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3:16 Bible Texts Illuminated”  —  book review
Today’s review is for “3:16 Bible Texts Illuminated” (1991©) written by Donald E. Knuth.  Back in 2011, I read another book by Knuth, titled: “Things A Computer Scientist Rarely Talks About“. (Review here.)  That book, was a discussion about the author’s faith and his prior book, which is being reviewed in this post.  When I retired (in 2017), I was presented with an Amazon gift voucher, which I promised to “waste” on books, music or technology.  In this case, part of it was used to buy this book (along with a number of other Knuth books).
To save everyone the time of reading my earlier review, basically, Knuth wanted to know if one can learn anything unique or unusual about the Bible by doing a stratified (but random) sampling / review of a particular Bible verse.  In theory, if you have a sufficiently large sample to draw from, you can gain “some” knowledge about any topic by analyzing a random sample of the topic’s data.
Because Knuth was not sure this type of investigation would work for literature, Knuth chose a verse he knew would have at least one interesting data point: “Chapter 3 Verse 16”.  The chapter and verse he was confident about was John Chapter 3: Verse 16 – “Yes, God loved the world so much that he gave his only child, so that all people with faith in him can escape destruction, and live forever.
The first problem Knuth encounters is that not all of the books of the Bible have 13 verses in their chapter 3.  To get around this, he simply carried the sample forward the same number (count) of verses and take up wherever that left him.  There were, however, a number of books which were simply to short to use even this method.  In those instances, he simply chooses to drop the book. Knuth ends up with a sampling size of 59 verses.
The second issue was Knuth found scholars did not always (rarely, in fact) agree on what exactly was meant by the writings in the various Bible sources.  Not only were the scholars interpretations differing, so were the texts across the various Bible versions.  There was (is) even disagreement on if some source material is valid and / or should be included in the Bible.
In order to determine why this was happening, Knuth determined to read the Bibles in their original Hebrew / Aramaic and Greek / Latin.  He could then present his own translations as he felt they should be interpreted.  In addition, he felt he needed to translate the verses immediately before and after the target verse to ensure he was accurately relating context as well as the literal meaning.
The method of describing each of the 59 verses itself is interesting.  Each verse is covered in four pages.  Page one provides overall historic, geographic and character background information.  The second page is devoted to a calligraphic representation of the verse.  The final two pages are a word by word breakdown of the verse.  In order to do this in a manner which makes sense, Knuth sometimes adds an analysis of the preceding or following verse(s).  Just a word on the calligraphy.  Knuth approached a friend who happened to be a world renowned typeface designer to assist with the book cover illustration.  The friend (Hermann Zapf), in turn commissioned calligraphers from over 20 countries to provide the “illustration” pages.  This calligraphy, in turn, became part of a formal exhibit which I believe is currently “owned” by the San Francisco Library.  I don’t know if it (the entire exhibit) is ever shown publicly.  I know it was back in 2011, but I was not able to go view it back then.  My loss, I am sure.
So, is this book interesting?  Is it entertaining?  Is it enlightening?  Yes.  Yes, and Yes!  I am a life-long Roman Catholic, but I have never read the Bible through cover to cover.  I tried to a few years back, but had limited knowledge of the names and places and found it rather boring.  I attempted to co-read Isaac Asimov’s “Guide To The Bible“, but even this was of limited value.  I now think I just gave up too soon.  Mea culpa.
Almost every chapter of this book explained something I didn’t know or fully appreciate about the book being covered in that chapter.  Some were simple “interesting”.  Some were “that never occurred to me”.  And, some (a few) were “Wow! I’ve got to go back and read that!”  Anytime I read a book which prompts me to read more or more in-depth, I am grateful to the author.  (I’m still not sure if I’m weird that way…)  In any case, I’m now more determined than ever to read more of Knuth’s books.
In this case: final recommendation – very highly recommended!!  Even if you are not a Biblical scholar or particularly religious, this book will provide insight into one of the greatest books in all of literature.  At less than 270 pages, this is a fast read and the calligraphy is truly beautiful.  Two final notes: 1) in the afterward, Knuth wonders if his selection of “3:16” was not “influenced” and therefor not entirely random.  His conclusion was, with further analysis, it may have been, but was not intentional.  He adds, however, that he enjoyed the process so much he intends to use the methodology for further future study of other verses.  And, 2) I’ve seen in various places this book was copyright in 1990.  My version says 1991 and that’s the year I’m using above.
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When one person suffers from a delusion, it is called insanity.  When many people suffer from a delusion it is called a Religion.
  —  Robert M. Pirsig
From his book: “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values
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2013 So I Chose Living…
2012 For However Short A Time…
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There are people in the world so hungry, that God cannot appear to them except in the form of bread.
  —  Mahatma Gandhi
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2011 Mostly Strange, Always Blue
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Much advance publicity was made for the address the Master would deliver on “The Destruction of the World” and a large crowd gathered at the monastery grounds to hear him.  The address was over in less than a minute.  All he said was: “These things will destroy the human race: politics without principle, progress without compassion, wealth without work, learning without silence, religion without fearlessness and worship without awareness.
  —  Anthony de Mello, SJ
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Have courage for the great sorrows of life and patience for the small ones.  And when you have finished your daily task, go to sleep in peace.  God is awake.
  —  Victor Hugo
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2013 Irrational Complacency
2012 Why Criticize?
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2011 Saying Just Enough
2010 Giants Win Game 2 Shutout of Rangers – 9 to 0!!!

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On June 21, the writer E. Jean Carroll came forward with a vivid and disturbing claim that Donald Trump raped her in a department store in the 1990s.  She is the 22nd woman to allege that Trump committed acts of sexual misconduct.  These claims are more extensive and more corroborated than the accusations against Bill Clinton.
It’s worth contrasting Trump, who denied Carroll’s claim (as well as his other accusers’), with Clinton because his scandals helped spur the Southern Baptist Convention in 1998 to issue its seminal “Resolution on Moral Character of Public Officials.”  That document’s key statement was ominous and unequivocal: “Tolerance of serious wrong by leaders sears the conscience of the culture, spawns unrestrained immorality and lawlessness in the society, and surely results in God’s judgment.”
The relentless drumbeat of claims against Trump – combined with the clear moral declarations of the past – have caused millions of Americans to look at their evangelical fellow citizens and ask, simply: Why?  Why have you abandoned your previous commitment to political character to embrace Donald Trump?
Part of the explanation is undeniably basic partisanship and ambition.  White evangelicals are largely Republican, and they’re generally going to vote for Republicans.  And proximity to power has always had its attractions for religious charlatans of all stripes.  But I’d suggest the real reason for the breadth and depth of evangelical support is deeper and – perversely – even more destructive to its religious witness.
That reason is fear.
Talk to engaged evangelicals, and fear is all too often a dominant theme of their political life.  The church is under siege from a hostile culture.  Religious institutions are under legal attack from progressives.  The left wants nuns to facilitate access to abortifacients and contraceptives, it wants Christian adoption agencies to compromise their conscience or close, and it even casts into doubt the tax exemptions of religious education institutions if they adhere to traditional Christian sexual ethics.
These issues are legally important, and there are reasons for evangelicals to be concerned.  But there is no reason for evangelicals to abandon long-held principles to behave like any other political-interest group.
Instead, the evangelical church is called to be a source of light in a darkening world.  It is not given the luxury of fear-based decisionmaking.  Indeed, of all the groups in American life who believe they have the least to fear from American politics, Christians should top the list.  The faithful should reject fear.
This is made plain to young Christians from the early days of Sunday school.  There, many millions of young believers are taught the biblical verse: “For God gave us not a spirit of fear but of power and love and self-control.”
But in 2016, something snapped.  I saw Christian men and women whom I’ve known and respected for years respond with raw fear at the very idea of a Hillary Clinton presidency.  They believed she was going to place the church in mortal danger.  The Christian writer Eric Metaxas wrote that if Hillary won, America’s chance to have a “Supreme Court that values the Constitution” will be “gone.”  “Not for four years, not for eight,” he said, “but forever.”
That wasn’t faith speaking.  They were the words of fearful men grasping at fading influence by clinging to a man whose daily life mocks the very values that Christians seek to advance.
But why?  The American evangelical church isn’t so weak that it needs Trump’s version of secular salvation.  The early persecuted church would be stunned at the modern American church’s immense political strength.  It has become so strong that it exercises veto power over the political prospects of any Republican nominee.
Yet the church is acting as if it needs Trump to protect it.  That’s not courageous.  It’s repulsive.  And so long as this fear continues, expect the church’s witness to degrade further.  In seeking protection from its perceived enemies, the church has lost its way.
It’s time for evangelicals to exercise their political veto power.  America’s conservative people of faith should seek a primary challenger to Trump and send a message to the GOP that it will not compromise any longer.  And it should do so from a position of confidence – and faith.
  —  David French
From his opinion / editorial: “The Evangelical Republic of Fear
Appearing in Time Magazine, dtd: 8 July 2019
Also, found online at: https://time.com/5615617/why-evangelicals-support-trump/
[I make no claim to ownership of this editorial.  It belongs to either Time or to the author.  I normally only present excerpts from articles / editorials because I am trying to exercise “fair use”  while giving full credit to the owner and / or original source.  In this (rare) case, the editorial is presented in its entirety because the whole is FAR greater than any of its parts.  As always, I encourage readers to visit the original source.  I subscribe to the “hard-copy” version of Time.  —  KMAB]
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2018 Sounds Like Politics, Too
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To be a witness does not consist in engaging in propaganda or even stirring people up, but in being a living mystery;  It means to live in such a way that one’s life would not make sense if God did not exist.
  —  Dorothy Day
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On This Day In:
2018 I’d Still Like To Try It Out
2017 In Every Thing
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