Saturday, November 8, 2008

Is it impossible to live like the Bible says?

A.J. Jacobs spent an entire year trying to follow the 600 laws found in the Old Testament, and has concluded that it is impossible. Thats the whole point of this article and Jacobs book "The Year of Living Biblically", though it should be called "The Year of Living Torashly." You see agnostic writer for Esquire, A.J. Jacobs, decided to live by the Old Testament laws for a year. This is not living "Biblically" since it only includes half of the Bible. That would be like saying you are a Supreme Court Judge, but only follow the Bill of Rights, and throw away the Constitution. It can also not be said that he was trying to live as a Jew, because he did not follow the interpretion of the Law as found in the Talmud and Midrash. The book is written as comedy and seems light-hearted. Jacobs comes to the following conclusion:

Well, shouldn't we just act that way spontaneously, anyway? "It's a lot easier to do good if you put your faith in a book that requires you to do good," muses Jacobs, intriguingly linking that faith to the book rather than to its alleged author.

"How can these ethically advanced rules and these bizarre decrees be found in the same book?" he wonders. "And not just the same book. Sometimes the same page. The prohibition against mixing wool and linen comes right after the command to love your neighbor. It's not like the Bible has a section called 'And Now for Some Crazy Laws.' They're all jumbled up like a chopped salad."

I can't help bu think that if Jacobs had focused on both the Old and New Testament, he may have had a different revelation. A year of following the OT Law can make one a better person, it can keep you from lying, killing, and stealing, but it will likely leave you feeling like an utter failure and disillusioned. You see the whole point of the Old Testament is to show God's standard, and how humans cannot achieve that standard. If Jacobs had included the New Testament he likely would have noticed Jesus departure from these traditions, even though he makes many of them harder to follow. The Bible shows us the unreachable standard of God, but shows us the grace shown to humankind through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. The justification of the sacrifice of Jesus pays for the sins of man. The very definition of the Hebrew word we call "sin" shows the point of the OT, it means "to miss the mark."

Jacobs also seems to not make up his mind as to how he want to go about his social experiment. At first he sticks to following the 600+ laws of the OT, but later he begins to add some Christian influence minus Christian scripture. He attends Jerry Falwell's church, visits a creationist museum, and a gay/Christian group among other various organizations. I'm confused on why he would add these fundamentalist Christian group into his seemingly Jewish experiment, save for their humor aspect. Obviously this is his point, and he's really not striving to live out the scripture as laid out in its original context, but to produce a humorous book which he can sell great quantities. I say had he been more consistent in his experiment, it would make a better read.

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