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"Debating The Year of Living Biblically"

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A. J. Jacobs (an Esquire editor) wrote a book called The Year of Living Biblically, documenting his attempt to "Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible" (as the subtitle puts it) for a year.

I haven't read the book. But I have read a fairly brief six-part email dialogue between Jacobs and Weekly Standard writer Matt Labash, published in Slate last week: "Debating The Year of Living Biblically."

Jacobs is of Jewish ancestry, but is "a committed agnostic who 'is Jewish the same way the Olive Garden is an Italian restaurant.'" Labash is a Christian. They fight crime! They're both very smart and very funny writers, and the email exchange is more a friendly discussion than a debate per se. I highly recommend reading it. I laughed all the way through reading it, and then I laughed again all the way through skimming parts of it just now to write this entry.

Side note: At the end of that piece, there are a couple of links to other Slate pieces of potential interest (though neither is directly related to the above):

  • Blogging the Bible, in which David Plotz, a semi-observant Jew, reads through the whole Old Testament over the course of a year and blogs about his reactions; I've only read bits of the result, and I was a little put off by the intentional choice to not do research to find out more about various things before blogging about them, but there's some good stuff there too. And he notes at the end that getting feedback from readers enriched the experience: "At its best, Internet journalism fosters a collaboration between journalists and their readers, so that the readers actually shape and guide the work." (Side side note: I read the whole King James Version, Old and New, over the course of a little over a year back in the early '90s, as a cultural literacy project; it made me regret not taking any religion courses in college, but I got a lot of useful background and explanations by talking with knowledgeable friends.)
  • A piece from 2004 titled "Why the Ten Commandments make for such messy law," by Rod Smolla: a discussion of the tension between the Constitution and public displays of the Ten Commandments. Related to that: a slide show with commentary (by Laura Hodes), from 2002, of displays of the Ten Commandments in various places, and why they are or aren't constitutionally okay.

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