I picked this book up as a surplus sale on my pilgrimage to Powell’s Books last summer. I had wanted to read one of Bruce Feiler’s books for a while, and it didn’t disappoint. Feiler writes all sorts of books by immersing himself in a culture or an experience and sharing his story. He is not a religious man himself, but his experience is interesting in a socio-historical kind of way.
So, in Walking The Bible, Feiler takes a trip around the middle east, retracing the story of the Bible, from creation to the Israelites’ conquest of the promised land. It’s an incredibly thorough adventure with loads of interviews, interesting encounters and dangerous encounters with authorities. It makes for an enjoyable ride. The first half is way better than the second though, as Feiler ends up spending about 200 pages talking about modern Israel, which was not interesting to me at all.
Here are some interesting tidbits,
- p.3, “I realized my unease might be a reminder of a truth tucked away in the early verses of Genesis: Abraham was not originally the man he became. He was not an Israelite, he was not a Jew. He was not even a believer in God – at least initially.”
- p.19, “When god began to create the heaven and the earth, the earth was unformed and void…and darkness was upon the face of the deep. In Hebrew…the word for deep is tehom, which means chaos. In Mesopotamia, chaos was represented by a sea monster, Tiamat. Tiamat is the root for tehom. We’re only in the second line of Genesis, and already we have a direct link to the cult of water in Mesopotamia.”
- p.58, “In antiquity, Chaldea was famous for one thing: astronomy…Josephus went further, suggesting that Abraham taught astrology to the Egyptians, who then taught it to the Greeks, which would make Abraham the father not just of western religion but also western science.”
- p.106, “in America there was an idea that the bible is a kind of machine; if you prove that two of the screws really existed, then the whole machine existed, and if you take out two of the screws, the whole thing collapses. But the Bible is not a machine. It doesn’t have screws.”
- p.317, “Another rebellion ensues, in which Miriam and Aaron, Moses’ siblings, speak out against their brother because ‘he married a Cushite woman,’ an apparent reference to the land of Sudan or Ethiopia, meaning they were upset that the woman was black.”