Sixty-Six Clouds

20 12 2010

“Well, I’m back,” said Sam Gamgee. I am currently writing a full review of my Vipassana experience but, in the meantime, thought that I might share a particularly interesting video. By putting the contents of the New International Version (*grr*) into Wordle, 66 Clouds have created a series of beautiful images, available for purchase both as posters and in a book. Representing the frequencies of individual words throughout the Old and New Testaments, the following is a video of their creation:

I have never used Wordle and so I do not know if it is limited to English, but it would be fun to feed the words of the Hebrew Bible into their algorithm.

[Hat-tip to J. Mark Bertrand of Bible Design and Binding.]





Highlight…

6 12 2010

… from Deane Galbraith’s Biblical Studies Carnival 57:

Lester Grabbe turned 65 on Nov 5 (which dates him, contrary to popular rumor, well after the Persian period).

One rarely gets a “laugh out loud moment” when reading a biblical studies carnival, which makes this statement a most fitting birthday tribute to a man who has provided me with “laugh out loud moments” even in his scholarly publications themselves. Indeed, I would like to share Lester Grabbe’s hilarious introduction to an essay that he wrote, entitled “The Law of Moses in the Ezra Tradition: More Virtual Than Real?”, which is found on pp91-113 of Persia and Torah: The Theory of Imperial Authorization of the Pentateuch (ed. James Watts; Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2001):

When you read the books of Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther and Daniel, you could be forgiven for thinking that at the time of the Persian Empire, the Jews had really taken over the joint. You can hardly turn around without stepping on a Jewish minister, governor, advisor, favorite of the emperor, and even the odd queen. Yehud seems to have been the most esteemed province in the entire Persian Empire, on which was lavished constant attention, a stream of favorable decrees, and great quantities of precious metal… The text stops short of making one of the Persian kings Jewish, but never fear! A scholarly theory shall soon fill this gap. Don’t be at all surprised if in the future Cyrus is discovered to be a Benjaminite; Darius, a worshiper or YHWH; and Xerxes, circumcised on the eighth day.

If only biblical studies were always so amusing.





Development of the Halakha

5 12 2010

As it has come to my attention that some people who are interested in the development of Jewish law have been unable to find satisfactory resources online, I thought I might take a moment to delineate the basic process by which the principles expounded in the Torah are applied today. This is not intended to be at all exhaustive, but rather an overview of the development of the halakha, with attention paid to those texts that, historically, have proven to be most beneficial. A truly “bottom-up” approach might look at all manifestations of legal exegesis, rather than merely those that the tradition deems authoritative, and those who are interested in reading more can consult the recommended reading list below, in §7. Likewise, those who prefer only a summary of a summary can skip straight to the “Summary and Conclusions” in §6.

Read the rest of this entry »





Biblical Studies Carnival 57

2 12 2010

Deane Galbraith has, what must be, the most thoroughly comprehensive Biblical Studies Carnival to date. With no fewer than six categories (“Academy, Biblioblogging and Handy Hints”, “Christian Origins”, “Emerging Judaism”, “Language, Text and Translation”, “Reception History” and “Humor and Gossip”), this carnival has something for everyone! Except people who don’t care about the Bible. But hey, you can’t please everybody.





Baruch Dayan haEmet

2 11 2010

It is with great sadness that I announce the passing of Emeritus Professor Alan Crown of the University of Sydney. Alan’s feisty remarks and deliberately provocative observations will be missed by all of us at the university. He had a terrific sense of humour and a sharp mind. It was only one month ago that I saw him last, and while he was slow of gait and unclear of speech, his observations at a lecture given by Prof. Sara Japhet demonstrated that he was still as sharp as a tack.

I remember with fondness his classes in my Honours year, during which he declared that Song of Songs was a Judean text. The string of sibilants in the opening verse (shir haShirim asher liShlomo) was apparantly designed to exclude northernors, who ostensibly could not pronounce this particular phoneme (cf: Jud 12:5-6).

On another occasion, he remarked that all Israelites had red hair – his proof being a propensity for redheadedness among Israel’s modern-day Samaritans. And on another, that the simple, “plain-sense” interpretation of Esther was of a cosmic saga involving Persian deities. On every one of these occasions, I am not ashamed to say that I took the bait, and spent much time debating with Alan over what struck me as nonsensical and bizarre. It was some time before I realised that he was only making these observations because of the effect that they were having on me.

A practical joker, but an astute scholar, Alan had well earned his reputation as a leading expert on Samaritan history and culture. His views on Qumran as a halfway house for Jerusalem-bound pilgrims deserve to be given serious consideration. He was both a scholar and a gentleman, and he will be missed by his colleagues, his students and his friends.

יהי זכרו ברוך





Beginning at the Beginning: Starting the Torah Again

14 09 2010

I am puzzled by the first word of the Torah. I know this is an issue that gets rehashed again and again, but hear me out. The Hebrew reads as follows: בראשית ברא אלהים, bereishit bara elohim. It is translated, most commonly, as “In the beginning, God created”. And yet, despite this, everybody who translates it seems to be aware that that’s not what it necessarily means.

First of all, most everybody has encountered the idea at one time or another that ראשית (reishit) means “in the beginning of“. That’s not entirely true. The word appears some fifty-one times in the Bible, including the very first verse, and while it does mean “in the beginning of” on forty-five of those occasions, there are six instances in which it appears with neither a suffix nor in construct with a noun. Those who are interested in looking up the other five instances can check Deuteronomy 33:21, Psalms 105:36 (both of which attach a possessive prefix to the following word), Leviticus 2:12 (which uses it as an adjective), Isaiah 46:10 and Nehemiah 12:44 (both of which use it as an absolute noun). So what’s to stop us saying that about Genesis 1:1?

Honestly? Nothing. That is how it is usually translated, and that is most probably what it actually means. But, nonetheless, I’m confused. You see, if it were really that simple (nothing, by the way, is ever that simple), then why are there so many people who insist that it means “in the beginning of”? Why does Rashi, to pick just one example, stress that it’s not as straightforward as a first glance might make it seem?

Well, the answer (or, at least, the first of several questions) lies in the way that the word has been vocalised. If it just meant “in the beginning”, we would expect to find evidence of a definite article. To be more precise, we would expect the word to feature a qamatz under the first letter, and to be pronounced bareishit. This is precisely what Abraham ibn Ezra observed in the 12th century when he resolved that the word must therefore be in construct with the following word, which is a verb. How can something be in construct with a verb, you ask? Well, answers Ibn Ezra (and Rashi as well for that matter), we find such a construction at the beginning of Hosea! Our verse in Genesis might therefore mean, “In the beginning of God’s creating the sky and the earth.”

And yet… that doesn’t seem right. Remember I said that things are never so simple? First of all, if the word were to be in construct with a verb, we would expect the verb to be an infinitive absolute (bereishit baro), which Rashi also notes but completely fails to explain. Furthermore (yes, there’s more), if the individuals responsible for vocalising the Torah (ie: adding the vowels) wanted us to read the word in construct, then why did the individuals responsible for accentuating the Torah (ie: adding the punctuation, or “accent marks”) want us to think otherwise? You see, they placed a disjunctive accent under the first word, which precludes the possibility of reading it in construct! Do we have an argument between the vocalisers and the accentuators? Or are they actually saying something else altogether?

I like to think so. In fact, I actually lied when I started this post because I’m not really puzzled by this business at all. On the contrary, I think it’s very straightforward. This is the bit, then, when I tell you why it’s straightforward and fifty people come up to me and tell me that I’m an idiot. Because nothing is ever straightforward. Not even this.

In my opinion, reishit is an absolute and indefinite noun, and it means “a beginning”. That explains the absence of the definite article, and it also explains the presence of a disjunctive accent. It is my opinion as well that the prefix (ב) is serving an adverbial role – just as it does in 1 Samuel 29:7, Ezra 3:12, and numerous other places in the Bible. It means, “By way of a beginning, God created the sky and the earth”. Finally, it is my opinion that none of what I just said is true, and that the verse actually means what everybody thinks it means, which is “In the beginning, God created the sky and the earth”. But, because what it originally meant is not what we all read, the verse as it appears is the product of masoretic transmission.

Come again? Okay, in a nutshell:

Once upon a time, after centuries of telling stories around a campfire and bashing in the heads of neighboring tribes whose stories were all wrong, some clever fellow decided to write the stories down. The process, one must assume, was not over in forty days, but it culminated in a text that began with the assertion that “in the beginning, God created the sky and the earth.” So far so nifty.

Then, after several centuries of reading this text (and bashing in the heads of neighboring city states whose texts were all different), some clever fellow decided to transmit the way in which the words should be pronounced, and how the one who reads them out should pause, and when, and so forth. This took some time, produced more than one system, and for all we know may have even resulted in somebody getting their head bashed in. The text that they gave us, which has the very same letters as the text that they started with, asserts that, “by way of a beginning, God created the sky and the earth.”

So what do we read!?? Well, there are two answers to that question. When we chant the text in a synagogue at the beginning of the reading cycle (such as will be done on the 2nd of October this year), we are reading the work of the masoretes (who were probably scary Karaites), and who wanted us to think that God created the sky and the earth “by way of a beginning”. However, when we read the text to ourselves (and I know you all secretly do), then we can acknowledge their interpretation alongside every other possible interpretation of the text – one of which is that God created these things “in the beginning”, which is the intention most likely to have been original.

Is there a practical difference? Of course! To say that God created these things “in the beginning” would be to imply that time is an arena of sorts, in which events objectively occur. We might call this the Newtonian Exegesis. To say, however, that God created these things “by way of a beginning” would be to imply that time has meaning only insofar as it denotes causality. This is the Einsteinian Exegesis, in which events occur before, together with, or after other events, but in which the determination of their occurrence depends upon the observer.

When faced with the stark differences between the two accounts of creation in Genesis 1 and Genesis 2, the rabbis determined that God was the observer in Genesis 1 and that the chapter is written from his perspective, but that Adam was the observer in Genesis 2 and that the chapter is written from his. That’s rather clever, even though the reality that underlies the composition (as well as what the text originally meant) may be somewhat different to that. But hey, what do you want from my life? Bash your own head in.





An Invisible Rabbi Who Couldn’t Read

13 09 2010

Continuing on from an earlier post, in which I spoke about the introduction to Tobiah ben Eliezer’s 11th/12th century midrashic compilation, Leqach Tov, I’d like to make note of an observation that he makes shortly thereafter. In his consideration of the opening words of Genesis, he quotes Rav Yitzhak as declaring that the Torah should have more properly begun with Exodus 12:2, “This month shall be the first of the months for you”, as this was the first commandment given to the nation of Israel. This statement, which if taken literally shows a profound lack of concern for any material that is neither legalistic nor prescriptive, appears most famously in the beginning of Rashi’s 11th century commentary on the Torah. That Rashi (Rabbi Solomon Yitzhaki) and Tobiah ben Eliezer were contemporaries is interesting, as we know nothing of Rav Yitzhak save this statement of his, and it is a statement that cannot be found in any material prior to this date.

For later attributions of this sentiment, alongside those who appear to be quoting Rashi (such as Nachmanides), there is the Yalkut Shim’oni, which is most probably a 13th century compilation made from over fifty different other compilations, many of which are no longer extant. There, the compiler makes reference to Midrash Tanchuma, but Yerucham Perla notes that all copies of the Tanchuma, save a single manuscript that is housed in the Vatican, lack this particular attribution. In both places, however, Rav Yitzhak is credited with suggesting that the only reason that the Torah begins with creation is to demonstrate God’s power to his people, which is an idea that is found (originally?) in Leqach Tov, but which Rashi takes further in his suggestion that it was also designed to demonstrate his power to the nations of the world, and to serve his people as a divine mandate for their “theft” of the land of the seven nations.

Who was this Rav Yitzhak? Why was the Torah, to him, nothing but a collection of laws and mandates for laws? Did he not care for literature, or did he simply not care for literature in the Torah? How did he understand the entire stretch of material that bridges Genesis 1:2 with Exodus 12:1? And why did both Rashi and Tobiah ben Eliezer see fit to include his opinion?

Shabbetai Bass, the compiler of Siftei Chachamim (a super-commentary on Rashi’s commentary to the Torah), suggests that Rav Yitzhak was none other than Rashi’s father. We might discount this possibility, even if on no other basis than the fact that Rashi does not refer to him in a manner commensurate with that identification, but it is an observation that reflects deeply on the problem. After all, it not only accounts for Rashi’s inclusion of his opinion, but it draws on the fact that, prior to Rashi, the opinion is untraceable.





Torah on the Road

12 09 2010

I recently drove from Melbourne to Sydney via 1100km of winding country road, alternating between dense bush and parched open plains. My constant companions down this stretch of The Princes Highway were the twenty-four books that I purchased in Victoria, each of which I looked forward to opening at the earliest opportunity. Indeed, as soon as I arrived at a motel in Eden (a pretty seaside town on the southern coast of New South Wales), I hauled them into the room with me and put dinner off by an hour so that I could have a proper perusal.

In addition to the awe-inspiring and truly humbling masterpiece of Shabbetai Frankel (a fifteen-volume Mishne Torah of the Rambam, replete with major commentaries and manuscript variants), I also purchased a variety of midrashim: Midrash Tannaim (an halakhic midrash to Deuteronomy, attributed to Rabbi Ishmael), the Mekhilta of R’ Shim’on bar Yohai (an halakhic midrash to Exodus, discovered in the Cairo Geniza), Shocher Tov (a homiletic midrash to Psalms, also called “Midrash Tehillim”), Seikhel Tov (a homiletic midrash to the Pentateuch, of which only a component of Genesis and Exodus remain), and Leqach Tov (a homiletic midrash to the Pentateuch and the five megillot).

This latter text was the first that I opened. Written by Tobiah ben Eliezer, an 11th-12th century Ashkenazi Jew, the text takes as its initial point of departure the incongruence between the Hebrew word order (בראשית ברא אלהים; for the sake of convenience, “In the beginning, God created”; <adverb> <verb> <noun>) and the Greek word order (presumably, although unattested in Greek manuscripts, ͗Εν α͗ρχῃ ο͑ θεος ε͗ποιησεν; “In the beginning, God created”; <adverb> <noun> <verb>), which it explains by recourse to a Talmudic narrative. The narrative concerns the composition of the Septuagint, and can be found in both the Palestinian and Babylonian Talmuds (p. Meg. 3:5 and b. Meg. 9a), as well as in Sof 1:8 and various midrashim.

Ascribing the work to seventy-two Jewish sages who were commissioned by Ptolemy, the narrator informs us that they altered various clauses in order that future readers not be drawn into error. In this particular instance, they are said to have feared that Greek readers would mistake the appearance of the verb before the noun as an indication that a god called Inthebeginning created a god called Elohim. Unlikely though this might be, it is a type of concern that finds it way into various other texts as well, and I was pleasantly surprised to have found a similar example in the kabbalistic Sefer HaBahir, 1:32:

דרש ר’ ישמעאל לר”ע מ”ד את השמים ואת הארץ אלמלא לא נאמר את היינו אומרים שמים וארץ אלהות הן א”ל העבודה נגעת אבל לא בררת כן דברת אבל את לרבות חמה ולבנה כוכבים ומזלות ואת לרבות אילנות ודשאים וגן עדן

Rabbi Ishmael expounded to Rabbi Akiva, “Why does it say ‘et the skies, and et the earth? Had it not said et, you would have thought that Skies and Earth were gods!”
He replied, “Divine service! You have laboured, but you have not sifted, and so you have spoken thus. Et includes the sun and the moon, the stars and the constellations; et includes the trees and the vegetation and the garden of delight.”

In this instance, the author (unknown, although traditionally thought to be Ishmael’s teacher, Nehunian ben haKana) ascribes to Ishmael the concern that people might read Genesis 1:1 and, were it not for the presence of a particle dividing the direct objects from the verb, conceive of them as additional subjects. In other words, they might be led to think that the world was created by three gods, named Elohim, Skies and Earth. This story also raises a fascinating parallel with Akiva’s famous midrash on this same particle (more properly Shim’on/Nehemiah haAmsoni’s midrash; b. B. Qam. 41b), but it is the parallel with midrash Leqach Tov that interests me more.

The rabbis, at least in principle, appear to have been bothered by the possibility that their scriptures themselves might be responsible for leading people away from God. In the case of the Talmudic narrative, as reproduced in Leqach Tov, it is non-Jews in particular who are at risk (cf: t.῾Abod. Zar. 9:4 and b. San. 56a for the so-called “Noahide Laws”, which mandate monotheism for non-Jews). In the case of the Sefer HaBahir narrative, we must presume that these are Jews who are at risk, given that they are reading the text in Hebrew.

One must ask, in each of these instances, what the text is attempting to communicate. In the Talmudic baraita, the original purpose is to explain the disparity between Hebrew and Greek word order, while the subsequent purpose (as determines its placement in b. Meg. 9a) is to justify the composition of scriptural texts in Greek. What is the purpose that underlies its placement in Leqach Tov? Surely it is not a concern over the syntactic nature of the Greek language, and it is most definitely not with the intention of permitting the composition of scripture in Greek – a practise that was forbidden subsequent to the composition of the Talmudic text in which the story first appears.

On the contrary, the author appears to have been concerned with a feature of Hebrew syntax, such as is best exemplified through comparison with the Septuagint. While the Greek text ostensibly places “God” before the verb, Hebrew predominantly fronts the verb instead. This happens across the board, although Tobiah ben Eliezer suggests that it was altered for the Septuagint in this particular instance because Ptolemy was too stupid (לא היה לו דעת להתבונן) to understand that this was merely a feature of Hebrew grammar, and the rabbis could hardly have allowed themselves to lead him astray.

The route by which I have reached this point has been no less circuitous than the route by which this book made its way to Sydney, but I wish to stress the novelty of Tobiah’s suggestion. Where the Talmudic passage feared the corruption of non-Jews in general (indeed, anybody reading the text that they are composing for the king), Tobiah attributes their concern to the corruption of the king only. Where the Talmudic rabbis might have feared leading monotheistic gentiles astray, Tobiah (writing in the 11th century) is well aware that nobody could make such a deplorably stupid error, and is forced to insist that Ptolemy was a deplorably stupid king.

The development of Hebrew literature reflects strongly on the development of Judaism as an ethnic group. Tobiah’s modification of the narrative, in his addition of material that makes it relevant only to the possible corruption of a single individual, is born of a profound shift in attitude towards the non-Jewish world in general. For Tobiah, who died approximately one hundred years before the first burning of Jewish books, non-Jewish readership was a threatening sign. While the rabbis might have imagined (however fantastically) that their forebears had translated the Septuagint with the best interests of non-Jews at heart, Tobiah was more interested in what the passage meant for Judaism, and how it reflected upon the nature of Hebrew.

For all of their parochial isolationism, the rabbis of the Talmud still saw themselves as an integral part of the world. It was for the sake of their Torah study that the world was sustained and, while they did not seek converts to Judaism, they believed themselves to exert a profound effect upon the rest of the planet. 11th century Ashkenaz was a place in which Jews were at far greater risk than their ancestors in Sassanid-era Babylonia had been, and the notion that one might care about adversely influencing the religious opinions of non-Jews is anachronistic to the extreme. Indeed, already by the time of the composition of the extra-canonical tractate Soferim (1:7), we find the following assertion:

מעשה בה’ זקנים שכתבו לתלמי המלך את התורה יונית והיה היום קשה לישראל כיום שנעשה העגל שלא היתה התורה יכולה להתרגם כל צרכה

It once happened that five elders translated the Torah into Greek for King Ptolemy, and that day was as hard for the Jewish people as the day on which the [golden] calf was made, for it is impossible to translate the Torah exactly.





Placebo

11 08 2010

In a recent post on Language Log, Prof. Geoffrey Pullum muses upon the origin of the English “placebo”. A 1st singular future indicative of the Latin placere, “placebo” literally means “I will please”, but its present medical usage derives from a biblical quotation. The relevant passage is Psalms 116:9:

אתהלך לפני יהוה בארצות החיים
I shall walk before the LORD in the lands of the living.

The psalm is one of thanksgiving, in which the poet praises God for having spared him ignominy and death. Despite having been brought low and having been suffering greatly, the poet was proven incorrect in his estimation of others as being full of deceit, was subsequently reinstated to his former position, and now thanks God for all of his kindness. The verb that opens this particular exclamation, אתהלך, means “I will walk”. It is a 1st singular Hithpa’el imperfective, which most likely denotes frequentative movement, rather than movement towards a particular place. In that sense, the word opens itself up to a figurative reading. Consider its attestation in the Syriac Peshitta (recorded as 115:9; here transliterated for convenience):

דאשפר קדמיך אלהא בארעא דחיא
That I may be pleasing to you (lit. “before you”) in the land of the living.

The verb here (דאשפר) is a 1st singular Pa’el imperfective (with an attached relative pronoun), which likewise denotes frequentative action. In this sense, the translation “I will be righteous” is most likely the correct one. So too the Septuagint (in which, confusingly, the passage has become 114:9):

ευ͗αρεστησω ε͗ναντιον κυριον ε͗ν χωρᾳ ζωντων
I will be pleasing (lit. “well-taken”) before the LORD in the land of the living.

In this instance, the verb is a 1st singular future indicative of αι͑ρεω, with the prefix ευ͗-. If it has any subtlety of meaning beyond what is also communicated in the Syriac, that Hellenistic flourish is lost on my Semitic brain. If anything, it appears to me as though the translator of the verse in the Peshitta is of a mind with the translator of the verse in the Septuagint, and perhaps indebted to the same. So too in the Latin Vulgate (Ps 114:9), which appears to be a fairly straightforward translation of the Greek:

placebo Domino in regione vivorum
I will please the LORD in the land of the living.

Unlike the MT, but like the Septuagint and the Peshitta, the Vulgate renders בארצות (“in the lands of”) as a singular noun. My BHS – a friend to all those who seek to rewrite the corpus one verse at a time – notes this variation, as well as the fact that this particular genitive construction appears nowhere else within the biblical literature (although several constructions in the singular are attested). More important, however, is the fact that the Vulgate renders the verb as “placebo”: the 1st singular future indicative that we mentioned at the beginning of this post. How did “I will please” become a noun that denotes a medicinal substance with no medicinal properties beyond the psychological?

According to Prof. Pullum, and several of his resourceful correspondents, the Vulgate Psalm 114 (116 in the MT; 115 in the Peshitta) constitutes the first reading in the Catholic “Office of the Dead” ritual. According to an entry on Wikipedia, the congregation then recites verse 9 as the antiphon. This usage of the verse apparantly led to the word “placebo” coming to denote the attendant of a funeral, the singers at a funeral, those who apparantly mimed their grief in order to be fed, those who pretended to something in the hope of any gain at all, and eventually an object that pretended to medical significance without actually containing any medicinal properties. I find this all very difficult to fully accept, but note the cognate formation of “nocebo” (“a psychological or psychosomatic factor that engenders or exacerbates an illness”, acc. to the Oxford American Dictionary), which is apparantly sometimes used to refer to the adverse affects of taking a placebo. Perhaps because the patient was genuinely ill.

In any case, the present (Israeli) Hebrew word is אינבו (“einbo“), which shares its final syllable with the English word but which means, quite literally, “there’s nothing in it”.





Bible Errata

14 05 2010

In Good Omens, Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman refer to the “Buggre All This” Bible of 1651. In this Bible, according to their description, Ezekiel 48:2-6 read as follows:

2. And bye the border of Dan, fromme the east side to the west side, a portion for Afher.
3. And bye the border of Afhter, fromme the east side even untoe the west side, a portion for Naphtali.
4. And bye the border of Naphtali, from the east side untoe the west side, a portion for Manaffeh.
5. Buggre all this for a Larke. I amme sick to mye Hart of typefettinge. Master Biltonn if no Gentelmann, and Master Scagges noe more than a tighte fisted Southwarke Knobbefticke. I telle you, onne a daye laike thif Ennywone half an oz. of Sense should bee oute in the Sunneshain, ane nott Stucke here alle the liuelong daie inn thif mowldey olde By-Our-Lady Workefhoppe. @*Ӯ@;!*
6 And bye the border of Ephraim, from the east fide even untoe the west fide, a portion for Reuben.

Having read this book some fifteen years ago at least, this hilarious passage was my introduction to the world of Bible errata. While fictitious, it is not considerably stranger than some of the errata that do actually exist, and interested readers can look at the Wikipedia entry for a reasonably comprehensive list of them. One in particular is worth noting, as it is presently up for sale.

Printed in 1631, the KJV “Wicked Bible” lacks the negative adverb in the seventh commandment. Enjoining its readers to commit adultery, the Bible was promptly made illegal, and its two printers fined an exorbitant fee and stripped of their printing licenses. All one thousand copies were ordered destroyed by the crown, though collectors will be interested to note that eleven survived the flames. Until now, those copies have either been on display in museums or locked away by collectors, though a copy is presently up for sale at GreatSite.com. Those who have $89,500 to spare on a priceless investment can view the listing on this page. Personally, I would be inclined to save myself $4,500 and buy a first-edition Geneva Bible instead (listed on the same page), but that’s just me.

I came frighteningly close to mortgaging my house in order to get this, though luckily remembered at the last minute that I don’t have one. If I ever do, I think it’s safe to say that it won’t be for long.