Review: The Year of Living Biblically

The Year of Living Biblically
By A.J. Jacobs

Top 3 words:

  • Brilliant
  • Fun
  • Insightful

Atheist man dons Bible filter for 1 year to explore the rules written by men of God.

The blog-like format of this book lent itself well to reading it during daily commutes. Watching it as a documentary might have been a better use of time but a lot of the posts’ meanings would have been lost since Jacobs is quite a verbose, interpretive writer.

The premise is so simple and amazing; Jacobs tries to be pragmatic and open-minded but it’s pretty clear he’s hamming it up for the most part. “Boastful” would be the best word to describe it — he’s following all the rules as they are written, out-talking a Jehovah’s Witness, willingly creating strain in his marriage and with his son, constantly referring to his OCD tendencies, and is always trying to out-smart the Bible with feeble substitutions (“stoning” adulterers by dropping pebbles on their shoes or using a Nerf bat to “beat” his son) just so he can check that rule off his list. Then there’s his biggest vanity: his enormous beard. (He eventually likens it to a pet rabbit.)

Overall, the book is entertaining, especially when exposing us to the frequent absurdities that come from the Bible. Jacobs provides numerous perspectives throughout the book while keeping true to his original purpose, and ultimately concludes that people should strive to be more conscientious.

Favourite Quote:
“That was something I hadn’t expected: moderate creationists who view other creationists as too extreme. But it will turn out to be one of this year’s big lessons: Moderation is a relative term.”

“God should be called Jehovah, because that’s what the Bible calls him. You can call a person ‘man,’ or you can call him by his name: ‘Jehovah.'”

“Was hell [Gehenna] a garbage dump that got mistranslated?”

“Should you obey the Bible’s rules even if doing so endangers your life?”

Unanswered Questions:
1. Why do we ignore the likely fact that some very great men wrote the Bible for the general population of men only?
2. Why should women strive to be religious if God decreed for all men to avoid them for a quarter of the year, or more pointedly, if women are forbidden to talk in church?
3. If the Bible represents the word of God, it should be true for all time and space — should the interpretation of the Bible be influenced by current social trends?


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