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Slate editor David Plotz was desperately bored at his cousin's bat mitzvah three years ago. Not expecting much, he opened a copy of the Torah and landed on the story of how Dinah's brothers avenged her rape. "I was like, 'This is in Genesis?' I'm a relatively well-read and well-educated person, yet I still seemed to have missed the fundamental work of Western civilization," he said.

Plotz began blogging through the Bible for Slate, writings that Jews, evangelicals, and finally a publisher latched on to. He spoke with Christianity Today online editor Sarah Pulliam before Good Book (Harper) was released.

What were your expectations going into blogging the Bible?

I expected the Old Testament to be boring, and it turned out to be much, much more fascinating. I was mostly struck by the way stories that tended to be peaceful and most forgiving make it into popular culture. There's more ambiguity and unpleasantness [in Bible stories] that haven't seeped into popular culture. Take the story of Jacob and Esau. I thought Esau was the bad brother and Jacob was the good brother, and no! Jacob is this kind of con-artist sleazeball who is a lot smarter than Esau, and Esau is the one who is forgiving, just, and good. Why do we cherish the one brother and not the other?

Also, when you read the Bible casually, it seems much harder to read than if you kind of read it consistently. When you read it you just dip into it, the language is tricky. These stories don't follow logically. But then when you start to get into the rhythm, it becomes much, much easier to read. This is sort of my exhortation to people who want to read the Bible: It starts out quite hard and then it gets significantly easier once you've you know, been doing it for a few chapters ...

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