Good Book: The Bizarre, Hilarious, Disturbing, Marvellous, and Inspiring Things I Learned When I Read Every Single Word of the Bible
Author: David Plotz
Publication by: HarperCollins e-books
Publication Date: March 3rd 2009
Source: E-Book owned by Reviewer
Buy it at Amazon
Audience: Anyone with an interest but not for those who are devoutly and religiously lacking a sense of humour
Like many Jews and Christians, David Plotz long assumed he knew what was in the Bible. He read parts of it as a child in Hebrew school, then at-tended a Christian high school where he studied the Old and New Testaments. Many of the highlights stuck with him--Adam and Eve, Cain versus Abel, Jacob versus Esau, Jonah versus whale, forty days and nights, ten plagues and commandments, twelve tribes and apostles, Red Sea walked under, Galilee walked on, bush into fire, rock into water, water into wine. And, of course, he absorbed from all around him other bits of the Bible--from stories he heard in churches and synagogues, in movies and on television, from his parents and teachers. But it wasn't until he picked up a Bible at a cousin's bat mitzvah--and became engrossed and horrified by a lesser-known story in Genesis--that he couldn't put it down.
At a time when wars are fought over scriptural interpretation, when the influence of religion on American politics has never been greater, when many Americans still believe in the Bible's literal truth, it has never been more important to get to know the Bible. "Good Book" is what happens when a regular guy--an average Job--actually reads the book on which his religion, his culture, and his world are based. Along the way, he grapples with the most profound theological questions: How many commandments do we actually need? Does God prefer obedience or good deeds? And the most unexpected ones: Why are so many women in the Bible prostitutes? Why does God love bald men so much? Is Samson really that stupid?
Excuse me? What is a book about The Bible doing in an adult only book review blog? You may well ask. It is non-fiction but any book featuring murder, rape, incest, bestiality, masturbation, the rhythm method, mental illness, betrayal, property fraud, genocide, natural disasters and a talking snake has got to count for 18+, right?
I will start with a disclaimer. I picked this book up quite by accident. I was not looking for anything biblical and although I am Christian, it is only in the loosest sense of the term. Beware! This book will get you thinking, but maybe not in the way you could predict.
Plotz is editor at Slate.com and is a secular Jew who decided to read the bible (well, his Bible which is the Old Testament) and blog his thoughts on it, out of which was born this book. He has a dry sardonic sense of humour and his comments occasionally verge on the smartarse but his irreverently reverent approach to this is truly engaging.
This is not a theological exegesis. It is a hilarious romp through thousands of years of Jewish history, with true glimpses of horror at both God and man’s cruelty. You may think you know the plot of the Old Testament, but I can assure you, you don’t! The God of the Israelites is mostly capricious, litigious and cruel. He favours those who argue with him rather than the blindly faithful, and he loves the bald men! Really.
I enjoyed the author’s recontextualising of past events using modern pop culture reference points- Steven Spielberg apparently missed a plot point to do with the Ark, David and Jonathon may have been going all Brokeback, and the first High Priest, Aaron was the Fredo Corleone of the Sinai.
Just to give you a flavour of his writing style, I will leave you with a quote from the chapter on the Song of Songs:
‘The Song of Songs- also called the ‘Song of Solomon- is like nothing else in the Bible, a steamy poem narrated by two lovers. She is foxy, young, and dark. He is strong,sexy, and seductive. …. Some biblical scholars, whose libidos we must question, insist that the song is merely an allegory, that the verses are just enthusiastic prayers. No way. This is no religious metaphor. This is Last Tango in Judah.’
Overall I really enjoyed his writing style. I laughed - a lot, out loud- and I certainly learnt more about Jewish culture and religion.