God: A Biography
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God: A Biography

3.9 of 5 stars 3.90  ·  rating details  ·  1,276 ratings  ·  115 reviews
What sort of "person" is God? Is it possible to approach him not as an object of religious reverence, but as the protagonist of the world's greatest book--as a character who possesses all the depths, contradictions, and abiguities of a Hamlet? In this "brilliant, audacious book" (Chicago Tribune), a former Jesuit marshalls a vast array of learning and knowledge of the Hebr...more
Paperback, 464 pages
Published March 19th 1996 by Vintage (first published 1995)
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Kelly
Jul 17, 2007 Kelly rated it 5 of 5 stars Recommends it for: those interested in biblical studies, Christians, Jews... it's so good.
This book is amazing. It really opened my eyes. It's written by a former Jesuit named Jack Miles. Who is brilliant. This was given to me by a friend late in high school, while we were both struggling with our Catholic backgrounds. It deals with God as a literary character, and what his choices would mean if the Old Testament were analyzed simply from the perspective of literary criticism. I think it's fascinating and erudite. It is guaranteed to give you a few more questions about religion than...more
Szplug
Miles won the Pulitzer for this absorbing study of the life of the Biblical God, beginning with the opening chapter of Genesis and taking us through the entirety of the Old Testament in the Jewish ordering of the books from the Torah. Jehovah makes for a stirring and multifaceted subject - an omniscient and omnipotent deity that was assembled from the personalities and powers of a variety of ancient pagan pantheons, running the gamut from demiurge to demon; a terrifying and vengeful master, brea...more
Reham Mohssen

انصح به وبشدة
من أصعب وأروع الكتب اللى مرت علىّ على الإطلاق
George Mills
There is nothing I can write that can reach the level of scholarship, thought, writing, originality, and sheer mental discipline of this work. The author has taken the Hebrew Bible not as a religious work, but rather as a literary work. He then analyzes the character "God" in the same way he would analyze the character Prospero in Shakespeare's "The Tempest". He is not interested in theological questions, nor is he interested in proving religious interpretations. He is only interested in God, wh...more
Matthew
I was excited about the idea that this was going to be a book analyzing the God of the Old Testament/Hebrew Tanakh as a literary character, which is exactly what the author, Jack Miles, promised he was going to give me. It didn't turn out that way, however, and even though I enjoyed learning a lot about the Old Testament, its historical context, its major figures, and the many deities who were amalgamated over time to become God, I can't help being very disappointed that Miles never really achie...more
Marguerite
Jun 09, 2008 Marguerite rated it 5 of 5 stars Recommends it for: Seekers, lit majors, open-minded folks
Shelves: gotta-have-faith
Only a former Jesuit could have written this. Treating God as the protagonist in an epic that's "more" chronological than Christian Scripture is thought-provoking, if not earthshaking. Jack Miles looks as the different roles Scripture gives to God. It has the effect of remaking the divine in very mortal form. This God grows in understanding. This God can be bested. This God is conflicted: "A monotheism in which the divine is not just conceived but also imagined as one must have a different effec...more
Erik Graff
Sep 10, 2011 Erik Graff rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition Recommends it for: Miles fans
Recommended to Erik by: Martin S.
Shelves: religion
I was loaned this by a nominally Catholic friend who is attracted to offbeat books. Though an autobiography of the first person of the trinity, the creater of heaven and earth, is certainly unusual, this one made the mainstream, winning a Pulitzer for biography. Normally, I wouldn't have touched the thing, but this friend's recommendations have weight.

As it was, I found the deity's life story less interesting than any number of biographies I've read of human beings. What interest the book held w...more
Judith
God: a Biography by Jack Miles offers a thorough literary approach to the Bible, through the life of its protagonist, God. Setting aside puzzles of historical veracity, and ignoring issues of religious interpretation, Miles examines the character as written, from Creator to the Ancient of Days. Character development requires an authoritative ordering of the books , and Miles shows how the sequence of the Hebrew scriptures, the Tanakh, as opposed to the Christian Old Testament, provides continuit...more
Paige
Okay, another religion book that I am finding too heavy to wade through. Made it a couple of chapters...not a read if you want something light.
Sean
Sep 19, 2008 Sean rated it 4 of 5 stars Recommends it for: very smart people
Recommended to Sean by: found it at a used bookstore
This is a very heavy read...I actually haven't finished it. Not to say that it is disturbing or emotionally heavy, but it is intellectually heavy. This is definitely a scholarly book. It is written by Jack Miles, a professor of theology at Claremont University (one of the most prominent schools in the nation when it comes to theology). It is a look at God within the bible as a literary character. There is no comparison with history or the effects of the Bible on society. It is strictly a look as...more
Andrea
There is a great scene in the Broadway musical "Book of Mormon" where, at the climax, the young Ugandan protagonist is frustrated to learn not all of the stories she's heard from the Mormon missionaries are literal truth. Especially the one about Bobba Fett. One of her older village-mates admonishes her, saying "there's no such place as the fabled Salt Lake City - it's a metaphor!"

The Bible, it would seem, has been interpreted and taught in every possible context through history. Miles takes th...more
James
A really great way to make sense of the Bible as a literary whole (something we're often less than apt to do), though sometimes it reaches and strains to make connections that are more easily and convincingly explained through a historical lens. That's one of the frustrations with Miles's book-long exercise of looking at God through a diachronic lens: in reply to a pressing question or seeming contradiction, he will often first mention the scholarly reason, and then dismiss it as not in keeping...more
Saraelizabeth
I get what this author is trying to do. He's writing about God as if he is the main character in a great work of literature: the Bible. He's analyzing his actions and discussing his role in the story as if we might study Hamlet. I get that.
The problem is that God is not a character in a story that begins and ends with the story. If all you're doing is analyzing God based on his interactions with humans in the Bible, you're missing most of what God is.
Because that's all Miles does, he gets God'...more
Matt
This book was a very learned, thoughtful book about the Jewish scriptures. There was something to think about on just about every page, and Miles has a knack for creating compelling analysis of challenging text (and, in God, a challenging character!).
It's hard to sum up what Miles was trying to say, which is one of the things that makes the book so interesting -- the God of the Old Testament (or Tanakh, as I learned that the Jewish scriptures are called) is quite confusing. Miles makes the poin...more
Robert Rosenwein
What if God was considered as a protagonist in a rich and complex text? What if we start at the beginning of the Hebrew Bible (the Old Testament ending with the stories of Esther and Daniel) and read it through to the end as we would a novel? In this brilliant imagining, Jack Miles, who has studied the Bible and biblical history for over 50 years, [its forward the following thesis: God makes Man and Woman in his own image and then sets out to discover what that image is through his interactions...more
Branden
We will see how this "God" fellow has made out so far.

There's not much I can add to what's already been said. Of course, the treatment of God as a developing protagonist in the story of the Tanahk is brilliant. Perhaps the best compliment I can pay to a book, I pay to this one in spades: It made me think of familiar concepts in new ways.

The only small issue I had with the book was that it sort of hits a climax with the Job story, and the remaining chapters seem dull by comparison. This is not t...more
Diane Ramirez
God: A Biography never ceased to fascinate and engage. Miles had me hook, line, and sinker -- albeit intellectually rather than spiritually -- following his elaborate train of thought through a number of (his) perceptions and conclusions. The payoff from the chapter on Job was alone worth the challenge of this read, but there were actually several sections that made me re-think my understanding of the Bible and Christianity. (Thank goodness he didn't end the book after the Job chapter, which oth...more
Mallory
Overall I found this book very interesting. The premise is to read the Hebrew testament, focusing on God as the character in a piece of literature. It was an interesting point of view, and also provided some insights into how the Jewish community arranges these books of the Bible. There were also some historical insights to put the Hebrew testament into context, and also provided, for me, an additional fresh perspective for reading the Old Testament in the Bible. There definitely some moments wh...more
Savannah Kiez
Thought provoking and deeply interesting, Jack Miles' "God: A Biography" follows the Judean God as a literary character, describing character traits from an objective literary perspective. Taking the reverence away from the character of God illuminates not only the thought process ancient peoples followed in his development, but also allows a contextual understanding of the religions branching out from early God-worship. As someone who is not religious and has only a very basic understanding of...more
David
It seems like a gimmick, trying to treat the Hebrew Bible -- the work of many hands, over many centuries, existing in many forms and orders -- as a single work of literature with a unitary protagonist, subject to analysis by the same methods of traditional literary theory that would be applied to Peer Gynt. And in fact, Miles does wander away from this conceit often enough to spin some yarns of his own. But the idea (presumably borrowed without reference from Northrop Frye) does pull some surpri...more
Amy
It's been quite a while since I read this book, but I remember it being challenging more than anything. I do remember being amazed at this book's premise, looking at God as a literary character in the Bible, because God, and the way he interacts with people, changes and evolves throughout the Old Testament. Some of the Hebrew terms were unfamiliar to me, so I think I would have enjoyed this book more with a religions class, so I'd get a bit of guidance. I wouldn't mind re-reading it now that I'v...more
Jackie G
Perhaps more than anything else I've ever read, this book made me think about the Old Testament God in a fresh and thought provoking way. It made me wonder whether I've been asking the right questions in my futile attempts to understand God all these years. And it has caused me to rethink the relevance of the Old Testament to Christianity. That's a lot for one book to do!!
Eric
I've owned this book for years, but only just gathered the courage to dive in. I guess the Pulitzer should have tipped me off to the quality of the author, but it's been a very pleasant surprise.

What I like most is that Miles introduces God as history's most compelling novel character, whose personality shifts and changes in each new chapter. For example, we see both wrathful God and whiny God.

Miles argues that insight from reading about God from this perspective casts light on the central moti...more
Alyssa Weaver
Disappointed with this book. I read it in curiosity of what Miles would say about the vengeful/wrathful side of God, yet Miles barely touches on these characteristics and doesn't seem to see them as an issue. Miles doesn't even discuss the conquest on Canaan in the book of Joshua, which, in my opinion, is one of the most difficult descriptions of the actions of God contained within the Bible. I do, however, enjoy the authors way of writing about the Bible as literature rather than historical tru...more
Peter Korsman
Currently rereading this one. A majestical book. Brought up with the bible and it's stories? Read it! Sheds new light on the complex Ruler and how he exists only through man, for he is an only god, surrounded by none. He has no history, or an image of himself. Is he a leader, a warlord or a personal god? Compassionate or fierce and demanding?
In the garden, walking the earth and calling/searching for Adam and Eve, later in the book God seeing/knowing everything? One of the many interesting parad...more
Avi Gvili
Jack Miles takes a critical look at the Tanach or what is commonly known as the Old Testament. A former Jesuit priest by training, he attempts to look closely at the text, holding up for us to see some of the meaning of this ancient book. Inevitable accusations of being biased because he isn't Jewish, and therefore not equipped to fully understand the import of the Old Testament, are dispelled in his evenhanded approach to the foundational text for the world's monotheistic religions. A worthwhil...more
Chris
This book provides a fascinating perspective for studying the Old Testament (actually the ordering of the Tanakh is used). The book is widely considered one of the great books of literature, and Jack Miles look at it as just that, literature - creating a character study of God as his story is told in the Tanakh. It's a fresh and brilliant gimmick - the author is not bound to a theological or secular historian view of the bible and as there is no pretense of providing a definitive interpretation...more
David
This scholarly text examines the Hebrew Old Testament as a work of literature with God as its protagonist. His story is one of self-discovery as well as internal conflict. Presented more as Shakespearean play -- i.e. Hamlet -- rather than Greek tragedy -- we see here the many sides to God's personality. I especially appreciated the summation, wherein the author uses the Tanakh as the basis of a myth, giving each aspect of God a unique name, thereby fleshing out the story in a more comprehensible...more
Nicolas Shump
One of the most original and compelling readings of The Tanakh (The Hebrew Scriptures), I've come across. Miles is a former Biblical scholar and Jesuit priest, but this is a very scrupulous and balanced take on Yahweh that I have ever come across. His reading of Job is illuminating.I used this every time I taught the Hebrew Scriptures in my HWC classes at KU. It is a fascinating work and very provocative in his readings and conclusions about the nature of Yahweh.
Cathy
Aug 21, 2009 Cathy added it
I have to admit that I'm struggling with this book a bit. As a former English teacher, I loved the idea of studying God as a character in a literary work -- analyzing him as we would any character by what he says and does and by what others say about him. The book is getting off to a pretty slow start, in my opinion, though, and every time I try to read I end up falling asleep! Maybe if I can carve out a nice, long chunk of time without interruption when I'm not tired :)
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5373
Jack Miles (b. 1942) is an American author and winner of both the Pulitzer Prize and the MacArthur Fellowship. His work on religion, politics, and culture has appeared in numerous national publications, including The Atlantic Monthly, The New York Times, The Boston Globe, The Washington Post, and The Los Angeles Times.

-Wikipedia
More about Jack Miles...
Christ: A Crisis in the Life of God Beside Still Waters: Jews, Christians, and the Way of the Buddha Jesus The Best American Spiritual Writing 2004 Christ: A Crisis In The Life Of God

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“The profound originality of a divine-human pact in which both parties complain endlessly about each other has too rarely been acknowledged as such.” 2 likes
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