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God: A Biography Paperback – March 19, 1996


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 446 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; Reprint edition (March 19, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679743685
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679743682
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.9 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (101 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #44,924 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Is it possible to approach God 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 ambiguities of a Hamlet? How does he depend on the other characters, and how does his relationship with them show his development? Miles provides a learned, original exegesis that will send readers back to the Bible in curious amazement. Winner of the 1996 Pulitzer Prize for biography.

From Publishers Weekly

Former Jesuit Miles offers a detailed analysis of the nature and character of God as he appears in the Old Testament.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Customer Reviews

I very well-written book for anyone interested in reading about God/god in a unique fashion.
Fragrancelovah
He accepts that the god reneges on promises, is a genocidal killer of some note, and punishes even those he claims to love with spontaneous wrath.
Stephen A. Haines
This is helpful since most readers are unclear if even aware of the historical depth and these writings cover and their historical sequence.
Orville B. Jenkins

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

196 of 204 people found the following review helpful By David Blakeslee on July 21, 2003
Format: Paperback
When I first heard about this book, I was put off by what I considered a "cutesy" title. Mentally, I catalogued the book with efforts along the lines of "Conversations with God" or even "The Celestine Prophecy," pop-theology that sought to gain a mass readership through some kind of clever gimmick.
Several weeks ago, though, I took a closer look and was intrigued by Miles' premise. He calls this book a biography because he's focusing on the "person" of God as described throughout the Hebrew scriptures, or Tanakh. Miles puts a lot of emphasis on the sequence of books found in the Tanakh as contrasted with the Old Testament. To him, the order in which scriptures are read makes a lot of difference to how the reader comes to learn about and understand God. Miles sees not just evidence of the period in which these works were composed (earlier to later) but also deliberate artfulness in their arrangement, so that we observe a gradual waning of God's direct involvement in the world. From the early accounts of God walking through the garden in the cool of the evening, we read story after story of God having intimate, personal dialogue with the great figures of Israelite history, only to see such reports diminish over the course of the centuries, until the final vision of a high, distant and receding figure called the Ancient of Days at the end of Daniel. By the time we get to the Chronicles-Nehemiah cycle, God is more an object of reference, the one being talked about, rather than a direct participant in the story. Or so goes the basic argument of Miles, anyway.
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25 of 25 people found the following review helpful By schapmock on January 19, 2002
Format: Paperback
Miles' thoughtful, searching, and sometimes thrilling re-examination of the Old Testament (or more properly, Hebrew Bible or Tanakh) turns on the intriguing premise that we can read the Bible as a novel in which God serves as protagonist. Miles never overplays this notion, keeping one eye on historical interpretations, but uses it to develop a fascinating reading of the familiar text.
As with Harold Bloom's Book of J, this book can fascinate merely by challenging conventional english translations: the profusion of puns, irony, and sarcasm in the original Hebrew comes as a shock and a thrill to readers who first learned these stories as children. Miles would be worth reading for this analysis alone. And when he applies his methods to the Book of Job, the result is a radical reinterpretation that finally makes sense of the problematic tale, giving it a moral weight traditonal readings have denied.
Miles' conclusions go deeper, demonstrating how in forcing the function of a half dozen pagan deities into a single God, monotheism created a figure contradictory, paradoxical, powerfully creative and self-destructive: like nothing seen before - and in doing so, forged the first literary character of true psychological complexity.
In the Tanakh God creates mankind in his own image so that he may have a way to better see himself -- Miles' interpretation shows us man creating the Tanakh, and God, to do precisely the same thing.
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26 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Chuck Neely on January 6, 2002
Format: Hardcover
This is a very interesting book. Although Jack Miles states that one need not be either a believer in the Judeo-Christian concept of God or an unbeliever to appreciate the book, still this reviewer thinks that only those committed to this tradition will bother to read it.
The author takes the unusual approach of treating the main character in the Jewish Bible (Christian Old Testament) "God" as a literary character and then explores how this character changed substantially during the thousand year history that is recorded in the Bible.
The reader should be forewarned that if you are a real believer, then you will find yourself shouting on nearly every page, "That is not God". If you are not clear that this "God" is being treated only from a literary point of view, you will not comprehend the main thrust.
Judaism and Christianity are both "historical" religions. This means, among other things, that the validity of its central teachings depends upon the real occurrence of some historical events, unlike a religion such as Buddhism where the validity depends upon logic and personal experience alone. Yet none of the incidents and ideas expressed in the Bible were written by people who treated events the way a modern historian would treat them. The philosophical and theological sophistication of the various Biblical writers (and their numerous editors) vary tremendously. The concept of God that Moses probably had would differ significantly from that of a modern day Jew or Christian. The working assumption of a modern believer would be that his/her concept of God is accurate, and consequently someone else's concept would be inaccurate insofar as they differ.
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60 of 68 people found the following review helpful By Stephen A. Haines HALL OF FAME on February 12, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Jack Miles has responded to a number of theses concerning the character of his deity. Many biblical critics have suggested the early books present several gods lumped together by editorial fiat. Miles insists that the god of the Hebrew Bible is but one. That circumstance, uniqueness and solitude, is the cause of various character changes this god went through in the course of history. He has neither siblings nor peers. It's a very human story, but Miles doesn't portray this god as a human personification with superior powers. On the contrary, this god is unaware of the powers he possesses until he tries them out. They become, predictably, addictive with the passage of time. As the god develops, he exhibits changes in character that would be considered "growing up" in people. Finally, for unknown reasons, but perhaps just fatigue, the god retires from human contact. People are left only with previous lessons to follow.
Although "God" is the result of intensive knowledge of the Hebrew Tanakh, Miles dismisses the notion that his study is a psychoanalysis of the god, but that's because he's dealing with a divinity. The character variations Miles chronicles, the creator, destroyer, family patriarch, liberator and others, could be applied to any complex character. Any good biography of a national leader might evince the same personifications. The depiction might manifest as many, if not the same, characteristics. Miles' demurral may be overlooked, since his presentation is a compelling account delivered with lively writing skill. He is able to achieve a cool detachment, but not clinical aloofness, in presenting a deity to which he retains some level of adherence.
Miles' personal faith doesn't restrict what minimal judgments he offers on this god.
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