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He is the editor-at-large at Esquire and has written for Entertainment Weekly, The New York Times and has contributed to NPR'S weekend edition. He is the the author of "America offline" as well as the best selling book, the "Know-It-All". We hear that his latest book, which we will hear about tonight; "The Year of Living Biblically: One Man's Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible" has been optioned by Paramount Pictures and Brad Pitt's production company. You can tell us more about this if this is true about pretty. Tonight we have the pleasure of hearing about the insight that Mr. Jacob has gained from his year of seeking to follow the Bible literally. From the Ten Commandments to lesser known rules like avoiding wearing clothes of mixed fiber and playing a ten stringed harp. If you have heard anything about this book you have probably also seen the photos that he had taken of him before, during and after his year. Currently his beard grew so unruly that he was mistaken for a member of ZZ Top. Bishop John Shelby Spong has noted that to find a book like "The Year of Living Biblically", which is quote at one and the same delightfully readable and profoundly memorable is a wonder. We are grateful that he is here with us tonight not only for some needed humor in these challenging national times but also to raise difficult challenges of what it means to understand the Bible in the 21st century. We are just so happy to have you here, thanks. Thank you, Jenny thank you and thank you for coming and this is a a wonderfully appropriate space. So it's good to be here. He is going to adjust my mic, he told me to keep talking while he adjusts the mic better okay perfect. All right. For those of who who haven't read anything I have written, what I like to do is to immerse myself in my projects, so sort of do these lifestyle experiment - a human guinea pig. I like I see my life as a a laboratory and with a 'B' because I actually said this at my first event and I looked on a blog and they said, "He sees his life as a lavatory." And I was like I hope I don't. So I I worked at Esquire Magazine and a a couple of years ago I wrote an article called "My Outsourced Life" and for this one I hired a team of people in Bangalore, India to live my life for me. And they answered my phone, answered my e-mail, they argued with my wife for me, read my my son bed-time story, it was the best month of my life it was - I just relaxed the whole month. My most recent article for Esquire was called was about a movement called "Radical Honesty". And this was started by a man a psychologist who believes that you should never ever lie ever except may be in Poker and Golf he said. And he said not only that, "You should whatever is on your brain should come out your mouth, no filter". So I tried to do this and this was a horrible months, this was one of the worst months of my life. To give you a sense the article was called "I Think You're Fat". So that was a a little - it was just dreadful, I do not recommend that. My previous book is called, "The Know-It-All", and it's about how I read the Encyclopedia Britannica from A to Z or more precisely from a-ak which is a type of East Asian music all the way to Zywiec which is - well I don't want to rule in the ending for those of you haven't read it because it's it's a very exiting twist ending. So I won't tell you. But but that was a a fascinating year just because I started it because I felt my IQ had done a belly flop after college and I I wanted to try to get it back up. I wanted to remember all those things I was supposed to remember and and it was a great year and I got to explore the limits of intelligence, I went to a Mensa convention which was great and I hate to reinforce stereotypes but they did talked a about "Star Trek" just so you know - I got to go on who wants to be a millionaire; and and it was fascinating year. But of all of the experiments I have done I think that this one "The year of living biblically" was the most radical, life changing, profound event and fascinating of all the experiment of all the years I spent and it was it was an amazing year and I just hoped that I can I I captured some of that enthusiasm and fascination in my book. It started because I grew up with no religion at all in a very secular home as I say in the book 'I am Jewish in the same way the Olive Garden is Italian' so not very - but I became increasingly interested in religion because I do think it's the defining issue of our time and I also have a young son, I want to know what to tell him about religion, I want to know what I was missing by not having any religion in my life, so I decided to immerse myself, dive in head first and and try to live the bible and try to follow everything in the bible without picking and choosing and and see what enhanced my life and and how it changed it and what made my life better and what may be was not so relevant to my life. So the first thing I did was I bought a stack of bible - a literal stack and I I had Christian bibles, Hebrew bibles. A friend of mine send me a hip hop bible which the the 23rd Psalm reads "The lord is all that" whereas the traditional interpretation is that "The lord is my shepherd". So I read all sorts of bibles and and what I did was I then assembled a board of spiritual advisers because I knew this was a massive massive project to try to take on this - the most influential book of all times so I wanted as much as help as I could get, so I got Rabbis and priests and ministers of all stripes and and then I read the bible, I read it from genesis to revelations and I wrote down every piece of advice, every rule, every guideline for living that I could find and by the end I had this incredibly long list, 72 pages over 700 rules and and they ranged from the ones we all know about the The Ten Commandments "love thy neighbor", "be fruitful and multiply" so I wanted to follow those but I also - there were ones that - that are not as famous or more obscure, there is the the beard - that don't shave your beard so by the end as Jenny mentioned, I have this huge appendage on my face there you can see the progression, you know I spent a lot of time at airport security as you can imagine a guy called ZZ Top or that's that's on a nice state Ted Gizinski I got a lot as well - and I - the bible also has a rule that in Leviticus - do not wear clothes made of mixed fibers. So I I wanted to do that without picking - choosing to everything and see what happens so I I went through my closet and I got rid of all of my poly cotton T-shirts, that was one of the first things I did. There is another rule in the bible that says "if two men are in a fight and the wife of one of those men grabs the private parts of his opponent, then her hands shall be cut off". So I I had to follow that rule - that one I actually didn't follow because I I was able to spend the year without getting in a fight with another man whose wife is standing nearby strong guts so there were ones but it was it was an incredibly challenging year, I mean I don't think I knew what I was getting myself into when I started and and I would say if I had to break it down there were two types of rules that were really really difficult, the first were the ones that forced me to become a better person that made - that using the bible to almost have an extreme ethical - an extreme ethical makeover. There is sins like - little sins that we all do everyday and you can't believe how often we do them like no lying, no gossiping, no coveting you know I work in New York city as a journalist so that was like seventy percent of my day right there so it was it was a great challenge and I am glad I did, and I do think I saw it was as fascinating to watch how it affected my life, because it really did. I changed you know, I didn't become a saint, I didn't become Gandhi or Angelina Jolie, but I think I became a better person, and it was fascinating to watch because it was the process was almost like and I pretended to become to be a better person and I eventually became a little bit of a better person. It was almost like you know in business they say "shake it till you make it". So this is almost the ethical or spiritual version of that, you I stopped gossiping, and eventually I would I would force my self to stop gossiping. Eventually I had less of an an urge to gossip and that it was or even cursing, I force myself to stop cursing and by my curse words became fudge and sugar. And what would happened was I get to the subway platform as the subway was pulling away and I would say "oh, fudge" and I would sound so Andy Griffith and dorky, that I would, that I couldn't be angry this was my anger so it was it was a really you know, quite a profound less and then how behavior shapes your thoughts. And this is the lesson that runs from you know, cognitive therapy nowadays they all talk about how you act one way and your your thoughts will eventually catch up in cognitive business. And for this is in the Bible as well in the proverb it says to smile and you will become happier. So that was a fascinating, sorry insight and how my how people work. The other type of rule that was incredibly difficult to follow where the one that will get you in trouble if you follow them in 21st century America, so this one for instance there is stoning adulterers so here I thought I do a very quick reading of how I try to fulfill this particular law because it is a big part of the old Testament. So here is here is how I dealt with that. The Hebrew Scriptures prescribe a tremendous amount of capital punishment I think Saudi Arabia multiply by Texas then triple that. It wasn't just for murder you could be executed for a adultery blasphemy, breaking the sabbath, perjury, incest, bestiality and witch craft. The most commonly mentioned method of punishment in Hebrew Bible is stoning, so I figured the very least I should try the stone, but how? I can't tell you the number of people who have suggested that I get adulterers and blasphemers stoned in the cannabis sense. Which is an which is an interesting idea, but I haven't smoke pot since I was at Brown University, when I wrote a paper on the hidden symbolism of bong hits, I got a B plus on that paper by the way. I think I would have Berkeley as well, I think Berkeley is the kind of place that would appreciate that. Instead I figured my loop hole would be this the Bible doesn't specify the size of stones so pebbles. Today I got a chance I am resting in a small public park on the upper west side the kind where you see retirees eating tuna sandwiches on benches. "Hey you're dressed queer" and look over, the speaker is an elderly man, mid 70s, he is tall and thin and wearing one of those caps the cabby's wore in the movies from the 40s. "You're dressed queer," he said to me, "why you dress so queer?" I have one of my usual tassels, the bible says to where tassels on the corners of your clothing and for a good measure I have worn some sandals and I am carrying a naughty maple walking stick. I am trying to live by the rules of the Bibles, The Ten Commandments, Stoning Adulterers. I am an adulter, you are going to stone me? Well yes, that would be great. I will punch you in the face, I will send you t the cemetery, he is serious. This is a cutesy grumpy old man, this is an angry grumpy old man, this is a man with seven decades of hostility behind him, I fish out pebbles my pebbles from my back pocket, I wouldn't stone you with big stones I say, just these little guys. I open my palm to shown the pebbles, he lynches out to me, grabbing one out of my hand flinging it on my face. I am stunned, I haven't expected this real crazy old man to make the first move, but now there is nothing stopping me from retaliating. An eye for an eye, I take one of the remaining pebbles and whip it at his chest "I will punch you right in the kisser," he says. "Well, you really shouldn't commit adultery", I say. We stare at each other yes he is a septuagenarian, yes he threaten using honeymooners dialogue. But you could tell this man had a strong dark side. Our glaring contest last ten seconds and then, he walks away brushing by me as he leaves. Even though mine was a stoning light barely fulfilling the letter of the law I can't deny. It felt good to chuck a rock at this nasty old man, it felt primal and yet I also knew this was a immorally stunted way to feel stoning is bad as indefensible as you can get it comes back to the old question how can the bible so be wise in some places and yet so seemingly barbaric in others and this was a big issue that I wrestled with throughout the year. I asked my spiritual adviser Yossi about this stoning. Yossi was born in Minnesota and calls himself a 'Jewtheran', Jewish guilt and Lutheran repression makes perfectly, he told me he is an ardent orthodox rabbi but has never practiced he isn't phased by my question at all we don't stone people today because you need a biblical theocracy to enforce the stoning he says and no such society exists today. But even in ancient times stoning was not barbaric you didn't just heave the stones the idea was to minimize the suffering what we call stoning was actually pushing the person off the cliff so that they would die immediately upon impact plus the stoning were a rare thing some rabbi say they only happened once every seven years others once every 70 years in addition the person getting executed with given strong drink to dull the pain I have expected Yossi to say that they gave the adulterer a massage and a gift pack and he made a compelling case and yet I am totally sold where biblical times really so merciful I suspect there might be some post biblical whitewashing going on as my year progresses, I need to deal deeper so this to me I was able to use this and it was an intense surprisingly intense experience and you know also entertaining in retrospect, but I was also able to use it to try to deal deeper into these issues these is really difficult issues about how the bible can be so wise and yet it has this passages about stoning adulterers and astrologers, and I got to the two motivation these is behind my book two of the main reason. I embarked on this the first was that I became concerned about fundamentalism and people who who do take the bible incredibly literally and I I thought what if I became the ultimate fundamentalist what if I took everything in the bible literally and almost showed that this is not the best way to approach the bible that the bible has so much wisdom and compassion and beauty and if you take everything literally and if you insist that the world was created in six days six literal days then you are missing out on some much of it. So that was one of the motivations the second motivation was as I as I mentioned these youngest spiritual journey that I wanted to find out what I was missing by having no religion in my life and what I could take what I could learn from the bible to make my life to enhance my life and make me a better person and It also got to the - the difference between what the bible literally says and the thousands of interpretations that of what people how people have interpreted the bible over the years and this is this to me is a fascinating at the topic and when I talk about quite a bit because the the interpretations can be radically different and for instance and its important, and I think its an important thing that there is a tradition that interprets the bible because otherwise you would be following it and you will be acting quite barbaric for instance there is the phrase an eye for an eye in the bible that's right in there and if you ask a rabbi today they would tell you no it doesn't an eye for eye does not mean an eye for eye an eye for an eye means that you should pay the money if you poke someone's eye out what It mean was you have to pay the money to compensate them for that injury So this is that they have taken the literal words and then there is the thousands of years of rabbinical interpretation that have grown up around the world where to try to soften them, and often there is so can be radically different you can have something that's - that you take in the Bible those literal words and then the revise interpretation and you can almost have no there is almost no connection that you can find on the surface of it for instance there is there is the line in Leviticus that you shall not be boil a baby goat in its mothers milk. So I was taking the Bible literally so my goal for the year was to spent the year without boiling a baby goat in his mothers milk. But somehow I was able to do, thank god. A friend of mine tell me you know if you really feel the urge you can boil a baby goat in its grandmothers milk, or its own milk. But this one line has been interpreted over the years by it to me its something radically different to me separate milk and meat and that's where we got the ban against eating cheese burgers in traditional Judaism, So it's all from this one line these eight words have - had such a huge impact on thousands of years of behavior. And that I loved learning about that, and I loved going to these communities and and finding out of that the different ways they have been interpreted. I visited all sorts of communities across America as part of my journey and wrote about them the Hasidic Jews, I spent time with the Amish, a lot of time with Evangelical Christians. I am very proud because I think I am the first person in America to out Bible talk a Jehovah's Witness, as very excited he he came over to my house and after three and a half hours he looked like - I got to go, I said all right enough for that. So but I you know, I I think that they were willing to talk to me which was nicely they opened up because except for this guy after three and a half hours as I gone opening up but but generally they were very open with me because I was going in there with genuine curiosity and I really wanted to find out and I found the whole topic fascinating and I have been very blessed sorry because I think that you know, so far secular readers, non-religious readers, and religious readers have responded. And this is probably not Biblical this is unbiblical boosting so I apologize in advance but I am very excited, because this month I am on the the cover of an Evangelical Christian Magazine, and I am also in both Playboy and Penthouse, so very excited about that. Finally I thought I just give couple of the the bigger lessons that I think I was able to glean from my ear and then I will open it up to any questions you guys might have. One of the lessons was that "though shall give thanks", because in the Bible I was giving thanks all the times saying these prayers of thanks giving, I became an extreme thanker like thanking you know this microphone for working thank you, and its its actually a strange way to live, but a good way to live. Because you start to realize the 100 little things that go right every day that we don't even notice instead of focusing on the three or four that go wrong. Number two "though shall have a reverence", I started there as an agnostic and through out the year I went through all source of permutations as quite intense spiritually and at times I believe deeply and a god a biblical god who loved me and cared. I came out at the other end as what a minister friend of mine called a reverent Agnostic, which is a phrase that I love because whether or not there is a god, I believe there is something to the idea of sacredness, and that rituals can be sacred or or prayer or the sabbath can be sacred, and that there is something important to that. Number three is "though shall not stereotype", this was a big one, because whatever stereotypes I had or smashed by the end of the year, I went in with a very frequency of notion of Evangelical Christianity and and that was completely blown away. I met such a wide variety of Evangelical Christians, there is a group called the Red-Letter Christians who are Evangelical Christians who focus on the words of Jesus which were printed in red letters in the old bibles hence the name Red-Letter Christians. And their argument is that Jesus never talked about homosexuality and they have a a pamphlet that says here is what Jesus said about homosexuality and you open it up, then there is nothing in it. So they said instead Jesus talked a lot about poverty and and that helping the poor and and so they say that's what we want to focus on. And I found them incredibly inspiring and and I love to trying to meet them. That was shall not take the bible literally this was a big one. As I mentioned earlier I I went to I think as I said the bible has so much in it, so much goodness in it, but if she take it literally then you miss some of that and and the acting is a bit like crazy person and falling stones that adulteries, and I did I went to the creation museum which is a new museum that has open in Kentucky and it is for people who believe the earth was 6000 years old and its actually quite a remarkable place like the production values are astounding, there is a scale model of Noah's Arch and there is a movie theater the plays movies about the flood and it has sprinklers and ceiling that sprinkle and come down when the flood is going and and these people were not they are not stupid they are not they are not dumb at all. I think there is no difference in IQ between the average creationist and the average evolutionist, but they though they are but their faith so strong that they will distort all the data to fit their their literal version of of genesis and that earth is created in six days and I just don't think that's necessary, you can still find meaning in the bible without having to resort to this. And finally one of the lessons was that they shall pick and choose and because I did try to follow everything in the bible and and I found that to be impossible, and so I I did pick and choose of the parts of the bible that I followed and there is a phrase called "cafeteria religion", which is used by some fundamentalists who use it has a disparaging phrase. They say you just picking and choosing the parts you like. But my conclusion was there is nothing wrong with cafeterias, I have had some delicious meals at cafeterias. I have also had some horrible meal, that made me want to dry heave so the key is to pick the right meals, the right parts of the bible and may be with the guidance of an inspiring religious you can who can help you do that so the ones that focus on compassion or tolerance or helping others instead of the ones lets say you know, the homosexuality is a sin or or the violence passages because if we are going to be frank there are those in the bible as well. So it was a fascinating year and it took me from a the sublime to the ridiculous and back again and and I just loved it and I got so much out of it and I just hope I can impart some of that into with my book and and I hope that you enjoyed, so thank you very much.