Sponsor An Episode!

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There’s a new perk up at the OMGWTFBIBLE Indiegogo! Now, if you donate $250 or more, you can be the official sponsor for an entire Exodus episode! That means you get a mug, a T-shirt, and you get an episode dedicated to you. Your name will be plastered all over it, you’ll get to chat with me for 30 minutes over Skype (or phone) beforehand, and you’ll get the official script used on stage. But hurry! There are only 11 of this perk available!

Shalom, OMGWTFBIBLE!

I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but there’s a lot of crazy sex stuff in Genesis. I recently spoke with Andria Kaplan of Shalom Life for her #LoveJewce column about the weirdest, most provocative stuff. It’s all in the article there, so please check it out! For my part, I had this to say about rewriting the Bible:

“As Jews, our tradition of weekly Torah reading makes us all a part of the world’s longest-running book club,” Tuchman tells me in an exclusive interview. “I believe that reading it together and sharing our experience of the text and how it relates to our lives is central to our faith and can bring us closer together. With OMGWTFBIBLE, I’m hoping that I’m making that a little bit more fun.”

A least a little.

Jews Censor the Bible

A censored version of the book of Genesis.

I think the Hasidim are starting to catch on to how crazy the Torah is. According to FailedMessiah, the Skvere community of Hasidim in New Square, New York has created a somewhat pared-down version of the Five Books of Moses to use at their Bais Tziporah girls school.

This version has removed some of the more racy stuff from the story. Y’know, like the dual narratives of the creation of the world, the story of Eden, all that Cain and Abel stuff, and the flood. FailedMessiah suggests that it’s because these stories are about *GASP* people who aren’t “Jewish.”

Also kept out are the stories of Yehudah, Tamar, Er, and Onan (Episode 18) and of Yoseph and Potiphar’s woman (also Episode 18!). Shockingly, the story of Dinah is left in (Episode 16), presumably to warn young Jewish women of the dangers of loving uncircumcised men.

If you can read Hebrew, you can tell what’s missing here (the whole Potiphar thing).

People sometimes tell me my podcast is inappropriate. It’s not my show that’s inappropriate, it’s the Bible.

<h/t: Motti Schleider>

What’s Your Favorite Verse?

Valerie Tarico has an interesting article at Salon in which she asks prominent atheists and anti-theists for their favorite Bible verse. Why? Well, as Tarico so compelling describes the Bible:

[Our] ancestors struggled with important questions that we still struggle with today: What is real? What is good? What is the meaning in our lives? How can we embrace love, joy, peace and wonder? How should we live in community with each other? The texts that were gathered into the Bible offer fragmentary glimpses of how that struggle evolved over the course of hundreds of years.

 

The writers were Iron Age tribesmen, members of a cruel and misogynistic society. They got a lot of things wrong. But they also got some very basic and beautiful things right. As is the case with many texts, both ancient and modern, those who have the fortitude to sift through the rubble can find real gems.

There are bunch of good ones in the article, but these are my favorite Old Testament quotes:

Social justice and community activism are central themes of the Bible. It is imperative that we not forget those who are in need and are voiceless. We live amongst those who are in need, it is in our best interest to ensure that their needs are met. Two of my favorite verses are Jeremiah 22:3 “This is what the Lord says: Do what is just and right. Rescue from the hand of the oppressor the one who has been robbed. Do no wrong or violence to the foreigner, the fatherless or the widow, and do not shed innocent blood in this place.” Proverbs 29:7 “The righteous care about justice for the poor, but the wicked have no such concern.”

—Kim Veal, Black FreeThinkersPeople of Color Beyond Faith

 

Though it is quite unspectacular, the biblical passage that has long shaped my approach to life is Proverbs 15:1, “A soft answer turneth away wrath.” I hate needless friction and conflict with others. I much prefer to get along with people, not to antagonize them with caustic comments or stinging responses. Otherwise, you’re just “putting out the fire with gasoline.” I always look to say the reconciling, tactful word. I have to be honest. I don’t butter people up. I sure don’t mind being scathing in my responses to bad apologetics arguments. But I try not to make it personal. I’d prefer to keep things respectful and friendly. And this stance stems from that passage of scripture.

—Robert M. Price, The Bible Geek webcast

 

There are many Bible verses that extol peace, justice, honesty, mercy, wisdom, altruism, and other basic human virtues, and in fact, I’ve written a whole article about verses I find excellent. Here is one that stands out: “And six years thou shalt sow thy land… But the seventh year thou shalt let it rest and lie still; that the poor of thy people may eat: and what they leave the beasts of the field shall eat. In like manner thou shalt deal with thy vineyard, and with thy olive yard.” —Exodus 23:10-11 (KJV) The idea of empathy contained in the verse is even sufficiently broad to encompass wild animals – an important sign that its writer was thinking in terms of all-encompassing principles rather than simple reciprocity. It takes an enlightened spirit to have compassion even on birds and beasts.

—Adam Lee, Daylight Atheism

That last one really stand out to me. I’ve been translating Exodus recently and was blown away by how much chapter 23 seems to be about social justice. If I had to choose my favorite verse (so far), it’d be Exodus 23:1-2 (NIV).

“Do not spread false reports. Do not help a guilty person by being a malicious witness. Do not follow the crowd in doing wrong. When you give testimony in a lawsuit, do not pervert justice by siding with the crowd.”

What’s your favorite verse? Let me know in the comments!

Definitive Bible Coming

It looks like I’m going to have to start all over again. A group of scholars is working on something called “The Hebrew Bible: A Critical Edition,” aiming to finally redact all the wacky versions of the Hebrew Bible that have been floating around into one single, corrected text.

If this sounds confusing, it’s because it is. According to JTA News:

The text of the Hebrew Bible now being used descends from what is called the Masoretic text, which was assembled between the sixth and 10th centuries by Jewish scribes and scholars in present-day Israel and Iraq. But even among the various versions of the Masoretic text there are subtle differences.

Many of today’s printings of the Hebrew Bible come from the Second Rabbinic Bible, a text assembled in 16th-century Venice. The Jewish Publication Society uses the Leningrad Codex, which at approximately 1,000 years old is the oldest complete surviving text. Still others use the 10th-century Aleppo Codex, which the Torah scholar Maimonides praised for its accuracy but has been missing much of the Torah since a 1947 fire.

Contemporary scholars seeking to understand the history of the Hebrew Bible’s text utilize a range of other sources, including ancient Greek and Syriac translations, quotations from rabbinic manuscripts, the Samaritan Pentateuch and others. Many of these are older than the Masoretic text and often contradict it, in ways small and large.

You’ve probably heard me refer to these various texts and the differences between them on the show. It’ll be cool to have all the variations in one place. No word yet on whether the Orthodox communities are flipping out.

The Holiness of OMGWTFBIBLE

I don’t know if you’ve realized, but by making fun of religion, OMGWTFBIBLE is actually serving a greater sort of holiness. In The American Scholar, Brian Doyle writes about the benefit of weaving humor into religion:

For all that religion has been a bloody enterprise through history, and for all that religious people seem often the most almighty easy people to offend, and for all that there are many people in my faith tradition who think I am an idiot to grin over the most colorful of our traditions, I think we should grin over the more colorful parts of our faith traditions. For one thing, they are often funny—imagine the wine steward’s mixed feelings at Cana after the miracle, for example—and for another, it seems to me that real honest genuine spirituality is marked most clearly by humility and humor. The Dalai Lama, Desmond Tutu, Meher Baba, Flannery O’Connor, Sister Helen Prejean, Pope Francis—all liable to laughter, and not one of them huffy about his or her status and importance. Whereas all the famous slimy murderers of history—Hitler, Pol Pot, Stalin, Mao, bin Laden—what a humorless bunch, prim and grim and obsessed with being feared. Can you imagine any one of them laughing, except over some new form of murder? Think about it—could laughter be the truest sign of holiness?

Who knew?

<h/t: The Daily Dish>

Hear Me at Sermon Slam Tonight!

SermonSlam is a unique Jewish event, a religious-themed open mic, where anyone can take the stage and deliver a 5-minute sermon, speech, or whatever. Tonight, I’ll be talking about “What We Talk About When We Talk About God” at the freedom-themed SermonSlam in Washington Heights. I’d be delighted if some podcast listeners came to see me! Details are here and below.

SermonSlam Washington Heights
YM & YWHA of Washington Heights & Inwood
54 Nagle Avenue
8:00 PM

Tom Delays Hates Creativity

Hey, you! You know, that novel you’ve been working on for years? That beautiful work of art you threw your blood, sweat, and tears into? That business you built with your BARE HANDS? Continue reading