Relevant Books was a spin off of the Relevant magazine that combines two of my favourite things – God and pop culture, though it’s a site for those who aren’t really passionate about either too. Their Books divisions stopped in 2006, when this was released, but there’s still catchy books available, with titles such as The Naked Christian and Everybody Wants To Go To Heaven, But Nobody Wants To Die.
I picked up Pocket Guide To The Bible at a Christian book shop last year and I finally finished it. It’s just less than 200 pages but I sped through this like a hot lunch. Written by Jason Boyett (who also wrote two Pocket Guides one on Adulthood, and one on the Apocalypse) this digest sized book is funny. Yes, funny. Sure it helps if you’re familiar with God’s greatest book but Boyett managed to make me laugh more than when I watched Role Models. That was a very unfunny film anyway, but my point remains. Boyett is a guy after my own heart. He speaks to the iPod, broadband, gaming culture with plenty of Gen X and Y references and an approach that’s refreshing without ever resorting to mockery. It’s obvious this guy has done his homework, as this is basically a condensed form of all that the Bible is. The good bits, the bad bits, the confusing bits and the strange bits. Boyett has unashamedly embraced them all with equal relish.
It’s broken down into tidy chapters such as an A-Z of characters, a summary of what happens in the Old and New Testaments, a history of all the translations over the centuries and a few crazy lists straight out of a late night talk show. It’s punctuated with his casual approach that makes you seem like you’re in on a witty conversation with an old mate. There’s also some great quotes about Scripture from such notables as C.S. Lewis, Abraham Lincoln, Charles Dickens, philosopher Immanuel Kant and Mark Twain (“Most people are bothered by those passages of Scripture they do not understand, but the passages that bother me are those I do understand.”)
I was pleasantly surprised by what surprised me. The history of the different translations since 900 BC and all the translators that were brutally killed for daring to bring God’s Word to the “common folk” is astonishing, and it’s filled with tidbits such as the fact that The Lord of the Rings author J.R.R. Tolkien helped translate the Jerusalem Bible in the 1960s.
The book speeds through centuries of history like a bullet train and it made me want to read more of the Bible to really grasp it. Some will undoubtedly be offended, but to those people I say, “Lighten thee up!” It’s hard to pick my favourite pages, but here goes.
From Boyett’s list of Five Health Conditions That Sound Absolutely Awful – smited bowels, and bloody flux. From Nine Miscellaneous Things You Must Not Do, According To The Law Of Moses – eat a bat, audibly mock the deaf or attempt to trip the blind, or pity a woman who gets her head cut off because she grabbed the genitals of a man who was attacking her husband. Remember, this is all from the Bible, and Boyett uses Scripture to support it all. He’s not making all this up! The best of the rest (of the lists) Seven Lesser-Known Bible Stories That Probably Shouldn’t Be Told To Children, The Four Best Moments For Donkeys, Nine People God Smites, Seven Phrases From The Book Of Judges That Would Make Awesome Band Names. (The Nether Springs, Forsake My Sweetness), and Ten Common Phrases With Biblical Origins. Of course, how could I not mention One Statement By Paul That, When Taken Out Of Context, Makes Him Sound Relatively Hip – “Peace to the brothers.”
Boyett’s also not averse to getting real with it and explains that the raunchy Song of Solomon book is an actual account of two lovers. As Boyett explains it is, “what amounts to the Hebrew Kama Sutra, starring Solomon and his nubile lover. For kicks, here’s a lyrical sample, spoken by the female, “Let my lover come into his garden and taste its choice fruits.” Uh..her “garden?” Not really a garden. Bomp-chicka-bow-wow.”
Sure it’s light hearted, but Boyett is both respectful and entertaining. He doesn’t write anything that will make most Christians throw this in the bonfire with The DaVinci Code. It’s a pleasant reminder that, like His followers, God too has a sense of humour. However, looking at all His mysterious and loving ways throughout history, He at least knows what He’s doing.
In an interesting side note, Boyett has just signed a deal with a different publisher, so the existing book is available now from him (and cheap too!), or you can wait until August when the new edition is released from Jossey-Bass. Either way – get this book.