A.J. Jacobs’ The Year of Living Biblically

Book Cover
Book Cover

Written by the editor of Esquire magazine, A.J. Jacobs, The Year of Living Biblically documents his attempt to follow the Bible as literally as possible for an entire year.

Jacobs was raised in a secular family, but became increasingly interested in the relevance of faith in our modern world. By embarking on his quest, Jacobs delved into the world of the deeply religiously, and seek to understand and look at the world from their viewpoint.

With the recent AWARE Christian-fundamentalist siege incident, this book might be a good read for both side – the atheists and the Christian-fundamentalists. It is difficult to step outside one’s comfort zone and one’s worldwide to try and understand what another person who shares a different set of values experiences.

Jacobs managed to keep the tone of the book relatively light-hearted, injecting humour into otherwise, chim religious topics and their application to our current society.

Before you dismiss Jacobs’ book as a crass paperback, seeking to make a quick buck by poking fun of Christianity, the book is well-researched. Before he took on his quest, Jacobs read through all the different versions of the Bible he could get his hands on and consulted with many respected religious figures.

The book was an interesting read for an atheist like me who never gave the Bible a chance. What I concluded was the Bible is fundamentally a book. A book with written words in it. Words are free for human interpretation and that’s where the problem lies. If one were to take every single words in the Bible as the literal Truth, one will wind up like Jacobs during his one year experiment – having to avoid shellfish, stone adulterers, tell the absolute truth in all situations, among other hard-to-apply words-of-truth.

Hence in our modern world, selective interpretation of the Bible is usually applied, ignoring the more tricky portions while cherry-picking those verses that are closer to the values we hold.

The book did not change my view about religion, I am still very much an atheist. However, it did made me seek to open up and be more receptive towards others’ beliefs and value systems. The world would be a much better place if everyone could do just the same. 🙂

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