3:16 Bible Texts Illuminated

CHAPTER 3:  Leviticus
VERSE 16:      They are mentioned only incidentally, in 25 : 32--33.

The introduction to this book gives Knuth's reason for selecting the sixteenth verse of the third chapter of each book of the Bible;  it is a sampling method for understanding the whole.  Random selection from the Bible seems to have been a common procedure during Knuth's lifetime as evidenced by the following poorly-understood incident from that period:

A man goes to his priest[1] and says "Father, I'm in a terrible bind.  I'm about to lose my business.  It has no revenue and is hopelessly in debt.  I'll become a pauper, I'll lose my house and car, and my wife and children will starve.  What can I do?"

The priest replies, "Son, put your faith in the Bible.  It will help you."

A year later the man returns, wearing expensive clothes and jewelry and driving a fancy car.  "Father," he says, "I would like to donate a million dollars[2] to the church."

The priest says, "My son, tell me how you overcame your adversities."

The man explains, "Father, I did as you said and trusted in the Bible to tell me what to do.  With faith, I closed my eyes, opened the Book at random, and put down my finger.  Then I uncovered my eyes and found the guidance I sought, for just under my finger were these words:  Chapter 11."

[1] Spiritual advisor
[2] Unit of currency, approximately equal to 3.5 enrons

It is natural to ask which book of the Bible contains relevant financial advice in its Chapter 11, and it is just as natural to focus on the First, Second, and Third Book of Buffett.  However, Knuth's text itself shows that these three tractates were not yet canonical in this period.  No other Biblical book is quite satisfactory, and the meaning of the story remains unclear.

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Copyright © 20002 Larry Denenberg