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GOD by Jack Miles

GOD

A Biography

By Jack Miles

Pub Date: April 14th, 1995
ISBN: 0-679-41833-4
Publisher: Knopf

 This learned and insightful approach to talking about God is a theological education in itself. Miles, a former Jesuit and member of the editorial board at the Los Angeles Times, undertakes here the audacious task of weaving the conflicting threads of God's self-revelations in the Hebrew Bible into an often-gripping story. Rather than attempting to synthesize his material, Miles allows his protagonist to develop and change over a millennium of relating to the people of Israel. Miles traces God's metamorphosis from creator to destroyer, friend of the family, liberator, lawgiver, conqueror, Holy One, and so on. Central to the story is Miles's contention that a monotheistic deity can only find self-expression through the mirror of communicating with its creation. Thus, Miles's God can be a loving but stern creator, disappointed enough in humans to regret their creation and seek to end their lives in a great flood, but merciful enough to begin anew with them time and again. In that complex interplay, Miles finds his central theme--God's eventual reconciliation with His creatures. Even when the story is at its nadir, with the people of Israel subjugated by the Babylonians and the Assyrians, God remains faithful and eventually seeks to include other peoples in the fold. The story is a fine one in most respects, but Miles tends to highlight the attractive parts of the portrait that have made their way into the American unconscious (such as the ``peaceable kingdom'' of Isaiah) while neglecting some of the messier ones (e.g., the attempted annihilation of indigenous tribal groups in ancient Israel). Also, structuring the story around the three-part progression of the Hebrew Bible (Law, Prophets, Writings) makes for a strong first two-thirds, but the last part is long and repetitive. A flawed but able telling of a story that's not easy to comprehend, much less articulate. (First printing of 35,000; Book-of-the-Month Club/Quality Paperback Book Club selections; author tour)