The Year of Living Biblically
One Man's Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible
Raised in a secular family but increasingly interested in the relevance of faith in our modern world, A.J. Jacobs decides to dive in headfirst and attempt to obey the Bible as literally as possible for one full year. He vows to follow the Ten Commandments. To be fruitful and multiply. To love his neighbor. But also to obey the hundreds of less publicized rules: to avoid wearing clothes made of mixed fibers; to play a ten-string harp; to stone adulterers.
The resulting spiritual journey is at once funny and profound, reverent and irreverent, personal and universal and will make you see history’s most influential book with new eyes.
Jacobs’s quest transforms his life even more radically than the year spent reading the entire Encyclopedia Britannica for The Know-It-All. His beard grows so unruly that he is regularly mistaken for a member of ZZ Top. He immerses himself in prayer, tends sheep in the Israeli desert, battles idolatry, and tells the absolute truth in all situations—much to his wife’s chagrin.
Throughout the book, Jacobs also embeds himself in a cross-section of communities that take the Bible literally. He tours a Kentucky-based creationist museum and sings hymns with Pennsylvania Amish. He dances with Hasidic Jews in Brooklyn and does Scripture study with Jehovah’s Witnesses. He discovers ancient biblical wisdom of startling relevance. And he wrestles with seemingly archaic rules that baffle the twenty-first-century brain.
Jacobs’s extraordinary undertaking yields unexpected epiphanies and challenges. A book that will charm readers both secular and religious, The Year of Living Biblically is part Cliff Notes to the Bible, part memoir, and part look into worlds unimaginable. Thou shalt not be able to put it down.
What Talent Does Author A.J. Jacobs Wish He Had? Find out!
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Reading Group Guide
1. Why does Jacobs embark on his year-long biblical journey? What does he expect to find at its end? How do the questions he seeks to answer evolve as he immerses himself in the project?
2. Identify the formal and informal spiritual guides Jacobs consults during his year of biblical living. Whom do you find most instructive, most challenging to accept, and/or most spiritually compelling? Provide examples for each of your responses.
3. What are Jacobs's primary challenges in living the Bible as literally as possible? How does he attempt to resolve them? Is he successful? Why or why not?
4. Discuss the various religious groups that Jacobs visits during his year. How are they similar and different from each other? What contradictions does Jacobs uncover in their biblical living? What lessons does Jacobs take away from his encounters with these groups?
5. What role does prayer play in Jacobs's year-long journey? How does his relationship with prayer evolve? What meaning does he attach to prayer? Do you agree? Why or why not?
6. What specific issues arise as Jacobs shifts from the Old Testament to the New? What implications do they have for his entire biblical living project?
7. What value does Jacobs attach to the idea of surrendering? Why is surrendering such a challenge for Jacobs? Does Jacobs ever surrender? Why or why not?
8. What does Jacobs's relationship with his neighbor, Nancy in 5I, and the circumstance see more