Buy Used
£2.86
Used: Good | Details
Sold by Fun Meister
Condition: Used: Good
Comment: A book which is in good overall condition. This means that it will be largely free of page markings, the spine will still be in solid, tight condition and there will be no pages which are missing from the book. The pages may have slightly turned corners but overall the book should be clean to touch and enjoyable to read.
Have one to sell?
Flip to back Flip to front
Listen Playing... Paused   You're listening to a sample of the Audible audio edition.
Learn more
See this image

God: A Biography Paperback – Apr 1996


See all 10 formats and editions Hide other formats and editions
Amazon Price New from Used from
Hardcover
"Please retry"
£2.07
Paperback
"Please retry"
£0.05
Unknown Binding
"Please retry"


Product details

  • Paperback: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; Reprint edition (April 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679743685
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679743682
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 2.4 x 20.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 271,201 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Discover books, learn about writers, and more.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
Can a literary character be said to live a life from birth to death or otherwise to undergo a development from beginning to end? Read the first page
Explore More
Concordance
Browse Sample Pages
Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index
Search inside this book:

What Other Items Do Customers Buy After Viewing This Item?

Customer Reviews

5.0 out of 5 stars
5 star
4
4 star
0
3 star
0
2 star
0
1 star
0
See all 4 customer reviews
Share your thoughts with other customers

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By William Cohen VINE VOICE on 23 Nov. 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I was sitting on a train to Bournemouth and I put Jack Miles's God on the table. Next to me a chap came into the carriage and put down Richard Dawkins' The God Delusion - "Look at the symmetry", I said to him. He didn't seem to find it amusing. Perhaps he thought you were deluded, a friend said later.

I've never read any Dawkins, but I have to say that Jack Miles has written a masterpiece. The literary approach could be interpreted as a very secular approach. No matter, the book, written in a very entertaining style, explains the character of God as he develops in the Bible.

Things like love, and fatherly concern for his children, were not part of his make-up at the outset. The project of the human race seemed like a good idea at the start, but he lost patience and wiped it all out with the Flood. He then became a superhuman Tony Soprano, leading his crew and murdering anyone who got in his way.

God may be a delusion, but the entity that comes out of the Old Testament is fascinating, and how we understand it informs how we understand the exercise of power in the world today. As Jack Miles points out God is a lot quieter these days. He's dropped the voice from the volcano stuff. Instead, chaps like George Bush and Tony Blair have stepped into the breach.

This book explains monotheism, and what it's implications are. I've picked up books before about the Bible, but I've always found them to be academic. This book greatly enhanced my knowledge of the Old Testament and it was great fun, too.
Comment Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback. If this review is inappropriate, please let us know.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Stephen A. Haines HALL OF FAME on 14 Jun. 2005
Format: Paperback
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.
Read more ›
Comment Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback. If this review is inappropriate, please let us know.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Ralph Blumenau TOP 500 REVIEWER on 11 Mar. 2005
Format: Hardcover
A fascinating and illuminating account of how the personality of God as evolved in the course of the Old Testament.
Comment Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback. If this review is inappropriate, please let us know.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I first read this book several years ago when it was new, and it was real eye-opener. The revelations therein lodged firmly in my mind then, and I simply had to replace the volume (having lent out the original and lost it).
The author takes God as a literary character and examines his changing and developing persona through the bible - a 'book' that is supposed to represent a continuous narrative, and that has influenced the whole world for centuries.
He clearly demonstrates that we cannot possibly take 'God' seriously if we apply only what we learn of him in the bible, since he is not just one entity but many - and if he only one then is he has a serious mental disorder!
Comment Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback. If this review is inappropriate, please let us know.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again

Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 112 reviews
208 of 217 people found the following review helpful
A postmodern, postcritical reintegration of the story of God 22 July 2003
By David Blakeslee - Published on Amazon.com
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.
Though Miles cannot be relied upon to support any specific denominational or doctrinal claims that might come from a reading of scripture, I don't see him as having an agenda of undermining religious authority or personal beliefs. In his discussion of Job, toward the end of the book, he gives a helpful description of his own objectives in writing the book:
"The reading offered here attempts a consciously postcritical or postmodern reintegration of mythic, fictional and historical elements in the Bible so as to allow the character of God to stand forth more clearly from the work of which he is the protagonist."
I appreciate his clarity and honesty in making that statement. He recognizes that the Bible functions differently for many of its readers, across the span of religious traditions that trace their roots to these scriptures. He's not trying to supplant those readings, but is instead offering a supplemental perspective, which I believe is useful and relevant for our times.
The early books of the Bible get the most in-depth treatment, because they are the basis from which the rest of Tanakh develops. Genesis portrays God in his most basic roles: Creator, Destroyer (via the Flood,) and "Friend of the Family" (the personal god of Abraham and his biological descendents.) An interesting chapter titled "Creator/Destroyer" reflects on how those conflicting tendencies play themselves out in the story of Abraham, integrating into one personality aspects of deity that other societies ascribed to different gods (e.g. El, Yah, Rahab, Tiamat, etc.) This is an important point that Miles builds on throughout the book. Israel's commitment to monotheism, established early on in the development of its religious history, necessitated all the divine prerogatives to be ascribed to one and only one Supreme Being.
Miles goes on to explore God's role as Liberator, Lawgiver and Liege as told in the remainder of the Torah. Then it's on to the story of the conquest and settlement of Canaan, and God's personae of Conqueror, Father (to David and his line) and Arbiter, where Israel's lapse into idolatry mandates God's judgment for failing to fulfill their covenant obligations.
Then we see in Isaiah God's roles as Executioner and forgiving, restoring Holy One. From there Miles does a "surface scan" of the rest of the Bible, with the exception of Job, which he regards as the climactic book of the Tanakh. After Job, God becomes less imposing, more familiar, even to the point of seeming "absent" as we see in the sequence of Song, Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes and most notoriously, Esther, where the name of God is never mentioned. By the end, we see post-exilic Israel, partially regathered in their homeland, with an inferior reconstruction of the Temple, led by those who hearken back to a more glorious past that can never be recaptured but still provides an ideal of how things ought to be. Miles portrays a people older and wiser, more than a bit worn down and disillusioned by the ordeal that they have been through.
The final section is titled "Does God Lose Interest?" In it, Miles ponders the similarities between the Tanakh and two famous tragedies, Oedipus Rex and Hamlet. He finds Tanakh to be more akin to Shakespeare than Sophocles. Whereas Oedipus was driven to his fate by inexorable, unalterable processes, Hamlet's outcome was an outgrowth of his character. Miles sees similarities in the unfolding narrative of the Tanakh. As God acts, he seems to learn new things about himself and his creation, and this new knowledge in turn alters his future actions and affects the other participants in the story. Here Miles offers something I found quite unique, a polytheistic retelling of the story of the Tanakh. It helps to clarify the distinctions between the familiar Israelite version of creation and history and how it might be otherwise told from a different religious point of view.
All in all, this book has had quite an effect in increasing my curiosity about the Bible and the history of its interpretation across the wider span of western cultures. I recommend it highly.
29 of 29 people found the following review helpful
New Look at the Old Testament 19 Jan. 2002
By schapmock - Published on Amazon.com
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.
30 of 32 people found the following review helpful
God: The things people have said about Me 7 Jan. 2002
By Chuck Neely - Published on Amazon.com
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. So the major question at stake for a modern believer would be "Is my concept of God a genuine organic development from that of the Biblical writers (so that our concepts, though different, represent the same God), or does my concept make any less accurate concept as found in the Bible guilty of error/heresy?"
If the reader's answer encompasses organic development, then it should be smooth sailing; if not, then batten down the hatches! The book also strongly hints that the current monotheistic concept of God contains so many different aspects that our current intelligence cannot fit these into a neat rational synthesis. Should this really be a surprise that the Transcendent Creator of the universe, including our limited finite intellects, must remain somewhat mysterious to us?
The book is an eye-opener for anyone who thinks the Bible has been transmitted to us in a manner equivalent to a classical theology textbook. If "God" had chosen to compose the Bible as a textbook, then it would have been much more "accurate", yet probably much more boring and lifeless. This reviewer thinks "God" knew the better way to do it. Remember, this book is not the Bible itself, not the Word of God, but it is a worthwhile literary commentary.
62 of 71 people found the following review helpful
Chronicles of a desert deity 12 Feb. 2002
By Stephen A. Haines - Published on Amazon.com
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. 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. In early days, he doesn't seek worshippers, just obedient subjects. We learn his sacrifices must be living creatures instead of agricultural crops, but the issue rises with Cain and repeats frequently. It's an arbitrary decision, enforced with vigour, but the motivation remains hidden. It all seems to boil down to whimsical expressions of power. The power is challenged, however, in the outstanding chapters in this book, the account of Job. Job's story has been retold countless times in various arenas, but Miles has analysed the account with fresh, engrossing insight. In his view, Job wins the encounter by simply accepting the god enjoys greater power than he, responding "So what?". It's a given. Job's not contesting the point, so why the terrible punishments? Miles' god is here shown as lawgiver, but not an administrator of justice. Miles, too, accepts the condition - the god has simply grown old and too irascible to reason with.

The shade of Samuel Langhorne Clemens hovered nearby during the reading of this book and writing this review. Silently, the spectre seemed to point repeatedly at Miles' text. Comment wasn't required, the message was clear: why would any person venerate such a creature? Miles fails to answer this question, in fact, he doesn't even pose it. For him, faith in this deity is a given. He doesn't adore sightlessly, but clearly accepts the conditions laid down as valid history. For some, the detachment seems inhuman, but that doesn't detract from the value Miles' portrayal has offered us. The story is too well presented to ignore.
46 of 54 people found the following review helpful
A thought-provoking biography 19 Feb. 2002
By Amazon Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
This is a daring, ambitious, complex, thought-provoking book. My reaction is mixed. On the positive side, I admire the author's largely successful attempt to look at the character of "God" from a fresh perspective, that of a complex character as revealed only in the pages of the Bible, rather than the God of an often uncritical religious dogma. On the negative side, Miles:
* Makes a lot of assumptions and conclusions that do not seem warranted. For example, in Chapter 2, "Generation," Miles says about God's command "Let there be light" that "One does not speak commandingly to oneself. It is rather as if a carpenter reaching for a hammer were to speak the word 'hammer' aloud." What is the author's point? If a witch or wizard speaks a spell or incantation to summon magical or natural forces, the spell caster speaks not to herself but rather to the source of the forces being summoned. I was especially uneasy with Miles' assumptions about details of God's existence that are based not only on what is explicitly stated in the Bible, but also on what is left unsaid. In the life of any significant literary character, can we automatically assume that anything about the character that is not explicitly stated does not exist? For me, the answer is "No." As I continued through the book, I found myself repeatedly in disagreement with the validity of the assumptions upon which many of the author's conclusions were based.
* Is often needlessly verbose.
* Writes in a stilted style that I often found irritating. I particularly did not enjoy his often pedantic tone, his seemingly gratuitous use of needlessly esoteric verbiage, and his use of the "royal `we.'" The frequent use of "we" would not have bothered me so much if I had felt that it implied a sort of partnership between author and reader, but too often that seemed not to be the case.
My recommendation: If you are open-minded and are interested in theology, religious history, and literary analysis, then read this book and arrive at your own conclusions.
This review is based on the paperback version of the book.
Were these reviews helpful? Let us know


Feedback