Leviticus Is Not What You Think It Is

And here we get to the controversial stuff.  Where I REALLY contradict the Bible.  As in, I look at the words on the page and say, “No, this is wrong.”  I’m pretty sure Exodus has been changed dramatically, but I only have my suspicions, my knowledge of where Judaism came from, and the fact that there’s never actually been any concrete evidence found of Jews enslaved in Egypt.  No, seriously, for all the reconstructions of the Exodus you’ve seen on the History Channel, and all the Seders you may or may not have attended, there is literally zero concrete evidence that Jews were ever enslaved in Egypt.

My personal hypothesis is that the Exodus is actually a later retelling of the proto-Hebraic escape from Ur, and the Babylonian system, which was pretty brutal in and of itself.  It makes a lot of sense if you read Leviticus and the Levite laws.  A lot of them refer back to the Babylonian religious system.  Priests not marrying prostitutes?  That’s a direct reference to Babylonian temple prostitution.  Men not laying with men refers to that, too, and there’s actually not a single word against same-sex love in the OT, but more on that later.  As for how Egypt got in there, the Hebrew people ended up settling a lot closer to Egypt, and they became the big, imperial boogeyman.  There were probably some nasty political run-ins, and there may have been some Jews taken as prisoners of war, who later returned–possibly with Egyptian wives and families–with tales of (scientifically plausible) plagues that combined with oral tradition of fleeing Babylon to create the Exodus story we know now.

As for what this has to do with Leviticus, allegedly, God dictated all of it to Moses.  You know, after the Israelites found their way out of the desert.

Anyway, Leviticus is not the literal word of God.  It’s a legal text.  It, and the Ten Commandments, are quite literally the legal manual of the ancient Hebrews.  What it has to do with modern American law, I really don’t understand, but a lot of people seem to think that laws written 5000+ years ago for a bronze-age refugee people resettling and restructuring after fleeing a system that included mandatory and sanctified rape (obligatory temple prostitution) are immediately relevant to a technologically advanced civilization with major global impact.  (I refer back to temple prostitution a LOT, by the way, because I think it was a major reason the proto-Hebraic people broke away from the Babylonians.)  I’ll grant that some elements are timeless.  A democratic-republican system, for instance, seems to work moderately well.  Not perfectly–otherwise, I wouldn’t be writing this blog–but well enough that some guys risked their necks to revive the plan from Greece and Rome a couple of centuries back.  And concepts like Don’t Steal and Don’t Murder are always good, though I’ve been tempted to bump off a couple of people in my time.  However, a great number of laws in Leviticus are intended only for a post-Babylonian Hebraic society.

For instance, as a greater society we don’t demand mikvah for menstruating women.  Or men who’ve come.  Honestly, the second category is probably why, because that would get inconvenient.  “Oh, yeah, I jacked off last night.  Better stop by the mikvah on my way to work.”  And we have laws against that, anyway.  The Fourth Amendment guarantees bodily autonomy.  Remember, no unreasonable search and seizure?  Personally, I’d consider the police getting all up in my junk, looking for traces of blood or semen, pretty damn unreasonable.

Similarly, we have no ecumenical reason to require or restrict one man laying with another.  Now, you see that little word I used there, “ecumenical?”  One thing about Leviticus is, in the original version, there were two words that got translated as “abominable” or “abomination” (or “abhorrent” in my Tanakh).  One, the minor one, was applied to things like eating shellfish.  This was roughly equivalent to letting a big ol’ stinky fart rip in the middle of your boss’s fancy Seder.  Your coworkers are gonna give you crap for months.  However, that’s about as far as it goes, apart from your boss saying no falafel for a week before the next Seder.  The other one, the one used for two men laying together, is punishable more or less by being made a complete pariah.  It’s about the worst thing you can do.  However, that word is only applied to things done for purposes of worship.  I learned this from an Orthodox rabbinical dropout, an amazing guy, with whom I sadly lost touch a while ago.  It’s stuck with me for years, and I finally made the connection with temple prostitution.  No man shall lay with another man if either man is a temple prostitute.  Remember what I said about sanctified rape?  I have a suspicion a lot of men in what became the proto-Hebraic community were raped to death in the course of fulfilling their religious duties, and I suspect that’s a major reason the proto-Hebrews fled Ur and the Babylonian beast.  In other words, they escaped the Whore of Babylon to save their people.

Leviticus is not what most of us in America have been taught, and we’re protected from it.  So why are we listening to people who say we need to follow any of it?  It’s fascinating to study, and elements of it are still valid, and may always be, but others are and must remain products of their time.  Additionally, it and its related works must be read in original context, or else we lose not only the story behind them, but the people.


This Kind Of Thing Nearly Got Me Kicked Out Of School

Well, Evangelical private school.

Living in Oklahoma, one thing I’ve heard over and over again is that the Bible is the literal word of God.  (Well, that and little pieces of it cherry-picked for people’s personal uses.  Devil quoting scripture, anyone?)  It’s not.  If you’re reading this, you probably know that.  You know it’s a combination of mythology, poetry, and history.

That’s actually not strictly true.

I’m going to come out and say that my knowledge of the New Testament is fairly limited.  I was kinda-sorta raised Christian, but never received a welcome from any church (even as a small child), so I just blanked it out.  I still get the Gospels confused, and Paul’s letters to the Corinthians seem more like an angry guy blooper reel than actual religious direction.  The majority of my study has centered on the good ol’ OT.  I keep a hard copy of the Tanakh handy, whereas I rely on the Interwebs for the NT.  I highly recommend the Unbound Bible for this.  It allows you to compare up to four different translations of whatever passage you’re searching for.

So, back on topic.  The Bible is a lot more complicated than simply being mythology, poetry, and history.  The mythology is fairly straightforward, though you have to realize that not only has it been edited several times throughout history–poor old Job has had at least two endings to deal with–but it’s also been truncated.  Genesis 6, the bit with the Nefilim, got trimmed down from a longer story that you can find in the Book of Enoch.  It’s a fun read, and gleefully contradicts the Bible, just like the Bible does to itself.

Yes, the Bible contradicts itself, and how.  It’s also deliberately outlandish.  That’s because these are not nicely collated, sequentially written, thoroughly edited stories for the modern reader.  They’re collected from lots of different groups of Jews and Hebrews and related groups and proto-Hebrews, and are meant to be told, with full pantomime and multiple entertaining voices, around a campfire in the middle of a desert.  (Or, before the June, 3123 BCE, asteroid impact over Austria that leveled Sodom and Gomorrah with backsplash and tilted the Earth on its axis enough to turn the Sahara and Middle East into a desert, told around a campfire in the middle of an oasis or grassy field.)  Is it any wonder there’s a story about foxes being tied in pairs and sent through fields to set them on fire?  Can you imagine the three-legged race Shlomo and Manasseh ran with a torch around the chat circle when they told that one?  At least one guy peed himself.  Promise.

On the poetry side, well, you kind of have to squint if you’re not reading it in the original language.  (I’ll admit that this is one of the few areas where King James got it right.  The language in KJV is beautiful.)  You also have to understand that a lot of these poems are prayers, especially the Psalms.  If you attend a Jewish service, you’ll see a clergy member called a cantor, who sings.  The singing is praying.  This has long been Jewish tradition, for the same reason people make up songs to remember things.  It’s entertaining, and it makes it easier to keep stuff straight.

Mind, not all of the poetry is prayer.  Some of it’s poetry.  Samuel II, book 1, closes with a poem by King Dovid mourning Jonathan’s death.  It’s a cry of pain and a love poem at once, the kind of thing a skilled wordsmith would write upon losing the love of his life (but more on that later–and, yes, there’s more evidence than you might think).  Dovid was a prolific poet.  The Psalms are pretty much his blog.  And then there’s his son’s poetry, aka Some Of The Best Damn Porn You’ll Ever Read.  (Fun fact:  “feet” means “genitals.”  Slang isn’t just for modern folks!)  While I’m sure there was some, “Oh, God, oh, God, oh, God–THANK YOU, LORD!” going on behind Song of Songs, it’s not quite the same as the prayer category.  Unless you really want it to be.

And then we get to history.  This is the iffy one, because it gets tangled up with the stories told around the campfire.  Remember, at this time, only a few very educated elders and their apprentices could read.  Everything was passed down by oral tradition.  (This is one reason things got mistranslated.  Whoever repeated something had the chance to change the story a bit.)  There are also different kinds of history.  There’s personal history, military, history of the women (who had their own subculture separate from the men), religious history, legal history, etc., most of it finally written down centuries after the supposed events took place.  Imagine if nothing about the Revolutionary War had been written down until now.  What kind of stories would we have?  What kind of figure would George Washington be?  And how many wives would Ben Franklin, legendary dirty old man, have?  Never mind concubines.  And other people’s wives.

Hell, even Leviticus is a legal-historical text tied up in religious language (that has radically changed over the millennia, given that the proto-Hebraic people had a ditheistic faith and were also henotheistic).  Its original language and the context of its laws points to the proto-Hebraic people fleeing Babylon, not Egypt, and it’s been genetically proven that the Jewish people originated from the Babylonian city of Ur.  But that’s another post for another time.

What I’m saying is that the Bible is much more complicated than most people think.  This goes for the NT as well.  (Revelations, for instant, is an angry rant against Rome, which was a horrible invading force in the Mediterranean world in that era.  People were kinda pissed off.)  You can’t take it literally, period.  Much like me, it’s complicated, confusing, and occasionally melodramatic.  Attempting to apply it at face value would be like, well… trying not to laugh at Shlomo and Manasseh and their three-legged race, especially once they hot-foot themselves.

Trust me, once they hot-foot themselves, it’s all over.

The Most Boring Cultist Ever

With Regards To Religion And American Law

Is America a Christian nation?

“Where the preamble declares, that coercion is a departure from the plan of the holy author of our religion, an amendment was proposed, by inserting the word “Jesus Christ,” so that it should read, ‘a departure from the plan of Jesus Christ, the holy author of our religion;’ the insertion was rejected by a great majority, in proof that they meant to comprehend, within the mantle of its protection, the Jew and the Gentile, the Christian and Mahometan, the Hindoo, and Infidel of every denomination.”

–Thomas Jefferson

Answer:  Nope.

Hence, no more attempted application of Christian law, please.

The Most Boring Cultist Ever

Every Cult Needs A Manifesto

The purpose of this blog is not to bash religion.  It’ll mainly be focused on the Bible, because that’s what I’m familiar with, and the effect Christianity has on American culture, because I live in the buckle of the Bible Belt, but I honestly respect genuine faith.  I have problems with people who try to smack me in the face with it, or take idiotic steps to alter the source code.  (For instance, I think the Conservative Bible Project is pretty stupid, even if Connie Willis did predict it in “Ado.”  Oh, yeah, and rewriting the Bible is SO not original.  Not even a little bit.)  Mostly, I just plan to comment on things that are being done for religions reasons, or irony I see in trends.  And, especially, I want to comment on the Bible itself.  It’s been mistranslated and misinterpreted greatly over the centuries, and a lot of people don’t understand what it is.  I don’t fully understand it.  However, I’ve studied a lot of what’s behind it.  I’ve also picked up some very interesting information from very interesting people, and put a lot of twos together with other twos to get a large pile of fours (and hopefully not many fives).

So expect controversial information, bizarre chunks of history, slang, and words in other languages.

The Most Boring Cultist Ever