A few years ago my friend Slammin’ and I decided to read the Bible. Now actually I’d tried to read the damn thing on several previous occasions, but I always stalled out. It’s a long, confusing book. This time, though, we were going to do it right, and it was his brilliant idea to form an atheist Bible study group to support each other as we worked through it. I did the research on which version to use, and we settled on The New Oxford Annotated Bible (new revised standard version with the Apocrypha), which I highly recommend.
The decent translation and good notes helped a lot, but I was still sure I wasn’t going to remember the whole thing, so I decided to take my own notes. First I made a spreadsheet to keep track of key characters and plot twists by book, but that was daunting, and it got away from me pretty quickly. Anyway, I realized that if I ever wanted to look up some Biblical character or plot point, there would be a lot better sources online than I could create. So I thought I stopped taking notes altogether, but I just found this old page of random notes on Biblical odds and ends. Key word: odd.[hr]Genesis:
Abraham the coward wimp asshole for TWICE turning his wife over to other men as his sister.
Townspeople want to rape some angels, who are his guests, but letting his guests get gang raped would betray his standards of hospitality, so he offers the people his virgin daughters instead. Later his daughters get him drunk and have sex with him.
Boring. What to do with lepers.
Weird. What’s the matter with Saul? He doesn’t seem so bad, and he doesn’t get punished too much, but God and Samuel freaking hate him. And that whole deal with God regretting his decision and then punishing Saul because he won’t change his mind doesn’t make any sense.
Worst book yet. Totally boring as a. it’s all recap/rewrite and b. the Chronicler is a fucking goody-goody who just wants to paint everything in the best/most convenient terms, so all the gory, interesting stuff gets cut out. Plus it starts with chapters and chapters of genealogy.
- Beat your children.
- Don’t co-sign loans.
- Love the one you’re with.
- Find a good wife.
- Admit that you know nothing, but at the same time.
- Correct everyone else for everything they do wrong.
- Don’t be lazy.
- Money is good. Money is bad. Money is meaningless (it gave mixed messages on this point).
- Life is meaningless.
- Work hard—but don’t get rich.
- Rich people are better than poor people.
- But wealth is meaningless.
- Don’t be lazy.
- But work doesn’t accomplish anything.
- No matter what you do, then you die.
- If you think you’re smart or holy, you’re an asshole.
- If you don’t try to be smart or holy, you’re a fool.
And there’s a chorus by the Byrds.
Song of Solomon:
Sex is good. Food is good. My girlfriend has all her teeth!
- God loves you.
- God hates you.
- God will punish his beloved people.
- God will welcome them back.
- That or he will hire a prophet to put a good spin on it all.
- Religion is so much harder when it is mixed with politics.
Jeremiah to his neighbors: Everything you are doing is wrong. You are hypocrites and liars. You must shape up now, or you will be destroyed.
Jeremiah to God: Why doesn’t anybody like me?
Jeremiah to all other countries: Oh boy are you in for it.
Jerusalem: God beat me so badly you wouldn’t recognize me. I probably deserved it. I love him.
God tells me you Israelis are hypocrites who think you don’t have to follow all the rules. He’s going to use some other countries to beat you up and send you away from home. Then he’s going to punish the other countries, and you’ll get to go home. When you do, you should set up a temple exactly as I describe and follow the rules there. Also, here’s how to divvy up the land when you eventually get it back.
The Jews prepare their best looking and brightest youth for the Babylonians. King Nebuchadnezzar takes Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who become members of his court. The King commands that they eat royal food, but they don’t want to because it isn’t Kosher. The guy in charge of feeding them is scared that he’ll get in trouble if they don’t eat as well as everyone else. The Jews prove they’ll be okay by living on vegetables and water for ten days without losing weight.
King N gets spooked by a dream and asks his magicians and wise men for interpretation. He doesn’t want them to make something up, so he refuses to tell anyone the dream. Nobody can do it. Then Daniel says the dream was of a giant statue made of mixed metals (progressively less valuable) that fell apart. The dream represents King N and the subsequent regimes that will take over after his empire crumbles. King N promotes all four Jews because Daniel interpreted the dream.
King N makes a big gold statue. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego won’t worship it. He super-heats a furnace and throws them in. The furnace is so hot it kills the people who pushed the Jews in, but people can see four men walking around just fine in the flames. The three Jews walk out unharmed.
King N dreams of a giant tree. It means he’s getting too proud and will have to live in exile like a crazy animal for seven years until he accepts God and can return.
King N’s grandson Belshazzar has a feast and uses the vessels he stole from the temple in Jerusalem. A hand appears and writes on the wall. He is terrified. Nobody can read the handwriting. His wife says get Daniel, who tells him it means his kingdom will end and be divided up. He rewards Daniel and immediately dies.
Darius the Median becomes king. Daniel is great. People get jealous, but they can’t bring him down because he never does anything wrong. They talk Darius into passing a law that nobody can worship anyone but him. Daniel continues to pray to his God three times a day, so they haul him in and force Darius to follow through on his edict to throw him into the lions’ den. Daniel says his God will protect him, and Darius is worried and fasts. Daniel is fine. Darius says Daniel’s God must be very powerful so he rounds up all the guys who turned Daniel in and throws them and their families into the lions’ den. The lions tear them apart.
Daniel dreams of terrible beasts that represent kingdoms that will conquer them. Then he dreams of a fight between a strong ram and a one-horned goat that defeats it. Gabriel the angel appears and tells him the goat is Greece who will destroy Media and Persia but not for a while.
Daniel figures out that the exile period predicted in Jeremiah (70 years) is over. He prays to God to forgive all the Israelis and let them go home. Gabriel says it is really a week of 70 years (meaning 7×70) and they’ll go home after that.
Daniel sees an angel nobody else can see. It describes a series of wars. The angel says Michael (Israel’s guardian angel) will come, good will be rewarded, and evil will be punished. It promises Daniel will be among those rewarded.[hr]That’s all I wrote, and although I didn’t include any commentary, it’s apparently a lot easier to get people to tell you what the Bible means than to tell you what’s actually in it. There’s a bunch of other stuff in there too, so consider this a trailer, and read it yourself.