I am going to make an analogy that the folks who read this blog (mostly historians and reenactors) can identify with.
Imagine that there is a single painting that shows the amazing details of a battle scene in 1758. It shows military uniforms, weapons, troop formations, boats and all sorts of stuff from the material culture of the day in exacting detail. EVERYONE accepts this painting as being authentic and never doubts at all that it was painted by an eyewitness to the event in the year 1758 because it says so, right there on the painting.
Since the 1960's and the discovery of this awesome, detailed painting in the attic of a historic house museum, we have all used this painting to authenticate the reenacting clothes that we wear, the drill that we use, the muskets that we carry.
Then, when the curator of the museum it is in removes the painting from it's frame for cleaning and conservation, he discovers that the wide, ornate frame has been covering up some stuff. Over in the corner in a spot normally covered by the frame, the painting depicts a 1963 Buick Skylark being driven by Elvis through a McDonalds drive-in. Turns out the whole thing was just a promotional stunt that was painted for the Lake George McDonalds in 1964 and was given to the museum before anyone who works there now can remember. (don't get too excited, I made up this painting as an example only)
Oops. Maybe this painting isn't so authentic after all. Maybe the very expensive uniforms that we all had made based on the indisputable painting are not correct after all. Maybe we need to look at other assumptions based on this painting and what we are doing wrong out there.
Seems simple doesn't it? If we found a historic source with a major anachronism in it, we would be forced to discount it in order to be taken seriously by anyone, right?
Now onto my discovery.
I haven't cut my hair since 1997. I haven't shaved my beard off since around the same time. Why? Because it seems wrong to do so. If God wanted us to wear short hair, he wouldn't have invented it in such a way that it grows long naturally. If I wasn't supposed to have a beard, it wouldn't have grown there in the first place. Plus, the Bible tells us NOT to cut our hair or trim our beards in no uncertain terms. Bear with me as we examine that idea.
In later years I have spent more time trying to wring truths out of the Bible. Mostly the Old Testament, when God actively gave instructions to the people and told us what to do.
The book of Leviticus is the part of the Bible that gives us all the kosher and dietary laws among many, many other rules. It says who we can and can't have sex with, what kind of animals we can eat, how to treat our slaves, rules for doing business, all sorts of stuff. It spells out all sorts of minute details about what to sacrifice for what sin, what should be a "burnt offering" vs a "wave offering" vs a "peace offering". If you were to strictly follow the rules spelled out in Leviticus, you'd spend a lot of time sacrificing animals.
And yes, it is in Leviticus that delicious bacon is declared to be a sin because pigs are "unclean". In it is also the part that rabbis have tweaked into the rule that it is a sin to eat dairy products and meat products together based on the clear, simple command that "thou shalt not seethe a kid in it's mother's milk". Not boiling a young goat in it's own mother's milk seems pretty straightforward, albeit baffling. The more baffling part is how people have twisted such a plain sentence into having two sets of dishes, declaring eggs to be dairy instead of the chicken embryos that they really are, and finite rules about how much time must pass between eating meat and eating cheese in order to not consider them to be eaten together...but I don't want to digress too far from the main topic of this post.
The book of Leviticus, the part of the Bible where Moses reports to the people all of the rules and regulations that God himself supposedly ordered Moses to relate to them, states:
"Ye shall not eat any thing with the blood: neither shall ye use enchantment or observe times. Ye shall not round the corners of your heads, neither shalt thou mar the corners of thy beard. Ye shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor print any marks upon you: I am the Lord"
The three passages quoted above address not eating non-kosher meat, not using mediums and fortunetellers, not getting tattoos or cutting yourself in the act of mourning, and right there in the middle it tells us that we aren't supposed to cut our hair (although specifically it sounds like mullets are being singled out) and not to trim our beards. Don't get me wrong, I don't have an issue with mullets being banned, especially when the orders came right from God...or did they?
It's what the Bible says right? God's law. At least that's how the story goes. Supposedly this is the stuff that God told Moses, and Moses's brother told the people. Who can argue with Moses, right?
If you read all of Leviticus, you will come across the passage at 11:6 where it discusses what animals can be eaten. It states:
"And the hare, because he cheweth the cud; he is unclean to you."
Oops. There it is. The Biblical equivalent to Elvis driving a '63 Buick through a McDonalds drive-through in a painting of the French and Indian War.
Rabbits do not chew their cud. They might sit around and chew grass when they aren't busy making other rabbits, but they are not ruminants and do not chew their cud. This is the smoking gun that tells us that there is something amiss in the authenticity of Leviticus. God invented rabbits. He KNOWS they don't chew their cud. He wouldn't have told Moses to tell the people not to eat rabbits (which taste like white meat chicken by the way) because they chew their cud but don't have cloven hooves and are therefore unclean because they absolutely don't fit the disqualifying rules. Yeah, those rules...the ones that God supposedly gave Moses.
The problem is that those rules are spelled out in the very same book of the Bible that says that rabbits chew their cud, and is therefore factually unreliable. Moses or somebody else who wasn't God obviously made it up.
Looking at this with the same mindset that we'd use to decide what buttons are authentic to use on our circa 1758 regimental coats, we need to look at the facts and provenance of the documentation. We need to look at it like detectives. Why did Moses (or his brother) decide to invent the dietary laws if they weren't really from God? If the whole book of Leviticus is now suspect because of the fact that Moses or his brother didn't want people to eat rabbits for whatever reason, what were God's real instructions to the people?
Jump ahead to Jeremiah 7:22
, where God says "For I did not speak to your fathers, or command them in the day that I brought them out of Egypt, concerning burnt offerings and sacrifices."
It seems that God was also telling Jeremiah that the rules spelled out in Leviticus isn't his doing.
Not like I have the spare time to get into another research project, but perhaps it is time for me to examine each book of the Bible to see if I can make an educated guess about which books pass the sniff test and should be followed and which ones don't.
We owe God at least the same effort as we give the buttons on our coats.