What if an agnostic Jew read the Bible and then alternately made fun of it and talked about how it made him a better Jew? David Plotz started Good Book: The Bizarre, Hilarious, Disturbing, Marvelous, and Inspiring Things I Learned When I Read Every Single Word of the Bible as a blog, Blogging The Bible for Slate, and then went on to turn it into a book.
About thirty years ago I read the Bible as part of my never-ending quest to be a know it all. The Bible is so full of WTF moments that I must have looked like a Chuck Jones cartoon with my eyebrows raised and my mouth hanging opening. David Plotz felt much the same way as he worked his way through the Jewish Bible.
I think David Plotz should have went ahead and given his opinions about The New Testament as well. It is also filled to the brim with weird and clearly drug induced stories. And smitting on overload when Jesus comes back taking names and kicking asses. David is greatly impressed with smitting-I was always impressed with the gnashing of teeth and ripping of hair.
Good Book is funny, often LOL funny. David takes such Bible standards as Smitting and Animal Sacrifice and makes them seem, well, kind of silly. A couple of Aaron’s sons burn the wrong incense and Bam! their smitted! A slight over reaction maybe? Isn’t it kind of odd that the first thing Noah does once he hits dry like is an animal sacrifice? Maybe that’s why there are no unicorns. Sorry, that bit about the unicorns was me.
The most interesting bit about Good Book is it’s author. Every book, even the Bible, is only as good as what the reader brings to it. I can’t fully appreciate most of Shakespeare because I can’t understand a good deal of the language, though I do like all the swordplay. And so it is with David Plotz and the Bible. He likes the ripping yarns and the smitting of sinners and the naughty bits in the Song of Solomon. But he gets tired of the constant repetition of the story of the Israelites disappointing God and paying the price over and over and over and over, etc, etc, etc, etc, etc. He doesn’t believe in the God of the Bible and he doesn’t like how the God of the Bible acts most of the time. But he does like the Bible.
I agree with everything David has to say about the Bible, but that may be because I am not a True Believer either. David finds that reading the Bible helps him understand what it is to be a Jew. That, in fact, the Bible is what makes a Jew a Jew and not a Buddhist. All the rituals of being a Jew relate to stories from the Bible. So that he is constantly surprised that some story he is reading relates to some Jewish holiday and he keeps a running tab of Bible names he will never use-such as Arron, Samson, and Jacob. He is also impressed with all the whores in the Bible and how few women are mentioned that aren’t whores.
David points out the many places in the Old Testament that give Jesus his pedigree and the one spot where Jesus might have made a cameo appearance with Daniel. He likes to notice the many spots where other Prophets have preformed miracles very similar, or identical, to the ones Jesus preformed. For someone who refused to read the New Testament he seems to know a lot about Jesus.
At the end of Good Book there are a number of Lists, such as the Best Pick Up Lines in the Bible and God’s Best Miracles and Nine Truly Hellacious Devine Punishments.
If you haven’t read the Bible, you should. Like David Plotz you might find that many of the stories you thought you knew, you don’t really know as well as you think. Reading the sort of Cliff Notes version of the Bible in Good Book is fun, though I’m sure not everyone would agrees with all his interpretations.