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The Book of God: The Bible as a Novel

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Master storyteller Walter Wangerin Jr. shares the story of the Bible from beginning to end as you've never read it before, retold with exciting detail and passionate energy. “. . . a feat of imagination and faith.” —Philip Yancey, award-winning author The Book of God reads like a novel, dramatizing the sweep of biblical events, bringing to life the men and women of this anci Master storyteller Walter Wangerin Jr. shares the story of the Bible from beginning to end as you've never read it before, retold with exciting detail and passionate energy. “. . . a feat of imagination and faith.” —Philip Yancey, award-winning author The Book of God reads like a novel, dramatizing the sweep of biblical events, bringing to life the men and women of this ancient book in vivid detail and dialogue. From Abraham wandering in the desert to Jesus teaching the multitudes on a Judean hillside, this award-winning bestseller follows the biblical story in chronological order. Priests and kings, apostles and prophets, common folk and charismatic leaders—individual stories offer glimpses into an unfolding revelation that reaches across the centuries to touch us today.


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Master storyteller Walter Wangerin Jr. shares the story of the Bible from beginning to end as you've never read it before, retold with exciting detail and passionate energy. “. . . a feat of imagination and faith.” —Philip Yancey, award-winning author The Book of God reads like a novel, dramatizing the sweep of biblical events, bringing to life the men and women of this anci Master storyteller Walter Wangerin Jr. shares the story of the Bible from beginning to end as you've never read it before, retold with exciting detail and passionate energy. “. . . a feat of imagination and faith.” —Philip Yancey, award-winning author The Book of God reads like a novel, dramatizing the sweep of biblical events, bringing to life the men and women of this ancient book in vivid detail and dialogue. From Abraham wandering in the desert to Jesus teaching the multitudes on a Judean hillside, this award-winning bestseller follows the biblical story in chronological order. Priests and kings, apostles and prophets, common folk and charismatic leaders—individual stories offer glimpses into an unfolding revelation that reaches across the centuries to touch us today.

30 review for The Book of God: The Bible as a Novel

  1. 5 out of 5

    Alyssia Cooke

    And we are not quite at the end of the epic Bible saga, but we are very nearly there...why do I think that there was probably a collective sigh of relief when you read that! And this version is in its own way very different from any of the other bibles I have been reviewing. And the reason for that is very clear just from the title - 'The Book of God, the Bible as a Novel'. Out of all of the Bibles I was given this was the one that I was most interested in looking at fully, which is why I left i And we are not quite at the end of the epic Bible saga, but we are very nearly there...why do I think that there was probably a collective sigh of relief when you read that! And this version is in its own way very different from any of the other bibles I have been reviewing. And the reason for that is very clear just from the title - 'The Book of God, the Bible as a Novel'. Out of all of the Bibles I was given this was the one that I was most interested in looking at fully, which is why I left it till later, but here goes. And if parts of this seem strange I beg forgiveness in advance...my only excuse is that it is 4 o clock in the morning... ===Boring Stuff=== Title: The Book of God Author: Walter Wangerin Publisher: Zondervan (February 1, 2000) ISBN: 0 7459 2983 X Price: RRP: £8.99, Amazon can be found from £1.41 at time of writing. ===Aim=== Wangerin's aim was to produce a clear, continuous story which is free of the repetitions and genealogies that you find in the Bible, whilst at the same time adding in the cultural and historical background to make it both more accessible, as well as giving a sense of understanding which someone who doesn't understand a great deal of the Bibles background would find very useful. As well as this rather basic aim that is the same for most of the 'youth bibles', Wangerin has another aim on top of this, and that is to make the characters more human, more day to day. This is an aim which is usual for a novel, but not for the Bible, and Wangerin in choosing this format has given himself an awful lot more free license than most Biblical translations have... However, a very important point worth noting is that in no way, shape or form can this be called a 'Bible' with a capital letter. It is not a translation, it is not canonical, it is the re-telling of a selection of Biblical stories. You do need to take it for what it is, and that is a literary exploration of the Bible, literalists be warned, you have to read it for what the authors aims and intentions are. ===Format=== The novel is split into 8 main sections, each of them in turn are then split into chapters. The 8 sections however are in themselves quite interesting. Four of these sections are based on individuals, or groups of individuals; 'The Ancestors', 'Kings', 'Prophets', and 'The Messiah'. The other half focus on the epic themes that run through the Bible; 'The Covenant', 'The Wars of the Lord', 'Letters from Exile', and 'The Yearning'. This kind of format works very well, because he doesn't use the Biblical books and verse numbers...so it's very useful to know at least vaguely where you are in the Bible. ===Language=== Because this is not the same as the other Bibles I have reviewed, it is not meant to be a translation as such, I have to look at the language use slightly differently. As a very basic point, the author does stick to his aim in producing a text which is clear and easily accessible; his writing is not too formal and does make you want to keep reading, even if you do know the stories which he is recounting. He is not patronising, neither does he use highly Americanised language, which I don't know about you, but that does tend to annoy me. Right from the start the emotions and humanity of the characters is made very, very clear. I've read the story of Sarai, Hagar and Abraham, in particular reference to the birth of Hagar and Abraham's child on several occasions, but never before have the emotions of the two women involved been so strikingly obvious to me. 'Yet even at a distance she saw the look on her husbands face as he laid the babe in the crook of his arm: tenderness! The old man's eyes were dewy.' The way he's used language to spin these tales of anger, pain and forgiveness is quite outstanding, he draws you into stories that often or not we've heard so many times before that they have lost their power...which is a shame. But with Wangerin's work he really does highlight the character's fears, joys and pains, making it something that you can actually relate to. Again, I am going to pick up on the Garden of Gethsemane passage, because this is a passage which I find very powerful, and Wangerin has not let himself down here. Often or not I have found translations lose this power because they make the language too formal or too 'street', and in doing this they miss the fact that Jesus is desperate. He is crying to his Father for mercy, this is a last ditch attempt to change the fate of the world. And it is not going to be soft, calm and polite. Wangerin keeps this perfectly: 'He drew his knees up under himself like a man palsied. He drove his fingers through the soil and howled, "Abba! Abba!" Then the storm broke. Jesus wailed aloud from earth even unto heaven: "ABBA, FATHER, TAKE THIS CUP AWAY FROM ME! Take this cup away from me. Remove it, O my God. I don't want to drink such suffering. Abba, Abba - I don't." It does go on, but I'm far more interested in annoying you with my review than with bible quotes. I also liked the insertion of the word 'Abba', which I've always found a much more appealing word than either Father or Dad. It's a strange mix between the two, and the best translation would be 'Papa'...and yes I am irritatingly pernickety...as is also shown up in the fact that I was very grateful to see the word 'forsaken' being used on the cross by Jesus in the cry 'My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?' Again, I just feel that this is a more powerful phrase than 'abandoned'. ===Narrative Telling=== Much of the narrative is done by other characters, often minor characters or characters who very rarely get a proper voice - often the female characters. This is done in such a way so that it is not confusing, and manages to get far more depth into the story, and into the minds of characters we often forget about. An example of this would be Leah's story when Jacob is married to her rather than to Rachel: 'When my husband discovered that I was not my sister, I did not blame him for his anger. I had expected anger. I only hoped that he would not hit me, and he didn't. He scarcely looked at me. At me, I mean. He did not see Leah. He saw not-Rachel... It was when he led my sister into the same room where one week earlier he had led me; it was when he asked me to leave my new house and return to my mother's house a while; it was when he went into my sister fully knowing who she was and able, therefore to call her by name; it was then that I surprised myself with sorrow. I had said I would not love him. But I failed... When he looked at me he did not see Leah. He saw not-Rachel.' Wangerin expresses perfectly the anguish of a woman who has come to love a man she never wanted to marry...only to know that he can never love her, because he loves her sister. And that no matter what she does to try to gain his approval and love; she will always be the second woman, the 'not-Rachel'. This is far more sympathetic to Leah than many other translations, and made me take another look at how I have always viewed this story. And he does this with several characters, Joseph the carpenter is another character who gets a say...when normally he is a more or less silent character...it gives psychology and a personality to these people. ===Biblical Telling=== There are several issues with the way in which this book uses biblical issues, mostly to do with either skipping important issues and stories...or running away with an author's artistic license, but I will get to them in a minute. One of the main points that I felt was very important continues quite nicely from the points I was making about narrative structure, and that is that Wangerin has made these Biblical characters real. He has allowed us to get a rare glimpse into their minds, and in this he has really added a great deal to the telling. If you take the main point with Joseph, when he thinks that Mary has been unfaithful; 'Carefully, stroking every letter with painful precision, for his hands were very large and his nails gnarled, he wrote formal words on the parchment. They granted Mary release from the contracts of betrothal. They mentioned reasons of ritual impurities, mild causes but legal ones nonetheless. They did not mention adultery. Joseph could not write adultery. He could not lay upon Mary - whom he loved, whom he could not stop loving - public accusations of adultery.' This is same character as the Bible gives, but it shows him as a person, and someone who had been hurt and betrayed. An issue that will annoy some people however is the sheer amount that has been left out, or altered in some way or another, and this is sheer artistic license on behalf of the author. Job and Jonah have disappeared. Shadrach and Meschach are on leave. Daniel in the lion's den - another no show. And there is more...lots more in fact...David's annoyance at his soldier's cavalier disrespect for their own safety is another area that seems to have been cut. A mildly amusing occasion would be in Esau selling his birthright for food, from Esau being far to concerned with material possessions, the reasoning has been changed to Jacob being a smooth talker who tricks his brother who is near starvation - reminds me of certain door to door salesmen I can think of...If we move into the New Testament, the story of Jesus' conception has been massively meddled with, particularly with relation to Joseph...and it does keep going. Although, because Wangerin has this artistic license, he can also put in slightly different spins on theology. Such as Judas betraying Jesus, and he raises the issue that this could have been out of a misplaced political ambition, wanting to force Jesus into becoming the revolutionary that he believed he should be as the Messiah. 'He had never desired anything for his Master but power and glory and domination. Not the arrest. Not captivity. Not death, not ever death.' It shows Judas as a remorseful character, he knows that he has messed up big time, and he acts in the only way he can think of to atone, to make people look away from his shame. I have heard the saying 'There is no refuge from confession but suicide, and suicide is confession', maybe that has more truth in it than some would want to admit. Personally, the use of artistic license (quite amazingly) didn't annoy me...and being able to look at characters in a different way more than made up for this. The way Wangerin has told the story makes the reader think about things in a different way, and forces you to confront some things as well. ===Conclusion=== I loved it. I felt that it was fresh, refreshing and interesting; most of the reasons that I loved it are due to the language use and character development. But personally, I would happily recommend it to anyone, even if all you want is a new look on it. It is not a literal translation, but it was never meant to be. And I don't think it could have been done better. This is definitely my favourite Bible out of the lot.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Eric Haddox

    One of the greatest attempts to accurately put the story of the Bible in a medium that is both understandable and enjoyable for the contemporary western reader. There were several stories of which he wrote that I had not remembered in my own reading of the Bible. He gives the characters life and personality that are easy to relate to and tells the stories in lively and memorable ways. I came to the book critically to see what kind of errors would linger inside yet I found only one and it was only One of the greatest attempts to accurately put the story of the Bible in a medium that is both understandable and enjoyable for the contemporary western reader. There were several stories of which he wrote that I had not remembered in my own reading of the Bible. He gives the characters life and personality that are easy to relate to and tells the stories in lively and memorable ways. I came to the book critically to see what kind of errors would linger inside yet I found only one and it was only the name of a persons grandfather. He does deviate from the text of the Bible but never does he violate it. He only fills in the possible gaps, "adding to the story" to say. The stories are often told from unique perspectives. I cannot say enough to recommend this book. I believe everyone who wishes to understand the Bible should also read this book.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Bel

    Alright, so I was really freaked out when I read the title of this book. Thoroughly freaked out. "The Bible as a ...novel?!?! Isn't that wrong?" O.k. Maybe some over-reaction on my part. Especially when I began to actually read it... It completely redeemed itself. They really are just Bible stories for grown-ups, putting a far more personal side to Biblical characters that I had read the same things about, thought the same things about, and heard the same things about since my Sunday School days Alright, so I was really freaked out when I read the title of this book. Thoroughly freaked out. "The Bible as a ...novel?!?! Isn't that wrong?" O.k. Maybe some over-reaction on my part. Especially when I began to actually read it... It completely redeemed itself. They really are just Bible stories for grown-ups, putting a far more personal side to Biblical characters that I had read the same things about, thought the same things about, and heard the same things about since my Sunday School days. Bringing characters to life is something that Wangerin is a master of, and something that makes his books stand out as some of my favorites. This book was not one to change my opinion.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Chris

    Ok, so I'll admit it. I've tried to read the Bible a few times from cover to cover, but I have never been successful. So a big thumbs up for this novel that at least, sort of, makes me feel as if I have. Also a thumbs up for making me want to read the Bible cover to cover to see how much "flare" the author added to the characters to get the "novel" feel. As I read, there were still parts of the Old Testament that really bother me and challenge my faith. Surprisingly, the part of this novel that Ok, so I'll admit it. I've tried to read the Bible a few times from cover to cover, but I have never been successful. So a big thumbs up for this novel that at least, sort of, makes me feel as if I have. Also a thumbs up for making me want to read the Bible cover to cover to see how much "flare" the author added to the characters to get the "novel" feel. As I read, there were still parts of the Old Testament that really bother me and challenge my faith. Surprisingly, the part of this novel that touched me the most was the scenes with the disciples after Jesus reappears. Simon’s struggle in particular was very moving. All in all, a good reminder of the grace and mercy of God through Christ his Son.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Margo

    I'm so glad I picked this up at the church book swap. You could find fault with it, I suppose, and I'm sure some people do, but I liked taking on God's Big Story as a Big Story. It stirred the imagination, similar to the Anne Rice books on the life of Jesus. Reading the (selected) OT stories made you want to go look them in the "real" book. :-) The NT section was moving as well. I'm so glad I picked this up at the church book swap. You could find fault with it, I suppose, and I'm sure some people do, but I liked taking on God's Big Story as a Big Story. It stirred the imagination, similar to the Anne Rice books on the life of Jesus. Reading the (selected) OT stories made you want to go look them in the "real" book. :-) The NT section was moving as well.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Holly

    I really wanted to like this book because I think it was such a courageous endeavor. But the author just didn't do a good job. Granted it's hard to improve on the Bible, but he managed to really bollux it up. I kept persisting because of my Christian guilt...wanting to be loyal to another believer....but it was so hard to finish. The old testament wasn't too bad but he really managed to make a mess of the New Testament. He kept telling the story from Andrew's perspective which was so odd to me. I really wanted to like this book because I think it was such a courageous endeavor. But the author just didn't do a good job. Granted it's hard to improve on the Bible, but he managed to really bollux it up. I kept persisting because of my Christian guilt...wanting to be loyal to another believer....but it was so hard to finish. The old testament wasn't too bad but he really managed to make a mess of the New Testament. He kept telling the story from Andrew's perspective which was so odd to me. And I know this was fiction and he was entitled to take some artistic license with it but some of the things he embellished upon were just downright wrong and off-putting. I won't elaborate for fear of disgusting people. When I was getting totally sick of it I kept on because I wanted to see how he dealt with Revelation. Gees to my surprise...he just didn't even deal with it. Don't bother, just stick to the Bible. Much better author....

  7. 5 out of 5

    Cheryl

    As someone raised as a heathen, the stories of the bible are unfamiliar, so I found this book to bring the stories to life and not a dry read as the bible itself was. It also did a good job of placing the events in where they happened in history, reminding me that they were historical. The author read the book and even though all of the characters had the same tones of voice, I found him entertaining. This will most definitely not be my sole source of education for Christianity, but I felt it ha As someone raised as a heathen, the stories of the bible are unfamiliar, so I found this book to bring the stories to life and not a dry read as the bible itself was. It also did a good job of placing the events in where they happened in history, reminding me that they were historical. The author read the book and even though all of the characters had the same tones of voice, I found him entertaining. This will most definitely not be my sole source of education for Christianity, but I felt it had good continuity and kept the reader interested. The only thing that the book didn't do, but I don't think could have by the nature of it being in novel format, is to explain where in the bible some things that were less obvious took place. Other than that, it was a good concept and carried out well.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Ronald

    A really good pre-read to reading the Bible directly. It gives you the concept of the story that is contained in the Bible. Have had several say after reading this book they were then able to put the story in the Bible together. Some might be concerned about putting the Bible in novel form, if that is the case then make your own judgment. Although, you might look it over as a help of getting adults familiar with the Bible. This kind of takes the temptation away of reading the Bible only in verse A really good pre-read to reading the Bible directly. It gives you the concept of the story that is contained in the Bible. Have had several say after reading this book they were then able to put the story in the Bible together. Some might be concerned about putting the Bible in novel form, if that is the case then make your own judgment. Although, you might look it over as a help of getting adults familiar with the Bible. This kind of takes the temptation away of reading the Bible only in verse, chapter or book segments. It helps connect all the dots

  9. 4 out of 5

    Melissa

    Still reading, but I have to say this is the best book about the Bible I have EVER read. I've always wanted to read the Bible in it's entirety...but it can be challenging to sit down and read in passage form each day. This novel is an addictive version of the Bible...it's so easy to read and so far, the content closely follows that of my Bible in context and in order. I'm loving it! Still reading, but I have to say this is the best book about the Bible I have EVER read. I've always wanted to read the Bible in it's entirety...but it can be challenging to sit down and read in passage form each day. This novel is an addictive version of the Bible...it's so easy to read and so far, the content closely follows that of my Bible in context and in order. I'm loving it!

  10. 4 out of 5

    Emily

    This book was fine, but like any account put into a fictional novel, it's not really very accurate. Therefore, I can't say I would recommend it. It would have been one thing if conversations had been added, or some activity speculated where the Bible is silent. However, truth was flat out changed. I say, stick with the original. This book was fine, but like any account put into a fictional novel, it's not really very accurate. Therefore, I can't say I would recommend it. It would have been one thing if conversations had been added, or some activity speculated where the Bible is silent. However, truth was flat out changed. I say, stick with the original.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Evamaria

    I had this on my to-read shelf for a couple of years at least, and I finally got around to reading it, chapter by chapter before going to sleep. And I must say, I was pleasantly surprised! Obviously the book only covers some of the "highlights" of the Bible, but this allows the author (and us) to explore some of the people (the "big" ones, but also some nice perspectives of "little folk" and often women) in depth. The New Testament takes up a disproportionately big part of the overall book, but I had this on my to-read shelf for a couple of years at least, and I finally got around to reading it, chapter by chapter before going to sleep. And I must say, I was pleasantly surprised! Obviously the book only covers some of the "highlights" of the Bible, but this allows the author (and us) to explore some of the people (the "big" ones, but also some nice perspectives of "little folk" and often women) in depth. The New Testament takes up a disproportionately big part of the overall book, but then I guess most readers of this book are Christian, so it makes sense. And I really loved the way the author imagined the life of Jesus through the eyes of the people around him. He even managed to pull of Jesus' POV. Truth be told, I got a bit teary-eyed during the crucifixion, because it felt so personal. Altogether I think this book works best if one has a basic Bible knowledge. It's definitely not for fervent atheists or nit-picky historians, though, because it remains faithful to "history" as told in the Bible, not archeological fact. However, the author enriches the stories with many historical details about the lives and experiences of the Jewish people back then, which makes them come to life in a way that the Bible's language and style seldom allow.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Glen Engel-Cox

    The Bible is one of the most influential and quoted documents in the world, yet it is also one of the least read. This is due in part to the size of the book itself, but the strongest reason for avoidance is the density of its prose. For most people, the text of the Bible is that of its most common translation, that done during the time of King James, and they are surprised to learn that it was originally written in Hebrew (like Dave Barry, I’m not making this up). The King James prose to the mo The Bible is one of the most influential and quoted documents in the world, yet it is also one of the least read. This is due in part to the size of the book itself, but the strongest reason for avoidance is the density of its prose. For most people, the text of the Bible is that of its most common translation, that done during the time of King James, and they are surprised to learn that it was originally written in Hebrew (like Dave Barry, I’m not making this up). The King James prose to the modern audience is like Shakespeare’s poetry–it achieves part of its sacramental effect by its very language. The unfortunate side-effect is that the language remains a barrier to its reception. Scholars have for years tried to break the Bible free from King James, to make the story of the Bible more readable. Translations like the New American Standard and Good News for Modern Man were written in today’s vernacular, but still tied to the original scrolls. While these translations are useful in understanding individual verses and chapters, they remain awkward to today’s readers conditioned to dramatic tension and narrative flair. Attempting to bridge this gap, Zondervan has published Walter Wangerin’s version of “The Book of God” (a literal translation of the Hebrew word “bible”). Wangerin’s name should be familiar as the author of the award-winning novel, The Book of the Dun Cow. He is also the author of nine other books. His experience in constructing a modern novel was tested in the transition of the Bible to a novel, given the multiple nature of its books (the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John all cover the life of Jesus) and the multitude of narrative threads and types (including the mixture of poetry in prose, genealogy, and prophecy). Wangerin’s solution to the density of the Bible was to be wisely selective–yes, I mean he had to cut material–and rearrange the text so that it flowed with the narrative force of an epic novel. Let’s pause here and look at how I perceive Wangerin from this work, all pure conjecture on my part. Number one, he is a Christian. This seems patently obvious to me, but I suppose I should underline this as not Jewish or Muslim. I say this because some of the books of the Christian bible are also held with great reverence by these other religions. Wangerin, though, has portrayed Christ as the Messiah and Savior according to Christian theology. Number two, Wangerin is not a fundamentalist. That is, if one believes that the Bible is the directly inspired word of God (i.e., God dictating to a human recorder), which most fundamentalists do, the liberties that Wangerin has taken with the text would be considered untheological, if not possibly heretical or blasphemy. If you believe that the inspiration of the Bible’s original authors was God in collaboration with human, than his rewrite is not as troubling. (As a lay person, I believe you can view it outside of both these traditions as well, and see this as a “remake” of the original just as John Gardner rewrote the story of Beowulf in Grendel.) From my perception of Wangerin, I see that he took the various story elements of the Bible and laid them out before him. Selecting the main point of the work–that of Christ’s resurrection–he then constructed the novel backwards to show that everything in the Bible truly leads to Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross. He selected, and by his selection, emphasized, the parts of the Bible that have to do with Jesus’ lineage and the prophecy of a messiah (literally, “anointed one”) for the nation of Israel. Thus, instead of beginning at the beginning (and this literally would have been “In the beginning…”), he opens The Book of God with the story of Abraham, almost 70 and still childless, yet trusting the Lord to keep his covenant to make a nation of his children. From Abraham to Isaac, Isaac to Jacob, Jacob to Joseph, Wangerin traces Jesus’ “family tree” and the covenant of God with the nation that would be called Israel. An epic story it is indeed, separated into sections named for the highlights of that period. From the humble beginnings of a poor wandering desert shepherd and his offspring (“The Ancestors”), the establishment of the law (“The Covenant”), the battle for the land of Canaan (“The Wars of the Lord”), the glory days of the Jewish nation (“Kings”), the breakup of the Israel nation (“Prophets”), the captivity in Babylon (“Letters from Exile”), the foretelling of one to come (“The Yearning”), to, finally, the arrival of the savior (“The Messiah”). Although most everyone knows the individual parts of this story, either through church or other literature, what Wangerin most achieves in his narrative is a cohesiveness that is missing from Sunday school lessons. After reading this, I am now better able to place Elijah in the story (he warns the Israelites of the upcoming captivity after the death of Solomon), I understand the makeup of the different tribes of Israel and their relations to their neighbors (i.e., descended from Esau or Lot, making them distant cousins, but outside the Israeli covenant with the Lord), and the workings of the Roman government at the time of Christ (why Herod was a King, while Pilate was only a governor). Wangerin did not “tone down” the story, nor did he prettify it. The Bible is full of bloodshed, adultery, rape, hatred, and bigotry, and Wangerin does not hide from any of it. Because most of my exposure to the Bible was in my childhood, some of these episodes surprised me. There is, of course, the famous Sodom and Gomorrah tale (where Lot offers his virgin daughters to the townsfolk who want to rape his visitors, two “men of the Lord”, i.e. angels), but it is the unexpected tale of David’s sons (one rapes his half-sister, then is killed by his half-brother, her full-brother) or the bigotry of the disciples (who are reluctantly convinced that Jesus’ message is available to Gentiles as well as the “chosen people”, i.e. Israelites) that have such impact. Another Wangerin touch is his literal translation of some of the words that had been left untranslated in the King James version. This includes “Beth-el” which means the mountain of the Lord, and the earlier mentioned “bible”, but the one that I found the most interesting was “manna”. Manna, as you may recall, was the food that fell from heaven to feed the Israelites as they wandered for forty years in the wilderness after worshipping false Gods while Moses was receiving the law from the Lord. “Manna,” according to Wangerin, means “what is it?” which is what the Israelites were saying to themselves the first time that God sent the food to them. The Bible is part of our cultural heritage, no matter what belief you might have. It permeates English literature and language to such an extent that Ed Hirsch, Jr., co-author of The Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, says that it is necessary to have an understanding of it to understand ourselves. Walter Wangerin’s The Book of God is the perfect quick study course that is both intellectually engaging and entertainingly written.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Darren Shaw

    Hats off to Walter Wangerin for even attempting to present the Bible as a linear narrative. If that’s not the most ambitious task a writer could take on, I’d say it’s still way up there on the list. Some reviewers have expressed disappointment/concern that it’s a “highlight reel” of the Bible. That aspect actually didn’t bother me at all. I felt rather that Wangerin approached this with the central idea that the Old and New Testaments together are an epic family history. The covenant that God ma Hats off to Walter Wangerin for even attempting to present the Bible as a linear narrative. If that’s not the most ambitious task a writer could take on, I’d say it’s still way up there on the list. Some reviewers have expressed disappointment/concern that it’s a “highlight reel” of the Bible. That aspect actually didn’t bother me at all. I felt rather that Wangerin approached this with the central idea that the Old and New Testaments together are an epic family history. The covenant that God makes with His people is ultimately fulfilled in Jesus, so Wangerin begins his telling of the story with Abraham, ends it at the ascension, and presents everything that happens in between in terms of how this family was able over many generations to connect point A to point B. From the Forefathers to the Judges, to the Kings and Prophets, and on into the Messiah, Wangerin reminds us that these aren’t a collection of unrelated stories that share a common setting (as it sometimes feels when reading the Bible itself), but a single tale. It works nicely, and in that sense, reminded me quite a bit at times of Steinbeck’s East of Eden. I found the writing itself to be very good, engaging and clear. But the book isn't without it’s challenges. Sections of the early story - particularly during the chapters concerning the Judges of Israel and in the ‘Wars of the Lord’ section - felt more disconnected than others, like vignettes awkwardly inserted into the overall narrative. Also, though the majority of the book is written in 3rd person omniscient, certain chapters, or sections of chapters, shift awkwardly into 1st person, which for me felt very much like extended and unnecessary asides in a stage play. But overall, I enjoyed The Book of God. I was torn between 3 and 4 stars. I ended up at somewhere above 3 and a half. But this was no easy task for Walter Wangerin I’m sure, and it helped to broaden and deepen my appreciation for the Bible itself, so I figure that’s worth rounding up for.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Calis Johnson

    A couple years ago I read Walter Wangerin's Book of the Dun Cow and Book of Sorrows and I consider them underrated masterpieces. So I was very excited when I picked this up. The Bible while being the most significant and important book of all time it can be a difficult read sometimes with all the stories and translations (depending on what version you're reading). Wangerin's Book of God takes the Bible and makes it into a novel of epic proportions. Now that may seem sacrilegious to some and to b A couple years ago I read Walter Wangerin's Book of the Dun Cow and Book of Sorrows and I consider them underrated masterpieces. So I was very excited when I picked this up. The Bible while being the most significant and important book of all time it can be a difficult read sometimes with all the stories and translations (depending on what version you're reading). Wangerin's Book of God takes the Bible and makes it into a novel of epic proportions. Now that may seem sacrilegious to some and to be fair I had some trepidation before reading this but I'm glad I did.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Tommy Keough

    absolutely wonderful

  16. 4 out of 5

    Vicki Jones

    History told well I enjoyed reading God’s Word as a novel. The Bible itself can be so bland in its narrative. Walter Wangerin brought it to a reality that was awakening.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Mark

    Long. Worth it.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Chris Haak

    This book is an interesting concept - which is why I bought it almost 20 years ago. But man, it is a SLOG reading the Old Testament stories. Once we moved out of prophets and into the New Testament and Jesus’ life, the book was more enjoyable. I actually started this book almost 20 years ago, made it about halfway through, then put it on the shelf for all that time. Our local library has a summer reading program, and one of the recommendations is to finish a book that I started but never finished This book is an interesting concept - which is why I bought it almost 20 years ago. But man, it is a SLOG reading the Old Testament stories. Once we moved out of prophets and into the New Testament and Jesus’ life, the book was more enjoyable. I actually started this book almost 20 years ago, made it about halfway through, then put it on the shelf for all that time. Our local library has a summer reading program, and one of the recommendations is to finish a book that I started but never finished. I thought of this one right away. I’m glad I made it through, but I would imagine there are other ways to get the story of the Bible.

  19. 5 out of 5

    ☼♄Jülie 

    A good way to read stories from the Bible without all the hype and especially for younger people, it tells the stories in a way that gets you interested and also puts a more personal feel into them, so that you can relate to the characters as individual and important players...especially some of the (otherwise) lesser known characters. A good introduction to the Bible, which can be read as a collection of short stories. I have always been of the opinion that the Bible should be written as a histor A good way to read stories from the Bible without all the hype and especially for younger people, it tells the stories in a way that gets you interested and also puts a more personal feel into them, so that you can relate to the characters as individual and important players...especially some of the (otherwise) lesser known characters. A good introduction to the Bible, which can be read as a collection of short stories. I have always been of the opinion that the Bible should be written as a historical novel with a timeline of events. *I have also found this book to be a good ready reference book ;-)

  20. 4 out of 5

    Kathy

    This book probably has had a more lasting effect upon my spiritual journey than any other book besides the Bible. I happened upon this after a couple of years of struggling to read the Bible. Wangerin takes some liberties in turning the Scripture into historical fiction, although the only real fiction I noticed was the fleshing out of personalities beyond what is shared with us in Biblical accounts. It reads like a fascinating novel, but kept driving me to compare fact and fiction. This is anoth This book probably has had a more lasting effect upon my spiritual journey than any other book besides the Bible. I happened upon this after a couple of years of struggling to read the Bible. Wangerin takes some liberties in turning the Scripture into historical fiction, although the only real fiction I noticed was the fleshing out of personalities beyond what is shared with us in Biblical accounts. It reads like a fascinating novel, but kept driving me to compare fact and fiction. This is another book that I really need to read again.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Aja

    There is a lot of things I can say about this book, but all I think I can truly say is that I enjoyed this book from beginning to end. My favorite chapter was definitely Mary Magdalene's. Much of the Tanakh's retelling was great, too, especially of the kings and prophets. The biblical figures presented in the work are seen as so very relatable, even after 21 years after this was written. I related a lot to Andrew, Simon Peter, and even Judas Iscariot to an extent. There is a lot of things I can say about this book, but all I think I can truly say is that I enjoyed this book from beginning to end. My favorite chapter was definitely Mary Magdalene's. Much of the Tanakh's retelling was great, too, especially of the kings and prophets. The biblical figures presented in the work are seen as so very relatable, even after 21 years after this was written. I related a lot to Andrew, Simon Peter, and even Judas Iscariot to an extent.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Ray Edwards

    A Fresh Look at the Story of Stories This book gives us a fresh view of stories with which we may have become too familiar. Looking at the Bible as the work it actually is, the story of the dealings of God with his people, and the coming of the new and better covenant. While it is important to remember this book itself is not Scripture, it is a fine version of the story of scripture. It brings new life to people, places, and events to which we may have inadvertently grown desensitized.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Shannon

    What a wonderful way to spend the Lenten season-reading this novelisation of the Bible. This made it so easy to understand and remember all of the great stories we all know. I still had to make lists to keep the primary characters straight, but it was an easier read than my previous attempts at my stand-by Bible. I remarked to my friends more than once while reading it-Man, this is one juicy book!

  24. 4 out of 5

    Kaia

    I almost have a hard time rating something Biblical so low- it makes me feel bad. At any rate, Wangerin is not a favorite author of mine, I find his writing dry and too lengthy. It took me a long time to get going in this book, and the New Testament portion was better than the Old Testament. I tried to look at it more as a scripture reading than a pleasure read and I think that helped.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Shala Howell

    Reads more like a history of the Jewish people as told in the Bible than a comprehensive retelling of the Bible itself. No creation story or Noah's ark, but plenty of judges, prophets, and kings. Reads more like a history of the Jewish people as told in the Bible than a comprehensive retelling of the Bible itself. No creation story or Noah's ark, but plenty of judges, prophets, and kings.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Lizcherry88

    Loved this - like the bible coming to life for adults! I hope to read it again sometime soon.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Kelly

    Ambitious concept; poorly executed.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Sandra

    I absolutely LOVED this book. I'm culling my books, as I am wont to do from time to time, and this was in my preliminary "discard" pile. I thought it was going to be something like The Message, a wonderful translation of the Bible by Eugene Peterson; but, you see, I already have The Message, and didn't need another one. Thus the discard pile. Well. I opened it and was almost instantly transfixed. You can't imagine how wonderful it is for a preacher to find a treatment of the Bible that makes it s I absolutely LOVED this book. I'm culling my books, as I am wont to do from time to time, and this was in my preliminary "discard" pile. I thought it was going to be something like The Message, a wonderful translation of the Bible by Eugene Peterson; but, you see, I already have The Message, and didn't need another one. Thus the discard pile. Well. I opened it and was almost instantly transfixed. You can't imagine how wonderful it is for a preacher to find a treatment of the Bible that makes it seem new, while at the same time dusting off the old stuff so I could re-imagine many of those old Bible stories. I will admit that I liked the OT section (about 2/3 of it) better, and yet the most powerful part of The Book of God was where it ended, at the trial, crucifixion, and resurrection (well, almost the end; there's also Pentecost and a brief epilogue about how the Bible has fared through the centuries). Oh, but the whole NT part was very good, too -- especially the way Simon Peter and Andrew and Judas and Mary Magdalene and the Bethany sisters (Martha and Mary) are filled out as real people in this cosmic drama. My sister just got married, so I gave her the copy I brought to Washington State. But I'm pretty certain I'll get another copy, or at least borrow it from the library now and again. I found The Book of God remarkable, and would recommend it to anybody who has never gotten through the Bible because of all the laws and begats and cubits, or anybody who has gone through the Bible one or more times but wants to get a sense of the text that fills in details we never really think about because we've heard/read it so many times that we think we already know it. Wangerin does make many judgment calls, but I never found anything that seemed either inappropriate or felt incorrect; for instance, whenever there was an angelic visitation (in both the Old Testament and the New Testament), there's a big, startling beam of light that shoots down from the skies, and within it can be discerned a figure, like a human being, but just a shape of light within that beam of light. Nice. Wangerin also does some remarkable things with troublesome or confusing passages. The one I remember best regards Psalm 137, a lovely "Lament Over the Destruction of Jerusalem," that begins with words that have been set to popular music in our own day: "By the rivers of Babylon--there we sat down and there we wept when we remembered Zion. . . . our captors asked us for songs, and our tormentors asked for mirth . . . . How could we sing the Lord's song in a foreign land?" Beautiful and poignant, right? Yes, if you only use the parts that we might hear in church, verses 1-6; verses 7 to 9 (the last verse) read like this: "Remember, O Lord, against the Edomites the day of Jerusalem's fall, how they said, 'Tear it down! Tear it down! Down to its foundations!' O daughter Babylon, you devastator. Happy shall they be who pay you back what you have done to us! Happy shall they be who take your little ones and dash them against the rock!'" If that part of the Psalm doesn't make a person uncomfortable, they probably aren't paying attention (or take a "God said it, I believe it [and approve of it], that settles it!" position on everything in the Bible). In Wangerin's telling, the Hebrews sit by the river, mourning their exile from Jerusalem, when "tormenters" come and demand a song. They try to explain that they can't sing a happy song because they aren't happy, but their tormenters demand even more strenuously. So one of them sings, in Hebrew, a language the Babylonians don't understand. He sings a happy tune and smiles, but the words are those appalling verses 7-9. Which actually makes it kind of humorous. Sort of like how you can say terrible things to a dog in a very happy voice and they will wag their tails, as happy as ever, not knowing what you're saying. So if the occasional interpretive fiction would bother you, this book probably wouldn't be for you. Also, the entire Bible isn't covered. It's the story arc, but Wangerin had to make choices, so we never see Daniel in the lion's den or Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the fiery furnace, or Job, or Dina, but it's remarkable how much he includes. It's a long book, but although I took my time with it, it read quickly and I didn't want to put it down. But I had to. It was Holy Week and then Easter. And I did read ahead a bit during both Holy Week and Easter, which definitely enhanced both for me. So run straight to the library or call Hearts & Minds Books in York, PA, and order your own copy.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Nancy Bandusky

    This is a terrible rendition of the Bible as a novel. Writing historical fiction requires the author to take care not to misrepresent aspects of the actual historical event. This author fails miserably. The problem is in the subtleties of inclusion, exclusion, embellishment, and misrepresentation. Easy Bible events to retell in a novel such as Jonah and Esther are disregarded, yet there is space for three chapters involving Ahikam (without any references in the Reading Group Guide section of the This is a terrible rendition of the Bible as a novel. Writing historical fiction requires the author to take care not to misrepresent aspects of the actual historical event. This author fails miserably. The problem is in the subtleties of inclusion, exclusion, embellishment, and misrepresentation. Easy Bible events to retell in a novel such as Jonah and Esther are disregarded, yet there is space for three chapters involving Ahikam (without any references in the Reading Group Guide section of the book) and a chapter about Barabbas (with the only reference in the Reading Group Guide section of the book being another novel). The author starts his novel not at the beginning, but with Abraham. Apparently, the creation of the world, Noah, the tower of Babel, are not needed in this novel, leaving the reader completely bewildered if this is their first and only encounter with Biblical events. The author is fair though as he also does not complete the novel since he never addresses Revelation. While not an exhaustive list, the following are some of the many problems with this novel, proving it would be better to read the Bible itself. The author treats the Biblical story of Samson as a fairy tale by inserting it as a story within a story and using the repetition of "once upon a time." This happens again with the telling of Solomon's wisdom as a "tale." The misrepresentation as to how/why Uzzah dies is cringeworthy with the blatant disregard for Biblical accuracy. The use of the name Tamar (Bible name of Judah's daughter-in-law) to be the speaker in the novel's Solomon section seems to be intentionally confusing. The described behavior of the Israelites after the slaughter of the priests of Jezebel is complete fiction. Despite what the novel claims, Zechariah did not immediately go home after the angel visited him and he was left mute - he continued to perform his duties (which indicates he was mute, not deaf.) Since it has become so common, it is no surprise the author continues in his fiction to have Mary ride a donkey to Bethlehem and the Magi visit shortly after the baby's birth, but one has to question the reason for such a descriptive birth scene for Jesus. The private moments with Mary Magdalene are fictional (including the scar she gave him), yet mixed in with Biblical fact concerning her - for what purpose? Judas is completely misrepresented. With no beginning and no ending, this novel fails in what it should have wanted to deliver - spreading the Gospel message of Jesus - we need a Savior and HE has come and HE will come again.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Michael Loveless

    The book attempts to tell the biblical story in novel form. It begins with Abraham and ends with Pentecost. The novel does not attempt to cover everything in the Bible. Some things before Abraham are referred to or described in “flashbacks.” Things that don’t fit in the narrative are largely left out. There is very little of the Old Testament laws and the Epistles for example. There are some excerpts from the Psalms and Prophets. I thought the book did not accomplish what it intended very well. A The book attempts to tell the biblical story in novel form. It begins with Abraham and ends with Pentecost. The novel does not attempt to cover everything in the Bible. Some things before Abraham are referred to or described in “flashbacks.” Things that don’t fit in the narrative are largely left out. There is very little of the Old Testament laws and the Epistles for example. There are some excerpts from the Psalms and Prophets. I thought the book did not accomplish what it intended very well. At times it read like a paraphrase of the Bible, which made it feel unnecessary. At other times Wangerin tried to portray the biblical characters as real people by adding a fair amount of character development. The disciples are a good example. This was probably necessary but it seemed awkward to take a couple of small hints from the gospels and flesh out a whole person and personality. This was possible with Peter, but was a little presumptuous with Mary Magdellan or Andrew. The tangents that brought in the Psalms and Prophets struck me as transparent and contrived attempts to include more of the Bible than just the narrative. The part of the book that did work well as a novel was the end of the book when the author described the events of Holy Week through Pentecost. Because the Gospels provide a good deal of information and the people involved, it was possible for the author to fill in the gaps without creating things out of whole cloth. That part of the book was powerful.

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