While it’s on my mind I might let you know of another book I recently read that I got for Christmas: Bruce Feiler’s Walking the Bible.
Walking the Bible tells a narrative of how the author connects the stories told in the first 5 books of the bible into a geographical, historical reality. The author tells of how the stories of Noah, Abraham and Moses were always just stories, fairy tales or similar, until one day visiting Jerusalem someone pointed to the dome of the rock saying “That is where Abraham went to sacrifice Isaac.” Feiler realised that you can actually visit the places where many of the stories in the bible took place, so he began a journey to do so, discovering that many of the stories are profoundly influenced by where they occurred, such as pillars of salt around the Dead Sea.
The author writes in a manner that is sensitive and respectful of all the major religions in the area, indeed, focusing on Genesis to Deuteronomy he addresses a period which is foundational for Jews, Christians and Muslims alike. There is tension in places, he is after all in Israel and Palestine for much of his journey, but it is just as frequently between science and the bible as it is between a Muslim or Jewish point of view.
One of the highlights of the book is when Feiler stays at St Catherines Monastery near Mt Sinai. Feiler speaks with reverence of the men who serve and worship there, then goes on a trek up the mountain. St Catherines is the supposed site of the burning bush that God spoke to Moses through.
I found the book very helpful – it did make the first five books of the bible seem more real, more connected to the world I live in. Short of actually visiting the places mentioned, I think reading this book is an excellent grounding in the current state of affairs in the Middle East and the history of our faith.
Read an excerpt from the book: Chapter 1 In the Land of Canaan
Some more extracts from different chapters
Look inside (via Amazon) – really cool