Read Good Book: The Bizarre, Hilarious, Disturbing, Marvelous, and Inspiring Things I Learned When I Read Every Single Word of the Bible by David Plotz Online


“Hilarious. . . . It’s Cliff Notes for Scripture—screenplay by Plotz, story by God. . . . In the end, though, the book is made by the spirit of the writer.” — The New York Times Book Review“Like the Bible itself, Good Book contains multitudes—it is by turns thought-provoking, funny, enlightening and moving.” — A. J. Jacobs, author of The Year of Living Biblically“Plotz is“Hilarious. . . . It’s Cliff Notes for Scripture—screenplay by Plotz, story by God. . . . In the end, though, the book is made by the spirit of the writer.” — The New York Times Book Review“Like the Bible itself, Good Book contains multitudes—it is by turns thought-provoking, funny, enlightening and moving.” — A. J. Jacobs, author of The Year of Living Biblically“Plotz is a genius writer.” — Franklin Foer, author of How Soccer Explains the WorldA whip-smart, laugh-out-loud tour through the most important book in the world, a book most people have never read: the Bible....

Title : Good Book: The Bizarre, Hilarious, Disturbing, Marvelous, and Inspiring Things I Learned When I Read Every Single Word of the Bible
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ISBN : 9780061374241
Format Type : Hardcover
Number of Pages : 319 Pages
Status : Available For Download
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Good Book: The Bizarre, Hilarious, Disturbing, Marvelous, and Inspiring Things I Learned When I Read Every Single Word of the Bible Reviews

  • David
    2019-02-25 09:16

    This is a fascinating, irreverent book that that summarizes the Bible, chapter by chapter. Oh, some chapters are bypassed, because in the words of David Plotz, "it is boring." The last chapter stands out as the most interesting, as the author asks the question, "Should you read the Bible?" The first reason is that so much of Western culture comes from the Bible. Plotz writes that it is difficult to get through a chapter--even a chapter in some obscure book--"without encountering a phrase, a name, a character, or an idea that has come down to us from 3,000 years ago." So many plot twists and fundamental ideas come to us from the Bible. And, throughout the book, Plotz reminds readers when a particular chapter contains these fundamental ideas, names, or phrases. The second reason for reading the Bible is to understand religious traditions--even traditions with which one does not agree.After reading the Bible, it is difficult to answer the question, "Why believe in a God that is unjust, merciless, unforgiving, and unloving?" That question comes up because the God described in the Bible is all those things. And besides, God is fickle and inconsistent! So much of the Bible is filled with barbaric concepts and commandments; at least by today's standards. These barbaric acts were probably commonplace in their own time. But then, how can we possibly say that the concept of a God makes moral laws absolute?I have never read the Bible in full. I guess I only have read the Sunday School portions. For example, in the Book of Esther, I thought that the book ended when the evil Haman was killed. But I do not recall that later, Esther persuaded the king to allow an extra day for a killing spree against the Jews' enemies. I never realized that Lot's daughters got their father drunk in order to commit incest. In Leviticus, God killed Aaron's sons because they used the wrong type of incense. And, if you have a disobedient son, you can take him to the elders of the town and have him stoned to death.This book, by recounting some of the inconsistencies in the Bible's precepts, is quite hilarious. David Plotz tries to get to the bottom of some of the motivations of the characters. For example, when God causes the ten plagues on the Pharoah, when you get down to it, the reason for the plagues is that God wanted us to tell stories about them! Plotz wonders why, when the Israelites were wandering through the desert for forty years, they were in constant rebellion. After all, didn't they recall all the amazing miracles that were happening all that time?In many of the chapters, Plotz shows how God hates brothers, detests women, but loves bald people. God likes carnivores, but not vegetarians. To get a flavor for the book, I offer this quote from the section on Chapter 16 of Ezekiel, This chapter is like the bad parts of Portrait of a Lady, Madame Bovary, and Married with Children all rolled up into a ball of rage. It's the first story to correctly understand that the psychological relationship between God and His people is not parent and child, but spouses. Returning to the question of why God would act like this, Plotz mentions the usual answer that "God acts in mysterious ways." But, he points out that we were born as rational beings. If God made us, giving us the tools to think, then we must examine God with "rational and moral inquiry. And He fails that examination."

  • Daniel
    2019-03-08 11:53

    An ignorant Jewish writer decided to read the Tanakh (Jewish Bible) for the first time and write about the experience book by book. Billed as "hilarious" and "inspiring" it isn't much of either in large part because of the lack of any real Jewish knowledge by the author. He reads Psalm 118 and says, "I don't think this psalm has much sway over Jews..." unaware that it is part of the Hallel service that is part of every holiday service and then skips over Psalm 145 (Ashrei) which is read three times a day, every day, in Jewish prayer services. It is that complete lack of knowledge that makes his discussion "hilarious" but only in the sense of being laughable, as when he introduces the Book of Deuteronomy by calling it "obscure" adding, that he has "never heard anyone recite Deuteronomy in the synagogue." By chapter 6 he's admitting he was wrong when he discovers the "Shema" there.Perhaps as a sequel he could read other texts he knows nothing about and share his ignorance on those. "I've never heard anyone mention the Sixth Amendment..."

  • Eris
    2019-03-07 08:09

    David Plotz, a secular Jew, discovers a horrifying story while browsing the Old Testament in a fit of boredom during an infrequent visit to a Temple service. So horrifying that he is compelled to pick up the Book and read the whole thing to see what other horrors he has missed. This book is a chapter by chapter (mostly) synopsis of the Old Testament, with commentary and some biting observations. I found his play by play color commentary to be insightful at times, and did very much enjoy this work. I DON'T recommend this for the savagely pious in any faith, it WILL piss them off. Fence sitters beware, this one might knock you off the fence, and not in the direction you think.

  • Lee Harmon
    2019-02-16 08:07

    100% recommended! This romp through the Hebrew Bible is much more than just fascinating and funny. It’s also engrossing, mildly irreverent, thought-provoking, disturbing--you'll love the Good Book whether you’re a believer or not. This is the Bible unveiled in all its grime and greatness. The characters in Genesis are especially unforgettable, from the story of Abimalech lusting after a 90-year-old woman (Sarah, Abraham's wife) to a diabolical mother-and-son plot to rob the simple-minded Esau of his blessing from an over-trusting father.Book by book, Plotz takes us through the scripture. If Genesis is the best part, then the appendix runs a close second. There you'll learn the Bible's twelve best pick-up lines, the thirteen most spectacular murders, the nine best parties, the best prostitutes, the most hellacious divine punishment, the trippiest dreams, and more.This is for all you skeptics who think reading the Bible is a waste of time. Plotz apparently thought the same thing before taking on this project. After thirty-nine books, 929 chapters, more than 600,000 words, and just over a year, Plotz admits he's become "a full-on Bible thumper. Everyone should read it--all of it! In fact, the less you believe, the more you should read."Start with this book as an introduction to get the juices flowing. Plotz is more than a good researcher, he's a great writer. I'm in awe. I could enthusiastically read anything he writes, I'm sure of it. So, when he tackles a topic already fascinating to me (the Bible) it's pure delight. He's also unfortunately a Jew, which means we only get the Old Testament in his Good Book. Please, David, can't you give Billy Graham a listen?

  • Corey Edwards
    2019-03-14 15:16

    Not quite the book I was hoping for but an interesting read none the less. Further, the book illustrates a contradiction that has perplexed me for years: faith despite wisdom.The author is a self-described faithful Jew whose rather shaky faith was greatly strengthened by reading every word of the bible. This despite the fact that doing so caused him to write a book that - very gently but also thoroughly - pokes holes both great and small in the fabric of the text throughout, leaving a tattered mess in his wake. How capricious and vicious is the god described, how sexually obsessed, violent, and ridiculous are the characters, how contradictory, disturbing, derivative, and utterly unbelievable the stories are.How anyone with the ability to see through this mess of poorly concocted fables could come away from the book with their faith strengthened is beyond me ... Fascinating are the illusions of man's need.

  • Jay Glickman
    2019-03-16 14:00

    Have I mentioned my profound contempt and loathing of religious fundamentalists? Probably. I was reminded today of the staggering loopiness of these right-wingnuts when Bobo Smyth-Bullard sent me a clipping concerning a fundamentalist's response to the late unpleasantness at Sea World, in which Shamu the "Killer Whale" lived up to his description and iced one of his trainers. Said response was swift and merciless; according to scripture, Shamu must be killed forthwith - via stoning. (How do you stone to death something that lives underwater?) Also, his surviving trainers must likewise be stoned to death for good measure, says the Bible. As often claimed, the Good Book has a solution for every problem, even if most of them involving throwing rocks at people (or aquatic mammals).I mention this as an introduction to a delightful book by David Plotz, the editor of Slate, in which he describes, chapter by chapter, his experience reading the whole of the Old Testament. (Like myself, Plotz is a mostly non-observant Jew - neither of us has much interest in the events that follow.) The result is an informative, thoughtful, and very, very funny look at the Good Book's many contradictions, acts of violence, pornographic interludes, and refreshing bits of fine poetry.Seriously, though - the Old Testament (which includes the five books of the Torah, plus a bunch of books about Prophets, Judges, Psalms, and a poor bastard named Job), is completely whacked. Some of the more outlandish incidents involve: golden hemorrhoids, a mountain of foreskins, killing a thousand people with a donkey's jawbone, the genocide of a dozen or more societies, and an almost endless number of hookers. Any fundie who claims to literally believe everything in here is unquestionably certifiable.Its not all hookers and hemorrhoids, though. Plotz's evaluation of the Bible, while frequently snarky, is also frequently thoughtful and respectful. His chief problem seems to lie in reconciling the notion of a loving and merciful God with the psychotically jealous and angry deity that informs most of the Bible's events. And it is a tough problem - frankly God's actions throughout tend to make lowly humans seem like paragons of virtue and sanity. Much of the wackiness of fundamentalism must come from trying to integrate the bitchy, vengeful God of the Old Testament with the cuddly, loving God of the Jesus era. In my opinion, fundies would save themselves a lot of needless anxiety by simply stipulating that God had a stroke sometime around 50 BC, and afterward had a whole different personality. Anyway, Plotz is at his best when he tries to resolve the violence, misogyny, and chaos of the Bible by applying his own personal interpretations of the text - simultaneously perplexed, humorous and humane, he demonstrates that taking anything in the book literally is the worst possible move. Ultimately, he advises his readers to do the work themselves - read the book, and work through the many contradictions on their own, and, as he did, find themselves deriving new inspiration from the process. I plan to start soon, and will post a review of the Good Book in due course.

  • Chris
    2019-02-26 07:48

    Because I grew up in a religious environment, I find secular views on the bible interesting. David Plotz made the choice to read his Jewish Bible for the first time. This was a new experience for him as he had forgotten most of the things he learned in Hebrew School. David writes this book in a chapter by chapter approach; the reader can see his understanding grow and his reactions change throughout the book. Many of his musings are notable, but two stand out: his acceptable name list and his realization that God loves those who think rather than follow blindly.Mr. Plotz discovers that the favorite people of God from the Bible, Abraham, Moses, David, Jacob, Elijah, etc., all argue, negotiate, make demands of God, and remind Him of His covenants. The God of the Bible does not like the automatrons, that blindly follow like sheep. I can see Yahweh saying, "I created you with free will, Me-Dammit, so you better use it!"

  • Grumpus
    2019-02-16 15:14

    I enjoyed the slightly irreverent look at his chapter-by-chapter reading of the Old Testament. Each Biblical chapter of significance (his opinion) is addressed through a brief summary of what is happening in “everyday” language and his humorous lens. It will shed new light on all those biblical stories you’ve heard about since you were a child. The appendix was especially interesting as it was a synopsis of useful (and not so useful) Bible lists. You never really knew what was in the Bible until you read/listen to this take on it. Finally, kudos to the author on doing a great job of narrating the book himself.

  • Joseph Rizzo
    2019-02-26 07:51

    What I enjoyed about this book:Seeing this through the eyes of a non-christian. He actually takes the time to read the OT. The things that caught his attention were interesting.What I didn't enjoy:Taking some of the OT narrative wildly out of context and reducing the actions of Almighty God to a petty, vindictive, and unjustly punitive God. It is unfortunate, but I know he is not the only one who sees it this way. It is his misunderstanding of human nature and the requisite judicial actions of God.

  • Natali
    2019-03-18 13:16

    One of the funniest books I've ever read. I loved it! Good Book is a summary of the Old Testament, told by David Plotz, an editor for Slate Magazine. It is his sincere effort to better understand the bible but his compendium is sarcastic, sardonic, and hilarious. I enjoyed the first half a lot more than I enjoyed the second half but that is not really Plotz's fault. The first half of the Old Testament has a lot more action than the last half. Still, the writing is fun enough to keep you engaged. Ii is interesting that researching the bible left Plotz more committed to Judaism, yet less committed to God. He concludes that there must not be a God, at least not the one that is described in the bible. I really can't do Plotz's humor justice so here are a few of my favorite snippets: "In other words, God is causing the plagues so that we can tell stories about the plagues. He's torturing the Egyptians so that we will worship Him. What kind of insecure and cruel God murders children so that His followers will obey Him, and will tell stories about him? This is the behavior of a serial killer." "Once we finish with slavery, it becomes clear that God is a hanging judge. His punishment for intentional killing is death. Punishment for kidnapping: death. Punishment for idolatry: death. Punishment for striking a parent: death. Punishment for insulting a parent: death. Punishment for bestiality: death. On the other hand, if you seduce a virgin, you only have to pay off her family. I don't understand how modern liberal Catholics, Jews, and Protestants can use the bible to justify their opposition to capital punishment. If there is one thing God truly believes in, it's a good old firing squad." "It turns out Deuteronomy consists of several rambling, Fidel Castro-length speeches by the dying Moses to his people. Think of it as the Moses farewell tour." "And there, my friends, you have practically the entire history of Israel, of the Middle East, and of planet Earth, in two short sentences. Your God says it's yours. Our god says it's ours. Meet you at nine AM on the battlefield."

  • Yaaresse
    2019-03-03 10:07

    David Plotz is a secular Jew who stumbled upon a biblical story that was so outrageous and appalling that it made him question his education (at a Jewish school) and his memory. He decided to read the Jewish Bible (aka Old Testament) to see what other bits of melodramatic crazy was tucked away in there. This book is the result of his effort to make sense of it. It is fascinating, subjective, and hilarious. Bible literalists and "because God says so" types are going to hate it. Those of us who have heard/read these stories and muttered, "Now wait just a dang minute..." will love it. When I was a kid and being dragged to a fundie church by my grandmother, I got into a heap of trouble for asking questions such as "If Adam and Ever were the first people and we're all descended form them, where did Adam and Eve's kids find their spouses unless there was some inbreeding going on?" and "If the only people who survived the great flood were those on the Ark, who were all related, then how did the repopulate the earth without...ok, again, incest?" (It's not that I was fixated on incest; it's that the expulsion from Eden and The Great Flood are on very heavy rotation in most Baptist Sunday Schools, so after a million repetitions, the flaws became obvious.) There was also, "Why, if God is supposedly omniscient, would he need a census taken? And then when David complies and takes one, why did God get all pissed off about it and punish David?" The answer to all the above and the bazillion others I came up with was "because." As anyone above the age of four knows, that's not an answer. Churches that practice literal interpretation twist themselves in knots trying to explain the inconsistencies. My opinion has always been that the answer to them is pretty simple: the Bible is comprised of folk tales. I'd read enough fairy tales, fables, and folklore when I was a kid to recognize the structure even then. Also? I was/am fairly certain that no one in the ancient Middle East spoke Elizabethan English, so there was no way to take anything in the KJV (or any version derived from it) literally. So, I was exposed to the Sunday School versions of these stories as a kid, then I read the whole Bible in college when I took world religion--and because our American Lit professor suggested a basic familiarity with the not-so-good book made understanding the neurosis of early American authors so much easier. I came to three conclusions about it: first, it's a hot mess (God apparently needs a good editor...and a anger management class); second, in order to be culturally literate in the western world, one needs a passing acquaintance with that hot mess because so many words, metaphors, and idioms are derived from it; three, all the stuff that people condemn other religions for is no worse or crazier than what can be found in the Old Testament. Murder, human sacrifice, infanticide, rape, torture, killing 100 men for their foreskins to buy a bride -- oh, yeah, and incest -- it's all in there. It makes Game of Thrones look like a Disney film. Still, I'd forgotten (or never absorbed) a lot of the things Plotz points out as he does his chapter by chapter read through the OT. It took a long time for me to read this because I had to keep pulling out the KJV to see if Plotz was exaggerating. (He wasn't.) The other reason it took forever is that the library only had the print version, and it has tiny crap font and lots of passages in teeny-tiny italics. My advice would be to go for the e-book version both to save eyestrain and to make looking up the original material easier should one have a "Wait...what?" moment. I wish Plotz would take on the New Testament next. I know he says that it's "not his book," but the argument can be made that the OT really wasn't either since he considered himself an agnostic secular Jew. The cultural literacy argument can be made for the NT as easily as the OT. Granted the NT isn't nearly as melodramatic and full of crazy as the OT, but I still think Plotz' read-along of it would be entertaining. NOTE: Religion tends to bring out the emotional and argumentative side of people heavily invested in it. These are my opinions and notes, not an invitation to argue, bait, or proselytize. If you come across this and don't agree with it or me, that's cool. Just move on. The internet is a big place.

  • Mark Russell
    2019-02-21 07:54

    Full of wit and insight, this book gives us the play-by-play on each book of the Hebrew Bible. I especially like the fact that Plotz approaches the Bible as an outsider. His critiques and observations are rarely theological, but are more often personal, ethical or literary in nature. He relates the Bible to us, not as a priest, but as a reader. Rather than getting into the murky scholarship of what the religious intent behind a passage might be, he usually opts for lay analysis along the lines of what a jerk Samson was, how spineless Aaron is being, or noting that God seems to prefer crafty winners to righteous whiners.Having just finished writing a book on the Bible myself, I noted a few minor differences between my interpretation of certain passages and his. For instance, when the Philistines captured the Ark of the Covenant in 1st Samuel, I had God afflicting them with tumors, whereas he has them suffering from a more benign case of hemorrhoids. Perhaps this case of divine rectal punishment is the result of different translations. He was working primarily from the Hebrew Bible, whereas I worked from the New International Version of the Christian Bible. I just like to imagine that somewhere Biblical scholars are locked in heated debate over the Hemorrhoid Question. The book is somewhat uneven, as its analysis of the history and law of the Hebrew Bible is more interesting than what it has to say about the Bible's poetry and prophecy, but I blame this more on the Bible than I do Plotz. The former loan themselves more to narrative and are generally filled with sex and violence and gossip, so the former naturally works better as source material than the abstract whimpering and bad love poetry of the latter. All in all, though, I found Plotz to be an able guide through a book full of treacherous waters and I can recommend this book in good conscience to anyone wanting to learn about the Hebrew Bible, aka the Old Testament.

  • Ruby
    2019-03-03 07:12

    When I began reading this book, I was sure I would be left feeling even more “Bible illiterate” than before, but I found the author to be enlightening and entertaining. I found him to be humorous, yet he seemed more real to me than many other authors who take on this type of commitment. I read the Old Testament as a child, but have to admit that I’d forgotten more than I realized, and never understood much of what I’d read. I also found it interesting that the church tends to pick pieces from the Bible to teach, ignoring the outer edges of the circumstances. For example, the church teaches children about the story of Daniel and the lions…but leaves out the fact that the people who turned him in for not praying to the king—along with their spouses and children—were thrown into the den after Daniel walked out. I also find it disturbing that women were rarely given attention (or even given a name), and a great many of them were prostitutes. Most women were lying, conniving, and evil. It honestly makes me wonder why women seem to be more willing to follow the Bible than men…when we get so little respect within its pages. The thing I like the most about this book is the author’s summary. He doesn’t make it sappy, and doesn’t try to explain it to fit within his ideal. He is clear and straightforward, allowing the reader to make up his or her own mind about the stories told within the Bible.

  • Therese1974
    2019-02-18 14:12

    There are several aspects of this book that I enjoyed. Firstly, the humor. David Plotz is is laugh out loud funny. Second, his Jewishness. It is my experience that while both Jews and Christians can write about God with various degrees of piety, disbelief, or irreverence, Jewish writers seem much more comfortable arguing with God. I'm Catholic so I find this fascinating... and a bit thrilling. Writers in my tradition seem to maintain a more pious attitude unless they've turned their back on God and/or the Church. I like that Plotz can appreciate that the Bible is a "messy Bible" for a messy world and find that satisfying. I appreciate that while Plotz's journey has lead him to be an agnostic leaning heavily toward atheism, he feels more connected to his own Jewishness and better appreciates the depth of influence the Bible has in Western culture and its enduring value. Most of all, I admire that he candidly states upfront his biblical illiteracy and responds to what he reads with an open mind. This is in massive contrast to most popular literature on religious topics where the norm seems to be a combination of unacknowleged ignorance and arrogance.

  • Tasha
    2019-03-14 11:00

    I have a family member who belongs to a church where you can't play music. But in the Bible, God clearly loves music - see David (he loved to dance....wait for it!) and all of Psalms. Also, David (yes, that David who killed Goliath) was gay. That's quite a shocker. His lover, Jonathan, was the recipient of his tears, kisses, and the confession that his love meant more to him than any woman. If that's not gay, then I don't know what is. It's interesting that Leviticus calls lying with a man as you would a woman an abomination, but there is no mention from God about David's blatant homosexuality. David ends up King and the recipient of God's good will. No smitting, or smotting...however you say it. Quite curious.Oh yeah and there are two (or is it three?) Ten Commandments. Priests and rabbis have watered down the Bible so much for their flock, it's no wonder the religion that's spurted out makes absolutely no sense. Modern Americans are simply too lazy to bother reading 600,000 words of anything.Plotz put in a good effort. And I am happily without theism.

  • Kerith
    2019-02-16 10:50

    As someone who has read the Bible numerous times, I read this with a grin on my face and enjoyed it very much. Plotz admits at the beginning that while he has gone to synagogue all his life and even went to an Episcopal high school, he has never read the Bible and intends to read it for the first time while blogging about the experience. I read most of this on when it was just a blog and the book is even more fun. He takes the Bible straight and writes about what he finds in it, his shock and amazement (THAT'S in there? yes it is) and discoveries both distasteful and joyful. His honesty and candor is refreshing. I would love to read something similar about the New Testament (Plotz, being Jewish, sticks with the Hebrew Scriptures). He is also hysterically funny to read. This is not a Bible study book, if you read it for that reason you will be disappointed. He is also not taking potshots at your faith, but he will raise perfectly good questions that are worth thinking about.

  • Sarah
    2019-03-15 13:13

    Simply excellent! I only made it through Exodus in my one attempt to read the bible, but through the conduit of David Plotz, I was riveted. And I assure you, he noticed far more of the consistencies (the importance of the number 40, the parallels or... em borrowed bits from one famous story to the next)and inconsistencies (in one chapter family values reigns supreme, in the next, women and children are cast off into the desert) than I ever would have.I feel more connected to the anthropological past than I ever have before, more respectful of the bible for the mere fact that it has survived all of these years, and more informed about the complex and messy stories contained in that book.Now, I'll have to see if someone has tackled the New Testament in a thorough and thoughtful a manner.

  • Guy Cranswick
    2019-03-12 12:10

    Extremely engaging and not only provides a superb overview of the old Testament but also insights into the books from a textual perspective. The humor adds tot eh irony and distance between the times in which it was written and our own.

  • Laurie
    2019-02-28 07:50

    I didn't expect to like this as much as I did. Plotz reads the entire Bible and basically sums it up in this book. I found his tone perfect-- irreverent but not insulting. This was a nice way to be refreshed on a lot of the parts of the Bible I had forgotten.

  • Melissa Service
    2019-03-11 09:14

    Interesting, but a bit irreverent. Most of his comments were based on a literal English reading of the text,and were similar to those from people who haven't actually taken the time to study or understand the culture or history of the Bible.

  • Hope
    2019-03-05 11:47

    The premise of the book is great. I enjoyed the first few chapters... and then... it gets really boring and repetitive....

  • Sarah -
    2019-03-01 09:05

    Loved the appendix with all the lists. Interesting read, review to come soon.++++++++++++++++++++++My book blog: anyone who knows me may have guessed by now, I am something of a reader. I devoured books left and right from elementary school on, and this love of reading (and writing!) was fostered even more in 6th grade by quite possibly one of the best teachers I have ever had, Mr. Hanzlik - more affectionately referred to simply as H. Seriously, he's one cool cat, and even the kids who hated reading loved his class. Well, in 7th grade I proudly told Mr. H I had finally found a book that might slow me down a little in my reading endeavors - the Bible. I remember this moment and him chuckling, saying only that it might. I had started it in an attempt to read it cover to cover and made it to Deuteronomy. I am kind of embarrassed to admit that in terms of cover-to-cover, I never made it any farther. Since then I have read different books of the Bible, there are my favorites that I can read over and over (Hello, Matthew!), but I have never been able to go start to finish, and my lone attempt remains that try in 7th grade. However, after reading this book, I am inspired to try again, but more about that later.Firstly, the author, David Plotz, is Jewish, so naturally his interpretation and relationship to the Bible is going to be different than mine. I am, to use the umbrella term, Protestant; baptized Lutheran, confirmed Methodist, now a member of a very wonderful Covenant church that is everything I have ever wanted a church to be with wonderful pastors and a congregation that has made me feel so welcome since my first service a year and a half ago. Plotz set out on this journey to read the Bible (or, the Old Testament, for us Christians) to see what kinds of insights and such he can glean for himself without someone telling him what this story or that really means. He is a self-proclaimed non-practicing Jew - one who is not particularly observant, vaguely knowing it when it is Sabbath, and rarely attending Synagogue. While at a cousin's bat mitzvah, he grows bored and opens the Torah, coming across the story of Dinah's rape and her brothers' subsequent revenge. Plotz is horrified not only by the story, but kind of of the realization that there is a lot in the Bible that he thought he knew, but actually doesn't. This book is the product of his year spent reading the Bible and his observations and thoughts along the way. He points at that even in the stories he thought he knew, those of Jacob vs. Esau, Cain vs. Abel, David, Solomon, etc., there were many things he did not.While Plotz uses humor and sarcasm, he has some really great insights that I think a lot of people might come to when reading the Bible on their own. I do take issue with some of the conclusions he draws, as he sometimes looked only at a specific event instead of the big picture. But by and large that was not terribly common and he made a lot of great observations.In the middle of Plotz's Biblical journey, he takes a trip to Jerusalem, to walk in these places that he is reading about. I am very jealous, as this is something I want so badly to do. I can't even begin to imagine being in these places where so much history has occurred, and to walk the place of the Bible, to see some of these places unchanged for thousands of years. I feel a kind of sadness for Plotz though, as the trip has brought him closer to the places he is reading about, but not to God. He says of the trip, "but I leave no more certain that God was here when it happened." Plotz talked about how thrilling it was to see these places, but I felt as I was reading that couldn't that be God working though his experience with him, speaking to him? I don't get the sense from Plotz that he really WANTS to believe in God, so maybe that is why this does not occur to him? He just doesn't see to be able to acknowledge perhaps he feels this way because God is present with him at that moment.Plotz continues to read the rest of the Old Testament, and his own conclusion leaves me a bit heartbroken for him. I find it interesting that this journey through the Bible brought him closer to his religion, his Jewishness, so to speak, but farther from God, if possible. He says, "I leave the Bible as a hopeless and angry agnostic. I'm broken-hearted about God." And this is perhaps where the differences of our two faiths became most apparent as I was reading, and this is something Plotz acknowledges. He relates how he has discussed this with Christian friends, who say it is all a set-up for the New Testament. Plotz points out though, "But that doesn't work for me. I'm a Jew. I don't, and I can't, believe that Christ died for my sins. And even if he did, I still don't think that would wash away God's epic crimes in the Old Testament." This line made me just so sad for him. But again, that shows where and how our beliefs differ from Judaism to Christianity.There were a lot of great quotes Plotz has throughout. Here are a few of my favorites:In regards to the laws of Leviticus (page 59): "But if there's anything I've learned from these months with the Good Book, it;s that we all have our own Bible. We linger on the passages we love and blot out, or ague with, or skim the verses that repel us. My Bible, I suppose, has a very long Leviticus 19, and a very short Leviticus 18."Page 81: "So Numbers 27 is a liberal's paradise: the first lawsuit, the first women's rights, the separation of church and state."Page 128: "Saul, like a greedy president or King Henry VIII, is trying to undo the separation of powers."Page 131: " 'The shaft of his spear was like a weaver's beam, and his spear head weighed 600 shekels.' I don't know what that means, but it sounds scary."Page 142: "Question: how do Christian denominations and colleges that forbid dancing reconcile their position with God's obvious love for the cha-cha."I really appreciated Plotz taking on such a behemoth of a task. Like the author, there were many things I thought I knew about the Old Testament, that I learned in Sunday School or Confirmation classes in high school, but it turned out I only had part of the story. I would agree with Plotz that Samson was a total meat head - how did he NEVER catch on that Delilah was plotting against him the whole time?! I also didn't know he had been married before Delilah came along. I was also unaware that David had a son with Bathsheba BEFORE SOLOMON. I don't know why this is news to me, and I felt at times as I was reading like the Bible was a completely foreign text to me. I also didn't know/recall Jonah being such a baby when God decided to save Nineveh after He ordered Jonah to go and Jonah first refused (and thus the whale had to help him along on his journey).I also never realized how many phrases we still use today have their roots in the Bible. Plotz points out many of them, more than I made note of, but a few examples include a leopard not being able to change his spots, and the root of the awful word jeremiad (I can't remember the book I recently read that used this word incessantly, but now I know where it came from - Jeremiah and his long-windedness!) The phrase about 'picking up the mantle' is another example. Plotz sums it up nicely, saying (page 300): "It was as if I lifted a veil off my culture. You can't get through a chapter of the Bible, even the most obscure book, without encountering a phrase, a name, a character, or an idea that has come down to us from 3,000 years ago,"A few other things of note as I wrap this up:I was glad to see that the story of David and Goliath lived up to Plotz's childhood memories and that in turn it lived up to mine too. This has always been one of my favorite stories and as we approached it, I was concerned there would be something I had not been taught in Sunday School that would come to light and ruin it. Luckily, this did not happen and my memory of this story is safe.Plotz suggests, due to Isaiah's temperament (he describes reading Isaiah's book as "like being trapped in an elevator with Al Sharpton") adding the phrase "You idiots!" to the end of any verse in Isaiah. it turns out pretty funny. I recommend you try it too.From Plotz's summary alone, Ruth might be my favorite book. I have yet to read it in its entirety, but I plan to very shortly. Maybe even after I finish this review.So, in the end, I highly recommend this book. You may not agree with every conclusion that Plotz comes to, but I learned so much more about the Old Testament than I thought I would - mostly because I thought I already knew these big stories. Turns out I didn't know them as well as I thought. Like Plotz, many things God did made me angry, made me question Him, made me want to know more. It also made me angry at times at David, Solomon, and a myriad of others I thought were so upright and constantly faithful.The last quote I will leave you with sums up nicely how to reconcile this very problem:"It reminds us that the Bible is not an idealization, but a book written by (and about) real people, who can be both scornful and kind, faithful and cruel, sarcastic and sweet - as their God can be, too." I think this is so important to remember. I learned so much more about people from the Bible who I thought I knew, but it is important to remember that they were people too. Not perfect, but sometimes deeply flawed. Still, God chose them to perform amazing feats, in spite of or because of those very flaws. I am inspired to start again - and this time finish - what I began in 7th grade. It might take me a year - or longer, as I of course intend to read the New Testament as well - but that is my goal.

  • Adam Glantz
    2019-03-06 13:11

    David Plotz is no fool, but he does rush in where angels fear to tread, reading his way through the Hebrew Bible without much help from the massive and multi-generational tradition of commentary on the work. He's irreverent and skeptical, yet not dourly obsessed with disproving the Bible; he's also more sophisticated and well-read than his frequent self-deprecation would lead one to believe. The result is an account that's thoughtful, sensitive, and frequently laugh-out-loud hilarious, though it shows its origin as a blog in its unevenness (e.g., among other things, Plotz doesn't have an entry for every chapter in the Bible, and some entries are themselves perfunctory). The fact that Plotz is an agnostic Jew with scholastic and friendship links with Christianity makes his book appropriate for Jews, Christians, and non-believers alike.In his march through the Bible, Plotz makes numerous interesting connections and draws enlightening conclusions. I wasn't surprised by his anguished discovery of lots of nigh-genocidal violence, unethical sex, and family conflict in Scripture, but I was particularly struck by his observation that God seems to prefer clever (e.g., Solomon) and contentious (e.g., Moses) spokesmen above the naive and the good (e.g., Esau). At a higher level, I also appreciated Plotz's evolutionary analysis of the Bible, marking its progression from the self-interested motivations of the patriarchs to the ethical imperative of Samuel to the universal morality of the literary prophets; and from the ethnocentric insularity of the Torah-era community to the universal morality of some of the later writings and even to the world-weary skepticism of Habakkuk and Ecclesiastes.In the end, Plotz encourages a study of the Bible as indispensable for any well-rounded person. Its metaphors are the foundation of Western languages like English, its books are often the first treatment of particular theological and philosophical subjects in Western civilization, and its pronouncements are the bedrock of our religious and social life to this day. He's less optimistic about God, whose vengeful biblical characteristics he finds alienating. But he notes, in a classically Judaic coda, that engaging with the God of the Bible got him to think seriously about numerous moral and theological topics: this engagement, rather than resigned belief, is the real import of the Bible's theophany.

  • James Frederick
    2019-03-13 14:16

    I really liked this book. Although I consider myself a strong Christian, I sometimes have a complicated relationship with the Bible. Some of the things pointed out by the author contribute to that. That said, I want to know as much as I possibly can about God and the Word. This author set out to do just that, by reading the Old Testament, from cover to cover. While doing so, he unearthed dozens of stories that usually get buried in footnotes and are not discussed in church or synagog. These stories add whole other dimensions to the Bible and make the Bible more true to life. I also appreciated the author's tone. As irreverent as it often was, it was also generally very humorous. Another book that I enjoyed that this book reminded me of was "The Bible Tells Me So," by Peter Enns. I think that the author of "Good Book" would benefit from reading that book, as it would answer some of the questions and challenges that he expressed. I highly recommend BOTH of these books.

  • Susan
    2019-03-13 07:02

    A fantastically book to read,whether familiar with the Bible or not. We are taken along with Plotz as he discovers the ‘messiness’ of the biblical text and the nuances of its characters. I certainly didn’t agree with Plotz in all his conclusions, but the journey of discovery was enjoyable.

  • Erin
    2019-03-02 06:59

    Loved it!

  • Jeff Cherpeski
    2019-03-03 14:48

    Fun book. Well worth it for the asides on the stories of the mess that is the old testament.

  • Tiffany
    2019-02-27 13:12

    This book is absolutely a hoot!! It was thought provoking and laugh out loud at the same time!

  • Ann Frost
    2019-02-19 13:07

    The author reads the Old Testament and provides us with the Coles Notes version - detailing chapters and their contents for us. It was both hilarious in parts and fascinating in others. The OT is filled with some really gruesome stories - stories that thankfully I was spared as a child going to Sunday School. If you've never actually read the Bible (I have not) but are vaguely curious about what all is in there, this is your book.

  • Al Bità
    2019-03-10 07:55

    It must be part of my masochistic tendencies to being intrigued by books such as this! Maybe it is the subtitle to the title: "The bizarre, hilarious, disturbing, marvellous, and inspiring things I learned when I read every single word of the Bible"?Be that as it may, this book is essentially an apologia by a self-confessed non-observant Jew for the Hebrew Bible. (This, by the way, is different from the Christian Old Testament, which is supposed to be based on the old greek translation allegedly made ca 250 — 132 BCE, known as the Septuagint (aka LXX). The Hebrew Bible is, however, different from the Christian Old Testament, which the Jewish leaders considered to be too 'christianised'. The final official version of the 'proper Jewish/Hebrew Bible was not completed until ca. 1000 CE — but this is all quite another story, complex and fascinating in its own way). Plotz is not concerned with being a Biblical scholar: he is merely telling his readers what he 'gathered' from reading his translation of the Hebrew Bible, and wants to be associated with it as a form of self-identification.I'm sure Plotz's comments throughout would often give conservative observant Jews regular bouts of heartburn, if not downright apoplexy… He approaches his task to read the work from Go to Whoa, noting what he reads and comparing this with what he remembered from his upbringing. So he finds certain contradictions, some disturbing, some bizarre, but otherwise, he will always side more or less on the gentler interpretations, tending to see the work as a life-style manual; and he ends up saying that he finds the source of his identity in the work (much, I suppose, like Jedi Warriors, or Vampire slayers, or teenage magicians might find their identities in their defining texts…)Also, in general, Plotz reads the work as if it is a novel — it starts at Genesis 1 (but biblical scholars know that this was one of the later chatters added ca 5th-c BCE), and then basically continues through to the establishment of Judaism in ca. 5th-c BCE. Any Biblical scholar worth his or her salt would know better. Plotz is more concerned with retelling the stories, accepting the reasoning and/or motivation of the book's creators (if they say X or Y is 'evil' then so be it. Two particularly annoying 'interpretations' relate to king Saul (perhaps the more humanistic and interesting character of the Bible) who is simply dismissed as being mad — no mention of some basic inconsistencies in the texts, nor any suggestion that since the writers of the relevant books were concerned to justify David's ascension, they had to somehow write down and degrade the chosen king (and David does not waste much time in eradicating Saul's sons after his ascension…); and Jezebel, who has gone down in history as perhaps the most abhorrent person on earth (Plotz' reaction: never name a daughter after her!) when a more objective reading of the text would reveal that the true horror is the 'good' Jehu, who is in fact a usurper king (made so by Elisha) who becomes a subversive traitor to his own king, and kills not only him but the other contenders of the northern Israel kingdom. Jezebel (king Ahab's wife, and mother of king Jehoram of Judaea) sees through Jehu's push for power and sneers at him, so he orders her killed, and runs over her body, not even bothering to bury the remains. Jehu is the 'good' Yahwist who kills three kings, usurps the throne, murders all the priests of Baal by burning them all in their place of worship, and reveres the worship of the golden calves at Dan and Bethel.If this is what Ploz thinks is good and worthy of identifying with, then good luck to him! Plotz's work merely reaffirms for the meek the need to disregard truth or accuracy and reinforce a gentle, not-too-observant life-style for such Jews to identify with. I can imagine someone doing the same for Hitler's Mein Kampf for 'good', non-observant Germans to use as the buss for a modern self-identifying life-style, and pointing out that the book is merely outlining the struggle one needs to bear in order to complete God's Christian work on earth with the new chosen race…Am I being biased? You betcha!