Sump’n To It?

I put this under “books” because it’s about the Ur-codex, yuh, The Bible.
One of the family Bibles was just returned to my possession, a Scofield Reference Bible that had belonged to my great- aunt.
Once again I’m reminded that a person’s Bible was once far more than a codex. It was a safe deposit box, it held birth and death notices, poems, newspaper clippings, photographs; it hosted more than one bookmark often adorned with devotional charms.

It is the greatest and most powerful grimoire ever.

Holding Great Aunt L’s Bible tonight, I was moved to try the simplest possible divination: close your eyes, open the Bible at random, stab your finger down onto a verse. (Actually i fancy it was brave of me, considering the way things are going lately! ) But I did so, and I got:

“Let all mine enemies be ashamed and sore vexed: let them return and be ashamed suddenly”. (Psalm 6:11)


There may be sump’n to this , after all….


Well, not a recommended form of study for sure. However, much better than none at all.

Blessing’s to ya Hyp !


When he volunteered to teach a Bible study course, computer scientist, master programmer, creator of TeX, and author of The Art of Computer Programming, Donald E. Knuth (a Fourmilab visitor) pondered the two main ways of reading the Bible.

Method 1: We can read it straight through, for context. By reading at normal speed, we can follow the flow of ideas and get intuitive impressions, just as the first readers and hearers of those words might have done. Or, Method 2: We can single out isolated verses, for meditation and/or scholarly study. By focusing on small details, it’s possible to understand the deeper significance of a passage.

Both of these ways are important. Method 2 is most satisfactory for group study, since Method 1 works best when a person can read at leisure and without interruption.

But how to select the passages to study? After surveying various ways to study scripture, Knuth chose a different approach.

My idea for a Bible class was based on a fourth way to select Bible verses for study, making use of a mathematical principle that provides an effective way to gain knowledge about complicated things: A large body of information can be comprehended reasonably well by studying more or less random portions of the data. The technical term for this approach is stratified sampling.

Knuth’s idea was to pick a chapter and verse number, essentially at random (but with the chapter number not so large it excluded many shorter books), then examine that chapter and verse from each book in detail.

During the next four months I found that the selected material unfolded itself almost magically. The class succeeded beyond my wildest dreams.

He summarised the experience and results in the 1991 book 3:16 Bible Texts Illuminated which has become somewhat of a collector’s item.


Choosing chapter 3 and verse 16 (well known from the Gospel of John, but with no special significance in any other book), he surveys every book that contains such a chapter and verse (two books of the Old Testament and five of the New are too short and omitted), providing a detailed exegesis of the book and the specific verse, with the verse illustrated for each book by an eminent typographer and graphic artist.

As with so much else Knuth has done, it is unconventional, but brilliant and it works.


WOW! You might say “it works” “almost magically”! This proves what I’ve long suspected: no matter what , ah, let’s say “unconventional” theory you can come up with, you can , you WILL, find someone—nay, more than one person—on the Internet who has already thought of it.

JW, If scientific texts were divided, not only into chapters but into numbered verses within chapters, would this method be useful?

Or is it only useful, successful, because as I pointed out, the Bible is an ancient and puissant grimoire?

One of my articles for PaLawyer magazine was about Pa’s criminalization of divination. I concluded the statute is a reaction to the Pa German folk practice of Braucherei: Christian white magic which uses isolated Bible verses as incantations. Paramount among them: Ezekiel 16:6

My father used to read 3 or 4 Bible verses aloud each morning at breakfast. He didn’t choose them, there was no theme, it was just whatever came after what he had read yesterday. The begats would get the same solemn intonation as (since you mention it) John 3:16. His progeny were used to it; it wasn’t until I brought my BMD-to-be home, that anyone ever wondered at it.

Thanks for this! I hope I can get the book you mention. So interesting!