I was sitting on the deck one summer afternoon, telling my daughter about a few of the more obscure details of biblical law Jewish scholars have chosen to debate over the years — laws that had long since lost their validity of application. I believe the important issue under discussion was whether chewing gum on the Sabbath was, or was not, considered work, to be condemned most vigorously.
“You know,” I said, “you don’t need to go to the interpreters to find ridiculous . . . there’s plenty of ridiculous in the source itself.” How did I know? Well, I’ve read a lot about the bible since I decided in my teen years that I wasn’t prepared to accept any pre-packaged body of beliefs. I could hardly expect to think it out for myself without doing the research, could I? I have yet to find a single religion or philosophy to be without something important to offer. Nor have I found a single one that I could choke down whole, like an over-sized multi-vitamin tablet. I prefer to just keep the bits I can use. It keeps me honest.
“Maybe I’ll write a book about it,” I said.
“About the Old Testament.”
“Won’t it piss people off?”
“I suppose. So what?”
“Will it be funny?”
“Sure. It’ll be funny.”
“Go ahead.” So I did. I called it Once More, From the Beginning.
In order to be scrupulously fair, I was determined to build my book on the very words of the bible itself: the King James version – it’s the one most people recognize. So from the time I set pen to paper, I avoided reading anything written about the bible – pro or con. I wanted to read the words, not someone else’s interpretation of the words.
The question people ask most often is: “How much of this stuff is actually in the bible, and how much did you make up for effect?” Well, the answer is: It’s all in the Old Testament. Every bit of it. I often don’t see eye to eye with the original in interpreting motivations, but the facts are all there. (I’m surprised that so many people ask, frankly. Haven’t they read it themselves?)
Don’t take my word for it. Here’s a link to the Bible Gateway, where you’ll find a searchable King James Bible. If you think I’ve fabricated some of the more ridiculous and embarrassing passages, check for yourself . . . I would! And if you’re very sure you can prove I’ve got any significant fact wrong, by all means let me know. If you’re right . . . I’ll change it. I promise. But don’t tell me what god intended, or what your spiritual advisor/priest/minister/rabbi/imam says it all means. You don’t know that any more than I do. We’re all just guessing.
I did notice one thing in my many romps through the pages of the Old Testament. It was hard to miss. While it was written my many hands, a very large proportion of those hands appear to be masculine. I’d estimate about 100%.
Now, that seemed inequitable to me. We all know that men and women tend to see things differently. How would the events look through a woman’s eyes? Someone needed to balance the record. It might as well be me. And if the men suffer a bit in the translation – well, it’s about time. (Incidentally, my male readers have mostly taken the ribbing in good spirit. I wonder if we women could have been as gracious.)
Reader response has been gratifying. All agree . . . it’s a very funny book. (I modestly resist taking all the credit. I was working with very funny material.)
One reader suggested that it should be required reading in every bible school.
Several warned that I was going straight to hell for sure. I think they were kidding.