Monday, December 22, 2008

Wise men?

No seasonal doubts about the Christmas story this year. Just a simple thought...

The only people who were looking for and responded appropriately to the coming of Jesus the first time around were pagans.

The good, bible-believing, church-going people of the day missed it entirely.

It makes me wonder. If the same thing happened today, would the people in the church notice, or would we be too wrapped up in our own traditions to see? What about the un-churched around us, how many of them are looking, and ready to respond, but can't see Jesus in the 'xmas' traditions?

Thursday, December 18, 2008

"When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth..."

That's Matthew 19v22, in case you don't know. The story of the 'rich, young ruler'. Obviously it doesn't apply to me, cos I'm not rich...

Or am I? is a bit of an eye opener. I put in my annual salary and this is what it told me:

Quite shocking, really.

I listened to last week's sermon from The Meeting House yesterday. It was about money. One statement that stayed with me was that some sociologist somewhere did a study on people's money and happiness levels, and concluded that the adage 'money can't buy you happiness' was true in almost all instances. The two exceptions to this were (a) the very, very poor and (b) people who are sick.

The speaker pointed out that this meant that your money can't increase your happiness, but your money can increase somebody else's happiness. So give it away. Generously.

Monday, December 08, 2008

That Hideous Strength

I was raised on a diet of Narnia books from a young age. It was only natural, therefore, that I would go on to read C.S. Lewis's sci-fi trilogy as a teenager. I loved 'Out of the silent planet'. I liked 'Perelandra' (which I must have read aged 15 as I associate it with studying for my 'O' Grades) and I remember reading 'That Hideous Strength' - but I don't think I really 'got it' at the time.

I've just finished revisiting the trilogy.

Viewed as a series of sci-fi books, I still think the series declines as it goes on. OOTSP is still the best, Perelandra is the most fantastic and THS is still the least accessible.

Viewed from the theological perspective, however, things change a bit. The theology in OOTSP is relatively straightforward, is fleshed out a bit in Perelandra but gets really muddled in THS.

Sometimes I wonder if all the Conservative Evangelicals who hold the writings of C.S. Lewis in such high regard have ever actually read some of the things he wrote - his beliefs regarding the gods of nature and the powers of angels, as expressed in allegory form in this book, are far from orthodox.

Fundamentally, the book deals with the influence of the demonic on 'modern' life. There is also some political comment built in there which probably reflects the mood of the time (written during the end of the 2nd World War, but not published until 1945). The book actually does a good job of showing how subtly attractive evil can be, whilst also showing (Christians take note) how unattractive Christianity can appear to be to the outsider.

The book follows the story of a young couple, Jane & Mark Studdock as they get drawn apart, Mark towards the demonic 'N.I.C.E' organisation, Jane towards the Christian community who oppose the N.I.C.E. (that's the 'National Institute for Co-ordinated Experiments' by the way).

A lot of the early part of the book concerns university politics and the very human manipulation of people. I work in a university, and I can say that quite a lot of the satirical comment on university administration in the 1940s is still valid in the 2000s. The tension between the 'progressive' elements and the 'old school' is still there, even though the current old school were probably the progressive element in previous decades.

I've never been totally comfortable with Lewis's view on magic. And by magic, I mean the system of tapping into the power source of nature and using that power for your own purposes. Here, Lewis presents the belief that the use of magic in the modern world would be morally wrong - something the Christian should take a stance against - but that this wasn't necessarily the case in ages past. In the book, the character of Merlin is presented as both a Christian and as a magician, and it is asserted that before his time it was quite acceptable, possibly even good, to use magic, while he came from a time where the use of magic was a morally grey area. But subsequent to Merlin's time, magic has become categorically wrong. Yet Lewis gives no reason why this should be. Indeed, as the plot plays out it becomes apparent that the use of something like magic is required to overthrow the demonic enemy, so only Merlin can bring this about. Taken outwith the context of the allegory, Lewis appears to be saying that the best means of defeating the enemy are not allowed to us today. This doesn't sit comfortably with me.

When the book was published, George Orwell reviewed it and complained that the battle was won by divine intervention. Because if you can invoke divine intervention then that side always wins. And this doesn't make for a very good story. I can kind of see his point. Once the uber-angels get involved at the end, the outcome is clear: good guys win, bad guys lose and, in many cases, die. But here the book gets all tied up in its own internal logic - the reason divine intervention had never been invoked earlier is a bit unclear, God had apparently put constraints upon himself for no readily explained reason, but once the enemy broke those constraints, He was free to do what he wanted. Sounds a bit theologically suspect. It also implies that the good guys would never have won if the bad guys hadn't stepped over the line. So that aspect of the book is unsatisfying.

But the book is entertaining, if a bit long winded in the early chapters. And its interesting, even if you have to question the theology which is allegorised here.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Buck Naked Faith

Eric Sandras is an interesting guy. He's the pastor of a Vineyard church in the USA (at the time of writing this book he was in Washington State, I think he's in California now) and I've heard a few of his sermons in the past. He has some really great faith stories from his own life. Therefore, I'd expected that this book would contain more personal stories than it actually does. That's disappointment number one.

Disappointment number two is that, after a quite shocking (well, quite shocking for a pastor) personal story that he opens the book with, there is nothing that you haven't heard before for the first half of the book. And in many cases the things you've heard before were expressed better the previous times you heard them by other authors.

But I'm glad I stuck with the book. There were some real gems in the second half of it.

When I was a teenager (and not a Christian), I used to mix in Christian youth circles. Very quickly I discovered that there were two distinct kinds of people in these circles. There were those who were genuine Christians and behaved like Christians while in the Christian circles and when they were out in secular circles. And there were the phony Christians, who behaved like Christians in Christian circles and behaved like non-Christians in secular circles (you know, drinking too much, getting off with random people at parties, swearing a lot, the sort of things that 'normal' teenagers do). I rationalised this by assuming that many of the 'phony' Christians weren't really Christians at all, but for a variety of reasons chose to put on that facade while in Christian company, to fit in or to keep someone happy. I was kind of like that myself at that stage, I mixed in Christian company and did all the Christian stuff to maintain the impression that I was a Christian, primarily for my parents' sake (never managed to get off with random people at parties though, not for lack of trying, just never had the knack).

After I became a Christian I thought I'd moved out of 'phony' Christianity into the real deal. It took me several years to discover that there are actually a second category of phony Christians out there - people who are genuinely Christians but put on the facade of being much holier than they actually are. These people appear to live the perfect Christian life when you talk to them on Sunday mornings, but in reality they have doubts and struggles and give in to temptations all over the place. But these doubts, struggles and failings are never dealt with because they put on the facade. These are the 'hypocrites' that critics of the church claim it is full of...

And it is really to these people that this book is addressed.

Obviously, I am up-front and honest about my doubts on this blog. I have struggles and failings too, which I am less inclined to blog about. So this book was aimed fairly squarely at me.

The great thing about the second half of this book (as I said, the first half is perfectly fine, but nothing new) is that Eric Sandras comes from the same place of doubt, struggle and failure that I come from. Even better is that the failings he admits to are worse than some of mine, so he's not preaching down at me from some elevated holy place, he's preaching at me from along side, in the real world. And I must admit that is something really refreshing.

Of course, that makes it kind of hard when he gets to those areas of failure that he has worked through and I haven't yet. You see, there's work for me to do in my life.

The 'Buck Naked' bit refers to the idea that you have to strip away all the facades before you can get to the root problems and actually deal with them. The subtitle of the book is 'A brutally honest look at stunted Christianity' is probably a bit over-stated. I'm not sure 'brutally' needs to be in there, but it is an honest book and does tell 'stunted' Christians how to grow.

In fact, the book keeps referring to one image of stunted growth throughout - the bonsai tree. Viewed in isolation a bonsai tree looks like a proper tree, indeed it often looks like a weather beaten tree that can take what the world throws at it, but if you have perspective you see that this is not the case. This is the image that is constantly used here with regard to spiritual growth. Actually, it gets a little irritating in the first half of the book, but works out better towards the end.

There are many things that you can take away from this book, it even breaks off every now and then and suggests 'growth points' - things to consider or do to help yourself grow spiritually, but one of the main things I took away from it was one of the simplest:

Don't settle for the bare minimum of God.

Why only spend a short 'quiet time' with Him each day? Why not go to two services on a Sunday instead of one? Why not spend longer in worship? And so on. Often we settle for the minimum, when we should be aiming to maximise our time with Him.

So, its not a great book, but it is a good book. Not very long and worth a read. I can lend you a copy if you want, but I will want it back...

Monday, November 10, 2008


Was Jesus nailed to the cross?

This may sound like a strange question to ask, as the crucifixion is central to Christianity. But I'm not asking "was Jesus crucified?" - all the gospels agree on that point - I'm asking was he nailed to the cross or could he have been tied on it?

You see, while we know from history that some folk were nailed to crosses when crucified, we also know that others were not, some were tied on. This generally resulted in the victims having to endure longer on the cross as blood loss was less.

It may surprise you (it surprised me when I first heard it) to learn that none of the gospel accounts of Jesus's crucifixion mention nails being used.

Well, that's not strictly true. Reading John's account of the crucifixion in the Contemporary English Version (CEV) this morning I noticed it described Jesus as being nailed to the cross. The CEV actually says this for all four gospels. But that's sloppy translating, none of the other translations I have speak of nails. They all just say he was crucified, without going into any bloody detail.

How many sermons have I heard that do go into all the bloody details of how the nails were hammered in and where the nails were hammered in, and none of it is biblical?

There's only one verse in the bible that speaks of the nails. And that is in John 20v25:
[24] Now Thomas (called Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. [25] So the other disciples told him, "We have seen the Lord!"
But he said to them, "Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it."
Now I'm reasonably happy to believe that this account is based on actual events, but there are some who see the whole 'Doubting Thomas' episode as being a later invention added to the story, expressly there so Jesus can go on to say:
[29] Then Jesus told him, "Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed."
Given that (at the time these words were allegedly spoken) nobody who had not seen had yet believed. So why would Jesus say such a thing? So it is supposed that this could be a later fabrication. But if it is, then we have no evidence that Jesus was ever nailed to anything.

There are probably loads of things like that which we assume the bible says when it doesn't. I'll be keeping my eyes peeled and will post others here when I find them.

Thursday, October 30, 2008


I have doubts about the Atonement.

These fall broadly into two main thought strands:
  1. What did Jesus actually achieve on the cross?
  2. Could anyone else have achieved this?
But first, just a quick recap on what 'atonement' actually means.

A*tone"ment\, n.
  1. (Literally, a setting at one.) Reconciliation; restoration of friendly relations; agreement; concord. [Archaic]
  2. Satisfaction or reparation made by giving an equivalent for an injury, or by doing of suffering that which will be received in satisfaction for an offense or injury; expiation; amends; -- with for. Specifically, in theology: The expiation of sin made by the obedience, personal suffering, and death of Christ.
Until I looked into this a few days ago, I hadn't realised that the English word 'atonement' was coined by William Tyndale when he was translating the bible, and couldn't find an existing word to fully convey the act by which sin was paid for and reconciliation with God was achieved.

So, it is claimed that Jesus's death on the cross somehow 'paid' for the damage due to sin and also restored the union between man and God which that sin had ruined. I think that's what most Protestant, Evangelical Christians mean by the word anyway.

Following on from the Levitical law and the concept of the flawless sacrifice, I can understand how it may be seen that as Jesus had lived a sinless earthly life, he was an appropriate sacrifice to pay for sin. But, I've recently come around to an understanding of Jesus's life as a picture of the perfect human life, that is the life he lived should actually be possible for other people to live out. In other words, it is possible (even if it might never have happened) that another human may have lived an entirely sinless life. I don't believe in original or inherited sin, so someone else could have done it. So the question is, could the other -theoretical- sinless human have died for the sins of the world?

Or is there some reason why a divine, sinless sacrifice was required?

Perhaps the plan was to wait for a sinless human to come along and atone for the sins of the world, but after a few thousand years of waiting, that hadn't happened and God had to step into the world and do it himself...? OK, so I don't believe that, but I don't really have any good reasons for that not being the case.

The NT makes it clear that the blood of animals can't atone for the sins of the world, so maybe the blood of a sinless man couldn't atone for it either. But why should the blood of a sinless God work then?

And what actually did Jesus's death do?

As I've said before, I can't buy the reasoning that it appeased God's righteous anger against us by satisfying His blood-lust. Or was it C.S. Lewis's Narnian explanation that when one who didn't deserve to die actually died, it broke the power of death?

Don't get me wrong, I believe that Jesus did manage to reconcile us to God by dying, but I'm just really unclear on why it worked or what was the mechanism...

Answers on a postcard please. (Or leave a comment, if you want.)

Monday, October 27, 2008

Lord, Saviour & Son of God

No, I'm not about to doubt that Jesus is any of these. So don't worry.

But I have been thinking of all the titles that Jesus is given in the New Testament, and I wonder if we really understand them in the way that the NT writers meant us to.

You see, everyone in the original readership of the gospels and the epistles was already familiar with concepts such as 'Lord' (kyrios), 'Saviour' (sōtēr) & 'Son of god' - Caesar was all of these!


Our contemporary understanding of the phrase 'Jesus is Lord' seems to be more or less equivalent to saying 'Jesus is God', that is, he is the ruler and creator of all things. Someone today can say that and it doesn't really have an impact on their life. Back when the NT was written though, the meaning was far more grounded, it meant 'Jesus is my master' and by declaring 'Jesus is Lord' people were more or less committing treason - in practice it meant 'Jesus is my master, Caesar is not'!

Romans 10v9: "...if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved."

These days, that verse has a very cerebral slant - all you have to do is say something (with your mouth) and believe something (in your head) and you will be saved (whatever that means, see below). But to the first century nobody would say 'Jesus is Lord' unless they had decided to change their lifestyle to follow Jesus. And the 'believe' (pisteuō) bit also implies action, not merely head-acknowledgement.


These days we kind of understand salvation in terms of Jesus saving us from the world - when we die we will get to go to heaven, or something like that. But the first century concept of salvation was very much salvation in the world. Caesar was the saviour in that he had established peace (the 'pax Romana') in all the Roman world. The Greek word sōtēr has three meanings, saviour, deliverer and preserver. So when we say that Jesus is saviour, we're talking about an ongoing preservation of us in the world as well as any future aspirations. He's saved us and delivered us from our sins, enabling us to live in the Kingdom now - when we're in the world. There's a nice turn of phrase in Acts (2v47, also in I Cor 1v18 and 2 Cor 2v15) which speaks of the believers as being those who are being saved. Its not a one-off event, but an ongoing process. (That thought takes me back to an old sermon that is well worth a listen).

Son of God

Just a wee comment in passing, but 'son of god' was not a particularly radical assertion in the ancient world. Many of the Greek, Roman and Egyptian heroes were sons of gods. Many of the Roman emperors were proclaimed to be gods after they died, so their sons were (by definition) sons of a god. But, of course, in Jewish circles that was a radical assertion. It was claimed that Jesus was the only Son of the only God.

But in all these things, those who wrote about Jesus were being subversive. They were presenting Jesus - on many levels - as the one who should replace Caesar in the lives of Christians. Most of the letters were written to churches in the Roman world, presumably full of people whose self-identity was bound up in being a Roman. Yet the call of the NT writers is to completely change your self-identity. In every way that folks back then relied on Rome or Caesar for identity, support, authority, etc., etc., the subtle message in the NT is that Christ replaces, supplants or completely over-rules in all instances.

I wonder what that looks like today?

Friday, October 17, 2008


Bear with me on this one, as its a real issue, not like some of my more speculative posts.

There is someone who I interact with on an occasional basis who is going through the transition from female to male. (S)he has already adopted a male name, dresses as a man and will eventually have gender reassignment surgery.

Not that (s)he's the church going type, but I wonder what the various different parts of the church would make of the situation. How would they relate?

You see, until recently she was a heterosexual female with identity issues - the sort of person that many churches would welcome with open arms. He's now going through the transition to being a homosexual male, someone who I imagine would not be half as welcome in most churches.

I'm not quite sure what to do (if anything). WWJD?

Friday, October 10, 2008

Our God is bigger than your god...

I went off on a bit of a rant in a comment on Chris's blog the other day. I feel a little bit bad about it. Sorry Chris.

But while that might not have been the best place to air this opinion, on reflection, I think I still have a point. I think that Christianity has been playing the "Our God's bigger than your god" game for so long that we now have an exaggerated and unrealistic view of our God.

I know that some of the readers of this blog will be thinking something along the lines of 'its impossible to have an exaggerated view of God, God is infinite...' at this point.

We've all (or many of us, at least) been taught - from an early age - that God is omnipresent, omniscient, omnipotent and omnibenevolent, as well as being infinite. Most of us accept that teaching.

But I contend that this is:
  1. Not actually biblical, and
  2. Not consistent with our experience of reality
I've heard an awful lot of atheist arguments recently that assert that an omnipotent, omniscient and omnibenevolent God cannot exist because [insert reasoning here]. Therefore God does not exist Q.E.D.

But at best, all that reasoning does is demonstrate that if there is a God, then he isn't all of the above. The atheists present the argument as black and white - either God is all those things or there is no God. The arguments allow no room for the possibility of (say) an omnibenevolent god, who is extremely (but not infinitely) powerful and knows an awful lot, possibly everything that has been or is currently, but not necessarily everything that will be. The arguments can't disprove that god.

I think that Christians are very good at exaggerating. God reveals himself as very strong, but we exaggerate him to be omnipotent. God demonstrates his ability to be with his people wherever they go, but we exaggerate this to omnipresence. God reveals his plans for future events and we exaggerate this to all-seeing-foreknowledge.

I've heard it said that many of the future prophecy statements in the bible are best understood in the sense of 'this is what I'm going to do in the future, and nothing you can do will prevent me from doing it' rather than 'this is what I have foreseen will happen'.

Just pause for a minute and consider, is the God you believe in actually consistent with the reality around you?

Philosophy of hell

I listened to an interesting interview the other day. Bruxy Cavey (from the Meeting House) was interviewing science-journalist, author and devout Catholic Denyse O'Leary about her latest book "The Spiritual Brain: A Neuroscientist's Case for the Existence of the Soul" [on]. Sounds like a very interesting book and I intend on reading it once it comes out in paperback.
But one of the things she said, which really caught my attention, was her reasoning that hell must be a real place. The reasoning went like this:
  1. We know the soul is immortal
  2. We know we have freewill
  3. Thus, it must be possible for someone to choose to have the worst eternity possible, therefore there must be a hell.
  4. Of course, it may be that nobody has ever gone there or ever will, but it must exist.
She was absolutely emphatic on this one and presented it as totally obvious and absolutely cut and dried.

Her reasoning seemed a bit simplistic to me. For a start, while I believe that we do indeed have freewill, I don't know that for certain. The belief can only be inferred from the bible, it isn't explicitly in there.

Furthermore, Jesus (in Matthew 10v28) says explicitly that there is one (assumed to be God) who can destroy the soul and body in hell. If the soul can be destroyed, it can't be immortal. Of course, Jesus asserts the existence of hell in this verse (and others) but the reasoning above can't be used to prove it.

Sunday, October 05, 2008


Monday, September 29, 2008

How to Get Rich as a Televangelist or Faith Healer

I heard the author of this book interviewed on the Infidel Guy show a couple of months back. It was reasonably interesting, so I thought I'd buy and read the book.

Its a short book. You could probably read it in a single sitting if you had a few spare hours. It is also reasonably interesting and informative, even if it does have a few annoying characteristics, which I'll get to in a mo.

However, its not a particularly uplifting or affirming read (as you might have guessed) and is downright depressing at several points.

The author of the book is clearly a disgruntled guy who got taken in by some religious con artist a couple of decades ago. He presents himself as a once gullible, evangelical Christian, but doesn't really say what his beliefs are now, which is a big hindrance to fully understanding where the book is coming from.

Even having finished the book, I'm not sure if the author's main point is:
  1. "All successful Christian leaders are charlatans and just out to make money out of your gullibility; there is no God really...", or
  2. "These are the techniques the bad guys use to lead good Christians astray, watch out for them and keep following the good guys..."
I suspect the author's intent is actually somewhere between the two, while this is not stated in the book, I suspect the author was raised in a fairly fundamentalist church, had a bad experience or two and now is an agnostic or an atheist.

So anyway, the book is presented as a 'how to' guide, but is really more of a guide through some of the more colourful pseudo-Christian con-men (and women) of the 20th and early 21st centuries.

The book presents all of these characters as being corrupt and charlatans from the outset, whereas in some cases I have sometimes wondered whether some of these people started out with the right intentions and gave in to the temptations that their positions afforded, ending up being out for their own gain, but possibly starting off with a gospel agenda. I mean, some are clearly con-artists at the start, but maybe not all of them. Or maybe I'm being too naive.

I recently blogged about the Lakeland 'outpouring' and Todd Bentley. Given that this book was written last year, it never mentions Todd, but it is amazing just how much of a fit there is between the 'instructions' given in the book and the things that seem to have happened at Lakeland. A few good Christian people have told me good things about their experiences with the Lakeland thing, but I must admit that I am still agnostic on this one. I'm considering 'revisiting' Lakeland in another post soon...

So, you're probably wondering how to go about getting rich as a televangelist or faith healer. Well, there's a few easy steps to follow. These are:
  1. Get some form of credentials, but not from a prestigious institution. Some small bible college that nobody has ever heard of is good. There are several online ones that will ordain you for cash. These are fine.
  2. Present yourself as the mediator between God and man. Yes, the bible presents Jesus as the only mediator, but you need to present yourself as the mediator between the people and Jesus, who then mediates between you and God.
  3. Build your mailing list. It is reasonably easy to persuade people to part with $1 or other small amounts of cash, but to make money this way you need a big mailing list.
  4. Target Christians from specific denominations only. You'll get nowhere going for folk from the big denominations like the Anglicans and the Presbyterians, but rather target folk from the smaller denominations with names like "Full Spirit Assemblies of the Family of God"...
  5. Preach the 'prosperity gospel' and look the part - your 'flock' will expect you to have a big car, a big house, expensive suits, expensive jewelry, etc.
  6. If you're balding, wear a wig. Its all about image.
  7. Learn some bible verses and quote them often, but be careful which ones you use.
  8. Avoid actually preaching about what the bible says about Jesus - I mean, he doesn't exactly promote the prosperity gospel, does he? He loved the poor and saw riches as a hindrance to getting to heaven. What you need is 'Diet Jesus'...
  9. Demonise your opponents. Anyone who says anything against you must be in the control of Satan.
  10. Speak in tongues. Any random string of syllables will do.
  11. Be careful who you attempt to 'heal'. You're not gong to be able to heal amputees. Bring people onto the stage in wheelchairs, but only those who are capable of walking. Only heal non-visible illnesses, cancer is good, etc.
There is other advice, but you get the idea.

The thing is, you come away from reading this book wondering if there are any genuine or honorable 'televangelists' out there. Are any of them serving the gospel or are they all con men?

There probably is an answer to that, but not in this book.

So, all in all, this is an eye-opening read but is probably not recommended for anyone as it will make Christians less sure of their own church leaders, and will give non-Christians a skewed view of honest preachers and genuine healers (if such people do exist).

Monday, September 22, 2008

Being mislead by statistics...

  • In a 1997 study, Beit-Hallahmi and Argyle concluded that out of 700 Nobel Prize winning scientists, only one beleives that there is a God.
  • A 1998 study by Larson and Witham revealed that of those American scientists considered eminent enough by their peers to have been elected to the National Academy of Sciences, 93 percent do not believe in God.
  • In a 2006 British study by Elisabeth Cornwell and Michael Stirrat on the Fellows of the Royal Society, 95 percent of its members do not believe in God.
What does this tell us?

Well, if you listen to the propaganda, it tells us that the more intelligent you are, the less likely to believe in God you are.

Is this right or are we being blinded by skewed statistics?

What kind of person gets to win a Nobel prize? In the vast majority of cases its someone who is utterly devoted to their research and study. Someone with no time to, for example, take a day off every week and go to church. Who get elected the National Academy of Sciences or the Royal Society? People who have made the choice to put science first in their lives.

It is not a measure of intelligence, its a measure of a combination of intelligence, hard work and lifestyle choice. Those who decide to put something else first - be it God, church, family or friends - do not generally get elevated to such positions in science. But this is not necessarily a matter of intelligence, its a matter of choice.

Be careful of statistics. You can prove anything you want with them if the audience isn't thinking!

Friday, September 19, 2008

Two dogs

"An Eskimo fisherman came to town every Saturday afternoon. He always brought his two dogs with him. One was white and the other was black. He had taught them to fight on command. Every Saturday afternoon in the town square the people would gather and these two dogs would fight and the fisherman would take bets. On one Saturday, the black dog would win; another Saturday the white dog would win - but the fisherman always won! His friends began to ask him how he did it. He said, "I starve one and feed the other. The one I feed always wins because he is stronger."
From "The Holy Spirit: Activating God's Power in Your Life," by Billy Graham (1978)
I've listened to and read a lot of good, sound, Christian material this year. I've also listened to and read quite a lot of the 'new atheist' material by the likes of Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens.

What I've noticed is that I have a natural, inbuilt tendency to align my beliefs with whatever I am listening to. I try not to, but it happens. If I listen to Christian stuff I get more Christianised, if I listen to the atheist stuff I get more skeptical.

We know this. Preachers have preached on that point many, many times before. But I find myself questioning the whole thing. It seems to be merely a comparison between two equal and opposite ideologies.

But if Christianity is true, it isn't merely an ideology. What about Jesus saying 'I am the truth', what about the Spirit of God? Surely that should bias the comparison, more than slightly? If Christianity is true then reading about the false alternatives should not be enough to cause my faith to falter. But it looks like it might be.

To be a 'good Christian' do we really need to remain ignorant of the alternatives that the world has to offer? If so I'd need to give up being a scientist (and a Bayesian) too, because the scientific method is always to question, always to consider the alternatives. I'm not sure I could force myself to remain ignorant.

From the point of view of someone sitting (skeptically) in the middle, there seems no compelling reason to choose to go either way, only good arguments and compelling reasoning on either side. If I feed one dog (by biasing my reading and listening towards one side) then that dog will win. But there is no obvious reason why I should choose one dog over the other, both appear to have merits, both appear to have faults. I simply have to choose which dog I want to win. What if I pick the wrong one?

Friday, September 12, 2008

Creation in the classroom

Weird. Its happening on this side of the pond. [BBC News Link]

I thought the 'teaching creationism as science' debate was a peculiarly American issue. But some leading someone (actually the director of education at the Royal Society; a biologist and reverend) has opened the debate up in the UK.

I have no problem with creationism being taught in the classroom.

But I do have problems with creationism being taught as science and as an alternative explanation to evolution.
  1. It simply is not science. Creationism in its many forms (bearing in mind that Hindu creationism is completely different from Judeo-Christian creationism, etc.) is an explanation of how we got here based on dogma, tradition and (possibly) divine revelation at some point in the past. It may be true. But. It is not science. It is not a testable theory, it is not based on empirical observation. Thus it is completely outwith the remit of science and should not, therefore, be taught in science class.

  2. It also is not an alternative to evolution. The theory of evolution - a description of the process by which one thing can slowly turn into a different thing over a span of many generations - has no explanation of the start point. It describes the change from A to B, from B to C, and so on, but cannot offer any explanation as to the origin of A. Evolution assumes a population of the original things as a starting point. Creationism, on the other hand, only offers an explanation of where the original things came from. Creationism itself does not consider the change from thing A into thing B. One creationist school of thought allows for evolution to work after the initial creative act. Another school of creationist thought says that we were created more or less as we are and there was no evolution.
Sigh. I wish they would teach kids how to think about issues in school, rather than just presenting them with issues as if they were facts. There are actually very few facts that we can be absolutely sure of in the realms of both science and faith.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Secrets and lies

I've been listening to the current sermon series from The Meeting House in Canada on the life of David. Its been very good. I recommend it [download here].

However, one thing (that I'd never noticed before) keeps jumping out of the story, again and again. David, Samuel and other 'good' characters in the story frequently lie or bear false witness - and this is seen as quite acceptable, possibly even the honourable thing to do in some cases.

For example, in I Samuel 16v1-3, the Lord appears to instruct Samuel to make up a cover story:
The LORD said to Samuel, "How long will you mourn for Saul, since I have rejected him as king over Israel? Fill your horn with oil and be on your way; I am sending you to Jesse of Bethlehem. I have chosen one of his sons to be king."
But Samuel said, "How can I go? Saul will hear about it and kill me."

The LORD said, "Take a heifer with you and say, 'I have come to sacrifice to the LORD.' Invite Jesse to the sacrifice, and I will show you what to do. You are to anoint for me the one I indicate."
The text never indicates that the sacrifice was carried out. It appears to be simply a cover story to deceive Saul. And this is at God's command!

In chapter 19, David's wife Michal lies to Saul's soldiers and then to Saul himself when they come looking for David. This appears to be presented as a good thing she was doing.

In chapter 21, when David goes to the high priest Ahimilech, he lies in order to get food and a sword. Later that chapter when he is before the king of Gath he pretends to be mad - another instance of bearing false witness.

In chapter 22, Ahimilech lies to Saul when questioned about David, and this results in the death of lots of innocent priests. But it is presented as if Ahimilech is in the right here.

And so on.

The thing is, at no point in the story are any of these characters condemned for breaking one of the big 10 commandments. In fact, the story seems to commend these people for their use of subterfuge.

In other words, it is perfectly acceptable to lie if the situation requires it.

Even when David lied to the priest - which wasn't a matter of life or death for anyone - he isn't presented as being in the wrong. Perhaps he was lying in this instance to try and keep the priest out of it (if so, that didn't work!), but it was still lying.

How may times have I heard Christian preachers explaining that there is no such thing as a 'white lie'? Yet, apparently there is.

And it should be noted that, unlike most of the characters in the old testament, both David and Samuel are explicitly described as having the Spirit of God remaining with them - in other words, they are effectively new covenant people in old covenant times. They are, in many ways, a pattern for us to follow.


Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Prince of Peace: God of War

I watched the documentary "Prince of Peace: God of War" yesterday. It was clearly a low budget film - just 'talking heads', a few still photos and some simple text graphics - but it was interesting and thought-provoking enough to be quite watchable for its entire running time of just over an hour.

The film is basically various theologians on both sides of the debate giving their opinions on 'just war' theory. Just in case it wasn't clear from what they said, each time a new interviewee appeared it would give his (all the theologians were male) name, affiliation and say either "(Just War)" or "(Pacifist)" - although most of the time it was totally clear from what they said anyway.

At one point the film director / producer lets his bias be known when he describes himself as a 'moderate pacifist' (although he then goes on to say that interviewing all the 'just war' theorists made him a lot more pacifist than he had been at the outset; I suspect it will have the same influence on the viewer).

The most striking difference between the two sets of theologians was their point of reference. All the 'pacifist' theologians used Jesus as the basis of their position, all the 'just war' theologians used the Bible as their basis. This, once again, made me consider the way believers approach the bible - is the whole thing the equally valid Word of God, or is Jesus himself the Word of God and the bible merely the book that points to him?

Certainly if you start with Jesus, it is clear that violence and war is never the answer (even in the clearing of the temple story, the apparent violence was never directed at people, but only used to overturn tables and disperse livestock), whereas if you start with the bible (especially if you start at the start) then war and violence are apparently acceptable - and even commanded - in certain circumstances. I think I'll stick to the red letters...

The film does have a bias, but even given that, I still think the 'pacifists' come over a lot better than the 'just war' people. Fundamentally, the pacifists seem like nicer people and the just war folk come across as being a bit smug and arrogant. The worst instance of this comes in the 2nd last scene of the film when the just war proponent 'Dr Victor Shepherd' (Professor of Systematic and Historical Theology, Tyndale Seminary, Toronto, Canada) makes the following statement:
"I myself want to be a pacifist with all my heart, and I'm almost there, until once again I see film footage of a five year old, an eight year old, a nine year old, Jewish children huddled on a railway platform in eastern Europe, three days away from their execution [...] When they arrived in such places as [...] Auschwitz, their parents were gassed first and then their bodies were fed into crematoria. The children were fed live into crematoria. Now at this point I have to tell you my pacifism evaporates. I fail to understand how anybody could not intervene, for the sake of those children, regardless of what that intervention entailed in situations like that."
He then sat back with the most smug smile on his face that seemed to say "there, I've won, I've played the Nazi card and nothing can trump that...".

The final scene of the movie is a story told by Tony Campolo which absolutely does trump it. But you'll have to watch the film to find out what it was - unless I blog about it in a future posting.

But the attitude expressed seems to be this: Faced with the horror of the holocaust, there is no alternative but to resort to violence. Pacifists cannot intervene. There are no peaceful actions that can be taken. Things like that make me so angry I want to kill someone...

Sorry, but I don't buy it. As I say, Tony Campolo's story does trump it anyway, but even without that story, the message of Jesus remains clear: Love your enemies, pray for those who persecute you, be willing to die but not to kill.

Anyway, its a thought provoking film and the issue really should be one that is talked about in Christian circles, but in my experience it never is properly addressed. Recommended.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008


A couple of times in his recent comments, Marcus mentioned that there were 613 laws in 'the Law'. So I did a websearch for '613' and turned up this page which lists them and (handily) categorises them. I've listed them below (summarised slightly from the original list and with some of the Jewish phrases expressed in English) and colour coded them according to my perception of whether contemporary Christians consider them binding or not.

This is a long post. Sorry, but its a long list. Also, some of the colour coding is a bit arbitrary, but I've used it to get the overall impression, not to get too hung up on the detail.
  • Laws listed in red are ones which I think most Christians would probably consider to still be binding today.
  • Laws listed in orange are ones which many consider to be binding, but others would dispute this.
  • Laws listed in green are ones which I think most Christians would probably consider as not being binding today.
  • Laws listed in blue are ones which I think some Christians might do anyway, but not consider as a matter of law.
  • Laws listed in purple are civic laws, where Christians would probably defer to the equivalent in the laws of the country in which they live, rather than sticking to the Biblical laws.
(Marcus, I hope you can distinguish between these colours!)

I'll try not to pass much comment on the laws here, but may do so in future posts.

In summary, however, I would say that approximately:
  • 69% of the law would be dismissed as not applicable anymore
  • 13%% of the law might be followed, but not as a matter of law
  • 9.5% of the law would be dismissed by deferring to local laws
  • Only 7% of the law would be considered as still binding today (half of which laws relate to sex, mostly to incest)
  • Only 1.5% of the law would be disputed by different groups of Christians (that's only 9 laws, one of which I'm breaking here by questioning 'the law')
So here goes:


1. To know that God exists (Ex. 20:2; Deut. 5:6)
2. Not to entertain the idea that there is any god but the Eternal (Ex. 20:3)

3. Not to blaspheme (Ex. 22:28), the penalty for which is death (Lev. 24:16)

4. To hallow God's name (Lev. 22:32)
5. Not to profane God's name (Lev. 22:32)
6. To know that God is One, a complete Unity (Deut. 6:4)
7. To love God (Deut. 6:5)
8. To fear Him reverently (Deut. 6:13; 10:20)
9. Not to put the word of God to the test (Deut. 6:16)
10. To imitate His good and upright ways (Deut. 28:9)


11. To honor the old and the wise (Lev. 19:32)
12. To learn Torah and to teach it (Deut. 6:7)

13. To cleave to those who know Him (Deut. 10:20)

14. Not to add to the commandments of the Torah, whether in the Written Law or in its interpretation received by tradition (Deut. 13:1)
15. Not to take away from the commandments of the Torah (Deut. 13:1)
16. That every person shall write a scroll of the Torah for himself (Deut. 31:19)

Signs and Symbols

17. To circumcise the male offspring (Gen. 17:12; Lev. 12:3)
18. To put tzitzit on the corners of clothing (Num. 15:38)

19. To bind tefillin on the head (Deut. 6:8)

20. To bind tefillin on the arm (Deut. 6:8)

21. To affix the mezuzah to the doorposts and gates of your house (Deut. 6:9)

Prayer and Blessings

22. To pray to God (Ex. 23:25; Deut. 6:13)
23. To read the Shema in the morning and at night (Deut. 6:7)
24. To recite grace after meals (Deut. 8:10) [in my experience, most Christians - if they do this - do it before the meal...]
25. Not to lay down a stone for worship (Lev. 26:1)

Love and Brotherhood

26. To love all human beings who are of the covenant (Lev. 19:18)
27. Not to stand by idly when a human life is in danger (Lev. 19:16)
28. Not to wrong any one in speech (Lev. 25:17)

29. Not to carry tales (Lev. 19:16)

30. Not to cherish hatred in one's heart (Lev. 19:17)

31. Not to take revenge (Lev. 19:18)

32. Not to bear a grudge (Lev. 19:18)

33. Not to put any Jew to shame (Lev. 19:17)

34. Not to curse any other Israelite (Lev. 19:14)
[of course, as this says 'other' this law is only applicable to Israelites]
35. Not to give occasion to the simple-minded to stumble on the road (Lev. 19:14)

36. To rebuke the sinner (Lev. 19:17)
37. To relieve a neighbor of his burden and help to unload his beast (Ex. 23:5)
38. To assist in replacing the load upon a neighbor's beast (Deut. 22:4)

39. Not to leave a beast, that has fallen down beneath its burden, unaided (Deut. 22:4)

The Poor and Unfortunate

40. Not to afflict an orphan or a widow (Ex. 22:21)
41. Not to reap the entire field (Lev. 19:9; Lev. 23:22)
42. To leave the unreaped corner of the field or orchard for the poor (Lev. 19:9)

43. Not to gather gleanings (the ears that have fallen to the ground while reaping) (Lev. 19:9)

44. To leave the gleanings for the poor (Lev. 19:9)

45. Not to gather ol'loth (the imperfect clusters) of the vineyard (Lev. 19:10)

46. To leave ol'loth (the imperfect clusters) of the vineyard for the poor (Lev. 19:10; Deut. 24:21)

47. Not to gather the peret (grapes) that have fallen to the ground (Lev. 19:10)
48. To leave peret (the single grapes) of the vineyard for the poor (Lev. 19:10)

49. Not to return to take a forgotten sheaf (Deut. 24:19) This applies to all fruit trees (Deut. 24:20)

50. To leave the forgotten sheaves for the poor (Deut. 24:19-20)

51. Not to refrain from maintaining a poor man and giving him what he needs (Deut. 15:7)
52. To give charity according to one's means (Deut. 15:11)

Treatment of Gentiles

53. To love the stranger (Deut. 10:19)
54. Not to wrong the stranger in speech (Ex. 22:20)

55. Not to wrong the stranger in buying or selling (Ex. 22:20)

56. Not to intermarry with gentiles (Deut. 7:3)
57. To exact the debt of an alien (Deut. 15:3)

58. To lend to an alien at interest (Deut. 23:21)

Marriage, Divorce and Family

59. To honor father and mother (Ex. 20:12)
60. Not to smite a father or a mother (Ex. 21:15)

61. Not to curse a father or mother (Ex. 21:17)

62. To reverently fear father and mother (Lev. 19:3)
63. To be fruitful and multiply (Gen. 1:28)

64. That a eunuch shall not marry a daughter of Israel (Deut. 23:2)
65. That a mamzer shall not marry the daughter of a Jew (Deut. 23:3)

66. That an Ammonite or Moabite shall never marry the daughter of an Israelite (Deut. 23:4)

67. Not to exclude a descendant of Esau from the community of Israel for three generations (Deut. 23:8-9)

68. Not to exclude an Egyptian from the community of Israel for three generations (Deut. 23:8-9)

69. That there shall be no harlot (in Israel); that is, that there shall be no intercourse with a woman, without previous marriage with a deed of marriage and formal declaration of marriage (Deut. 23:18)

70. To take a wife by kiddushin, the sacrament of marriage (Deut. 24:1) [well, it is generally held that marriage is important]
71. That the newly married husband shall (be free) for one year to rejoice with his wife (Deut. 24:5)
72. That a bridegroom shall be exempt for a whole year from taking part in any public labor, such as military service, guarding the wall and similar duties (Deut. 24:5)

73. Not to withhold food, clothing or conjugal rights from a wife (Ex. 21:10)
74. That the woman suspected of adultery shall be dealt with as prescribed in the Torah (Num. 5:30)
75. That one who defames his wife's honor (by falsely accusing her of unchastity before marriage) must live with her all his lifetime (Deut. 22:19)

76. That a man may not divorce his wife concerning whom he has published an evil report (about her unchastity before marriage) (Deut. 22:19)

77. To divorce by a formal written document (Deut. 24:1)
78. That one who divorced his wife shall not remarry her, if after the divorce she had been married to another man (Deut. 24:4)
79. That a widow whose husband died childless must not be married to anyone but her deceased
husband's brother (Deut. 25:5)
80. To marry the widow of a brother who has died childless (Deut. 25:5)

81. That the widow formally release the brother-in-law (if he refuses to marry her) (Deut.

Forbidden Sexual Relations

82. Not to indulge in familiarities with relatives, such as kissing, embracing, winking, skipping, which may lead to incest (Lev. 18:6)
83. Not to commit incest with one's mother (Lev. 18:7)

84. Not to commit sodomy with one's father (Lev. 18:7)

85. Not to commit incest with one's father's wife (Lev. 18:8)

86. Not to commit incest with one's sister (Lev. 18:9)

87. Not to commit incest with one's father's wife's daughter (Lev. 18:11) [that's a step-sister, right?]
88. Not to commit incest with one's son's daughter (Lev. 18:10)
89. Not to commit incest with one's daughter's daughter (Lev. 18:10)

90. Not to commit incest with one's daughter (this is not explicitly in the Torah but is inferred from other explicit commands that would include it)

91. Not to commit incest with one's fathers sister (Lev. 18:12)
92. Not to commit incest with one's mother's sister (Lev. 18:13)

93. Not to commit incest with one's father's brothers wife (Lev. 18:14)

94. Not to commit sodomy with one's father's brother (Lev. 18:14)
95. Not to commit incest with one's son's wife (Lev. 18:15)

96. Not to commit incest with one's brother's wife (Lev. 18:16)

97. Not to commit incest with one's wife's daughter (Lev. 18:17)

98. Not to commit incest with the daughter of one's wife's son (Lev. 18:17)

99. Not to commit incest with the daughter of one's wife's daughter (Lev. 18:17)

100. Not to commit incest with one's wife's sister (Lev. 18:18)
101. Not to have intercourse with a woman, in her menstrual period (Lev. 18:19)
102. Not to have intercourse with another man's wife (Lev. 18:20)
103. Not to commit sodomy with a male (Lev. 18:22)
104. Not to have intercourse with a beast (Lev. 18:23)
105. That a woman shall not have intercourse with a beast (Lev. 18:23)

106. Not to castrate the male of any species; neither a man, nor a domestic or wild beast, nor a fowl (Lev. 22:24)

Times and Seasons

107. That the new month shall be solemnly proclaimed as holy, and the months and years shall be calculated by the Supreme Court only (Ex. 12:2)
108. Not to travel on Sabbath outside the limits of one's place of residence (Ex. 16:29)

109. To sanctify Sabbath (Ex. 20:8)
110. Not to do work on Sabbath (Ex. 20:10)

111. To rest on Sabbath (Ex. 23:12; 34:21)

112. To celebrate the festivals [Passover, the Festival of Weeks and the Feast of Tabernacles] (Ex. 23:14)
113. To rejoice on the festivals (Deut. 16:14)

114. To appear in the Sanctuary on the festivals (Deut. 16:16)

115. To remove [specified bread products] on the Eve of Passover (Ex. 12:15)

116. To rest on the first day of Passover (Ex. 12:16; Lev. 23:7)

117. Not to do work on the first day of Passover (Ex. 12:16; Lev. 23:6-7)

118. To rest on the seventh day of Passover (Ex. 12:16; Lev. 23:8)

119. Not to do work on the seventh day of Passover (Ex. 12:16; Lev. 23:8)

120. To eat [specified flatbread] on the first night of Passover (Ex. 12:18)

121. That no [specified bread products] be in the Israelite's possession during Passover (Ex. 12:19)
122. Not to eat any food containing [specified bread products] on Passover (Ex. 12:20)

123. Not to eat [specified bread products] on Passover (Ex. 13:3)

124. That [specified bread products] shall not be seen in an Israelite's home during Passover (Ex. 13:7)

125. To discuss the departure from Egypt on the first night of Passover (Ex. 13:8)

126. Not to eat [specified bread products] after mid-day on the fourteenth of Nissan (Deut. 16:3)

127. To count forty-nine days from the time of the cutting of the Omer (first sheaves of the barley harvest) (Lev. 23:15)
128. To rest on the Festival of Weeks (Lev. 23:21)

129. Not to do work on the the Festival of Weeks (Lev. 23:21)

130. To rest on the Jewish New Year (Lev. 23:24)

131. Not to do work on the Jewish New Year (Lev. 23:25)

132. To hear the sound of the [ram's horn instrument] on the Jewish New Year (Num. 29:1)

133. To fast on the Day of Atonement (Lev. 23:27)

134. Not to eat or drink on the Day of Atonement (Lev. 23:29)
135. Not to do work on the Day of Atonement (Lev. 23:31)

136. To rest on the the Day of Atonement (Lev. 23:32)

137. To rest on the first day of the Feast of Tabernacles (Lev. 23:35) .

138. Not to do work on the first day of the Feast of Tabernacles (Lev. 23:35)

139. To rest on the eighth day of the Feast of Tabernacles (Shemini Atzeret) (Lev. 23:36)

140. Not to do work on the eighth day of the Feast of Tabernacles (Shemini Atzeret) (Lev. 23:36)

141. To take during the Feast of Tabernacles a palm branch and the other three plants (Lev. 23:40)

142. To dwell in booths seven days during the Feast of Tabernacles (Lev. 23:42)

Dietary Laws

143. To examine the marks in cattle (so as to distinguish the clean from the unclean) (Lev. 11:2)
144. Not to eat the flesh of unclean beasts (Lev. 11:4)

145. To examine the marks in fishes (so as to distinguish the clean from the unclean (Lev. 11:9)

146. Not to eat unclean fish (Lev. 11:11)

147. To examine the marks in fowl, so as to distinguish the clean from the unclean (Deut. 14:11)

148. Not to eat unclean fowl (Lev. 11:13)

149. To examine the marks in locusts, so as to distinguish the clean from the unclean (Lev. 11:21)

150. Not to eat a worm found in fruit (Lev. 11:41)
151. Not to eat of things that creep upon the earth (Lev. 11:41-42)
152. Not to eat any vermin of the earth (Lev. 11:44)

153. Not to eat things that swarm in the water (Lev. 11:43 and 46)

154. Not to eat of winged insects (Deut. 14:19)

155. Not to eat the flesh of a beast that is terefah (lit torn) (Ex. 22:30)

156. Not to eat the flesh of a beast that died of itself (Deut. 14:21)

157. To slay cattle, deer and fowl according to the laws of shechitah if their flesh is to be eaten (Deut. 12:21) ("as I have commanded" in this verse refers to the technique)
158. Not to eat a limb removed from a living beast (Deut. 12:23)

159. Not to slaughter an animal and its young on the same day (Lev. 22:28)

160. Not to take the mother-bird with the young (Deut. 22:6)

161. To set the mother-bird free when taking the nest (Deut. 22:6-7)

162. Not to eat the flesh of an ox that was condemned to be stoned (Ex. 21:28)

163. Not to boil meat with milk (Ex. 23:19)
164. Not to eat flesh with milk (Ex. 34:26)

165. Not to eat the of the thigh-vein which shrank (Gen. 32:33)

166. Not to eat chelev (tallow-fat) (Lev. 7:23)

167. Not to eat blood (Lev. 7:26)

168. To cover the blood of undomesticated animals (deer, etc.) and of fowl that have been killed (Lev. 17:13)
169. Not to eat or drink like a glutton or a drunkard (not to rebel against father or mother) (Lev. 19:26; Deut. 21:20)

Business Practices

170. Not to do wrong in buying or selling (Lev. 25:14)
171. Not to make a loan to an Israelite on interest (Lev. 25:37)
172. Not to borrow on interest (Deut. 23:20)

173. Not to take part in any usurious transaction between borrower and lender, neither as a surety, nor as a witness, nor as a writer of the bond for them (Ex. 22:24)
174. To lend to a poor person (Ex. 22:24) [this is a legal requirement!]
175. Not to demand from a poor man repayment of his debt, when the creditor knows that he cannot pay, nor press him (Ex. 22:24)
176. Not to take in pledge utensils used in preparing food (Deut. 24:6)
177. Not to exact a pledge from a debtor by force (Deut. 24:10)

178. Not to keep the pledge from its owner at the time when he needs it (Deut. 24:12)

179. To return a pledge to its owner (Deut. 24:13)

180. Not to take a pledge from a widow (Deut. 24:17)

181. Not to commit fraud in measuring (Lev. 19:35)
182. To ensure that scales and weights are correct (Lev. 19:36)

183. Not to possess inaccurate measures and weights (Deut. 25:13-14)

Employees, Servants and Slaves

184. Not to delay payment of a hired man's wages (Lev. 19:13)
185. That the hired laborer shall be permitted to eat of the produce he is reaping (Deut. 23:25-26)
186. That the hired laborer shall not take more than he can eat (Deut. 23:25)

187. That a hired laborer shall not eat produce that is not being harvested (Deut. 23:26)

188. To pay wages to the hired man at the due time (Deut. 24:15)

189. To deal judicially with the Hebrew bondman in accordance with the laws appertaining to him (Ex. 21:2-6)

190. Not to compel the Hebrew servant to do the work of a slave (Lev. 25:39)

191. Not to sell a Hebrew servant as a slave (Lev. 25:42)

192. Not to treat a Hebrew servant rigorously (Lev. 25:43)

193. Not to permit a gentile to treat harshly a Hebrew bondman sold to him (Lev. 25:53)

194. Not to send away a Hebrew bondman servant empty handed, when he is freed from service (Deut. 15:13)
195. To bestow liberal gifts upon the Hebrew bondsman (at the end of his term of service), and the same should be done to a Hebrew bondwoman (Deut. 15:14)

196. To redeem a Hebrew maid-servant (Ex. 21:8)

197. Not to sell a Hebrew maid-servant to another person (Ex. 21:8)

198. To espouse a Hebrew maid-servant (Ex. 21:8-9)

199. To keep the Canaanite slave forever (Lev. 25:46)
200. Not to surrender a slave, who has fled to the land of Israel, to his owner who lives outside Palestine (Deut. 23:16)

201. Not to wrong such a slave (Deut. 23:17)

202. Not to muzzle a beast, while it is working in produce which it can eat and enjoy (Deut. 25:4)

Vows, Oaths and Swearing

203. That a man should fulfill whatever he has uttered (Deut. 23:24)
204. Not to swear needlessly (Ex. 20:7)
205. Not to violate an oath or swear falsely (Lev. 19:12)

206. To decide in cases of annulment of vows, according to the rules set forth in the Torah (Num. 30:2-17)
207. Not to break a vow (Num. 30:3)
208. To swear by His name truly (Deut. 10:20)
209. Not to delay in fulfilling vows or bringing vowed or free-will offerings (Deut. 23:22)

The Sabbatical and Jubilee Years

210. To let the land lie fallow in the Sabbatical year (Ex. 23:11; Lev. 25:2)
211. To cease from tilling the land in the Sabbatical year (Ex. 23:11) (Lev. 25:2)

212. Not to till the ground in the Sabbatical year (Lev. 25:4)

213. Not to do any work on the trees in the Sabbatical year (Lev. 25:4)

214. Not to reap the aftermath that grows in the Sabbatical year, in the same way as it is reaped in other years (Lev. 25:5)

215. Not to gather the fruit of the tree in the Sabbatical year in the same way as it is gathered in other years (Lev. 25:5)

216. To sound the Ram's horn in the Sabbatical year (Lev. 25:9)

217. To release debts in the seventh year (Deut. 15:2)
218. Not to demand return of a loan after the Sabbatical year has passed (Deut. 15:2)

219. Not to refrain from making a loan to a poor man, because of the release of loans in the Sabbatical year (Deut. 15:9)

220. To assemble the people to hear the Torah at the close of the seventh year (Deut. 31:12)

221. To count the years of the Jubilee by years and by cycles of seven years (Lev. 25:8)

222. To keep the Jubilee year holy by resting and letting the land lie fallow (Lev. 25:10)

223. Not to cultivate the soil nor do any work on the trees, in the Jubilee Year (Lev. 25:11)

224. Not to reap the aftermath of the field that grew of itself in the Jubilee Year, in the same way as in other years (Lev. 25:11)
225. Not to gather the fruit of the tree in the Jubilee Year, in the same way as in other years (Lev. 25:11)

226. To grant redemption to the land in the Jubilee year (Lev. 25:24)

The Court and Judicial Procedure

227. To appoint judges and officers in every community of Israel (Deut. 16:18)
228. Not to appoint as a judge, a person who is not well versed in the laws of the Torah, even if he is expert in other branches of knowledge (Deut. 1:17)

229. To adjudicate cases of purchase and sale (Lev. 25:14)
230. To judge cases of liability of a paid depositary (Ex. 22:9)

231. To adjudicate cases of loss for which a gratuitous borrower is liable (Ex. 22:13-14)

232. To adjudicate cases of inheritances (Num. 27:8-11)

233. To judge cases of damage caused by an uncovered pit (Ex. 21:33-34)

234. To judge cases of injuries caused by beasts (Ex. 21:35-36)
235. To adjudicate cases of damage caused by trespass of cattle (Ex. 22:4)

236. To adjudicate cases of damage caused by fire (Ex. 22:5)

237. To adjudicate cases of damage caused by a gratuitous depositary (Ex. 22:6-7)

238. To adjudicate other cases between a plaintiff and a defendant (Ex. 22:8)

239. Not to curse a judge (Ex. 22:27)

240. That one who possesses evidence shall testify in Court (Lev. 5:1)

241. Not to testify falsely (Ex. 20:13)
242. That a witness, who has testified in a capital case, shall not lay down the law in that particular case (Num. 35:30)

243. That a transgressor shall not testify (Ex. 23:1)

244. That the court shall not accept the testimony of a close relative of the defendant in matters of capital punishment (Deut. 24:16)
245. Not to hear one of the parties to a suit in the absence of the other party (Ex. 23:1)

246. To examine witnesses thoroughly (Deut. 13:15)

247. Not to decide a case on the evidence of a single witness (Deut. 19:15)

248. To give the decision according to the majority, when there is a difference of opinion among the members of the Sanhedrin as to matters of law (Ex. 23:2)

249. Not to decide, in capital cases, according to the view of the majority, when those who are for condemnation exceed by one only, those who are for acquittal (Ex. 23:2)
250. That, in capital cases, one who had argued for acquittal, shall not later on argue for condemnation (Ex. 23:2)

251. To treat parties in a litigation with equal impartiality (Lev. 19:15)

252. Not to render iniquitous decisions (Lev. 19:15)

253. Not to favor a great man when trying a case (Lev. 19:15)

254. Not to take a bribe (Ex. 23:8)

255. Not to be afraid of a bad man, when trying a case (Deut. 1:17)

256. Not to be moved in trying a case, by the poverty of one of the parties (Ex. 23:3; Lev. 19:15)

257. Not to pervert the judgment of strangers or orphans (Deut. 24:17)

258. Not to pervert the judgment of a sinner (a person poor in fulfillment of commandments) (Ex. 23:6)

259. Not to render a decision on one's personal opinion, but only on the evidence of two witnesses, who saw what actually occurred (Ex. 23:7)

260. Not to execute one guilty of a capital offense, before he has stood his trial (Num. 35:12)

261. To accept the rulings of every Supreme Court in Israel (Deut. 17:11)

262. Not to rebel against the orders of the Court (Deut. 17:11)

Injuries and Damages

263. To make a parapet for your roof (Deut. 22:8)
264. Not to leave something that might cause hurt (Deut. 22:8)
265. To save the pursued even at the cost of the life of the pursuer (Deut. 25:12)
266. Not to spare a pursuer, but he is to be slain before he reaches the pursued and slays the latter, or uncovers his nakedness (Deut. 25:12)

Property and Property Rights

267. Not to sell a field in the land of Israel in perpetuity (Lev. 25:23)
268. Not to change the character of the open land (about the cities of) the Levites or of their fields; not to sell it in perpetuity, but it may be redeemed at any time (Lev. 25:34)

269. That houses sold within a walled city may be redeemed within a year (Lev. 25:29)

270. Not to remove landmarks (property boundaries) (Deut. 19:14)
271. Not to swear falsely in denial of another's property rights (Lev. 19:11)

272. Not to deny falsely another's property rights (Lev. 19:11)

273. Never to settle in the land of Egypt (Deut. 17:16)

274. Not to steal personal property (Lev. 19:11)
275. To restore that which one took by robbery (Lev. 5:23)

276. To return lost property (Deut. 22:1)
277. Not to pretend not to have seen lost property, to avoid the obligation to return it (Deut. 22:3)

Criminal Laws

278. Not to slay an innocent person (Ex. 20:13)
279. Not to kidnap any person of Israel (Ex. 20:13)

280. Not to rob by violence (Lev. 19:13)

281. Not to defraud (Lev. 19:13)

282. Not to covet what belongs to another (Ex. 20:14)
283. Not to crave something that belongs to another (Deut. 5:18)

284. Not to indulge in evil thoughts and sights (Num. 15:39)

Punishment and Restitution

285. That the Court shall pass sentence of death by decapitation with the sword (Ex. 21:20; Lev. 26:25)
286. That the Court shall pass sentence of death by strangulation (Lev. 20:10)

287. That the Court shall pass sentence of death by burning with fire (Lev. 20:14)

288. That the Court shall pass sentence of death by stoning (Deut. 22:24)

289. To hang the dead body of one who has incurred that penalty (Deut. 21:22)

290. That the dead body of an executed criminal shall not remain hanging on the tree over night (Deut. 21:23)

291. To inter the executed on the day of execution (Deut. 21:23)

292. Not to accept ransom from a murderer (Num. 35:31)

293. To exile one who committed accidental homicide (Num. 35:25)

294. To establish six cities of refuge (for those who committed accidental homicide) (Deut. 19:3)

295. Not to accept ransom from an accidental homicide, so as to relieve him from exile (Num. 35:32)

296. To decapitate the heifer in the manner prescribed (in expiation of a murder on the road, the perpetrator of which remained undiscovered) (Deut. 21:4)

297. Not to plow nor sow the rough valley (in which a heifer's neck was broken) (Deut. 21:4)

298. To adjudge a thief to pay compensation or (in certain cases) suffer death (Ex. 21:16; Ex. 21:37; Ex. 22:1)

299. That he who inflicts a bodily injury shall pay monetary compensation (Ex. 21:18-19)

300. To impose a penalty of fifty shekels upon the seducer (of an unbetrothed virgin) and enforce the other rules in connection with the case (Ex. 22:15-16)

301. That the violator (of an unbetrothed virgin) shall marry her (Deut. 22:28-29)

302. That one who has raped a damsel and has then (in accordance with the law) married her, may not divorce her (Deut. 22:29)

303. Not to inflict punishment on Sabbath (Ex. 35:3)

304. To punish the wicked by the infliction of stripes (Deut. 25:2)

305. Not to exceed the statutory number of stripes laid on one who has incurred that punishment (Deut. 25:3)

306. Not to spare the offender, in imposing the prescribed penalties on one who has caused damage (Deut. 19:13)

307. To do unto false witnesses as they had purposed to do (to the accused) (Deut. 19:19)

308. Not to punish any one who has committed an offense under duress (Deut. 22:26)


309. To heed the call of every prophet in each generation, provided that he neither adds to, nor takes away from the Torah (Deut. 18:15)
310. Not to prophesy falsely (Deut. 18:20)
311. Not to refrain from putting a false prophet to death nor to be in fear of him (Deut. 18:22)

Idolatry, Idolaters and Idolatrous Practices

312. Not to make a graven image; neither to make it oneself nor to have it made by others (Ex. 20:4)
313. Not to make any figures for ornament, even if they are not worshipped (Ex. 20:20)

314. Not to make idols even for others (Ex. 34:17; Lev. 19:4)

315. Not to use the ornament of any object of idolatrous worship (Deut. 7:25)

316. Not to make use of an idol or its accessory objects, offerings, or libations (Deut. 7:26)

317. Not to drink wine of idolaters (Deut. 32:38)

318. Not to worship an idol in the way in which it is usually worshipped (Ex. 20:5)
319. Not to bow down to an idol, even if that is not its mode of worship (Ex. 20:5)

320. Not to prophesy in the name of an idol (Ex. 23:13; Deut. 18:20)

321. Not to hearken to one who prophesies in the name of an idol (Deut. 13:4)
322. Not to lead the children of Israel astray to idolatry (Ex. 23:13)

323. Not to entice an Israelite to idolatry (Deut. 13:12)

324. To destroy idolatry and its appurtenances (Deut. 12:2-3)
325. Not to love the enticer to idolatry (Deut. 13:9)

326. Not to give up hating the enticer to idolatry (Deut. 13:9)
327. Not to save the enticer from capital punishment, but to stand by at his execution (Deut. 13:9)

328. A person whom he attempted to entice to idolatry shall not urge pleas for the acquittal of the enticer (Deut. 13:9)
329. A person whom he attempted to entice shall not refrain from giving evidence of the enticer's guilt, if he has such evidence (Deut. 13:9)

330. Not to swear by an idol to its worshipers, nor cause them to swear by it (Ex. 23:13)
331. Not to turn one's attention to idolatry (Lev. 19:4)
332. Not to adopt the institutions of idolaters nor their customs (Lev. 18:3; Lev. 20:23)

333. Not to pass a child through the fire to Molech (Lev. 18:21)

334. Not to suffer any one practicing witchcraft to live (Ex. 22:17)
335. Not to practice onein (observing times or seasons as favorable or unfavorable, using astrology) (Lev. 19:26)
336. Not to practice nachesh (doing things based on signs and portents; using charms and incantations) (Lev. 19:26)

337. Not to consult ovoth (ghosts) (Lev. 19:31)

338. Not to consult yid'onim (wizards) (Lev. 19:31)

339. Not to practice kisuf (magic using herbs, stones and objects that people use) (Deut. 18:10)
340. Not to practice kessem (a general term for magical practices) (Deut. 18:10)

341. Not to practice the art of a chover chaver (casting spells over snakes and scorpions) (Deut. 18:11)

342. Not to enquire of an ob (a ghost) (Deut. 18:11)

343. Not to seek the maytim (dead) (Deut. 18:11)

344. Not to enquire of a yid'oni (wizard) (Deut. 18:11)

345. Not to remove the entire beard, like the idolaters (Lev. 19:27)
346. Not to round the corners of the head, as the idolatrous priests do (Lev. 19:27)

347. Not to cut oneself or make incisions in one's flesh in grief, like the idolaters (Lev. 19:28; Deut. 14:1) .
348. Not to tattoo the body like the idolaters (Lev. 19:28)

349. Not to make a bald spot for the dead (Deut. 14:1)
350. Not to plant a tree for worship (Deut. 16:21) 351. Not to set up a pillar (for worship) (Deut. 16:22)
352. Not to show favor to idolaters (Deut. 7:2)
353. Not to make a covenant with the seven (Canaanite, idolatrous) nations (Ex. 23:32; Deut. 7:2)
354. Not to settle idolaters in our land (Ex. 23:33)

355. To slay the inhabitants of a city that has become idolatrous and burn that city (Deut. 13:16-17)

356. Not to rebuild a city that has been led astray to idolatry (Deut. 13:17)

357. Not to make use of the property of city that has been so led astray (Deut. 13:18)

Agriculture and Animal Husbandry

358. Not to cross-breed cattle of different species (Lev. 19:19) (according to the Talmud, this also applies to birds)

359. Not to sow different kinds of seed together in one field (Lev. 19:19) 360. Not to eat the fruit of a tree for three years from the time it was planted (Lev. 19:23)
361. That the fruit of fruit-bearing trees in the fourth year of their planting shall be sacred like the second tithe and eaten in Jerusalem (Lev. 19:24)

362. Not to sow grain or herbs in a vineyard (Deut. 22:9)

363. Not to eat the produce of diverse seeds sown in a vineyard (Deut. 22:9)

364. Not to work with beasts of different species, yoked together (Deut. 22:10)


365. That a man shall not wear women's clothing (Deut. 22:5)
366. That a woman should not wear men's clothing (Deut. 22:5)
367. Not to wear garments made of wool and linen mixed together (Deut. 22:11)

The Firstborn

368. To redeem the firstborn human male (Ex. 13:13; Ex. 34:20; Num. 18:15)
369. To redeem the firstling of an ass (Ex. 13:13; Ex. 34:20)

370. To break the neck of the firstling of an ass if it is not redeemed (Ex. 13:13; Ex. 34:20)

371. Not to redeem the firstling of a clean beast (Num. 18:17)

Priests and Levites

372. That the priests shall put on priestly vestments for the service (Ex. 28:2)
373. Not to tear the High priest's robe (Ex. 28:32)
374. That the priest shall not enter the Sanctuary at all times (i.e., at times when he is not performing service) (Lev. 16:2)

375. That the ordinary priest shall not defile himself by contact with any dead, other than immediate relatives (Lev. 21:1-3)

376. That the priests defile themselves for their deceased relatives (by attending their burial), and mourn for them like other Israelites, who are commanded to mourn for their relatives (Lev. 21:3)

377. That a priest who had an immersion during the day (to cleanse him from his uncleanness) shall not serve in the Sanctuary until after sunset (Lev. 21:6)

378. That a priest shall not marry a divorced woman (Lev. 21:7)

379. That a priest shall not marry a harlot (Lev. 21:7)
380. That a priest shall not marry a profaned woman (Lev. 21:7)
381. To show honor to a priest, and to give him precedence in all things that are holy (Lev. 21:8)

382. That a High priest shall not defile himself with any dead, even if they are relatives (Lev. 21:11)

383. That a High priest shall not go (under the same roof) with a dead body (Lev. 21:11)

384. That the High priest shall marry a virgin (Lev. 21:13)

385. That the High priest shall not marry a widow (Lev. 21:14)

386. That the High priest shall not cohabit with a widow, even without marriage, because he profanes her (Lev. 21:15)
387. That a person with a physical blemish shall not serve (in the Sanctuary) (Lev. 21:17)
388. That a priest with a temporary blemish shall not serve there (Lev. 21:21)

389. That a person with a physical blemish shall not enter the Sanctuary further than the altar (Lev. 21:23)

390. That a priest who is unclean shall not serve (in the Sanctuary) (Lev. 22:2-3)

391. To send the unclean out of the Camp of the Shechinah, that is, out of the Sanctuary (Num. 5:2)

392. That a priest who is unclean shall not enter the courtyard (Num. 5:2-3)

393. That the priests shall bless Israel (Num. 6:23)
394. To set apart a portion of the dough for the priest (Num. 15:20)
395. That the Levites shall not occupy themselves with the service that belongs to the priests, nor the priests with that belonging to the Levites (Num. 18:3)

396. That one not a descendant of Aaron in the male line shall not serve (in the Sanctuary) (Num. 18:4-7)

397. That the Levite shall serve in the Sanctuary (Num. 18:23)
398. To give the Levites cities to dwell in, these to serve also as cities of refuge (Num. 35:2)
399. That none of the tribe of Levi shall take any portion of territory in the land (of Israel) (Deut. 18:1)
400. That none of the tribe of Levi shall take any share of the spoil (at the conquest of the Promised Land) (Deut. 18:1)

401. That the priests shall serve in the Sanctuary in divisions, but on festivals, they all serve together (Deut. 18:6-8)

T'rumah, Tithes and Taxes

402. That an uncircumcised person shall not eat of the t'rumah (heave offering), and the same applies to other holy things. This rule is inferred from the law of the Paschal offering, by similarity of phrase (Ex. 12:44-45 and Lev. 22:10)
403. Not to alter the order of separating the t'rumah and the tithes; the separation be in the order first-fruits at the beginning, then the t'rumah, then the first tithe, and last the second tithe (Ex. 22:28)

404. To give half a shekel every year (to the Sanctuary for provision of the public sacrifices) (Ex. 30:13)

405. That a priest who is unclean shall not eat of the t'rumah (Lev. 22:3-4)

406. That a person who is not a priest or the wife or unmarried daughter of a priest shall not eat of the t'rumah (Lev. 22:10)

407. That a sojourner with a priest or his hired servant shall not eat of the t'rumah (Lev. 22:10)

408. Not to eat tevel (something from which the t'rumah and tithe have not yet been separated) (Lev. 22:15)

409. To set apart the tithe of the produce (one tenth of the produce after taking out t'rumah) for the Levites (Lev. 27:30; Num. 18:24) [not necessarily 'of the produce' or 'for the Levites' but some consider the tithe to be still legally binding; but the details given in other laws are dismissed]

410. To tithe cattle (Lev. 27:32)

411. Not to sell the tithe of the herd (Lev. 27:32-33)

412. That the Levites shall set apart a tenth of the tithes, which they had received from the Israelites, and give it to the priests (called the t'rumah of the tithe) (Num. 18:26)

413. Not to eat the second tithe of cereals outside Jerusalem (Deut. 12:17)
414. Not to consume the second tithe of the vintage outside of Jerusalem (Deut. 12:17)
415. Not to consume the second tithe of the oil outside of Jerusalem (Deut. 12:17)

416. Not to forsake the Levites (Deut. 12:19); but their gifts (dues) should be given to them, so that they might rejoice therewith on each and every festival
417. To set apart the second tithe in the first, second, fourth and fifth years of the sabbatical cycle to be eaten by its owner in Jerusalem (Deut. 14:22)

418. To set apart the second tithe in the third and sixth year of the sabbatical cycle for the poor (Deut. 14:28-29)

419. To give the priest the due portions of the carcass of cattle (Deut. 18:3)

420. To give the first of the fleece to the priest (Deut. 18:4)

421. To set apart t'rumah g'dolah (the great heave-offering, that is, a small portion of the grain, wine and oil) for the priest (Deut. 18:4)
422. Not to expend the proceeds of the second tithe on anything but food and drink (Deut. 26:14).

423. Not to eat the Second Tithe, even in Jerusalem, in a state of uncleanness, until the tithe had been redeemed (Deut. 26:14)

424. Not to eat the Second Tithe, when mourning (Deut. 26:14)

425. To make the declaration, when bringing the second tithe to the Sanctuary (Deut. 26:13)

The Temple, the Sanctuary and Sacred Objects

426. Not to build an altar of hewn stone (Ex. 20:22)
427. Not to mount the altar by steps (Ex. 20:23)

428. To build the Sanctuary (Ex. 25:8)
429. Not to remove the staves from the Ark (Ex. 25:15)
430. To set the showbread and the frankincense before the Lord every Sabbath (Ex. 25:30)

431. To kindle lights in the Sanctuary (Ex. 27:21)

432. That the breastplate shall not be loosened from the ephod (Ex. 28:28)

433. To offer up incense twice daily (Ex. 30:7)

434. Not to offer strange incense nor any sacrifice upon the golden altar (Ex. 30:9)

435. That the priest shall wash his hands and feet at the time of service (Ex. 30:19)

436. To prepare the oil of anointment and anoint high priests and kings with it (Ex. 30:31)
437. Not to compound oil for lay use after the formula of the anointing oil (Ex. 30:32-33)

438. Not to anoint a stranger with the anointing oil (Ex. 30:32)

439. Not to compound anything after the formula of the incense (Ex. 30:37)

440. That he who, in error, makes unlawful use of sacred things, shall make restitution of the value of his trespass and add a fifth (Lev. 5:16)

441. To remove the ashes from the altar (Lev. 6:3)

442. To keep fire always burning on the altar of the burnt-offering (Lev. 6:6)
443. Not to extinguish the fire on the altar (Lev. 6:6)

444. That a priest shall not enter the Sanctuary with disheveled hair (Lev. 10:6)

445. That a priest shall not enter the Sanctuary with torn garments (Lev. 10:6)

446. That the priest shall not leave the Courtyard of the Sanctuary, during service (Lev. 10:7)
447. That an intoxicated person shall not enter the Sanctuary nor give decisions in matters of the Law (Lev. 10:9-11)
448. To revere the Sanctuary (Lev. 19:30)
449. That when the Ark is carried, it should be carried on the shoulder (Num. 7:9)
450. To observe the second Passover (Num. 9:11)

451. To eat the flesh of the Paschal lamb on it, with unleavened bread and bitter herbs (Num. 9:11)
452. Not to leave any flesh of the Paschal lamb brought on the second Passover until the morning (Num. 9:12)

453. Not to break a bone of the Paschal lamb brought on the second Passover (Num. 9:12)
454. To sound the trumpets at the offering of sacrifices and in times of trouble (Num. 10:9-10)

455. To watch over the edifice continually (Num. 18:2)

456. Not to allow the Sanctuary to remain unwatched (Num. 18:5)
457. That an offering shall be brought by one who has in error committed a trespass against sacred things, or robbed, or lain carnally with a bond-maid betrothed to a man, or denied what was deposited with him and swore falsely to support his denial. This is called a guilt-offering for a known trespass
458. Not to destroy anything of the Sanctuary, of synagogues, or of houses of study, nor erase the holy names (of God); nor may sacred scriptures be destroyed (Deut. 12:2-4)

Sacrifices and Offerings

459. To sanctify the firstling of clean cattle and offer it up (Ex. 13:2; Deut. 15:19)
460. To slay the Paschal lamb (Ex. 12:6)

461. To eat the flesh of the Paschal sacrifice on the night of the fifteenth of Nissan (Ex. 12:8)

462. Not to eat the flesh of the Paschal lamb raw or sodden (Ex. 12:9)

463. Not to leave any portion of the flesh of the Paschal sacrifice until the morning unconsumed (Ex. 12:10)

464. Not to give the flesh of the Paschal lamb to an Israelite who had become an apostate (Ex. 12:43)

465. Not to give flesh of the Paschal lamb to a stranger who lives among you to eat (Ex. 12:45)

466. Not to take any of the flesh of the Paschal lamb from the company's place of assembly (Ex. 12:46)

467. Not to break a bone of the Paschal lamb (Ex. 12:46)

468. That the uncircumcised shall not eat of the flesh of the Paschal lamb (Ex. 12:48)
469. Not to slaughter the Paschal lamb while there is [specified bread products] in the home (Ex. 23:18; Ex. 24:25)

470. Not to leave the part of the Paschal lamb that should be burnt on the altar until the morning, when it will no longer be fit to be burnt (Ex. 23:18; Ex. 24:25)

471. Not to go up to the Sanctuary for the festival without bringing an offering (Ex. 23:15)

472. To bring the first fruits to the Sanctuary (Ex. 23:19)

473. That the flesh of a sin-offering and guilt-offering shall be eaten (Ex. 29:33)

474. That one not of the seed of Aaron, shall not eat the flesh of the holy sacrifices (Ex. 29:33)
475. To observe the procedure of the burnt-offering (Lev. 1:3)

476. To observe the procedure of the meal-offering (Lev. 2:1)

477. Not to offer up leaven or honey (Lev. 2:11)

478. That every sacrifice be salted (Lev. 2:13)

479. Not to offer up any offering unsalted (Lev. 2:13)

480. That the Court of Judgment shall offer up a sacrifice if they have erred in a judicial pronouncement (Lev. 4:13)

481. That an individual shall bring a sin-offering if he has sinned in error by committing a transgression, the conscious violation of which is punished with excision (Lev. 4:27-28)

482. To offer a sacrifice of varying value in accordance with one's means (Lev. 5:7)

483. Not to sever completely the head of a fowl brought as a sin-offering (Lev. 5:8)

484. Not to put olive oil in a sin-offering made of flour (Lev. 5:11)

485. Not to put frankincense on a sin-offering made of flour (Lev. 5:11)

486. That an individual shall bring an offering if he is in doubt as to whether he has committed a sin for which one has to bring a sin-offering. This is called a guilt-offering for doubtful sins (Lev. 5:17-19)

487. That the remainder of the meal offerings shall be eaten (Lev. 6:9)
488. Not to allow the remainder of the meal offerings to become leavened (Lev. 6:10)

489. That the High priest shall offer a meal offering daily (Lev. 6:13)

490. Not to eat of the meal offering brought by the priests (Lev. 6:16)

491. To observe the procedure of the sin-offering (Lev. 6:18)
492. Not to eat of the flesh of sin offerings, the blood of which is brought within the Sanctuary and sprinkled towards the Veil (Lev. 6:23)
493. To observe the procedure of the guilt-offering (Lev. 7:1)

494. To observe the procedure of the peace-offering (Lev. 7:11)

495. To burn meat of the holy sacrifice that has remained over (Lev. 7:17)

496. Not to eat of sacrifices that are eaten beyond the appointed time for eating them (Lev. 7:18)

497. Not to eat of holy things that have become unclean (Lev. 7:19)

498. To burn meat of the holy sacrifice that has become unclean (Lev. 7:19)

499. That a person who is unclean shall not eat of things that are holy (Lev. 7:20)

500. A priest's daughter who profaned herself shall not eat of the holy things, neither of the heave offering nor of the breast, nor of the shoulder of peace offerings (Lev. 10:14, Lev. 22:12)
501. That a woman after childbirth shall bring an offering when she is clean (Lev. 12:6)

502. That the leper shall bring a sacrifice after he is cleansed (Lev. 14:10)

503. That a man having an issue shall bring a sacrifice after he is cleansed of his issue (Lev. 15:13-15)

504. That a woman having an issue shall bring a sacrifice after she is cleansed of her issue (Lev. 15:28-30)
505. To observe, on the Day of Atonement, the service appointed for that day, regarding the sacrifice, confessions, sending away of the scapegoat, etc. (Lev. 16:3-34)

506. Not to slaughter beasts set apart for sacrifices outside (the Sanctuary) (Lev. 17:3-4)

507. Not to eat flesh of a sacrifice that has been left over (beyond the time appointed for its consumption) (Lev. 19:8)

508. Not to sanctify blemished cattle for sacrifice on the altar (Lev. 22:20)

509. That every animal offered up shall be without blemish (Lev. 22:21)
510. Not to inflict a blemish on cattle set apart for sacrifice (Lev. 22:21)

511. Not to slaughter blemished cattle as sacrifices (Lev. 22:22)

512. Not to burn the limbs of blemished cattle upon the altar (Lev. 22:22)

513. Not to sprinkle the blood of blemished cattle upon the altar (Lev. 22:24)

514. Not to offer up a blemished beast that comes from non-Israelites (Lev. 22:25)

515. That sacrifices of cattle can only take place when they are at least eight days old (Lev. 22:27)

516. Not to leave any flesh of the thanksgiving offering until the morning (Lev. 22:30)

517. To offer up the meal-offering of the Omer on the morrow after the first day of Passover, together with one lamb (Lev. 23:10)

518. Not to eat bread made of new grain before the Omer of barley has been offered up on the second day of Passover (Lev. 23:14)

519. Not to eat roasted grain of the new produce before that time (Lev. 23:14)

520. Not to eat fresh ears of the new grain before that time (Lev. 23:14)

521. To bring on the Festival of Weeks loaves of bread together with the sacrifices which are then offered up in connection with the loaves (Lev. 23:17-20)

522. To offer up an additional sacrifice on Passover (Lev. 23:36)

523. That one who vows to the Lord the monetary value of a person shall pay the amount appointed in the Scriptural portion (Lev. 27:2-8)

524. If a beast is exchanged for one that had been set apart as an offering, both become sacred (Lev. 27:10)

525. Not to exchange a beast set aside for sacrifice (Lev. 27:10)

526. That one who vows to the Lord the monetary value of an unclean beast shall pay its value (Lev. 27:11-13)
527. That one who vows the value of his house shall pay according to the appraisal of the priest (Lev. 27:11-13)

528. That one who sanctifies to the Lord a portion of his field shall pay according to the estimation appointed in the Scriptural portion (Lev. 27:16-24)

529. Not to transfer a beast set apart for sacrifice from one class of sacrifices to another (Lev. 27:26)

530. To decide in regard to dedicated property as to which is sacred to the Lord and which belongs to the priest (Lev. 27:28)

531. Not to sell a field devoted to the Lord (Lev. 27:28)

532. Not to redeem a field devoted to the Lord (Lev. 27:28)

533. To make confession before the Lord of any sin that one has committed, when bringing a sacrifice and at other times (Num. 5:6-7)
534. Not to put olive oil in the meal-offering of a woman suspected of adultery (Num. 5:15)
535. Not to put frankincense on it (Num. 5:15)

536. To offer up the regular sacrifices daily (two lambs as burnt offerings) (Num. 28:3)

537. To offer up an additional sacrifice every Sabbath (two lambs) (Num. 28:9)

538. To offer up an additional sacrifice every New Moon (Num. 28:11)

539. To bring an additional offering on the Festival of Weeks (Num. 28:26-27)

540. To offer up an additional sacrifice on the Jewish New Year (Num. 29:1-6)

541. To offer up an additional sacrifice on the Day of Atonement (Num. 29:7-8)

542. To offer up an additional sacrifice on the Feast of Tabernacles (Num. 29:12-34)

543. To offer up an additional offering on Shemini Atzeret, which is a festival by itself (Num. 29:35-38)
544. To bring all offerings, whether obligatory or freewill, on the first festival after these were incurred (Deut. 12:5-6)

545. Not to offer up sacrifices outside (the Sanctuary) (Deut. 12:13)

546. To offer all sacrifices in the Sanctuary (Deut. 12:14)

547. To redeem cattle set apart for sacrifices that contracted disqualifying blemishes, after which they may be eaten by anyone. (Deut. 12:15)

548. Not to eat of the unblemished firstling outside Jerusalem (Deut. 12:17)

549. Not to eat the flesh of the burnt-offering (Deut. 12:17). This is a Prohibition applying to every trespasser, not to enjoy any of the holy things. If he does so, he commits a trespass
550. That the priests shall not eat the flesh of the sin-offering or guilt-offering outside the Courtyard (of the Sanctuary) (Deut. 12:17)

551. Not to eat of the flesh of the sacrifices that are holy in a minor degree, before the blood has been sprinkled (on the altar), (Deut. 12:17)

552. That the priest shall not eat the first-fruits before they are set down in the Courtyard (of the Sanctuary) (Deut. 12:17)

553. To take trouble to bring sacrifices to the Sanctuary from places outside the land of Israel (Deut. 12:26)

554. Not to eat the flesh of beasts set apart as sacrifices, that have been rendered unfit to be offered up by deliberately inflicted blemish (Deut. 14:3)

555. Not to do work with cattle set apart for sacrifice (Deut. 15:19)
556. Not to shear beasts set apart for sacrifice (Deut. 15:19)

557. Not to leave any portion of the festival offering brought on the fourteenth of Nissan unto the third day (Deut. 16:4)
558. Not to offer up a beast that has a temporary blemish (Deut. 17:1)

559. Not to bring sacrifices out of the hire of a harlot or price of a dog (apparently a euphemism for sodomy) (Deut. 23:19)

560. To read the portion prescribed on bringing the first fruits (Deut. 26:5-10)

Ritual Purity and Impurity

561. That eight species of creeping things defile by contact (Lev. 11:29-30)

562. That foods become defiled by contact with unclean things (Lev. 11:34)

563. That anyone who touches the carcass of a beast that died of itself shall be unclean (Lev. 11:39)

564. That a lying-in woman is unclean like a menstruating woman (in terms of uncleanness) (Lev. 12:2-5)

565. That a leper is unclean and defiles (Lev. 13:2-46)
566. That the leper shall be universally recognized as such by the prescribed marks. So too, all other unclean persons should declare themselves as such (Lev. 13:45)

567. That a leprous garment is unclean and defiles (Lev. 13:47-49)

568. That a leprous house defiles (Lev. 14:34-46)

569. That a man, having a running issue, defiles (Lev. 15:1-15)
570. That the seed of copulation defiles (Lev. 15:16)

571. That purification from all kinds of defilement shall be effected by immersion in the waters of a mikvah (Lev. 15:16)

572. That a menstruating woman is unclean and defiles others (Lev. 15:19-24)

573. That a woman, having a running issue, defiles (Lev. 15:25-27)

574. To carry out the ordinance of the Red Heifer so that its ashes will always be available (Num. 19:9)

575. That a corpse defiles (Num. 19:11-16)

576. That the waters of separation defile one who is clean, and cleanse the unclean from pollution by a dead body (Num. 19:19-22)

Lepers and Leprosy

577. Not to drove off the hair of the scall (Lev. 13:33)
578. That the procedure of cleansing leprosy, whether of a man or of a house, takes place with cedar-wood, hyssop, scarlet thread, two birds, and running water (Lev. 14:1-7)

579. That the leper shall shave all his hair (Lev. 14:9)

580. Not to pluck out the marks of leprosy (Deut. 24:8)

The King

581. Not to curse a ruler, that is, the King or the head of the College in the land of Israel (Ex. 22:27)
582. To appoint a king (Deut. 17:15)

583. Not to appoint as ruler over Israel, one who comes from non-Israelites (Deut. 17:15)

584. That the King shall not acquire an excessive number of horses (Deut. 17:16)

585. That the King shall not take an excessive number of wives (Deut. 17:17)

586. That he shall not accumulate an excessive quantity of gold and silver (Deut. 17:17)

587. That the King shall write a scroll of the Torah for himself, in addition to the one that every person should write, so that he writes two scrolls (Deut. 17:18)


588. That a Nazarite shall not drink wine, or anything mixed with wine which tastes like wine; and even if the wine or the mixture has turned sour, it is prohibited to him (Num. 6:3)
589. That he shall not eat fresh grapes (Num. 6:3)

590. That he shall not eat dried grapes (raisins) (Num. 6:3)
591. That he shall not eat the kernels of the grapes (Num. 6:4)

592. That he shall not eat of the skins of the grapes (Num. 6:4)

593. That the Nazarite shall permit his hair to grow (Num. 6:5)

594. That the Nazarite shall not cut his hair (Num. 6:5)

595. That he shall not enter any covered structure where there is a dead body (Num. 6:6)

596. That a Nazarite shall not defile himself for any dead person (by being in the presence of the corpse) (Num. 6:7)
597. That the Nazarite shall shave his hair when he brings his offerings at the completion of the period of his Nazariteship, or within that period if he has become defiled (Num. 6:9) .


598. That those engaged in warfare shall not fear their enemies nor be panic-stricken by them during battle (Deut. 3:22, 7:21, 20:3)
599. To anoint a special priest (to speak to the soldiers) in a war (Deut. 20:2)
600. In a permissive war (as distinguished from obligatory ones), to observe the procedure prescribed in the Torah (Deut. 20:10)
601. Not to keep alive any individual of the seven Canaanite nations (Deut. 20:16)

602. To exterminate the seven Canaanite nations from the land of Israel (Deut. 20:17)
603. Not to destroy fruit trees (wantonly or in warfare) (Deut. 20:19-20)

604. To deal with a beautiful woman taken captive in war in the manner prescribed in the Torah (Deut. 21:10-14)

605. Not to sell a beautiful woman, (taken captive in war) (Deut. 21:14)

606. Not to degrade a beautiful woman (taken captive in war) to the condition of a bondwoman (Deut. 21:14)

607. Not to offer peace to the Ammonites and the Moabites before waging war on them, as should be done to other nations (Deut. 23:7)
608. That anyone who is unclean shall not enter the Camp of the Levites (Deut. 23:11)

609. To have a place outside the camp for sanitary purposes (Deut. 23:13)

610. To keep that place sanitary (Deut. 23:14-15)

611. Always to remember what Amalek did (Deut. 25:17)

612. That the evil done to us by Amalek shall not be forgotten (Deut. 25:19)

613. To destroy the seed of Amalek (Deut. 25:19)