Walking The Bible: A Photographic Journey, by Bruce Feiler
As someone who is only slightly acquainted with the author’s work as a whole, but someone who has traveled to at least some of the lands of the Bible , I found the photography of this book far more of interest than the author’s text. This is, perhaps, to be expected. Fortunately, the photography for this book is excellent, which covers a lot of sins, including the fact that the author has a bit too much of the higher critic about him. Even so, if you are looking to read this book to get a photographic sense of some of the more important sites of the Bible, and are willing to overlook the author’s attempts at biblical textual criticism, there is much to enjoy here. Those readers who are offended by the viewpoint of the author would be advised to treat this book like a photography book and pay little or no attention to the text supporting it. It is my philosophy, when dealing with a book like this one, that a book should be enjoyed as best as possible, and sometimes one can enjoy a book heartily and sometimes slightly and sometimes, sadly, not at all. This book can be enjoyed at least partially.
The photos and text in this book take up about 160 pages or so and are divided into seven chapters, a fitting biblical number. After a short introduction, the author looks at pictures of the supposed Garden of Eden in Southern Iraq as well as the area of Ararat. After that the author looks at the time of the Patriarchs through photos of Harran, various sites in the promised land, as well as the southern area of the Dead Sea where Sodom and Gomorrah are often assumed to be. After that the author has a chapter on Egypt dealing with Joseph, another chapter on the Exodus that involves photos of parts of Egypt, and a chapter on the time spent in the Wilderness and another on the Ten Commandments that include pictures of the Sinai peninsula. The last chapter of the book looks at the area of Jordan where the time in the wilderness ended and where Israel prepared to enter the Promised Land, after which there is a short conclusion and acknowledgements section. The result is a book with amazing photographs and text that is occasionally good, and since most people are looking for a photographic journey, it is one that is likely to be enjoyed.
I wholeheartedly recommend this book to anyone looking for great photographs of biblical scenes. Some of the sites in this book have suffered as a result of the fighting in the Middle East over the past few years, so it is unlikely, for example, that Harran will be able to be viewed in the same way ever again barring a massive and expensive reconstruction effort. The text of this book receives a much more tepid and limited recommendation with the caveat that I disagree fundamentally with the author’s approach to the Bible. This is the second book by the author I have read in a row, and in both cases the author’s conception of the Bible was far too limited in scope. As the author’s books that I have read so far on the Bible deal so strongly with geography, this book does not include large areas of what would be considered parts of biblical geography–Persia/Iran, more of Turkey, Greece, Malta, and Italy. This is a book that provides photography of some of the more notable sites mentioned in the Torah. Those readers who do not mind the book’s narrow scope will at least find pretty photographs to look at, and there are far worse ways that one can spend one’s time than being inspired to think of the Bible based on how sites now look. Reading the text is optional.
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