My Mum's Ancient Family Bible

My Mum's Ancient Family Bible
Kept in the garage of all places for so many years, it's finally been put to good use.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

I Have Moved to Wordpress


I have moved my blog over to Wordpress because it offers more bells and whistles.

Please go to for future posts. I'll be transferring past posts over to that as soon as I can.

Thank for reading!


Thursday, February 17, 2011

Ju-ju-jubilee (Leviticus 25-27)

Imagine the title for this post being sung in the cadence of "Susudio" by Phil Collins.

I question God's math. He's given the Israelites land to live in and harvest. They know that they're supposed to rest on the sabbath - that rule has been reiterated ad nauseaum. Now God tells them that every fiftieth year is extra-special. Get this: "And you shall count seven weeks of years, seven times seven years, so that the time of the seven weeks of years shall be to you forty-nine years... And you shall hallow the fiftieth year... it shall be a jubilee for you..." (Lev 25:8-10). What a confusing method of counting. I mean, it's counting; it's not that hard, even without calculators. Maybe God is trying to temporally disorient his people as a means of control.

It's funny to me how, in the thick of all these rules in Leviticus, God likes to throw in a "Don't forget to fear me. I am the LORD". Caps lock. If that isn't enough, he goes on to tell Moses and his people all the terrible things he'll do to them if they don't observe his commandments. Plagues are high on the list. But I personally think this is the worst of them: "When I break the staff of bread, ten women shall bake your bread in one oven, and shall deliver your bread again by weight; and you shall eat, and not be satisfied" (Lev 26:26). Not be satisfied? Like those Downs kids who lack the hormonal regulation to tell their bodies they're full so they're reduced to ripping off the pantry doors in a frenzied search for Dunk-a-roos? Since I feel like I have Prader-Willi syndrome most of the time (I have an unholy appetite) I would hate to actually have it.

Much of Leviticus 26 is devoted to telling you what to do if you've got a deadbeat brother (or sister, implicitly). You're supposed to be nice to him and take him in but you're not allowed to make him your slave. Oh, no. That's wrong. You can, however, take him on as a "hired servant". Same difference. I don't know how this would look in biblical times but the modern equivalent would be that the brother would live in your finished basement and chaffeur your kids to swimming lessons around while he "works on his screenplay". Have you seen that screenplay yet? I haven't.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Don't Touch My Stuff (Leviticus 22-24)

I wonder if God has OCD. He thinks everything is dirty and he doesn't like people handling his stuff. He can't seem to fess up to this so he makes up a bunch of rules instead.

Leviticus 22 deals with who can and who can't handle holy things (such as blessed bread). "Whoever touches anything that is unclean through contact with the dead or a man who has had an emission of semen and whoever touches a creeping thing by which he may be made unclean or a man from whom he may take uncleanness, whatever his uncleanness may be- the person who touches any such shall be unclean until the evening and shall not eat of the holy things unless he has bathed his body in water" (Lev 22:4-6). This is very vague. What is most unclear to me is if you haven't mastrubated but touch someone who has, are you unclean, too? And how would you be able to tell? I can get a sense if someone hasn't mastrubated in a while but it's harder to tell the other way around.

God lays out the timing of the feast of Passover and a few other holidays in Leviticus 23. One of the weirder ones that's mentioned is on the fifteenth day of the seventh month: the feast of booths. What? During the feast of booths you're supposed to dwell inside booths for seven entire days (and you're supposed to eat as much all-you-can-eat-iceberg-lettuce-based salad as you can). Jewish people should've kept that tradition going. It would be easy to take the whole family to East Side Mario's once a year.

I get excited when I come across a well-known passage in the Bible. We finally get some semi-satisfying context for the whole "eye for an eye" thing in Leviticus 24. There's this Israelite woman who had a kid by an Egyptian guy and her kid uses the name of God to blaspheme so God tells everyone to stone him. As a matter of fact, anyone who blasphemes should be put to death, says God. He goes on to proclaim "He who kills a man shall be put to death. He who kills a beast shall make it good, life for life. When a man causes a disfigurement in his neighbour, as he has done it shall be done to him, fracture for fracture, eye for eye, tooth for tooth; as he has disfigured a man, he shall be disfigured" (Lev 24:17-20). If that's the rule, couldn't God have just called the kid a bad name and leave it at that?

Sunday, February 13, 2011

No Dwarfs Allowed (Leviticus 20-21)

One of my favourite movies when I was a kid (and still to this day) was Anne of the Thousand Days. It's based on the story of Henry VIII and his second wife, Anne Boleyn, who made him do the impossible in restructuring the relationship between the monarch and the Church in England so he could divorce his barren first wife, Cathering of Aragon, and marry her instead. In some scenes it gets pretty campy with Richard Burton huffing and puffing around the set and screaming things like, "I must have a son! Even if I have to split the world in two like an apple and throw the two halves into the void!". Anyways, Henry rationalizes divorcing Catherine by using a passage from Leviticus: "If a man takes his brother's wife, it is impurity; he has uncovered his brother's nakedness, they shall be childless" (Lev 20:21). Catherine had been married to his younger and sicklier brother Arthur who died after less than a year of marriage. I was tickled to come across this passage, which I heard time and time again while rewatching Anne of the Thousand Days as a kid (I did not care for things like Care Bears).

Another tangent: as a teenager, I participated in one of the worst-ever plays based on the six wives of Henry VIII which was written, directed and starring a very slender homosexual (more slender than Jonathan Rhys Meyers). It was very confusing for all involved. I played Catherine of Aragon (even though I wanted to play Anne Boleyn) and was forced to utter the following garbage when I received the news that Henry was divorcing me: "Hell is freezing over". I also had to deliver this line facing the audience. It was too much for me and I corpsed more than once.

Back to the Bible. You better be a real knock-out if you want to offer up bread to the Lord. There's a pretty lengthy list of people who are deemed unfit for this task. "For no one who has a blemish shall draw near, a man blind or lame, or one who has a mutilated face or limbs too long, or a man who has an injured foot or an injured hand, or a hunchback, or a dwarf, or a man with a defect in his sight or an itching disease or scabs or crushed testicles..." (Lev 21:17-20). Harsh. I wonder if "blemish" is the right word in this scenario; it rules out a lot of people. And I can't imagine why crushed testicles are on the list because that seems to be something that would distract your attention away from participating in religious rites.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

The Goat Whisperer (Leviticus 16-19)

God seems to demand an animal sacrifice every minute. It's a little excessive. He calls upon Aaron to make an animal sacrifice involving two goats. He kills one but is instructed to place his hands on the head of the other and "confess over him all the iniquities of the people of Israel, and all their transgressions, all their sins; and he shall put them upon the head of the goat, and send him away into the wilderness" (Lev 16:21). A goat. To me, a goat is a very disinterested-looking animal. I imagine the goat chewing some metal object and staring off into the distance with glassy eyes, while Aaron earnestly atones for his entire people's sins by whispering them into its hairy ear. How ridiculous.

I think I've mentioned before that God doesn't want people to consume the blood of any animal. The reason comes out in Leviticus 17: "You shall not eat the blood of any creature, for the life of every creature is its blood; whoever eats it shall be cut off" (Lev 17:14). I looked up some of the kosher rules and this is one of them. All blood is supposed to be drained from meat and poultry, or broiled out of it. How sad. Last night, I was treated by a friend to a delicious medium-rare T-Bone at Jacob's Steakhouse. It was truly a revelation. I personally believe it would be a sin to overcook a nice piece of meat like that.

Levitcus 18 focuses on who you should never see naked; basically, any of your relatives or in-laws (this isn't Europe). If you do try to "uncover the nakedness" of any of them then God threatens that the land will "vomit you out" (Lev 18:28). I'd like to know what some of the other options for translation were on that one.

A bunch of weird rules get served up in Leviticus 19. Some of these I've heard before but some I haven't.

1. You can't wear clothes made with two different kinds of materials (like a poly-cotten blend).

2. You can't sport a shaggy beard [this is how I interpret "You shall not... mar the edges of your beard" (Lev 19:27)].

3. You can't have tattoos.

4. You can't be loose about measuring things (so you can't bake cookies and put in roughly a cup of sugar).

After listing these rules, God says "You shall rise up before the hoary head, and honour the face of an old man, and you shall fear your God: I am the LORD" (Lev 19:32). Okay, so God is an old guy.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Everyone is Disgusting (Leviticus 14-15)

Leviticus 14 finishes up the discussion on leprosy (I think). If you happen to have leprosy and are lucky enough to kick it then you have to go through a disturbing ritual to cleanse yourself:

1) Get yourself two birds. Doesn't really matter what kind although God seems to have a penchant for turtledoves.

2) Get yourself a priest. Make him kill one of the birds in an earthen vessel and then dip the other bird in its blood.

3) Relase the living, traumatized bird (like Jodie Foster running out of that bar in the first scene of The Accussed).

4) Go wash yourself and shave off all your body hair.

It's been established that lepers are unclean. No argument there. They're covered in nasty sores. But God goes a little far in stating that, "When any man has a discharge from his body, his discharge is unclean" (Lev 15:2). He's talking about semen. Dirty, disgusting semen. If a man ejaculates, his bed is unclean and he is unclean until the evening (this is working under the assumption that all sex happens in the morning). After having sex, the man and the woman are supposed to wash themselves immediately (and separately I'm assuming, lest a shared bath lead to more sexy time). The woman is unclean, too, until the evening. With all this talk of uncleanliness, how did anyone in biblical times ever get in the mood?

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

I am Leper, Hear me Roar (Leviticus 12-13)

Gentlemen, we're on the subject of periods.

Not surprisingly, a woman is unclean when she's on the rag. Since the Bible was written by men who were in the dark on these important manners, this is for the duration of two whole weeks. Because apparently that's how long periods last. Maybe that's the case if you've grown up on a diet of low-quality hormone-laden dairy and meat but otherwise -- and don't quote me on this -- you're looking at three to six days typically.

If a woman gives birth to a male child, she is unclean for thirty-three days; if she gives birth to a female child, it's sixty-six days because girls are exactly twice as gross as boys. My question is: what if she gives birth to an intersexual child? Huh? I guess she would be unclean for forty-nine and a half days.

Leviticus 13 turns to all things having to do with leprosy. How to diagnose, when to pitch tainted clothing, etc. For example, when you have an open sore (just one?), check to see if the surrounding hairs have turned white. If they're white, you have leprosy. This gets confusing if you're old and already have white hairs on your person. I'd recommend playing it safe and assuming you are indeed a leper.

The Bible instructs the leper to do the following: "wear torn clothes and let the hair of his head hang loose, and he shall cover his upper lip and cry, "Unclean, unclean." (Lev 13:45). Seems a tad harsh.

Leprosy is also known as Hansen's disease and according to Wikipedia, World Leprosy Day is January 31. Mark that in your calendars.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

What You Can and Can't Eat (Leviticus 10-11)

Now it starts to get good (finally).

Before I submit a definitive list of what you can and can't eat according to the Bible, I should mention that two of Aaron's sons, Nadab and Abihu, decide to make things a little more festive by lighting some incense. This pisses God off royally because he considers patchouli and the like to be "unholy fire" (Lev 10:1). He is so incensed (get it?) by this act that he gets Moses and some of their other relatives to kick them out of the Hebrews-only camp they've set up (at the base of Mount Sinai, I think). No incense? Tell that to the Catholics. They love that shit.

Leviticus 11 plainly lays out which animals are fit for human consumption and which aren't. The criteria is that they have to be both cloven-footed and chew cud. So I'm guessing cows are okay. So are horses by the same token. What's not okay are camels, rock badgers, hares and pigs (Lev 11:4-7).

I didn't know what a rock badger was but a Google search pulled up an image of a Magic Card that told me that a rock badger has the power of being "unblockable as long as defending player controls a Mountain". No wonder you can't eat them. Very few of us controls mountains.

As for les fruits de mer, you can eat whatever you want provided it has fins and scales. All fish are okay but sharks, dolphins, lobsters, shrimps, etc are off the list. The Bible is not super-specific about naming the seafood you can't eat but the criteria would cut out a lot of tasty stuff for which I personally have tremendous food nostalgia (popcorn shrimp, in particular). The Bible is, however, super-specific about naming the birds you can't eat. These include: eagles, carrion vultures, ospreys, falcons, ravens, nighthawks, regular hawks, ostrich, seagulls, owls, cormorants, ibis, water hens, pelicans, carrion vultures (yes, named twice in the same paragraph for emphasis), storks, hoopoe (huh?) and bats (Lev 11:13-18). Note to the brillant zoologist on hand when the Bible was being written: bats are not birds.

You can't eat winged insects except for locusts. You can eat grasshoppers. This is good if you happen to go to Thailand and want to look like a tourist. You can't eat anything that "swarms". Probably a good rule of thumb. You can't eat weasels, mice, geckos, land crocodiles, sand lizards, regular lizards or chameleons (e.g., Gary Olfman or Cate Blanchett).

Worse than being a vegan.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Faceplant! (Leviticus 6-9)

It seems that the subject of animal sacrifice will not be put to rest anytime soon. One of the things that I didn't mention was that the sacrificial altars that Moses and Aaron use are decked out with giant horns on either side (like a Viking helmet) and each and every time a sacrifice is made the horns get ritualistically smeared with blood. Very dark.

In the previous post, I pointed out that it is easy to be deemed unclean. Here's more on that: "You shall eat no fat, of ox, or sheep, or goat. The fat of an animal that dies of itself, and the fat of one that is torn by beasts, may be put to any other use, but on no account shall you eat it. For every person who eats of the fat of an animal of which an offering by fire is made to the Lord shall be cut off from his people" (Lev 7:22-25). Wait a minute. I understand that it's not good to eat what is basically road kill; however, eating no fat whatsoever from the aforementioned animals is completely unreasonable. Personally, I adore fatty meat and am not above eating six pieces of peameal bacon in one sitting.

Sometimes in an animal sacrifice, the priests some of the animals blood purposefully smeared on them: "And Moses killed it, and took some of its blood and put it on the tip of Aaron's right ear and on the thumb of his right hand, and on the great toe of his right foot" (Lev 8:23). I think this happened in a scene from The Lost Boys (starring the two Coreys, one of which had impeccable comedic timing).

Leviticus 9 describes an animal sacrifice that is apparently so mind-blowing that all the Israelites "shouted, and fell on their faces" (Lev 9:24). This is pretty funny to me. There's been so much sacrificing already that you'd think they'd be used to it by now. Weirdos.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Ladies! Give Your Fat Up to the Lord! (Leviticus 1-5)

Leviticus is all about specifics. I like that. Whenever I watch comedy, it's always the specifics that make me laugh.

The first few chapters of Leviticus deal with the subject of animal sacrifice and what passes muster and what doesn't. Sacrificing a mangy animal is a no-no. Wasting the fat is a no-no. God is especially keen on the blood being splattered around as much as possible. He wants a show.

All the fat must be burned separately as an offering because "all fat is the Lord's" (Lev 3:16). This sounds to me like the slogan for a women's weight-loss clinic with evangelical leanings (Put down that Three Muskateers - give your fat up to Jesus!"). In my imagination this clinic would also incorporate a mild circuit of exercises resembling nothing more than shifting your weight back and forth. And possibly some calf stretches. 

Not every offering has to be an animal. If you're too poor to make a proper offering of a bull or a ram, you can offer up two turtledoves or pidgeons or even some flour. Leviticus 2 discusses these "cereal offerings". In the case of cereal offerings, if there are any leftovers (which is not a word I easily associate with the concept of religious sacrifices) then Aaron and his sons get them because they're the priests. That's the best. I love it when I host a party and people bring lots of food and it just gets left at my place afterward. The number of lunches I'm able to assemble is my gauge for how successful the party was (for me).

Leviticus 5 starts to get into sins. Did you know it's a sin to take a "rash oath" (Lev 5:4)? It doesn't even matter if you're promises to do good or bad - it's a sin to be hasty in your decision-making. There are also a lot of ways in which you can become "unclean". For example, "...if he touches human uncleanness, of whatever sort [italics added] the uncleanness may be with which one becomes unclean, and it is hidden from him, when he comes to know it he shall be guilty" (Lev 5:3). This sounds wide-open but after reading it a couple of times, I think it's referring to getting a venereal disease with slow-to-show symptoms from someone you don't know very well (obviously). That's a sin.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

No S'mores on the Sabbath (Exodus 35-40)

Finally I'm done Exodus. I've been looking forward to the next book, Leviticus, because I hear tell that it's got some of the weirdest, most obscure prescriptions. I'm pretty sure it's entirely devoted to what you can eat and who you can have sex with (and when). This is precisely what any religion boils down to.

Exodus 35 starts out with Moses yammering on about the importance of the sabbath. We get it, already. Rest on the seventh day. He also says to "kindle no fire in all your habitations," (Exo 35:3) which I think is the reason why orthodox Jews don't use electricity in their homes on the sabbath. I don't know. This seems like a dumb rule to me. Here's why:

Electricity = a physical phenomenon associated with stationary or moving electrons and protons

Fire = the phenomenon of combustion manifested in light, flame and heat

So, they're two different things. Electricity is not fire. So enjoy your Lite Brites on the sabbath, Jews!

Okay, in all honesty, I wasn't as fully engaged in reading the last chapters of Exodus. The reason being that they're mostly devoted to how God scams his people for their gold ("I want your gold!") so he can get Moses to use it to build some of the fancy stuff he wants; in particular, "the tabernacle, its tent and its covering, its hooks and its frames, its bars, its pillars, and its bases; the ark with its poles, the mercy seat, and the veil of the screen..." (Exo 35:11-12).

The Israelites are poor to begin with, and there aren't that many of them left after Moses called for a moderately-sized slaughter. So it seems a tad insensitive on God's part to expect them to cough up their valuables so he can have all these flashy things. The worst of it is that God wants Moses and Aaron to have "holy garments" to wear when they're tending to his shrine. There is extensive description of the jewel-laden breastplates they're supposed to wear. They must weigh fifty pounds each. Their robes are also hemmed with bells (to warn bears of their approach...?) and pomegranates, which aren't light either.

At the very end of Exodus, Moses blesses his people, in what I consider to be a smug, self-satisfied gesture. Since when does he go around blessing people?

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Jealous? (Exodus 33-34)

For some reason or other, God keeps referring to Moses and his people as a "stiff-necked people" (Exo 33:5). I didn't mention this when it came up in previous passages but it's used quite a few times off the top of Exodus 33. I guess it means that they're stubborn. This seems a little uncalled for since the people that are still kicking around have followed Moses out of Egypt, marched through the parted Red Sea, spent days and nights waiting at the base of a mountain (with nothing to do) and killed thousands of their friends on command. They seem pretty flexible to me.

Anyways, God promises to take Moses and his people to a new land of "milk and honey," (Exo 34:3) which I surmise is next to Candyland. He also promises to drive out the following people: the Canaanites, the Amorites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Hivites and the Jebusites. So far everyone is bad according to the Bible except the Israelites, and even that herd keeps getting culled.

Not only will he get rid of these other tribes, God fully endorses the desecration of their altars to other gods. He says, "you shall worship no other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous god" (Exo 33:14). No kidding? I think I'll start asking people if they believe in Jealous.

Moses is a little frustrated that he hasn't gotten to see God's face. I don't know what he expects. God's compromise is to stand Moses on a rock, cover him with his huge, holy hand so he can't see anything, then remove it at the last minute so Moses can get a glimpse of his back. Maybe God is a butterface.

Moses and God have to redo the tablets for the Ten Commandments because Moses broke the last two in one of his increasingly more common spazzes. So they go off together for a while back up to Mount Sinai. When Moses returns, his face is all glowy and shiny like he just got a facial because he's been talking with God. "And when Aaron and all the people of Israel saw Moses, behold, the skin of his face shone, and they were afraid to come near him" (Exo 34:30). This makes perfect sense to me because when I get a facial, I usually get waxing done at the same time (to remove my light, downy lady-beard) and it is scary for about an hour or two afterward, until my follicles calm down.