August 09, 2009

This is shaping up to be Crank Week on the blog

I started the week with the numerological eccentricities of Captain Camping, and so I may as well finish it off with another bit of mathematical nitwittery, this time courtesy of the King James nuts.

This is Steven L. Anderson, a self-proclaimed "Baptist" "pastor" from somewhere near Phoenix. He rose to Internet infamy a while back, thanks to his unintentionally hilarious "sermon" in which he denounced all non-KJV Bibles for omitting the phrase "pisseth against the wall" from numerous locations. He has since posted dozens of clips from his asinine preaching. Unfortunately, ignorance begets ignorance, and Anderson now also has a small cadre of "young Baptists" who imitate his style.

More recently, Anderson diversified his career by adopting a "patriot" stance, which meant cruising around looking for police, border guards, or other authority figures to harrass, then post YouTube videos accusing them of harrassing him. This reached its climax a few months ago where he pushed a little too far at an internal checkpoint, and received a well-deserved tasing from the border patrol. Meanwhile, since he hasn't appeared in court, gone to jail, or been shot, so I'm guessing that his fifteen minutes are up and he's abandoned grievance-mongering as a career opportunity, and has gone back to posting blithering nonsense on YouTube again.

Here is the latest idiocy Stevie has posted:

For those who can't be bothered to watch - and I can't blame you - he prompts the congregation to count up the number of verses in the gospel of Mark in the New International Version of the Bible, according to the last verse number of each chapter. Added together, these total 678. He then points out that though the NIV includes the longer ending of Mark, it is a disputed passage, and significant enough that it warrants a textual note in the middle of the text rather than a footnote. This ending contains 12 verses.

And what is 678-12? You do the math, and cue the spooky music.

I hardly know where to begin commenting on this codswallop.

First: so what? There is precisely one context in which the number 666 has a negative connotation: that is John's cryptic identification of the Antichrist in Revelation 13:18. Outside of that context, 666 means . . . six hundred and sixty-six. As Freud is rumoured to have remarked, sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.

Second, so what? Chapter and verse references are not part of the original, inspired text; they were added to the New Testament in the 13th and 16th centuries by Stephen Langton and Robert Estienne, respectively, to make it easier to look up specific passages. To ascribe any specific theological meaning (e.g. "The NIV is evil!") to these divisions would be equivalent to saying that revelation was added to the Bible during the Middle Ages.

Third, Anderson's math is selective. There are all sorts of footnotes throughout the Gospel of Mark noting minor textual variants: a word here, a word there. Add them together, and they probably make up the equivalent of two or three verses. But Anderson doesn't focus on what is actually not there; he inexplicably subtracts what is there.

Finally, Anderson's math is wrong. There are, in fact, five complete verses found in the KJV's Gospel of Mark that are not in the NIV: 7:16, 9:44, 9:46, 11:26, and 15:28. The remaining verses are not renumbered (since concordances and other helps wouldn't work if they were), so adding up the last verse numbers of each chapter doesn't give an accurate count of the entire book. Of course, if his total comes to 661, Stevie can't rant and rave about the "mark of the beast."

I want to know what dimbulb actually thought counting verses in the NIV, to try and total the Spooky Number of Evil, actually proves something. Also, if you're going to be obsessive and superstitious, is it too much to ask that you be accurate, as well?