t even realize were in the Bible – and I have to again fess up in regards to my ignorance of the Bible. I’m familiar with most of the big stories, and have read more of the New Testament than the Old… but a lot of what Jacobs went through was news to me.
I liked this book. I really liked this book. I would highly recommend this book to just about anyone. I have a copy if you want to borrow it. If religions interest you at all, I think you’d enjoy reading this memoir. I laughed many times, and his journey did change his life a little in the end.
His genuineness is noble, and his memoir of this journey is really worth the read.