It’s not very often I go searching for my copy of the Holy Bible. But whenever I find it in my brief moment of need I always say a heart-felt “Thankriste”.
Last night was one of those rare moments: it took me a while too, I had to search through acres of groaning shelves to find my barely touched King James authorised version. In this edition the actual words of Jesus himself are helpfully colour-coded.
But it wasn’t Jesus I was after last night, rather the bloody and mercenary Moses. In particular the various points in the Old Testament where he receives the absolutely must obey rules from a vengeful and jealous God.
I was seeking out the various passages in Exodus – the bit that explains Bob Marley’s drug habit – and Dudedontneuterme – the bit where the Levi-wearing Midianites beg Moses not to cut their bits off (in vain it turns out) – where the Ten Commandments are explained.
“And, as a level 7 aetheist, you are doing this why?” At least that was the reaction from a disbelieving Mrs Martini. She didn’t even know we had a Holy Bible in the house and she was most amused that I would choose it as my bedtime reading.
“Well actually, Moac,” I carefully explained, “I’m reading Vanity Fair and the Bible’s only here as a reference guide.”
Moac gets this; while doing her BA she was told to read the Holy Bible (I always feel there should be an exclamation mark here, like this: “Holy Bible! Batman.”) as it was the foundation for a lot of literary references. I pointed out to her that the late, great HST swore by the Bible. He swore at pretty much everything, but that’s another story.
This story is about the essay in VF by Christopher Hitchens in which he argues that the Ten Commandments should be revised and redacted. The points he makes – which is why I needed the Holy Bible! – are that at the various times in Exodus and Dudedontneuterme where the tablets of stone are mentioned, the wording does indeed change and that the surly and obviously mad-as-a-hatter Moses even smashes the original set in anger. An even angrier God has him go back up the fuckenmountain for another 40 days and 40 nights** to hew some more freakentablets.
I didn’t know, until I read in Hitchen’s piece that the Ten Commandments had changed from one passage to another. The Vanity Fair piece is worth a read; Exodus was a classic piece of reggae-rock; the book of Dudedontneuterme is worth a laugh, but it’s far too frightening for children.
The New Commandments: Christopher Hitchens, Vanity Fair, April 2010
** I checked: this is not the same 40 days and 40 nights during which the earth flooded and Noah’s ark ended up on another fuckenmountain.