Sunday, February 21, 2010

Leviticus Chapters 11 & 12

Dividing the world into things that are 'clean' and 'unclean.' Not dissimilar to the Daily Mail's attempt to classify everything in the world into things that cause or cure cancer.

Chapter 11

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Acceptable food animals: must have split hooves AND chew cud, fishes with fins and scales, birds that are not listed in the unacceptable list, locusts, beetles and grasshoppers. Yes, that's right, the ancient Israelites ate bugs, and you can too!

Unacceptable food animals: have split hooves OR chew cud (examples being camels, which have split hooves and don't chew cud, or coneys and rabbits, which 'chew cud' but don't have hooves, and you would think that god, creator of everything, would know which of his creations is a ruminant and which isn't), pigs, things that move in the waters but lack fins AND scales, eagles, ossifrages (bird of prey), ospreys, vultures, kites, ravens, owls, night hawks, cuckoos, hawks, little owls, cormorants, big owls, swans, pelicans, gier eagles, storks, herons, lapwings, bats, fowls that creep on the ground (and again, since god created all this, he ought to know he didn't make birds that creep, right?) 4-legged insects (no problem, god!). Even touching these animals, alive or dead, is wrong. If we do, we have to wash our bodies and clothes to get clean again.

Other unclean animals, which we are not allowed to touch: animals with paws (sorry pet owners!) things that creep, weasels, mice, tortoises, ferrets, chameleons, lizards, snails, moles. If they fall into a container or piece of cloth and die, you have to wash it, which makes sense. If they fall onto your oven or shelf, you have to throw it away, which, given how many creepy-crawlies these people would have had in their camps, must have happened at least once aweek, seems wasteful. If you've watered your seeds, and then an animal dies on them, you can't use them. If an animal that we can eat dies naturally, the person who gets rid of the carcass is unclean until the end of the day. Do all this and you can be holy like god!

Jerry does have some interesting theories as to why these rules were put in place: 1) they were an arbitrary test of obedience 2) the 'unclean' animals were associated with deities in other religions 3) the unclean animals were disease carriers and the clean ones were relatively safe 4) the clean animals demonstrated 'proper' behavior, while the unclean ones were somehow sinful. His rather weak explanation as to why we can now have pets and eat lobster is something Paul will say when we get to 1 Corinthians. But of course, that would be interpreting the inerrant word of god! Which he does not address.

Chapter 12

A fun one for the ladies: are you pure or impure right now?

If you've had a baby boy within the past 7 days, you are unclean. On the eighth day you have to circumcise him. For 33 days after that, you are in the 'purifying' phase, and you can't touch anything holy or go into the temple. If you've had a baby girl, your 'impurity' lasts twice as long. At the end of that time, you can bring a lamb, two turtledoves or two pigeons to the priest and he'll sacrifice it for you, one as a burnt offering, the other as a 'sin' offering. Because child bearing is a sin, natch. Then you're clean again.

Jerry seems to be reaching for the PC crowd in his notes to this chapter, in which he actually questions the bible, saying 'Why should a woman become unclean by bearing children? Reproduction is essential to the survival of the human race.' He has some vague answers about bodily fluids being reminders of sin and death or that a body that is discharging stuff lacks wholeness and is unclean by default. Of course, he doesn't go on to say why, in his sound theological opinion, it is no longer necessary for women to follow all of this, not even with a reference to the New Testament.

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