A Catholic reads the Bible, week 7: 10,000 commandments

In the Book of Leviticus, the Bible uses repetitive reinforcement to lay down the law, Laura Bernardini says.

Story highlights

  • The 10 Commandments are the outline, and Leviticus is the fine print, Laura Bernardini says
  • Leviticus presents a precise and comprehensive code of conduct that governs all aspects of life, she says

Laura Bernardini is director of coverage in CNN's Washington bureau. The views expressed in this column belong to Bernardini.

Laura Bernardini

(CNN)This is week seven of an ongoing series: A Catholic Reads the Bible. Read week one, week two and week three.

I miss the stories.
This week's reading of Leviticus is laden with the rules of the new religion. If you had no idea what Leviticus is about, let's put it this way: Moses wouldn't have been able to carry all the rules. Two tablets? Try 2,000.
    It's almost like the 10 Commandments are a summary. Before this, my understanding was that as long as you obeyed the Decalogue, you were good to go.
    Instead, it seems like the original 10 Commandments are just the outline, and Leviticus forms the fine print, as lawyers might say. The part of the Bible presents a (very detailed!) code of conduct that is precise and comprehensive, governing all aspects of life -- relationships, sex, business and even the mystical world.
    You shall not make molten, false gods. Check.
    Do not have intercourse with your family. No problem there.
    Do not cheat your neighbor in land deals. Gotcha.
    Don't turn your daughter into a prostitute. God forbid.
    Leprosy is bad, and this is how it should be treated. Got it; hope I never need it.
    Respect your elders. You got it, Nonna.
    In case you didn't know why you should follow all of these rules, you are reminded, with each new commandment, "I am the Lord" or "I, the Lord, am your God." I lost track of the number of times that is written. It is repetitive reinforcement.
    And on and on and on. I can see why my second-grade teacher Sister Ursula stopped after the original 10 Commandments. My 8-year-old mind would not have been able to handle all of this specific information.
    There are a few mentions to not consult fortunetellers. In my family, there is one story that lives to this day. At some point in the 1960s, my great-grandmother went to a fortuneteller who said she wouldn't live beyond her 80th year.
    That whole year, she worried. And when my mom went to Italy with her parents and grandmother, she discovered that my great-grandmother was actually 81, not 80. She was in the clear. Had my great-grandmother known this in the Bible, the very devout Catholic wouldn't have gone to the fortuneteller.
    And while I miss the stories, I am happy to have read the rules over the last week. Now, on to Numbers.