The Good Book

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Slate editor David Plotz writes about some of the bizarre, hilarious, wonderful and disturbing things he took away from a literal reading of The Bible in The Good Book.


David Plotz

Comments [27]

Dan from NJ


For those looking for a god worthy of worship it is exactly the point.

In either case, there were other parents in the bible who sacrificed their children to god.


Mar. 31 2009 04:47 PM
Gabrielle from NYC

david has an awesome voice...

Mar. 31 2009 03:08 PM
Edward Helmrich from Larchmont, NY

Perhaps those rough stories are in the Bible to bring us up from the time of the Fall to then, a time of lawlessness and savagery. And to tell us that God isn't unaware of human savagery and viciousness.
There are indeed several books that stand at the basis of a religion, but it's not an undisputed point to say that they are all equal in importance or truth.

Mar. 31 2009 02:47 PM
Amy from Manhattan

Dan [17], that's not the point. Many people today think, how could God ask Abraham to sacrifice his own son? But that wasn't even the question in those times. The other instances of bloodshed weren't unusual either (& too often still aren't), but that doesn't diminish the importance of a ban on child sacrifice at a time & place where everyone around Abraham & Sarah was committing it.

Mar. 31 2009 02:26 PM
Amy from Manhattan

As someone who learned enough Hebrew to read the Scriptures in the original only as an adult (after on-&-off Hebrew school in childhood), I agree that it's worth doing. There are levels of meaning & connection that just don't come through in translation. And I found that the Torah is full of puns & wordplay, esp. in the earlier parts. Everett Fox has done an English translation that attempts to convey this complexity. It can give you a better idea of it, but it also makes for some awkward English. Me, I'm waiting for the version that translates the usual "And those of you who cleaved unto the Lord your God..." as "And those of you who stuck with the Lord your God...."

I also agree that teaching about the influence of religion on political/legal/social systems shouldn't be restricted to the religions that are most widespread in the country where they're being taught. I'd rather see a wide-ranging course on how religions have shaped such systems around the world. We need to know what perspectives people in other countries might have so we can understand how what we're saying sounds to them (like what a "crusade" sounds like in the places where the Crusades actually happened) & avoid having knee-jerk reactions to what may be inoffensive expressions in their cultures. (This goes both ways, of course; ideally, the people in the other countries--or across the street-- would have the same understanding of us.)

Mar. 31 2009 02:11 PM
the truth from Atlanta/New York

Jesus wept.

Mar. 31 2009 01:36 PM
hjs from 11211

there was very little of the bible in this segment, I was disapointed. here's a gem: the people of Sodom want to rape some strangers (who happen to be angles) lot says no no don't rape them take my virgin daughters rape them instead.

if lot was such a good man why didn't he move before. why was he living among such wickedness?

anyone else have any good bible stories.

Mar. 31 2009 01:27 PM
Jon P. from Hewitt, NJ

Oops, I meant "Yet our constitution could not even exist without democracy".

Mar. 31 2009 01:07 PM
jude from brooklyn

A writer from Esquire wrote a book a couple of years ago called "The Year Of Living Biblically". Really entertaining, he goes all the way with it and follows every rule in the bible, it's amusing, light, and yet very thoughtfully written.

Oh, and I totally agree with Voter from Brooklyn if your gonna teach one you HAVE to teach them ALL!

Mar. 31 2009 01:04 PM
David from Queens

The underlying assumption is that the Bible could not have actually come from God himself, but is of human origin. If it is indeed from God than it presents a different picture of God because it is God himself who presents his followers as flawed. Why not interview someone who actually believes the Bible is true? You seem to avoid interviewing intellectually honest believers like Tim Kellor and Ravi Zacharias. Any reason?

Mar. 31 2009 01:04 PM
Jon P. from Hewitt, NJ

Our country was founded on the Bible? The Bible is a more important document then the constitution? What verse in the bible did democracy come from? Oh, that’s right, democracy is not even mentioned once in the Bible. Yet our constitution could not even exist with democracy.

Mar. 31 2009 01:02 PM
Dan from NJ

Amy, don't get too involved in Abraham's son surviving. There was plenty of innocent blood spilled in the bible to make up for it.

Mar. 31 2009 01:02 PM
Amy from Manhattan

Actually, there is something surprising about the near-sacrifice of Isaac: the fact that it didn't happen. We can't read these stories from a present-day context. At the time of Abraham, child sacrifice was commonplace & expected. What's revolutionary about this story is not that God asked Abraham to sacrifice his son but that He stopped him from going through with the sacrifice.

Mar. 31 2009 12:59 PM
Elaine from Baltimore MD

Sorry, they didn't gloss over these stories in the yeshiva that I send my son to. I at least hope you read it in the original Hebrew to get all the subtle, important nuances that the language reveals.

What is taught in elementary school & high school is just that... an elementary, high school level. What math were you taught in elementary school? Would you equate that level with what is taught at an advanced level post doc level at MIT?

Sorry this is way too superficial an understanding of something too important in life.

Mar. 31 2009 12:58 PM
Voter from Brooklyn

I had a great deal of respect for your guest and his exercise until he showed how dismissive he was to knowledge of non-dominant religions in the United States. The fact that not all Americans are Christian or Jewish aside, is he proposing that the secular and those who proscribe to other religions should just suck it up and deal while this is being taught in state sponsored schools? I won’t argue that religion, in general, shouldn’t be taught in the schools, but being selective about which will and which will not even if it is “American” it is unconstitutional. That kind of thinking has led to many of the problems we have today in working with the world community.

Mar. 31 2009 12:57 PM
Brenda from New Jersey

From a Christian (non-denominational) point of view, I would say that no church can interpret the Bible for us, and that we should indeed read the Bible and learn about our beliefs. This is ofcourse assuming we are willing to see things with spiritual eyes, heart, and mind.

Mar. 31 2009 12:57 PM
Edward Helmrich from Larchmont, NY

From a Catholic point of view, the Bible was written by God, so the intent of the human author is only part of the explanation of the book.

Mar. 31 2009 12:57 PM
Amy from Manhattan

I once heard someone propose that Jacob was Judaism's trickster figure.

Mar. 31 2009 12:57 PM

As a Hindu I would not want the Old Testament taught in school. When you say "we" or "us" speak for yourself sir.

If you want to make the argument about building civilization, it is the Hindu mathematical concept of the number zero that built modern civilization. You wouldn't have computer code w/o zero.

In addition, Hindu/Arab numerals are the foundations of commerce. See Niall Ferguson's book the ascent of money.

The Muslim world made great contributions to society when they were at the height of their power.

Mar. 31 2009 12:56 PM
Phoebe from NJ

Ah! Tales of mythology from long-gone tribal customs. A great foundation for our Civilization...

Mar. 31 2009 12:55 PM
Noah from Brooklyn

Perhaps addressing some of the odd discrepancies in the Books, such as the existence of two creation myths.

Mar. 31 2009 12:53 PM
Edward Helmrich from Larchmont, NY

If I remember correctly, Abraham wasn't quite indignant ... he said more 'Forgive me if I dare to speak to my God in this way...', yes, a great moment.

Mar. 31 2009 12:53 PM
Dan from NJ

Everything I need to know about raising a family I learned from Lot.


Mar. 31 2009 12:52 PM
Tony from San Jose, CA

They teach about religious book (Bible and Quran) in France. And religious life is much less visible there than in the US; French people would be horrified to hear their president say "God Bless France"

Mar. 31 2009 12:51 PM

Have you read your colleague at Slate, Christopher Hitchens book on religion? And, do you agree with his assessment of the New and Old testament? Have you debated Hitchens. He has nasty things to say about circumcision.

Mar. 31 2009 12:49 PM
Edward Helmrich from Larchmont, NY

From a Catholic point of view, that's one function of the Church: the Church authoritatively interprets it for us.

Mar. 31 2009 12:48 PM
james from caroll gardens

I read the entire Bible over a year when I was in the eighth grade. Too bad they didn't have blogs back then.

Mar. 31 2009 12:45 PM

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