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Jacobson Writes: ‘Holy Talk: An Introduction to Scripture for the Occasionally Biblically Embarrassed’

Sunday, October 14, 2018 @ 12:10 AM

Posted by Ron Wilshire

fullsizeoutput_56f8CLARION, Pa. (EYT) – Reverend Jake Jacobson’s earliest memories of the Bible were when he was four or five sitting on his mother’s lap at bedtime as she was reading bible stories.

The strength of those bible stories continues to guide him even today.

The joy of Bible stories is front and center in his new book, “Holy Talk: An Introduction to Scripture for the Occasionally Biblically Embarrassed.” It is a long title for a book but tells the story behind the genesis (pun intended) for the book.

Jacobson, 61, is pastor of the Grace Lutheran Church in Clarion and Director for Evangelical Mission and Assistant to the Bishop Northwestern Pennsylvania Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

“We had this ancient book — it must’ve been the 1930’s– a story Bible and my mom Roberta would read from it,” remembered Jacobson. “That was really my first introduction, and I was fascinated by the stories. The well-worn book was more stories than pictures or illustrations.”

“Today, you get a story Bible book, and it’s 90 percent pictures and little text. I remember it as a fairly decent introduction, but it probably wasn’t the kid’s story Bible. I got a real sense for what the stories were about.”

In the end, it was either the Bible or the Bobbsey Twins.

His mother had the Bible stories or a full set of the Bobbsey Twins. Instead of becoming a detective, Jacobson took a religious path in life.

“As a teenager, I was wrestling with a call to go into the ministry and probably the driving force was be able to tell that story to my peers. I felt the church wasn’t reaching that young adult audience with due diligence. In those days, the Lutherans and none of the mainline churches were doing that. Sunday courses were not biblical-based but did a lot on what are current issues, values, and that kind of stuff. It kind of broke away from the sense of the story.”

“Later, when I went to college as a religion major at Gettysburg, I had two fantastic biblical teachers. They were both renowned and in their fields and shook up all of the foundations out from under me. One of them was trying to shake every freshman’s belief system and then put it back together again for some reality. I couldn’t get enough of those classes. Then I was blessed in seminary with a couple of excellent teachers particularly in the Old Testament, and that’s where my fascination was.”

Jacobson spent his first two years in college at Jamestown Community College where he was chemistry major and pre-pharmacy, to help appease his mother and others who were waiting for him “to get a real job or at least live us to his potential.” At that time in the mid-70’s, pharmacy schools were accepting few people because there were not as many jobs in the field as there were students. It was then he transferred to Gettysburg.

“I did have an interesting experience at Jamestown with my lab partner because I let him know that I was still going to church, and he found that incredible that somebody could do that at the staying age and be a scientist.”

“He put a challenge to me and said if you can tell me where Adam and Eve’s sons went to get their wives, I will believe. The question nagged at me at me because there isn’t an answer. That’s really not what scripture is trying to do.  It’s telling the story. That’s what I try to do in this book; keep it a story.”

The idea of writing a book also grew out of frustration after he started teaching a class on an introduction to scripture for the Synod’s alternative track ordination candidates and lay worship leaders.  

There was one problem.  There were no suitable books to use in teaching.

“I have taught it now for about six years, and I’m very frustrated because the texts that I could find were either for seminary level and too technical or ones that were really dumbed down. I kept vocalizing my frustrations one of my friends finally said ‘Why don’t you write a book?’ and that’s what I did.”


Jacobson teaches the class in the basement of Grace Lutheran, and people come to Clarion for the class. He offers it in late winter or spring, and classes usually include five to 10 people.

“I teach the class downstairs. The classes are also in conjunction with the Episcopal Diocese, sharing that same program.”

He has also taught Episcopalian students preparing for diaconate as well.

“One of the insights that struck me while I was teaching the class was that there’s a major historical event involving the Old Testament and the New Testament, and it’s the same in both testaments. It’s the destruction of the temple.”

“That shakes the whole world for both Jews and Christians. I began to look at that through the lens of 9-11, recognizing the effect that the event had on every aspect of our lives today. I began to see the interconnection with all the stories and those kinds of events and how those events impact on Christianity and Judaism where they make sense out of the world and all of those kinds of things*.”

Informal reviews of the book have all been positive.

“Some have said that this is what they’re looking for, something that doesn’t shoot over our heads, and that made me feel good that was what I was really trying to do, have something that was accessible. The book could be used for the teenage year, but we’re really geared up for the young adult literature reader.”

The book is available online, and Jacobson has copies at this office for sale $20.00 a copy. A book signing is planned for October 18 from 4:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. at Michelle’s Café.


*Some background from

In the year 66 AD the Jews of Judea rebelled against their Roman masters. In response, the Emperor Nero dispatched an army under the generalship of Vespasian to restore order. By the year 68, resistance in the northern part of the province had been eradicated and the Romans turned their full attention to the subjugation of Jerusalem. That same year, the Emperor Nero died by his own hand, creating a power vacuum in Rome. In the resultant chaos, Vespasian was declared Emperor and returned to the Imperial City. It fell to his son, Titus, to lead the remaining army in the assault on Jerusalem.

The Roman legions surrounded the city and began to slowly squeeze the life out of the Jewish stronghold. By the year 70, the attackers had breached Jerusalem’s outer walls and began a systematic ransacking of the city. The assault culminated in the burning and destruction of the Temple that served as the center of Judaism.)

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