I just finished reading “The Book of God” by Walter Wangerin Jr. My son and I were walking through the book store, and he picked it up and said, “Look Dad, this book looks cool.” He had no idea what he was talking about, or what the book was about, he’s six, but he was right. The book did look cool. If you don’t know, “The Book of God” is the Bible as a novel. It is advertised as, “The Bible as a single powerful story”. Honestly, I already thought that is what the Bible was, but nevertheless, the title, and the idea sparked my curiosity so I bought it.
I’ve never done a book review before, but I thought it would be a good idea to start posting some stuff on things that I’m reading. First, it will help to inform others, and second, it will help me to reflect on what I’ve read. So here goes.
Initially, I was very unimpressed with the book. It seemed as if the author was merely paraphrasing the Bible, and not really doing much else. He gave physical descriptions of the people, but I didn’t think he went far enough, if this was the Bible as a novel, I thought he should explore emotions, and what might have been going on in the minds of the people a little more. Granted it would be conjecture, and it would be what he(Wangerin) thought might have been going on in their minds, as God interjected in their lives, but I thought it would be interesting, and it would help the reader perhaps identify a little more with those folks they have read about in Scripture.
As the story progressed, Wangerin did go a little more into the feelings and emotions of those he was writing about. He really picked it up as Samuel, Saul, and David came into the story. This is where I began to enjoy the book much more. He gave interesting perspectives and glimpses into what it might have been like to walk in these men’s shoes, or even to have been an onlooker of these events as they transpired. He continued very well through the prophets, and into the New Testament.
I must say though, as much as I was hoping for the author to take some creative license with the Old Testament, and the Patriarchs and Prophets, I would have preferred him to take a little less liberty, and use a little less imagination in the New Testament. In the New Testament I feel he goes a little far in imagining why Judas might have betrayed Jesus, why the crowd might have requested the release of Barrabas over Jesus of Nazareth, and there are a few other instances. I understand this was meant to be a novel, but I still feel he should have stayed a little closer to the text, and what I believe to be the facts laid out for us in the Bible. There are also a few instances where I believe he took some of the events out of sequence…but for the most part he did a decent job of accurately portraying the teachings of Jesus, and the events of His life.
Overall I would say Walter Wangerin did a good job with this book. I did enjoy reading it. I simply wish that he had stayed a little closer to the facts as written in the Bible, but did a little more exploration into the minds and emotions of the people of the Bible. I would recommend this book to folks that have a good knowledge of Scripture, and who were able to separate what is Scriptural and what is not. I would be hesitant to recommend it to someone who is not really familiar with the Bible. Just my opinion. Again though, I do respect what the author did, and overall it is a decent read.
For me personally, the best thing I got out of the book was that in a lot of ways, he did give the people personalities, and helped me to see afresh that the people of the Bible were real people, who had real emotions, real families, and real problems. Sometimes we tend to look at the Bible as just a set of lessons for us to learn, almost like a text book. This attitude I believe stifles Spiritual growth and makes the Bible too wooden and hard to read. I think after reading Wangerin’s work, I will read the Bible somewhat differently, and maybe even get more out of it.
So overall, the book wasn’t perfect, wasn’t great, but it was good. I enjoyed it, and would recommend it to people with the advice to understand that it isn’t Scripture, and it is in many ways a work of fiction. That being said, it might just make you see Scripture in a fresh way, and reignite a hunger and a thirst for God. That isn’t ever a bad thing. If I had to rate “The Book of God” on a scale of 1-10, I’d say it’s a 6.5.