Book Review: The Year of Living Biblically -Reviewed by Matt Sieger

A few years back, A.J. Jacobs, editor at large for Esquire magazine and a secular Jew, decided to live one year attempting to keep every commandment in the Hebrew Scriptures and the New Testament. Then he wrote about it in the New York Times bestseller, The Year of Living Biblically: One Man’s Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible.

Jacobs has an engaging and funny style, but he also approaches his subject manner seriously and with reverence. He began his project by reading the entire Bible and writing down every command, which filled up 72 pages! Then he set out to practice as many of the commands as possible, often leading to bizarre situations. In accordance with Ecclesiastes 9:8 (“Always be clothed in white”), he wore white clothes every day, sometimes a white robe. This led to some interesting discussions, such as the one with an elderly man in the park who asked Jacobs why he was dressed like a prophet. Jacobs explained that he was trying to keep all the biblical commandments, including things like stoning adulterers. The man replied, “I’m an adulterer. Are you going to stone me?” Jacobs said yes, that would be great, and pulled some pebbles out of his pocket, whereupon the man grabbed the pebbles and threw them in Jacobs’s face. Jacobs figured he was now justified to return “an eye for an eye,” and threw one pebble at the man’s chest, thus “fulfilling” the command to stone adulterers!

On a more serious note, Jacobs obeyed the many commands to thank the Lord and after a while, thankfulness became a habit. He visited with a broad spectrum of people who profess faith in God, traveling to the Creation Museum in Kentucky, Jerry Falwell’s church, and Evangelicals Concerned (an organization for the gay and the gay-friendly). One obvious omission (at least to me) was Jews for Jesus. For an author who was trying to integrate the commands of the Hebrew Scriptures with those of the New Testament, we seemed like an obvious choice! I was pleased that he mentioned that when he ran into situations where the New Testament commands seemed to contradict those of the Hebrew Scriptures (forgiveness rather than “an eye for an eye,” for example), he went with the New Testament teaching. But he didn’t mention Jews who believe in Jesus.

When I asked the author why, I received this reply: “I actually did spend a bit of time with the Jews for Jesus folks, and found them fascinating and engaging. I even started a chapter on it, but the God's honest truth is, I ran out of space and time.” It’s nice to know we weren’t forgotten.

Throughout the book, Jacobs hopes that by keeping the commandments, he will be changed from within. By doing what the Bible says, he hopes to become more holy. But when he ends his experiment after a year, he admits to feeling a good deal of relief that he will no longer be worrying at every moment whether he might be violating a commandment. And other than being a more thankful person than when he began, he gives no evidence of permanent change.

That’s because Jacobs is putting the cart before the horse. Simply trying to obey the commandments doesn’t get us closer to God, because we first need a relationship with him. And we can’t have that relationship until our sins are washed away. Jesus made that possible when he died on the cross, shedding his blood to meet God’s requirement that sin be paid for. Jacobs didn’t give much attention in his book to Scriptures such as Joel 2:13: “Rend your heart and not your garments. Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and compassionate” or Psalm 51:17: “My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise.”

Our first order of business with God is repentance. Then, when we experience his forgiveness and are born again to new life, we discover the truth of these words from the New Testament: “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome” (1 John 5:3).


Fat Bastard said...
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Fat Bastard said...

Here are the quotes from Jesus that proves that he lied:

1) And Jesus answered and said to them, "Truly I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what was done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, `Be taken up and cast into the sea,' it will happen. "And all things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive." (Matthew 21:21-22 NAS)

2) Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. (Matthew 7:7-8 NAB)

3) Again I say to you, that if two of you agree on earth about anything that they may ask, it shall be done for them by My Father who is in heaven. For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst. (Matthew 18:19-20 NAS)

4) Amen, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, 'Be lifted up and thrown into the sea,' and does not doubt in his heart but believes that what he says will happen, it shall be done for him. Therefore I tell you, all that you ask for in prayer, believe that you will receive it and it shall be yours. (Mark 11:24-25 NAB)

5) And I tell you, ask and you will receive; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. (Luke 11:9-13 NAB)

6) And whatever you ask in my name, I will do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask anything of me in my name, I will do it. (John 14:13-14 NAB)

7) If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask for whatever you want and it will be done for you. (John 15:7 NAB)

8) It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name he may give you. (John 15:16 NAB)

9) On that day you will not question me about anything. Amen, amen, I say to you, whatever you ask the Father in my name he will give you. Until now you have not asked anything in my name; ask and you will receive, so that your joy may be complete. (John 16:23-24 NAB)

A lot of Christians ignore what Jesus actually says in the Bible. They also tend to add things to the actual words to make them say something else. If you honestly and truthfully read these quotes, without adding to them, it is very easy to see that Jesus is not saying that God will think about your prayers. He says God will grant all your prayers. Clearly, God doesn’t grant all prayers and this proves that Jesus was a habitual liar.

Jews for Jesus said...

This is an interesting comment. Have you thought about this...?

What would happen if God answered all of your prayers? Every last one of them? Who would be God? You or God?

Why did you feel you had to post this on our blog? If Jesus is a liar and a fake, then he should have no power over you. Maybe there is more to Jesus then you may have thought.

Maybe if you pray to him, he will answer as he promised, but not in the way you are expecting. After all, he is God, and you are not. Do you claim to know more than God? If so, why is He a threat to you?

privatepop said...

If a man could keep every law throughout his life, he wouldn't need a savior, Ex 19:5-6.
[5] Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine:
[6] And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation. These are the words which thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel.

But, we are born in sin, even as a baby we are in rebellion against God. Mainly to love Him. It is impossible. And so, we must die. The wages of sin is death.

John 7:19
Did not Moses give you the law, and yet none of you keepith the law.

Again in Acts 16
[30] And brought them out, and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved?
[31] And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.

This too is the Law that no man can keep, it is impossible. Mat. 19:24-26
[24] And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.
[25] When his disciples heard [it], they were exceedingly amazed, saying, Who then can be saved?
[26] But Jesus beheld [them], and said unto them, With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible.

The same is true for many commands, Repent, be baptized, confess, call upon the Lord. But it is not of works in the keeping of the law for we all have come short. Our faith of ourselves can not save us for that too is work, (1 Ths 1:3).

And here in is the answer Gal 2:16

Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.