Ezra 7:21 contains every letter except J:
And I, even I, Artaxerxes the king, do make a decree to all the treasurers which are beyond the river, that whatsoever Ezra the priest, the scribe of the law of the God of heaven, shall require of you, it be done speedily.
If you were an early Christian fleeing Roman persecution, Turkey offered more than 200 underground cities, 40 of which contain three levels or more. The largest found so far, in Derinkuyu, has eight floors and extends to a depth of 85 meters, covering as much as 7,000 square feet (some floors haven’t yet been excavated).
It wasn’t a bad life: The larger complexes had rooms for food storage, kitchens, churches, stables, wine and oil presses, and shafts for ventilation. At its height, the city at Derinkuyu could accommodate 50,000 people.
(Image: Wikimedia Commons)
The image of a man playing chess with the devil for possession of his soul has appeared in many pieces of fiction, notably Ingmar Bergman’s film The Seventh Seal (and later Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey). In one interesting twist that appears in some folk stories, the devil takes black (naturally), and play goes like this:
1. … Nd4+ 2. Kd6 Qxd7+ 3. Nxd7 Rxd5+ 4. Nxd5 Re6
“Mate!” cries the fiend — but then he takes a second look at the board and disappears with a scream:
The longest item of news ever telegraphed to a newspaper, was the entire New Testament as revised, and all variations of the English and American committees, from New York to Chicago, and the whole published as an item of news in the Sunday morning Chicago Tribune for May 22, 1882. That day’s Tribune comprised 20 pages, 16 of which were required for the New Testament.
– Miscellaneous Notes and Queries, May 1889
In old times a culprit, when at the gallows, was allowed to select a Psalm, which was then sung, thereby lengthening the chances of the arrival of a reprieve. It is reported of one of the chaplains to the famous Montrose, that being condemned in Scotland to die for attending his master in some of his exploits, he selected the 119th Psalm. It was well for him that he did so, for they had sung it half through before the reprieve came. A shorter Psalm, and he would have been hung.
– Frank H. Stauffer, The Queer, the Quaint and the Quizzical, 1882
Thomas Jefferson once composed a secular version of the Christian Gospels. He said he wanted to study Jesus’ teachings without “the artificial vestments in which they have been muffled by priests, who have travestied them into various forms, as instruments of riches and power to themselves.”
He called the Bible’s supernatural content “nonsense,” from which Jesus’ ideas were “as easily distinguishable as diamonds in a dunghill.” His narrative ends like this:
“Now, in the place where he was crucified, there was a garden; and in the garden a new sepulchre, wherein was never man yet laid. There laid they Jesus. And rolled a great stone to the door of the sepulchre, and departed.”
Teleportation in the Bible:
And he commanded the chariot to stand still [in Gaza]: and they went down both into the water, both Philip [the Evangelist] and the eunuch; and he baptized him. And when they were come up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught away Philip, that the eunuch saw him no more: and he went on his way rejoicing. But Philip was found at Azotus: and passing through he preached in all the cities, till he came to Caesarea.
(From Acts 8:38-40.)
Here are the first three verses of Genesis:
1 In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.
2 And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.
3 And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.
Pick any word in the first verse, count its letters, and move ahead by the corresponding number of words. For example, if you start at beginning, you’d count 9 letters and move ahead 9 words, landing on the in the second verse. Count that word’s letters and continue in this manner until you’ve entered the third verse.
You’ll always arrive at God.
(Discovered by Martin Gardner.)
A man’s likelihood of being gay increases by 33 percent for each older brother he has.
Notable authors on the Vatican’s list of prohibited books:
- Francis Bacon
- Honoré de Balzac
- Giordano Bruno
- Nicolaus Copernicus
- Daniel Defoe
- René Descartes
- Denis Diderot
- Desiderius Erasmus
- Gustave Flaubert
- Galileo Galilei
- Edward Gibbon
- Thomas Hobbes
- Victor Hugo
- David Hume
- Immanuel Kant
- John Locke
- John Stuart Mill
- John Milton
- Blaise Pascal
- Jean-Jacques Rousseau
- Jean-Paul Sartre
- Jonathan Swift
- Émile Zola
George Bernard Shaw said, “Censorship ends in logical completeness when nobody is allowed to read any books except the books that nobody reads.”
DEIFIED is a palindrome.
Rome’s Capuchin Crypt contains the remains of more than 4,000 monks who died between 1528 and 1870, including several intact skeletons wearing Franciscan habits.
Reportedly it inspired the Sedlec Ossuary.
(Image: Wikimedia Commons)
That hollow column on the right is a “priest-hole,” a hiding place for Catholic priests, who were hunted with Elmer-Fudd-like tenacity when Elizabeth took the English throne around 1560. A “papist” could be hanged for saying mass; converting a Protestant was high treason.
Fortunately, the priests had a Bugs Bunny in the shape of Nicholas Owen, a Jesuit laybrother who spent his life devising secret chambers and hiding places for persecuted Catholics. “Pursuivants” could spend as much as a fortnight fruitlessly tearing down paneling and tearing up floors while the priest held his breath a wall’s thickness away.
Ickily, some of these hidden priests starved to death.
Nothing is worse than the Devil.
Nothing is greater than God.
Therefore, the Devil is greater than God.
Hexakosioihexekontahexaphobia is fear of the number 666, which is linked to Satan and the Antichrist in the Book of Revelation.
Unfortunately, it’s rather hard to avoid. 666 is the sum of the squares of the first seven primes:
666 = 22 + 32 + 52 + 72 + 112 + 132 + 172
666 = 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + 567 + 89
= 123 + 456 + 78 + 9
= 9 + 87 + 6 + 543 + 21
= 13 + 23 + 33 + 43 + 53 + 63 + 53 + 43 + 33 + 23 + 13
In 1989, after his second term as president, Ronald and Nancy Reagan moved to a new home in the Bel-Air section of Los Angeles. They had the address, 666 St. Cloud Road, changed to 668 St. Cloud Road.
(Image: Wikimedia Commons)
One meets with curious things in the old church registers of England. The subjoined, in the Record Office of Winchester Cathedral, dated 1182, is certainly unique. It is a bill for work done: –
To soldering and repairing St. Joseph, 0 l. 8 d.
To cleaning and ornamenting the Holy Ghost, 0 l. 6 d.
To repairing the Virgin Mary and cleaning the child, 4 l. 8 d.
To screwing a nose on the Devil, and putting in the hair on his head, and placing a new joint in his tail, 5 l. 6 d.
– Frank H. Stauffer, The Queer, the Quaint and the Quizzical (1882)
The Church of St. George in Lalibela, Ethiopia, was cut from a single block of stone in the 12th century.
See also Rock-Cut Architecture.
(Image: Wikimedia Commons)
In the early 1960s, a computer analysis showed that six different authors had written the Epistles of St. Paul.
That would be big news, but it also showed that James Joyce’s Ulysses had been written by five people — none of whom had composed A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man.
“In an old church in Westchester county, N.Y., the following consonants are written beside the altar, under the Ten Commandments. What vowel is to be placed between them, to make sense and rhyme of the couplet?”
– Charles Bombaugh, Facts and Fancies for the Curious From the Harvest-Fields of Literature, 1860
There’s no chalice on the table in Leonardo’s Last Supper …
… but there is one on Bartholemew’s head (far left).
A panic terror of the end of the world seized the good people of Leeds and its neighborhood in the year 1806. It arose from the following circumstances. A hen, in a village close by, laid eggs, on which were inscribed the words, “Christ is coming.” Great numbers visited the spot, and examined these wondrous eggs, convinced that the day of judgment was near at hand. Like sailors in a storm, expecting every instant to go to the bottom, the believers suddenly became religious, prayed violently, and flattered themselves that they repented them of their evil courses. But a plain tale soon put them down, and quenched their religion entirely. Some gentlemen, hearing of the matter, went one fine morning and caught the poor hen in the act of laying one of her miraculous eggs. They soon ascertained beyond doubt that the egg had been inscribed with some corrosive ink, and cruelly forced up again into the bird’s body. At this explanation, those who had prayed, now laughed, and the world wagged as merrily as of yore.
– Edmund Fillingham King, Ten Thousand Wonderful Things, 1860
If God can do anything, can he make a rock so big that he can’t move it?
Every May and December, thousands of Catholics gather in Naples to witness a miracle: The dried blood of Saint Januarius, which is kept in small capsules, liquefies when it’s brought near his body.
Januarius was martyred in 305, and the “miracle of the blood” has been happening since at least 1389, which is pretty impressive.
But investigator Joe Nickell notes that a thixotropic gel such as hydrated iron oxide remains highly viscous until it’s stirred or moved. And the same miracle is claimed for several other saints … all in the Naples area. Hmm.