God by the numbers: What's in the 613 Commandments?

19 Jun 2013

The Ten Commandments! They're so famous they got their own movie. And they're justly famous, because they're the most awesome laws ever – so awesome that Georgia Representative Lynn Westmoreland, who wants to mandate the public display of the Commandments in the US, can name as many as three of the Ten

Hmm... you'd think Rep "The 10C 4eva!" Westmoreland could have done a little better with the commandment shout-outs, especially when the Bible conveniently offers multiple versions of the Ten Commandments to choose from. But let's crank the stone tablets up to Eleven (just kidding, Yahweh!) with an all-new law: Thou shalt not go getting all smug just because thou canst nameth most or all of the rules. Ten is a piffle. How well do you think you'd fare against the 613 Commandments?

Oh, I saw that double take you just did! Meet the Mitzvot, the full 613 commandments that make up the "Law of Moses". If the Ten Commandments are the basic rules from God, think of the Mitzvot as the fine print. Among the 613 are all the laws you've heard of that failed to make the Big 10 ("Circumcise the male offspring"), and laws that may be new to you ("Break the neck of a calf by the river valley following an unsolved murder"? Huh. Who knew.). They span the eminently sensible ("Anybody who knows evidence must testify in court") and the... well, less obvious, shall we say ("Not to put frankincense on the meal offerings of wrongdoers"? Great, now you tell me.).

You'll find a list of the Mitzvot at website Judaism 101 and a list with nice overview on Wikipedia. It's a lot to take in, though; even a cursory look at the significance, interpretation, and categorization of the 613 Commandments would – and does – fill books. Given limited time (and no doubt limited reader interest), all I'm going to do here is draw a little inspiration from that great big numeral – the Ten Commandments times 61, plus change! – and point out a few numbers of interest in the Mitzvot. Readeth thou more

Bible stories are boring

23 Sep 2009

I had a throwaway comment I wanted to add in regard to PZ Myers' post on a kook who's been "updating" Norse creation mythology. The Pharyngula site won't take comments now without registration, and currently won't let me register either, so here's the gist of my rejected comment with a little added padding:

It appears that a Norwegian musician named Varg Vikernes is "updating" Norse creation mythology with elaborate ties to modern cosmology. That makes for a blending of two awesome themes, and I'm all for their illicit coupling – assuming there's a proper sense of tongue-in-cheek goofiness behind it all, of course. Based on Pharyngula readers' comments about Vikernes' mental state and his apparent seriousness about his religion, though, I think I'll wait for someone else to meld Odin and the Big Bang before I jump aboard to play along.

Anyway, a commenter named Greg F took note of the relative mediocrity of the Abrahamic creation myth. That's so true; of all the wild and woolly origin myths out there, Genesis' tale is about the most boring I've come across. The rest of the Bible doesn't get much more exciting. That's why any kiddie Book of Bible Stories is always so dull too; it's working with pretty bland material, and all a bored kid can do is read the Ark story, and David & Goliath, over and over. The magic gets pretty thin after that. Readeth thou more

"No atheists in foxholes" – what's it mean?

19 Feb 2008

As I mentioned earlier, the folks fighting the oft-heard claim "there are no atheists in foxholes" are doing good work in denouncing a stupid statement. But by playing up the contributions of atheist soldiers, they're addressing a misperception of the stupid statement's meaning, not its original meaning.

The Natural History of Nonsense, p 265, notes: Readeth thou more

"Can I have just one Canadian, God? Please?"

19 Feb 2015

Spotted on Facebook. Too good to not share in every way.

LGBT Community Worldwide

On her radio show, Dr. Laura said that, as an observant Orthodox Jew, homosexuality is an abomination according to Leviticus 18:22, and cannot be condoned under any circumstance. The following response is an open letter to Dr. Schlesinger, written by a US man, and posted on the Internet. It's funny, as well as quite informative:

Dear Dr. Laura:

Does the Bible really say those evil things?

13 Jan 2015

Inquisitive commenter John makes a request:

Please post the verses in the New Testament that command us to “take slaves, burn witches, murder children, perform executions for imagined crimes, and treat women as cattle.”

Sure! That awful stuff is part and parcel of the Bible, and I'm more than happy to preach straight from it.

I'm not going to play favorites with this Testament vs that Testamant, though; it's all the Divine Word of the Almighty, amiright? I'm good with all of the Good Book! (As you might expect, though, it's the Old Testament that really delivers on the slavery and murder and other divinely-commanded horrors. The New Testament tones down the evil, even if it carries forward some of the OT's moral fumbles and even makes up a few of its own.)

So. Here's a quick guide to particular nasties as requested: Readeth thou more