If I were you, and I’m assuming you have days when you’re a bit down, when being a Christian is not what you thought it would be, and when you wonder if you should be doing what you’re doing … well, if I were that sort of person, I’d definitely have a copy of Jason Boyett’s Pocket Guide to the Bible: A Little Book about the Big Book right next to me just in case I needed a little lift.
What is this book? Hard to explain. Here’s how I’d describe it: a humorous, raucous, at times irreverent (maybe always) introduction to major words (he calls it “the biblicabulary”) and major characters. Then Boyett manages a fast-paced chase through the biblical plot-line, a nice little survey of translations, and then a brief history of the Bible.
Over the next few days and weeks I’ll occasionally jot down a few of his zany sections. I begin with circumcision. If you’re into this sort of thing, and youth leaders will like it as will college teachers, but folks who have pocket protectors and wear slacks and tuck in their shirts so the belt shows and who wear oxfords to the grocery store or who think boat shoes are stylish and who like to toss their sweaters over their shoulders so they look trim and tidy — those sorts of folks might take offense at some of what he has to say. But, I dare say that if you left said tidy folk in a room with this book and they thought no one was looking, they’d find it a real hoot. They might pop their belt, lose their sweater, and flip their boat shoes off their feet. Well, I said I’d include what he says about circumcision, so I will, and you might take this delay to be my way of letting those boat-shoe folks time to click to another blog.
Let’s say you’re a boy, born to a nice Jewish family around three thousand years ago. You’re stumbling around in the hot, dusty desert. Your mom and dad are cranky because the only thing to eat is manna, and they’ve been lost for forty years. You’re just getting used this outside-the-womb thing — the pooping, sleeping, and whatnot — until you hit the eighth day of your life, and some old bearded dude with a craggy flint knife starts poking around your tallywacker. And — hey! Ow! There is SO not supposed to be blood down there! But despite the unbearable drama, you’re not too upset about the sudden violent loss of your foreskin. For one thing, it’s only a useless flap of flesh, right? And for another thing, this physical disfigurement sets you apart from your archrivals, the Assyrians and Amalekites and Philistines. When one of them gets an eyeful of your scarred-up penis, they’ll see evidence of God’s covenant with you and your people! Or something like that.
This is pretty good, but he could have developed the “sets you apart” by bringing up Paul’s cutting remarks about circumcision and the circumcision party in Galatians 5. That term, for Paul, became code-word for those who adhered to the Torah as their self-defining instrument, thinking that by so doing they’d be a cut above the rest.