Friday, January 29, 2010


I am currently on Leviticus in my Bible reading.  The thing that has struck me so far is how much of the Bible is devoted to particular details of ritual and sacrifice.  There are an awful lot of Bible stories that I am familiar with but many of them take up fairly small chunks of text in the Bible compared to various sets of instructions.

For example, God gives Moses commandments to deliver to the Israelites but the basic 10 commandments that most people are familiar with aren't remotely the sum of what was passed on there.  For example, the section of the Bible that details the familiar 10 Commandments does not mention the number 10 at all and in fact has substantially more instructions than 10.  How you divide them up is a hotly debated question, but many scholars seem to think that there are 13 actual separate instructions in that passage while  I personally feel like there are 12.  Later on God says something about 10 commandments in particular but that is attached to another section of similar sorts of rules that aren't *at all* like the 10 commandments we see quoted today.  The modern 10 commandments seem to be a fabrication/interpretation created by the church at some point.

Here is a small sample of the Bible in Exodus 30:1:

You shall make an altar on which to offer incense; you shall make it of acacia wood.  It shall be one cubit long, and one cubit wide; it shall be square, and shall be two cubits high; its horns shall be of one piece with it.  You shall overlap it with pure gold, its top, and its sides all around and its horns; and you shall make for it a molding of gold all around.

These sorts of extremely specific building instructions go on to talk about properly creating the tent, the altar, the lampstand, the tabernacle, the upright frames and more.  Pages and pages of the Bible go by while these exacting requirements for construction of the holy implements and buildings are laid out.  This level of specificity was astonishing to me; I never thought that a huge portion of the Bible would be devoted to such mundane things.  If I were writing a set of instructions for living I would probably just let people design their own tabernacles.

Leviticus is different from Exodus in that the instructions are about sacrificing to atone for sin.  It is similar in that it goes on for pages and pages about the specifics for killing, butchering, burning and destroying animal sacrifices for particular kinds of sins for people of particular ranks.  It is easy to see where the practice of the church selling indulgences came from as the Bible seems to support the idea that rich people can easily sacrifice their way out of sin but poor people cannot.  I can also see how the idea that the poor are somehow morally at fault can come out of this sort of belief set.  If you believe that God asks for a specific monetary donation for each sin it is easy to believe that rich people have more morality and importance.

I am also blown away by the amount of blood and gore involved.  Everyone seems to be expected to constantly be throwing blood on the altar, burning the kidneys, anointing themselves with blood and chopping off bits of themselves.  What an incredible mix.

No comments:

Post a Comment