3. The Old Testament

Around 600 BC.

Original language: Hebrew, with about 1% in Aramaic (5 chapters of Daniel and 3 chapters of Ezra).

I read the King James Version and parts of the Tanakh (Jewish Publication Society edition).

Talk about a human God. He’s very thin-skinned, quick to anger and quick to punish Man. God is like a bad father. For example Numbers 11 – First some people complain and he sends a fire to burn their camp. Then people complain about the food – they’re tired of a constant diet of only manna. So God teases them by dropping off some quail, then he kills them (the ones who craved meat) with a plague.

I do like the realism of it, though. You’ve got 600,000 people in a desert under difficult conditions. They’re basically refugees. There’s bound to be some trouble and grumbling.

The Old Testament is a bore. The Iliad and the Odyssey are art, they’re both great examples of narrative art. The Old Testament is not art. It’s myth, history, and religious text, but not art.

Isaiah: Still dull but has some good moments like beating the swords into plowshares. A favorite verse of mine is Isaiah 6:8 — Then I heard the voice of my Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? Who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I; send me.” (Heb: Hineni, shalacheni).

Jeremiah. It’s unrelenting sameness and bleakness. God yelling at his people like a bad Jewish father.

Ezekiel. Same thing. Unrelenting, page after page, God scolding and threatening man. How did this book get its good reputation?

The Old Testament is completely demystified for me. It’s over and over, a petulant God threatening mankind if we don’t follow his rules, and/or worship other gods. The New Testament was a brilliant brand reboot to make God’s brand more acceptable.

The only parts of the Old Testament that are readable are Genesis, Exodus, Kings, Jonah, Ruth, Esther, Job, and Song of Songs.

Psalms and Proverbs were both dull. I liked Job (philosophical dialogues) and Song of Songs (erotic poetry).

Overall – what a disappointment.


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