Om Gud (About God) by Jonas Gardell
My Thoughts: Jonas Gardell grew up in a Baptist Church and is a practising Christian, but as he himself says at the end of the book, “I am a writer, I am not a researcher and not an academic”. Despite this he manages to give, in my opinion, a very good picture of the Old Testament. The book is, as the title says, about God. It tells of the contradictory pictures of God that appear in the Bible. God as a benevolent father. God as vengeful and mean. He talks about how the image of God that we have today grew out of the many different gods that existed before him.
It was perhaps this argument that I found most interesting. Gardell argues that the mere mention of the first commandment: Thou shalt have no other gods before me Exodus 20:3, means that God acknowledges the existence of other Gods. He (or she) is wants you to have no other gods BEFORE him. Gardell doesn’t say that we should worship these other gods, but that the fact that they existed before what we now consider the One God means that they influenced the perception of God as noted down in the Old Testament. He further argues that these many different gods and their different characteristics are the reason why so many different versions of God exist in the old testament.
I found this book very interesting but a bit hard to follow. Lets be honest, my knowledge of the Bible isn’t all that great, I wasn’t raised in the Christian faith. I have read parts of the Bible. Some parts more than others. One of my reading goals in life is to read both the Old and New Testament (I also want to read the Koran). But right now I only know bits and pieces really. Add to that the fact that most of my Bible reading has been in English, and that I know the names of the books of the Bible in English, I was even more confused since this book is written in Swedish, with the Swedish names. Thankfully BibleGateway made it easy to look up the different passages when I got super confused. Because of this I wouldn’t recommend this book to someone as an introduction into the Christian faith. It requires a bit more background knowledge than that.
I read a review of this book in Swedish once (and now I can’t find it) and the person was disappointed by the middle parts. I can see why, although Gardell doesn’t claim to be a scholar, the middle of the book has a very scholarly feel. The first and last chapters (and bits and bobs in between) have a very personal feel, he talks about people trying to stop him from taking communion because he is gay and how his faith sometimes waivers. However the bulk of the book is about the view of God presented in the Bible. In the final chapter he does touch upon his view of God. I would like to quote that here because, although I myself am not a Christian, I do find that he has a point here (translation mine):
“The same prophet who in one breath preaches about eternal peace, love for thy neighbour and fight against social injustices, can in his next breath greedily fantasises about the bloodiest revenge and redress.
And here we stand still today, with the two paths—the path of hate and the path of love—both well described and determined in the Bible—and we must choose between them. And I assert, yes, maintain with certainty, that only one of those paths lead to God. The other is a blind track that leads to the Devils mirror which shows the shabbiest and all the worst that mankind is” (277).
This book hasn’t been translated to English as far as I can tell. I wish it had because it is an interesting read. I shall be reading the next book in the series Om Jesus (About Jesus) during 2011 and I am really looking forward to it.