Monday, August 20, 2001

the bible, reviewed

The Bible, ghost-written by God, is one of the most interesting books I ever have read. With the assistance of 35 to 40 other writers, God has produced in the Bible what may be the most sweeping and transcendental romance of Eastern literature.

The Bible wastes little time in introducing us to its main character -- God himself, giving the book an autobiographical twist unusual for this genre -- and establishing its essential conflict in the form of a love triangle among God, humanity and other deities, ideals and goods.

From that simple start begins a truly epic tale as God, moved to jealousy when humanity spurns him, is forced nearly to destroy the entire human race at one point before dividing the race into manageable groups and developing a particularly close relationship with the Jewish race through which he intends to reconcile the rest of humanity to himself.

After this relationship begins, the story follows generations of the Jewish people as they alternately honor and dishonor their contract with God. Through it all, although the book is laced with incredible and often graphic perjorative over his loved ones' idolatry, God upholds his side of the contract, and demonstrates the full depth of his love through a personal sacrifice that by the end of the book restores the relationship lost at the start of the book.

The Bible is a curious blend of history and poetry, of human stories and dry philosophy, legal codes and genealogies, prevarications against forms of behavior God deems sinful, and statements so radical and tremendous that they would be sure to transform any society that dared embrace them. (I particularly was impressed with the devotion God shows to the disenfranchised, spending the bulk of his time with people most of his followers wouldn't be caught dead with: prostitutes, the homeless, drunkards, and other unrespectable and immoral sorts.)

It is these thoughts and the strong human element to the divine story -- who can forget the story of Joseph and his brothers, or the courage of Queen Esther? -- that have made the Bible a bestseller and a cornerstone of literature. When God's writing is dry, it is hard to stay awake through it, but when he gets going, the stories will leave an indelible mark.