God: A Biography

by Jack Miles

Book, 1995



Call number

201 MIL


New York : Alfred A. Knopf, 1995.


Miles shows us God in the guise of a great literary character, the hero of the Old Testament. In a close, careful, and inspired reading of that testament - book by book, verse by verse - God is seen from his first appearance as Creator to his last as Ancient of Days. The God whom Miles reveals to us is a warrior whose greatest battle is with himself. We see God torn by conflicting urges. To his own sorrow, he is by turns destructive and creative, vain and modest, subtle and naive, ruthless and tender, lawful and lawless, powerful yet powerless, omniscient and blind. As we watch him change amazingly, we are drawn into the epic drama of his search for self-knowledge, the search that prompted him to create mankind as his mirror. In that mirror he seeks to examine his own reflection, but he also finds there a rival. We then witness God's own perilous passage from power to wisdom.For generations our culture's approach to the Bible has been more a reverential act than a pursuit of knowledge about the Bible's protagonist; and so, through the centuries the complexity of God's being and "life" has been diluted in our consciousness. In this book we find - in precisely chiseled relief - the infinitely complex God who made infinitely complex man in his image. Here, we come closer to the essence of that literary masterpiece that has shaped our culture no less than our religious life. In God: A Biography, Jack Miles addresses his great subject with imagination, insight, learning, daring, and dazzling originality, giving us at the same time an illumination of the Old Testament as a work of consummate art and a journey to the secret heart of God.… (more)

User reviews

LibraryThing member millsge
There is nothing I can write that can reach the level of scholarship, thought, writing, originality, and sheer mental discipline of this work. It should be read carefully and analyzed thoughtfully by all capable of setting aside their prejudices and preconceived notions. This book offers great
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rewards to all - regardless of their religious convictions.
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LibraryThing member Atomicmutant
Is it too jejune to call something magisterial these days? Not if by that, I think, you mean a work that strides confidently, uniquely, charismatically, and is as resplendent in its execution as this. The manner of this book is one of those ideas that is so simple and effective, its a wonder it
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hasn't been done before this: analyze and present God as a literary character, in the manner of literary analysis; God as Hamlet, if you will. Jack Miles really pulls it off, and brings fresh perspective to even the most well worn biblical territory by his adroit and lucid application of this approach. This work won a Pulitzer Prize; but I'm not just jumping on the bandwagon, nor plumping my own feathers for having enjoyed it; if you're remotely interested in this type of thing, it's a page turner filled with insight and revelation.
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LibraryThing member HVFCentral
This book, and it's companion, "Christ - A Crisis In The Life of God" were a pure joy to read. I found some of Miles' observations disturbing (not a bad thing), especially when he talks about the incompatible traits of God, and how God was the coming together of all the gods in the pre-judaic
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polytheistic systems. In that, it looks like God was the invention of our forbears, who wanted the simplicity of one deity that was at the same time merciful,wrathful, warlike, compassionate, loving, distant, intimate, etc., etc. But if you look closely you find that Miles is writing about the Lord, with a sense of love for and devotion to Him. As an evangelical Christian, I pulled back some at what sounded like a debunking of my closely-held and essential views on The Almighty. But I made it through the book, and found myself with a new and enlightening comprehension of some things about God, that I would not have discovered had I limited myself only to "approved" fundamentalist writings. God is more approachable now. I can know Him better - but if you read this, beware, for your assumptions going in are about to be aggressively but delicately wracked! But read it anyway, regardless, and hopefully come away with an expanded view of God.
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LibraryThing member SeriousGrace
Jack Miles has an interesting concept. In order to write a biography on God he had to first consider him as a character in the Old Testament. He had to analyze the "character development" and bear witness to the relationships between God and the other primary "characters" of the Bible. One has to
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think of God and Lord as different. God takes on a variety of roles (including animal husbandry counselor). Miles's philosophy is strong and pragmatically sound, even for an agnostic like me. It works. Somehow, it really works. Others must agree because God: a Biography won Miles a Pulitzer.
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LibraryThing member the_awesome_opossum
God: A Biography is an attempt to synthesize the entire Old Testament in search for a singular "character" of God. Jack Miles works his way through each of the books of the Bible, providing impressive exegesis and unique insights into their texts. The scope of this undertaking is vast, and I was
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really impressed that he was able to wrap everything up into a cohesive argument. And certainly, after reading this book, I'll approach the Bible from a different and more personal perspective
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LibraryThing member LarryWampler
This book -- and it's companion, Christ: A Crisis in the Life of God -- offer a completely original perspective on the Bible, simply as a story, with God as the protagonist. By shedding the usual dogmatic assumption that God is unchanging, the author is able to highlight some remarkably fresh
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insights about our understanding of God. As a believer, I can read it as a history of developments in the human comprehension of God. The author is a former Jesuit, with a doctorate in Near Eastern languages from Harvard, who went on to serve as literary editor for the Los Angeles Times: a scholar who writes beautifully. I count him a genius. I recommend the book to anyone who has the slightest interest in the Bible. Prepare to have your assumptions challenged.
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LibraryThing member Devil_llama
The author, a former Jesuit priest, approaches his topic as a work of literature, and God as a litereray character. He explores in detail how God changes through the Old Testament, and shows the ways in which God develops as a literary character.
LibraryThing member raizel
So far, it's a good read. He notices that the difference in the order of books in the Jewish Bible and the Christian Old Testament means that the evolution / change / growth [my words] of God differs. Also the fact that the Tanach consists of scrolls in no required order is very different from a
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codex with a very definite, unchangeable order of pages.
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LibraryThing member erwinkennythomas
Jack Miles’ God: A Biography is rather a rather unusual and paradoxical work. It’s so because this isn’t about a person, but the Creator of the Universe. This Supreme One, who is unlike any other, is still portrayed as having human qualities. God isn’t only anthropomorphized, but Miles
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presented this character as a combination of multiple personalities – Creator, Destroyer, Warrior, Advocate, Deceiver, Trickster, Father, Woman, Protector, and Friend.
Because of these combinations God often acts indecisively, erratically, prone to moodiness, and after he created mankind in Genesis, took it upon himself to destroy their descendants in an awful flood. This Creator-God saved Noah and animals by showing a sign of a rainbow never to destroy the world again. But God later showed up as a warrior as he led the Israelites out or Egypt from the clutches of the Pharos. But later he was vindictive when he punished them with years of wanderings in the desert often bringing death and destruction.
The redactors of the Tanakh were caught up in a polytheistic worldview when they endeavored to show the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob as monotheistic. This appeared to be the reason why Jack Miles’ God had multiple personalities. God had no other lives than to live through mankind who was the key to his existence. He didn’t realize when he told them to be fruitful and multiply that this blessing would fly in the face of what he himself envisioned. This book by its literary interpretation has brought to light original ways how believers and unbelievers alike could interpret the Hebrew Bible. Miles’ project was central in understanding the Hebrew text as opposed to the Christian Old Testament that is arranged somewhat differently.
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LibraryThing member jbeem
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.
LibraryThing member turtlesleap
This book undertakes to analyze the evolving character of God as he is described in the Hebrew Bible (essentially the same as the Old Testament). I am not qualified to critique this work on any scholarly level but, for the interested layman, his conclusions are intriguing. If you are interested in
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religious mythic literature, or simply interested in learning more about your Christian roots, this book is well worth reading. It is hard work in the sense that it makes you think and challenges your assumptions about a work that, like it or not, forms one of the major foundations of our civilization. Miles vocabulary is that of a scholar; hence the material he presents takes time to digest. Still, well worth the effort involved.
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Original publication date



0679418334 / 9780679418337
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