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God: A Biography

3.91  ·  Rating details ·  1,966 Ratings  ·  149 Reviews
God: A Biography
Paperback, 446 pages
Published March 19th 1996 by Vintage (first published 1995)
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Kelly
Jul 17, 2007 rated it it was amazing
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
Jan 06, 2010 rated it really liked it
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
George Mills
May 23, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
Feb 14, 2008 rated it liked it
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
Erik Graff
Feb 22, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  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
John Martindale
Jun 03, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: apologetics, religion
Monotheism

Here we have an unique perspective of someone who doesn't appear to be a man of faith, within the book Miles considers God purely as a literary character that evolves in the unfolding of the canon as ordered in the Tanakh. If Miles is even close to correct in his reading of the Hebrew bible, the God that Jews and Christians worship has very little in common with the extremely ambiguous, amoral and multi-personalitied deity that he thinks the ancient writers conveyed. Towards the end of the book,
...more
Ebtesam Ali
Mar 14, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: must-to-read
ممل وصعب ويبي هلبا صبر بس حبيته
Randy Cauthen
Aug 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing
On the multiple personalities of the Old Testament God. Miles reads the Bible as he would a novel or play, examining the motivations of the protagonist.
Audrey
Nov 02, 2014 rated it really liked it
This book is at once an incredibly interesting introduction to the literary structure of the Hebrew Bible for someone with little religious background, and a book that would be greatly supplemented by a thorough understanding of the text being analyzed. Similarly, this analysis of God as a literary figure is one that could both supplement a religious reading of the Bible, or lend a more secular appreciation for the Bible as a literary text. So, despite the subject matter of this book, there is n ...more
Zach Waldis
Oct 09, 2014 rated it liked it
This is a book with which I thoroughly disagreed, and thoroughly enjoyed. On the one hand, Miles is a vivid interpreter and helps you to really appreciate the Old Testament (or Tanakh, as he rather forcefully presents with his in my opinion forced narrative of an active beginning God and a closing God who "loses interest") as literature, compelling and enthralling literature. On the other hand, he pushes his thesis (narrative?) of "God in tension" to the breaking point. He finds the tension with ...more
Marguerite
Apr 28, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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
Mallory
Dec 24, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
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
Judith
Oct 10, 2009 rated it really liked it
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
Eric
Oct 03, 2007 rated it liked it
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
Will
Nov 26, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: religion
Examines God as a character, the protagonist of the Tanakh/Old Testament. God doesn't always come out great—he's whiny and capricious, and doesn't always know what's doing. Turning God into a protagonist makes the inconsistencies of the text into a dramatically conflicted character. The book doesn't answer the tensions, ambiguities, and inconsistencies it highlights, but offers a reading of them; probes them rather than resolves them.
Paige
Jan 23, 2007 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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.
Kiseruyoru
Jun 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2017
Damn, this book is a really good read man. Take the God of Abraham and treat him as a character in his own terms, treating the Bible as if it were historical fiction (pay some attention to translation and historicy, but focus on the narrative in its own terms) -- this is that book.

I'd argue it could be a little better if it broadened it's scope just a little, but the whole point is that it doesn't. Christians might also notice almost everything they recognize about God and their religion is mis
...more
Charles Metzner
Feb 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This book came as a pleasant surprise. I was expecting a psychological break dr of the character better know as, "God", and get it I did. Just not at all how I thought I would. I was expecting a theological or philosophical expostualtion (whether it be augmented ting or debunking) and got neither. What I got, rather was much better, on multiple levels. Jack Miles, a Jesuit professor, instead applies the sensibilities of a hybridized biographer/literary critic to deconstruct the Bible's protagoni ...more
Andrea
Feb 27, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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
David Webber
Very interesting if you're into literary criticism

As a generally non-religious person, here's my diagnosis: God is moody, violent and schizophrenic, but mostly because he wants people to do things right and they endlessly do exactly the opposite of that. And that's just the people in the Bible! We might be due for another flood soon
David
Miles' God examines the central character, if often absent, of the bible as a literary character. The book is not hostile to religion it simply eschews religion for character and literary analysis [though not poststructural].

An interesting, but not compelling, read.

Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars.
Melinda
Jul 13, 2017 rated it liked it
Fascinating concept - God as a literary character. Well delivered and lots of stuff in here to think about - whether you are religious or not.
Ari Landa
Jul 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Brilliant and insightful, and really picks up speed with Isaiah. For someone interested in the evolution of religion and where religious thought should be, and go, this book is a must.
Faheem Hussain
Jul 23, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: reviews
Here's my take: God: A Biography

'Jack Miles has set himself the somewhat controversial task of charting the ‘development’ of God in the Hebrew Bible, capturing His life in it from beginning to end. Laying no claim to any theological or historical truth, and interested only how it works as a piece of writing the ‘Biography of God’ will leave mesmerised all those who read it.

...'
Saraelizabeth
Apr 14, 2011 rated it did not like it
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
Don
Dec 22, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: owned
An important work. I have only finished reading the passages on Genesis and Ecclesiastes, so far, but I already sense in these portions a deeper understanding of Old Testament texts that goes beyond the merely dogmatical or traditional viewpoints, which are often tinged with Christian prejudices rather than strictly on Jewish beliefs. What is found instead is an original view that explains much that was previously difficult to appreciate, with the central idea being that Man the creation in com ...more
Jared Pechacek
May 25, 2016 rated it liked it
What a difficult book to classify. It's not really a biography, more a study of God's character through the lens of literary theory as applied to the Tanakh, but that's not something the Dewey decimal system allows for. It's not quite theology either. But it IS interesting, if really esoteric, and I cannot imagine what its ideal audience is. (Many might think it's blasphemous; many just wouldn't care enough about the topic to read it.)
I found approximately 50% of the book convincing and fluidly
...more
Matt
Aug 31, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: religion
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
Shira
Apr 24, 2014 rated it liked it
Over all I found this book fascinating, and well worth the read. Though-provoking and reasonable.

(from journal comment made in 2010...)
Ok, I have decided that what I recalled as Jack Miles (in God: A Biography -thanks to Betty for lending me the book on tape back in 1999) claiming a Masoretic change to the text of Job 42:5 must have been simply an alternative reading, not a change, nor even an alternate translation.

I searched and asked several of our Torah Trop leyning 'experts' who found nothin
...more
James
Dec 25, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
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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
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