Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Book Review: Where God Was Born

Genre:  Travel
Author: Bruce Feiler
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

Several years ago I became addicted to reading Old Testament Bible commentaries which were written by Jewish Rabbis and from an entirely Jewish perspective. Their take on scripture was entirely different than the Christian notions I was familiar with and, I suspect, more in keeping with what the Torah writers were trying to convey. After all, the language was their's and they had been studying it for several thousand years longer than we Christians have.

Bruce Feiler is not a Rabbi although he is Jewish and his views and opinions on the people and places of the Bible are entirely in keeping with his tradition making Where God Was Born refreshing reading while maintaining a level of scholarship that was appreciated by this reader.

Amazon says of this book, "Bruce Feiler's latest book combines now familiar elements into his own peculiar, delightful alchemy. Any particular page may be found effortlessly weaving together strands of theology, biblical exegesis, physical exploration, history and personal reflection as Feiler continues his journey of discovery, looking at the common roots of Christianity, Islam and Judaism. The Middle East has become a more dangerous place since the writing of his first book in this vein, Walking the Bible. But Feiler is impelled to answer his continued call, even when a flak jacket is necessary. He explores tunnels under Jerusalem. Goes to where David may have slain Goliath. Even looks for the Garden of Eden in Iraq while acknowledging that "the garden would never be found." It is this externalization of searches typically only made in the heart that fascinates us and brings power to Feiler's narrative. In one of the more compelling sections of the book, a meditation on Jonah, Feiler makes a persuasive argument that "God cares only that you conduct yourself in a moral way… And what might come across as preaching in another context is instead organic; Feiler's ideas seem to grow as much out of his travel and present-day experience as they do from Scripture and history. Of particular interest is his writing on King Cyrus II. He travels to Persepolis, in modern-day Iran, and finds an ancient precedent for religious tolerance in this king who helped the Jews build the Second Temple. Feiler provokes us to reflect that if the Bible itself can sing the praises of a king who accepted the various religions of those he ruled, perhaps there is hope we can find room for more tolerance in our own time. Highly recommended"
Highly recommended indeed.

(Originally posted to Multiply November 26, 2008)

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