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The Year of Living Biblically

A. J. Jacobs‘ book comes out on October 9th, the same day as Stephen Colbert‘s I Am America (And So Can You!)… That’s either tough competition or *really* entertaining reading for me the following weekend.

Jacobs’ book is called The Year of Living Biblically.

YearofLivingBiblically

What is it about? Here’s Publishers Weekly:

What would it require for a person to live all the commandments of the Bible for an entire year? That is the question that animates this hilarious, quixotic, thought-provoking memoir from Jacobs… He didn’t just keep the Bible’s better-known moral laws (being honest, tithing to charity and trying to curb his lust), but also the obscure and unfathomable ones: not mixing wool with linen in his clothing; calling the days of the week by their ordinal numbers to avoid voicing the names of pagan gods; trying his hand at a 10-string harp; growing a ZZ Top beard; eating crickets; and paying the babysitter in cash at the end of each work day. (He considered some rules, such as killing magicians, too legally questionable to uphold.)

There are over 700 rules that he follows. Seems a bit over the top? Perhaps, but this is the same guy who, in his last book, tried to read through the entire Encyclopedia Britannica.

Jacobs did an entertaining Newsweek interview as well:

Which is the greater learning tool, the Bible or the encyclopedia?

That’s a tough question. The Bible project was a lot more difficult than the encyclopedia project. The Bible affected every single part of my life, it affected the way I walked, the way I dressed, the way I hugged my wife, the way I ate. The year was the most extreme makeover of my life. In terms of which is the better learning tool, the encyclopedia does contain a lot of biblical passages in the different books, so it might contain most of the Bible in it.

What rule was the hardest to follow?

Two kinds of rules were hard. Avoiding sins we commit every day like lying, gossiping and coveting was hard, and then there were the rules that were hard to do in modern life, like stoning adulterers. But I did manage to fulfill that one. What happened was, I was in the park, dressed in my white garb, and this man in his 70s came over and asked what I was doing. I explained I was trying to follow every rule in the Bible as literally as possible, including growing my beard, not mixing fibers, stoning adulterers, and he said, “I’m an adulterer, are you going to stone me?” I said, “Yeah that would be great.” The Bible doesn’t say what size the stones have to be, so I had been carrying around these pebbles in my pocket for just such an occasion. I took the pebbles out of my pocket, and he instantly picked one up and threw it at me, so I decided, an eye for an eye, and I tossed one at him. It did provide an entry for talking to people about capital punishment and the Bible. How could they stone adulterers, what was life like back then, does it apply today. I tried to say to the guy, you shouldn’t sleep with other women, but I don’t know if it sunk in.

(Thanks to Spazeboy for the link!)

  • Mriana

    I would not want to live Biblically, esp. if I had to go by the works attributed to Paul concerning women. :roll:

  • http://www.eloquentatheist.com Michael W. Jones

    Great find!

    That one will soon be on a shelf near me.

    Thanks!

  • http://www.skepchick.org writerdd

    I hope he didn’t have any children that he had to stone to death for being saucy.

  • http://emergingpensees.com Mike C

    I’m not sure all of those are actual commands. Like the thing about eating crickets. Just because someone in the Bible did it once doesn’t mean it’s a prescription for everyone.

  • Karen

    I look forward to this one. I read the The Know-It-All and found it highly amusing – and informative! :-)

  • Mriana

    Mike, the traditional means of punishment in the O.T. and N.T. for a defiant child or an adultress was stoning. We even see this in the N.T., with the exception being that Jesus came along and said, “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.” The adultress’s accusers, all men, dropped their stones and left. Then Jesus, saving her life, told her to go and sin no more. The thing is, and it’s been said more than once, at least one of those male accusers was probably the one she slept with, but we have no proof of that.

    No, if Jesus had not stumbled upon the scene, she would have been stoned to death, because it was traditional to stone the offender. Again, this was a human law, made by men, obviously not set in stone, yet it is right there in the Bible and it is one that can hardly be denied nor was it a one time occurance.

    The other thing is child sacrifice. That can hardly be denied too. Jephtha killed his daughter, God sent bears to kill the children making fun of Joshua’s bald head, and his name escapes me, but what’s his name almost sacrificed his only son, but “God” coincidently sent a ram in the child’s place. BTW, the last one, incidently, was taken from another myth from Hercules and changed to fit Hebrew culture. Hercules came along and stopped the queen from sacrificing her only son, saying, “My father would not allow such a thing.”

    Yes, I know, you would argue the last with me, but taking stories from other cultures and re-writing them to fit another culture happened quite often.

  • http://emergingpensees.com Mike C

    Mriana, I’m not sure why you directed your comment towards me. Were you responding to something I said?

  • Polly

    Unless he’s becoming a Nazirite or a priest, he can probably cut his hair and shave (as long as he doesn’t merely trim the sides of his beard). He can forgoe crickets, too.
    Also, in order to stone adulterers, naughty teenagers, blasphemers, etc… he’d have to have at least one other witness appear before a priest who can testify that the offender was caught in the act. Plus, both parties would have to be stoned in the case of adultery.

    Let’s see what other random things can I remember…

    I don’t know where he’s going to find a priest to inspect any mold or mildew. He’d better keep his house de-humidified unless he wants his property burned.

    What’s he doing about the required sacrifices? Where is he getting a 1 year old lamb and a heiffer’s offal?

    I hope he likes camping out for Sukot. Though, that’s a later addition.

    PETA will probably have a problem with him trying to wring little birdie necks, but luckily, since he’s not pretending to be a priest, he doesn’t have to do that.

    He’d better make sure all the yeast is out of his dwelling during Passover-bread, cakes, leftovers, everything containing yeast must be thrown out.

    Any rashes need to be checked by a priest and then depending on color he might have to be quarantined for 7 days(and then 7 more and then 7 more!).
    Kosher foods are relatively easy to come by, so that should be no big deal unless you like shellfish or pork…or insects other than locust (which may also be a plant).

    If he’s American or Jewish, then he’s most likely already circumcised, no problem there.
    Tithing can be expensive (remember it has to be on the Gross – “first fruits” means before anything else).
    In addition to Passover, there are other feasts, Feast of Weeks, Feast of Trumpets(?). He’d better arrange his work schedule.
    If he sleeps with a woman, they have to get married, or if not, he can pay her father a sum and she gets to throw a shoe at him.
    I assume he won’t be stealing, murdering, or laying seige to a foreign city so no need to go into the specifics, there.

    I do love levitical laws. :)

  • Mriana

    Yes:

    I’m not sure all of those are actual commands. Like the thing about eating crickets. Just because someone in the Bible did it once doesn’t mean it’s a prescription for everyone.

    I think it was in response to ddwriter’s comment on stoning saucy children.

    Either that or it was in response to my comment about the Bible and women. Either way, even the the works attributed to Paul could use some critical scrutiny. 1 Corinthians 7:4 Ephesians 5:22 for example.

  • Polly

    I didn’t even realize that TODAY is Sukot!

  • monkeymind

    If he sleeps with a woman, they have to get married, or if not, he can pay her father a sum and she gets to throw a shoe at him.

    Sounds kinky!

  • Mriana

    Quite right, monkeymind, quite right! :lol:

  • http://hoverfrog.wordpress.com/ hoverFrog

    Wow, being as lazy as I am I wonder if there is a straightforward and easy to interpret list of these rules anywhere. I’d read the bible but, to be honest, once is enough. Plus when you know the ending the whole thing or spoilt.

  • Mriana

    That is Elija or Elisha, not Joshua. :roll: I can’t keep my characters of the Bible straight. *Mriana bangs head on desk*

  • http://emergingpensees.com Mike C

    I’m not sure all of those are actual commands. Like the thing about eating crickets. Just because someone in the Bible did it once doesn’t mean it’s a prescription for everyone.

    I think it was in response to ddwriter’s comment on stoning saucy children.

    Either that or it was in response to my comment about the Bible and women. Either way, even the the works attributed to Paul could use some critical scrutiny. 1 Corinthians 7:4 Ephesians 5:22 for example.

    No, my comments weren’t in response to you or to writerdd. I was just commenting on the eating crickets thing in the original post. I’m not sure that’s an actual command. I think you were reading too much into my comment.

  • Mriana

    OK maybe I’ve missed something in my studies, but I don’t remember there being anything about eating crickets in the Bible. Now I do remember a plague of locus, which I guess if push came to shove you could eat them, but I wouldn’t recommend it. :lol:

    Where does it say anything about eating crickets in Hemant’s post even?

  • http://emergingpensees.com Mike C

    In the Publishers Weekly quote…

    and I think the Bible mentions John the Baptist eating locust. I don’t remember anything about crickets per se.

  • http://emergingpensees.com Mike C

    Oh wait, Leviticus 11:22 says that you are allowed to eat crickets (among a few other insects). However, I think being allowed to eat something is a little different than being commanded to eat it.

  • Karen

    The author is a humor writer, so I don’t think he worried too much about splitting hairs over whether something was allowed, commanded or just suggested or modeled by characters in the bible. It’s supposed to be funny, not an academic study.

  • Mriana

    Oh, Ok, it’s squeezed into a list of nutty things – ZZ Top beard. :roll: I skimmed that part, sorry Hemant. ZZ Top is not in the Bible, but yes, I guess one could call the beard that.

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  • gsb

    ZZ Top is not in the Bible

    I’ll not accept the revelatory nature of any Bible that does not have ZZ Top in it.

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