How to follow the Bible literally.

March 2, 2009 | By | 5 Replies More

Writer A. J. Jacobs embarked upon a one-year attempt to follow all of the rules in the Bible. To do so, he first wrote down every rule he spotted in the Bible (he came up with 700). Following those rules was difficult, however, especially when he didn’t quite understand them. For instance, where are the “corners” of one’s beard?

Though his talk is often humorous, Jacobs reveals some serious epiphanies he had along the way. For instance, he found that his behavior sometimes changed his thoughts (he found that visiting sick people made him more compassionate rather than the other way around). He learned to give thanks for the hundreds of things that went right every day, rather than focusing on the few things that went wrong. He learned to have reverence for many aspects of his life, even though he remained an agnostic through the whole experience. He also learned that he shouldn’t completely dismiss that which is irrational, and we all have irrational aspects of our lives (is blowing out birthday candles on a cake rational?).

You’ll enjoy Jacobs’ understated delivery and his respect for those who are different. His talk is well worth a viewing, no matter where you fall on the belief continuum.


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Category: Humor, law and order, Meaning of Life, Religion

About the Author ()

Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich lives in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where he lives half-time with his two extraordinary daughters.

Comments (5)

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  1. Dan Klarmann says:

    I'd bought and read The Year of Living Biblically: One Man's Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible last May. I had previously read his The Know-It-All: One Man's Humble Quest to Become the Smartest Person in the World.

    The latter book, the subject of this post, has been lent to and read by about a half dozen of our friends. Is this stealing?

    Anyway, both books are great studies in the behavior of someone with borderline Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Fun and easy reads, though.

  2. Great talk! And a great experiment! I admire his willingness to be his own test subject.

    I just wish he would have called ME before he started. What a cool documentary that would have made!

  3. Les Ray says:

    Erich, I saw your post about A.J. Jacobs, and I want to say that I believe that after listening to his talk, He really misses the mark in his understanding of "how to follow the Bible literally"

    Jacobs attempts to follow a set of rules and regulations to find meaning in scripture. But in reality he is missing the entire point of the Bible. A.J. wasted a year of his life

    The real truth of the Bible, what the Old Testament points to, and what the New Testament reveals, is all about the need we have for a relationship with God, through Jesus Christ, our Messiah.

    The point of the Old Testament Laws is that it is impossible to be perfect in all of the law, therefore we are all lawbreakers and in need of something beyond us, in order to fulfill the law.

    God sent Jesus to be the perfect fulfillment of the Law… If we accept Him, and believe on Him as our means of forgiveness, we can live life to the full as He designed it to be.

    The point of faith in Christ, revolves around relationship not rules. When we are in relationship with Him, he shows us and helps us to live by His Word, under the New Covenant as revealed in the New Testament. We are no longer under the dictates of the Law, such as "not cutting the corners of our beard" because those laws have been fulfilled in Christ.

    I am sorry that AJ wasted a year of his life and never found out the truth that can set Him free… it's not about rules, it's about a relationship with God, through Jesus Christ, our Messiah.

  4. Dan Klarmann says:

    Les: If you'd read his earlier book, The Know-It-All, you'd see that the year wasn't wasted. It was an exercise in application for a borderline OCD author.

    In your view, apparently every year spent as a Jew is wasted. And every year spent as a Hindu, Buddhist, Taoist, Shinto, Muslim, Zoroastrian, Sikh, Confucian, Unity?

    How many of the 38,000 Christian denominations are just wasting their time? They mostly all agree that the others are misguided and hell-bound. Assyrian and Mormon and Lutheran and Voodoun and Russian Orthodox and Catholic and …

  5. Jim Razinha says:

    I picked up a copy some time last year at HPB and only just decided to read it this week. I enjoyed his writing – made me laugh more than a few times – and have added Know It All to my search and acquire list. (And while Les’s comment is more than two years old, I’ll add that he missed the mark on Jacobs’s year.)

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