This book was truly enjoyable, eminently readable, and never [not for a minute] boring.
Bruce Feiler set out on this journey as one who held to a rather Cecil B. DeMille-like literal interpretation of everything to be found in the first five books of the Bible (the Pentateuch).
What he discovered, however, is that there is a lot of discrepancy as to the exact locations of the events described in the Bible, and that the real world, especially as presided over by border guards and umpteen grumbly officials, is not all that generous in providing him with every shred of archaeological data that he is interested in accumulating. He meets with hostility and suspicion, all along the way.
Ahh, but it is the times that he meets with cooperation, hospitality and likemindedness that make the book interesting. Wonderfully interesting locals, and countless expatriates, who have relocated to the Middle East to be closer to what they percieve as the biblical foundation of their beliefs and cultural heritage..... these people, along with Feiler's Israeli guide, Avner Goren, provide the real insight into the discoveries that Feiler makes.
So many times the reader feels that they are a part of the starlit campfire summations of the day's adventures, times in which the Bible is read aloud and thereafter discussed within sight of the actual areas described in the text.
His [Feiler's] conclusion is that the Bible is "chameleon-like" in that it has the ability to continually reinvent itself.
As U.S.A. Today has summarized: "Bruce Feiler went looking for proof. He learned that proof doesn't matter."
In essence, the author found that a lot of what he had previously thought of as a biblical presentation of literal event and/or historical truth was neither historically verifiable, nor truthfully accurate.
The amazing thing is this, though. The experience of the desert and the meeting of those who live there today, combined to convince the author that a litero-historical interpretation of the Pentateuch is not a necessary pre-requisite to genuine spiritual experience, which he maintains he had, during his journey.
The spiritual relevance of the Pentateuch is as alive today as it ever was.
It is a profoundly enlightening, rewarding read.
I highly recommend Feiler's book to all readers interested in the subjects of the Middle East and Old Testament biblical interpretation, in general.
I liked his style and approach so much that I went and purchased his Learning To Bow: Inside The Heart of Japan, and am currently waiting for the slightest excuse to open that first page, and go walking….
For a look at these, and other books Bruce Feiler has written, click → HERE!