Biblical No2

February 14, 2009

It seems that there are very few who follow religion to the letter and maybe that’s either the point or just a good thing. I certainly wouldn’t like today’s society if we all followed a literal translation of the Torah, be it an ‘Eye for an Eye’ or that you’re not meant to touch someone who is unclean. It would be a very frustrating way to live.

The thing about not touching someone who is unclean applies to both men and women and has to do with menstruation and shedding ones seed (male ejaculation). You’re not meant to touch a woman for seven days after she has menstruated which makes daily work a hard task. Just think about the last time you touched a woman in any way (hug, handshake, handing them something) and the chances of them having menstruated in the last seven days. Further, a male who has ejaculated in the last day is considered unclean, making touching most men probably a risky business. The punishment for this is that you are then unclean, presumably a sinner untill your next prayer when you are cleansed.

The Samaritans, the kind loving guys who appear in the parable of the good Samaritan, still live in Israel although there are only about 700 of them. They hold very strict literalist views on cleanliness and the female menstruation cycle. For seven days each month the females of the household have what is endearingly referred to as a ‘holiday from housework’. They have their own room with tv and refrigerator, they are not allowed really to interact with the men of the house except to help them prepare meals. This brings up another point actually, that men aren’t allowed to sit or touch anything that an unclean person has touched. So if the women of the Samaritans touch something, the men are not allowed to touch it. This is why they are not allowed to come out of their room and the men have to do everything.

What really intrigues me here, other than the fact that they have these bizarre rituals, is that the Samaritans of today put emphasis on this being a holiday for the women. It isn’t repression, even if it was at some point. It is now liberation.

The most powerful part of the story of the good Samaritan is that the Samaritan helps a Judean and the two hated each other. It tells us that even if you hate your neighbour for one thing, if he’s hurt and alone, you should help. The Samaritans have their own Bible and in fact their own Ten Commandments with just one difference: one of the commandments is to build an altar on Mount Garizim. It’s facinating to think that if we were all Samaritans then instead of having hundreds of people at the Wailing Wall every day you’d have hundreds of people not so far away at Mount Garizim. Every Passover the head male of each household of the Samaritans sacrifices a goat. Again, if we were all Samaritans then there would, every Passover, be hundreds maybe thousands of goat sacrifices but at Mount Garizim.

There’s a facinating thing about Jewish people and sacrifice which I will talk about in more depth next post.

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Biblically No.1

February 8, 2009

I’m currently reading A.J.Jacobs, The Year of Living Biblically and I’m also trying to improve my memory. The latter of the two is inspiried by the very sad and unfortunate situation that Terry Pratchett is currently in. For those who don’t know, and I’m pretty sure that everyone does know, but Terry Pratchett recently found out that he has Alzheimers and if you’re interested there’s a really rather good show he’s doing about his search for a cure. Go check it out on iPlayer.

Anyway, I want to write down some stuff about the bible thing I’m reading, interesting stuff, useless facts that you will no doubt never need, but if you find yourself in the odd situation of being on the crystal maze maybe you’ll thank me.

Fact One:
There are 613 Commandments in the bible and that doesn’t include all of the suggestions and parables that are written. These 613 were all given to Moses on top of the mountain which is why he was up there for forty days. Most of these are the Oral Laws which were given by Moses to the Israelites who gave them to their sons and daughters, etcetera. Not all Jews believe in these Oral laws, there is a sect of Jewdaism who call themselves the Karaites who do not believe in the Oral law and only what is written in the bible. Whereas other jewish people follow the Rabbis interpretations of these Oral Laws.

Examples of this are laws like not mixing Wool and Linen, which is very specific and easy to follow, however there are other laws like ‘an Eye for an Eye’ which is where Jewish people need interpretation from the Rabbis. It’s said that it doesn’t actually mean to take and Eye for and Eye, but instead ‘cash for an eye’, typically the attacker pays the victim the monetary value of an eye. Then there are weird laws like ‘You are not to boil a young goat in the milk of it’s mother’ which if you take literally seems very hard to break and almost stupid to state. However, the interpretation of this by Rabbis gives the Jewish people the law whereby they can’t mix milk and meat, thus, no cheeseburgers.

It’s an interesting area and one which is trackled a lot in this book. One of my favourite parts so far is where the author tries to follow the law about not making a graven image of anything on the earth or in the sea. Taken literally it means that when his son askes him to create a Car out of play-doe he instead creates a circle, when asked to create Nemo (becuase his son is a good little protoconsumer) he creates an oval.

It does however get him into trouble now and again, there are a few pages dedicated to how he reacts to touching women. It says in the bible that you are not to touch a woman who is going through her cycle for a week afterwards. This means that he can refrain and pull back from shaking hands and hugging women with the excuse that he might be committing a sin.

More to come, when I remember perhaps.


Intelligent Design

April 3, 2008

Thinking about Intelligent Design I came across two realisations.

1) If God is Perfect then Intelligent Design is not possible. Fundamentally this comes down to the arguement that if God is perfect we cannot apply Human traits to God. Lets say for instance that Intelligent Design is correct, there was a creator, by saying they are intelligent it means that they had to think about and design everything. This means that they are partly human, they aren’t Perfect, therefore there is something more Perfect than they and they are not the most Perfect being. This doesn’t work for a monotheistic religion like Christianity.
I am also aware that this is a little more complicated than I have put forward, but I believe the next point will tackle the issue.

2) The way we define Intelligence is down to logic, thinking, design, perfection, etc. Therefore, for Intelligent Design to be possible we have to have a God that is logical, who can think and Design as we say it. However, if God is all knowing then he has no reason for logic, intelligence or design, so to say that we are Intelligently Designed says that we Had to be Intelligently Designed. Therefore God cannot be all knowing and so is not God.

As an aside, if God is Perfect and all knowing then he knows the future and so cannot design what he knows is going to happen. Also, it means he has no control over what is going to happen and so presumably is not Perfect. Mostly symmantic arguements and applying Human wording to a higher being, but interesting that God appears to transcend our definition of him but Christians still confine him to their definitions all the time.