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Tilting at Windmills

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June 8, 2007
By: Kevin Drum

CONGRATULATIONS....A little over a year ago, David Plotz decided to read the Bible and blog a bit of it every day for Slate. My prediction: "Plotz himself will be lucky to make it past the two-week mark."

On Wednesday, Plotz proved me wrong: "After 39 books, 929 chapters, more than 600,000 words — and just over a year — I've finally finished reading the Hebrew Bible." Impressive work, though I note that he seems to have zipped through 2 Chronicles mighty quickly. But congratulations anyway. Apparently a book is in the works.

Kevin Drum 12:20 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (29)

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Comments

Nice about the Bible reader, Kevin, but where are the CAT pics for the week???????

Posted by: phoebes on June 8, 2007 at 12:32 PM | PERMALINK

It was a great series but I wish he had taken a shot at the New Testament. Or the Koran. His own faith gave him cover to criticize the Hebrew Bible but his take on the the other allegedly holy books would have been entertaining and insightful as well.

Posted by: Nonplussed on June 8, 2007 at 12:39 PM | PERMALINK

Plotz may have plotzed through the whole Hebrew bible, but how many readers made it past that two week mark?

Posted by: Happy Chandler on June 8, 2007 at 12:39 PM | PERMALINK

He's writing a book about reading a book?

Posted by: tomeck on June 8, 2007 at 12:42 PM | PERMALINK

Right up there with Lord of the Rings in the epic fantasy series catagory . . .

Posted by: rea on June 8, 2007 at 12:43 PM | PERMALINK

He's writing a book about reading a book?

Hopefully, it'll be a revelation.

bucketafish

Posted by: JM on June 8, 2007 at 12:45 PM | PERMALINK

I can not believe he made it past the first week reading the bible, I thru it down after the first hour.

Posted by: angela on June 8, 2007 at 12:46 PM | PERMALINK

Plotz's series is first rate. It's worth being highly recommended, if nothing else because the style and approach is reminiscent of that of Edmund (?) Leach. You know, he of "Levi-Strauss in the Garden of Eden".

Posted by: Ither on June 8, 2007 at 12:50 PM | PERMALINK

2 Chronicles is just a rehash of 2 Kings, if I recall correctly!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Posted by: TreeTop on June 8, 2007 at 12:51 PM | PERMALINK

Right up there with Lord of the Rings in the epic fantasy series catagory . . . Posted by: rea

Hardly. Tolkien had an imaginative mind and was able to create a believeable alternative world. The Bible is a simple-minded snoozer from page one. The New Testament, particularly is the sections describing the alleged life of Jesus, is positively Rashamon-like.

Posted by: JeffII on June 8, 2007 at 12:51 PM | PERMALINK

600,000 words? Obviously a sign that the Bible was written by humans. How about "Be nice to one another."

Posted by: Robert on June 8, 2007 at 12:56 PM | PERMALINK

600,000 words? Obviously a sign that the Bible was written by humans. How about "Be nice to one another."
Posted by: Robert on June 8, 2007 at 12:56 PM | PERMALINK

Or, "Be excellent to each other, and party on dudes!"
-- Bill & Ted

Posted by: rusrus on June 8, 2007 at 1:02 PM | PERMALINK

you can take the bible for whatever you want, but if you call it simple-minded, you haven't read it, and you haven't been paying attention to the last 2,000 years of history.

Posted by: mudwall jackson on June 8, 2007 at 1:03 PM | PERMALINK

Plotz called the last chapter of Leviticus "a whimper" dedicated to "taxation and tithing". He seems to have missed the instructions in that chapter on human sacrifices. That tends to grab one's attention. At least it did with me when I first read it.

But having blogged through the most boring book in the Bible, he can't be blamed for being inattentive by that point.

It was an enjoyable journey and I liked his observations on interpersonal relationships from a relatively objective, human (as opposed to religious) viewpoint, for example his comments on Isaac, Esau and Jacob.

Posted by: captcrisis on June 8, 2007 at 1:28 PM | PERMALINK

He's writing a book about reading a book?

See A.J. Jacobs's The Know-It-All about reading through the entire Britannica. This is old hat.

Posted by: Jason on June 8, 2007 at 1:39 PM | PERMALINK

Well, in its defense, TreeTop, 2 Chronicles isn't an exact rehash of 2 Kings. The editor took the trouble of removing the more interesting passages.

Posted by: nicteis on June 8, 2007 at 1:42 PM | PERMALINK

600,000 words? Obviously a sign that the Bible was written by humans. How about "Be nice to one another."
Posted by: Robert on June 8, 2007 at 12:56 PM | PERMALINK

Written by LAWYERS.

By the way, for anyone else still wondering, out there, Pi still isn't 3.0.
(that's the extent of my commentary on the OT).

Posted by: osama_been_forgotten on June 8, 2007 at 1:56 PM | PERMALINK

Please, Plotz, forget about writing another book about the Hebrew or any other Bible. Asimov's Guide to the Bible, by you-know-who, is still around and will likely never be surpassed. Those who can't handle the original should find Asimov's an entertaining read.

Posted by: fyreflye on June 8, 2007 at 2:15 PM | PERMALINK

I took a Bible course from my Rabbi a couple of years ago, focused on rabbinic commentary on Genesis. We met an hour a week for one school year.

We got through Day 4.

Posted by: larry birnbaum on June 8, 2007 at 2:21 PM | PERMALINK

My main complaint w/Plotz' efforts were that he limited himself to reading translations. The reason is obvious enough: his Biblical Hebrew wouldn't allow him to read the original. However, whenever you translate, you interpret. Worse yet, nearly any translation of the Bible you read today is itself a translation of another translation.

Think about it- here's a (very) rough number of translations, as a minimum:

1st translation: the Septuagint (Hebrew into Greek)
2nd translation: the Vulgate (Greek into Latin)
3rd translation: King James (Latin into English)
4th translation: modern versions are often based on the KJV, w/updates of the language into a more modern English idiom.

That's 4 translations- and 4 interprepations- at the *minimum.* Consider, also, that many of the Christian translators along the way specifically added references to Jesus into the Prophets where there are none in the original Hebrew.

The Jewish Publication Society produced a translation of the Torah, Prophets, + Writings (what Christians would call the 'Old Testament') directly from the Hebrew into modern English, and this is among the most faithful versions available today. But nothing can compare to reading the original Hebrew if you really want to understand the Bible.

Posted by: Adam on June 8, 2007 at 3:30 PM | PERMALINK

Asimov's Guide to the Bible, by you-know-who, is still around and will likely never be surpassed.

There is plenty of room for other commentaries. Asimovs book (both volumes) is mainly concerned with putting Biblical names and places into historical and geographical context. He dwells on the themes and narrative hardly at all.

Posted by: Grumpy on June 8, 2007 at 5:10 PM | PERMALINK

I read a good number of Plotz's posts. It was curious to hear his summaries of what was going on.

A modern mind reading the Bible seems to be a misfit. You need a pretty big suspension of critical thinking to take it seriously. The miracles are non-stop. People used to live to be hundreds of years old, don’t you know? Right.

Also, the violence and cruelty are overwhelming. The immorality of most of the main characters is stunning.

I would think that any Jewish or Christian person could at least understand why some people have serious doubts about the veracity of these tales.


Posted by: little ole jim from red country on June 8, 2007 at 5:11 PM | PERMALINK

The Bible is not high up on my summertime list of fiction to be read.

Posted by: thevoice on June 8, 2007 at 5:33 PM | PERMALINK

When you put the line at two weeks, Kevin, Plotz proved you wrong when he made it in to the third week, a year ago. His making it through to the very end is gravy.

Posted by: Alan Bostick on June 8, 2007 at 5:41 PM | PERMALINK
That's 4 translations- and 4 interprepations- at the *minimum.*

No, its not a "minimum", because, while (as you note, though the "many" may go to far) some modern translations are based on the KJV, many are not, and are based directly on the older works such as the Septuagint and/or Masoretic Text.

The Jewish Publication Society produced a translation of the Torah, Prophets, + Writings (what Christians would call the 'Old Testament') directly from the Hebrew into modern English, and this is among the most faithful versions available today. But nothing can compare to reading the original Hebrew if you really want to understand the Bible.

While there is something "special" about Hebrew as the original language of the Bible, any complete Hebrew edition today is not particularly likely to be any closer in substantive content to "the original Hebrew" that the texts were first recorded in than scholarly translations into other languages; its clear that there were many variations of the Hebrew Bible around two thousand years ago—Hebrew precursors of both the Masoretic Text, Samaritan Pentateuch, and Septuagint have all been found dating to that time.

Posted by: cmdicely on June 8, 2007 at 6:16 PM | PERMALINK

I was a regular follower of Plotz's "blooging...", and loved it. His approach was that of an interested reader who was somewhat familiar with the source material. He didn't pretend to be a biblical scholar. I completely related to this.

Posted by: pdxmike on June 8, 2007 at 7:04 PM | PERMALINK

Technically he's been proving you wrong for 50 weeks now.

Posted by: Jon H on June 8, 2007 at 9:35 PM | PERMALINK

"Lord of The Rings" is better.

Posted by: James on June 9, 2007 at 12:21 AM | PERMALINK

WTF?!?!

wow this civilization sucks. He read the bible and he's getting a book deal out of having read the bible!!!!

What is so fucking impressive?!? I read the bible when I was 16 and bits of it every now and then since? The book of Job is pretty damn good.
I've also read parts of the book of Mormon (now that is a book worth throwing down)
The Apocrypha and the Pseudepigrapha (the pseudepigrapha in two forms actually because one time I bought the Forgotten Books of Eden not realizing it was just a popular translation)
Various books of early Christian and Medieval Christian theology.
The collected Thomas Merton.
The Ramayana in a popular translation,
The Mahabharata
The Vedas
The Elder Edda
The Prose Edda

and a shitload of others, mainly due to having read an essay by Ursula K. LeGuin that sent me down that path for about 4 years.

why is some ass getting a book for having read the bible?!?!

Is he retarded? Was it a great achievement of perseverance given his the odds against him or what?

Also from what I read of that last blog post he should try the Talmud and not just the Torah, some of his questions would be answered - or at least commented extensively on.

Posted by: bryan on June 10, 2007 at 1:59 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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