Holy Book Inc. (Part I)

Someone close to me bought me a book entitled “The Year of Living Biblically,” ironically, as a Christmas present. At first, when you crack the sucker open it is hard not to feel comfortable as you sail past the first few pages. A. J. Jacobs, a self-described agnostic-Jew who takes pride in his generally God-less existence, is a fun, if a little neurotic scribe. He guides you quite easily through the origins and the concept of his project: To live one year as literally conscious of the Bible as possible –and yes, also book contract. So far, he hasn’t let that one veer to far out of his peripheral sight. As much as he may want to learn more about the insights of living a non-secular life style, so far he has made note of his book contract about five times into the read. You need to work on that one A.J.

I am not going to lie to you, I haven’t finished the book yet, as I am only on page 108 out of 332. So far he has read the bible(s) as there are countless versions –some experts count them well into over a thousand– and pointed out many of the pseudo-forgotten rules within the ‘book of all books.’ Down to the downright obscure: “Kill all magicians!”or the rule disallowing men –and some women– from “trimming the ends of your beard.” Which by proxy includes skipping on shaving altogether, hence his Tres-homeless chic look. Or my personal favourite: If in the scene on an unresolved crime, you must break the neck of a cow as sacrifice. Can you imagine that?

‘Honey, what happened to the $5 I left on the coffee table?’
‘I don’t know. I didn’t take it though.’
‘That’s alright, I have a cow right here. Hi cow.’
‘That’s okay honey! I took care of it.’

There are also some other strange ones, like not touching women… specially if menstruating. In fact not only you ladies are unclean but everything you touch, including me, a chair or a bench becomes unclean as per Leviticus 15:20: “everything upon which she lies during her impurity shall be unclean; everything also upon which she sits shall be unclean.” And you thought being a leper was bad enough. At least we have found a cure for that one.

With such truck-load worth of idiosyncrasies, I cannot help enjoying the book so far. Hearing some of the most ludicrous and forgotten rules from the Bible, as they themselves are presented as proverbs and parables from A.J.’s current day life in New York city make for quite the funny read. However it makes me realize two things. First, –and this is my own personal choice– as someone raised in a Catholic household who has read the New Testament, the Torah (parts of the Talmud) and the Koran: Holy books should never be taken completely literally, as they simple contradict themselves way too much. This is how political agendas are fueled and wars started.

The “Give the other cheek…” argument VS. “Eye for an eye.”
…”Stone all gays.” VS. “Let he without sin cast the first stone.”
…”Kill magicians\ stone sinners, and non-believers!” VS. The *Don’t do onto others what you would not like done to you,* Golden Rule.

The list goes on and on… for centuries. Secondly, as easygoing as A.J. is, ultimately he is praying –pun intended– on a gimmick to make money. A stunt, a piece of chicanery that although amusing never relents its true intentions: Sell books. Make money. So, the questioned begged here at the end of the day is: How Christian/Jewish/Muslin/Hindu/Scientology?/*insert next religion here* is that?

I find it amusing that as I read this book, I am getting stopped on cafes, buses, subways and well, anywhere I like to read–9+ times so far– about this book. Mostly because they have seen the author getting interviewed on CNN, or some morning show. Guess the advertising budget is working its magic. Pretty sharp A.J. Pretty sharp.

I will post more once I finish the book.

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