The Ten commandments

"Decalogue" redirects here. For other uses, see Decalogue (disambiguation).


The Ten Commandments, also known as the Decalogue, are a set of biblical principles relating to ethics and worship, which play a fundamental role in Judaism and Christianity. They include instructions to worship only God and to keep the sabbath, and prohibitions against idolatry, blasphemy, murder, theft, dishonesty, and adultery. Different groups follow slightly different traditions for interpreting and numbering them.

The Ten Commandments appear twice in the Hebrew Bible, in the books of Exodus and Deuteronomy. According to the story in Exodus, God inscribed them on two stone tablets, which he gave to Moses on Mount Sinai. Modern scholarship has found likely influences in Hittite and Mesopotamian laws and treaties, but is divided over exactly when the Ten Commandments were written and who wrote them.

Terminology

In biblical Hebrew, the Ten Commandments are called עשרת הדברים (transliterated Asereth ha-D'bharîm) and in Rabbinical Hebrew עשרת הדברות (transliterated Asereth ha-Dibroth), both translatable as "the ten words", "the ten sayings" or "the ten matters".[2] The Tyndale and Coverdale English translations used "ten verses". The Geneva Bible appears to be the first to use "tenne commandements", which was followed by the Bishops' Bible and the Authorized Version (the "King James" version) as "ten commandments". Most major English versions follow the Authorized Version.[3]

The English name "Decalogue" is derived from Greek δεκάλογος, dekalogos, the latter meaning and referring[4] to the Greek translation (in accusative) δέκα λόγους, deka logous, "ten words", found in the Septuagint (or LXX) at Exodus 34:28[3] and Deuteronomy 10:4.[5]

The stone tablets, as opposed to the commandments inscribed on them, are called לוחות הברית: Luchot HaBrit, meaning "the tablets of the covenant".

The revelation at Sinai

The biblical narrative of the revelation at Sinai begins in as it is written.

The people were afraid to hear more and moved "afar off" and even Moses said, "I exceedingly fear and quake".Exodus 24:1-11)

And the LORD said unto Moses, Come up to me into the mount, and be there: and I will give thee tables of stone, and a law, and commandments which I have written; that thou mayest teach them. 13 And Moses rose up, and his minister Joshua: and Moses went up into the mount of God.
—First mention of the tablets in Exodus 24:12,13


The mount was covered by the cloud for six days, after which Moses went into the midst of the cloud and was "in the mount forty days and forty nights." (Ex.32:6–8)

After the full forty days, Moses and Joshua came down from the mountain with the Deuteronomy 10:4)

According to Jewish tradition, Deuteronomy 5:4–20 consists of God's re-telling of the ten commandments to the younger generation who were to enter the promised land. The passages in Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5 contain more than ten imperative statements, totalling 14 or 15 in all.

Enumeration of the Ten Commandments

The two texts commonly known as the Ten Commandments are given in two books of the Bible: Deuteronomy 5:4–21.

Religious groups use various historical divisions of Exodus 20:1–17 into ten parts tabulated below:[15]

  • S. Septuagint, generally followed by Orthodox Christians.
  • P. Philo, same as the Septuagint, but with the prohibitions on killing and adultery reversed.
  • T. Jewish Talmud, makes the "prologue" the first "saying" or "matter" and combines the prohibition on worshiping deities other than Yahweh with the prohibition on idolatry.
  • A. Augustine follows the Talmud in combining verses 3–6, but omits the prologue as a commandment and divides the prohibition on coveting in two and following the word order of Deuteronomy 5:21 rather than Exodus 20:17.
  • L. Lutherans follow Luther's Large Catechism, which follows Augustine but omits the prohibition of images[16] and uses the word order of Exodus 20:17 rather than Deuteronomy 5:21 for the ninth and tenth commandments.
The Ten Commandments
S P T A C L R Main article Exodus 20:1-17 Deuteronomy 5:4-21
1 1 (1) I am the Lord thy God 2 “I am the your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. 6 “‘I am the your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.
1 1 2 1 1 1 1 Thou shalt have no other gods before me 3 “You shall have no other gods before me. 7 “‘You shall have no other gods before me.
2 2 2 1 1 1 2 Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image 4–6 “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments. 8–10 “‘You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them; for I the your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.
3 3 3 2 2 2 3 Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain 7 “You shall not take the name of the your God in vain, for the will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain. 11 “‘You shall not take the name of the your God in vain, for the will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain.
4 4 4 3 3 3 4 Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy 8–11 “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. For in six days the made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy. 12–15 “‘Observe the Sabbath day, to keep it holy, as the your God commanded you. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the your God. On it you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter or your male servant or your female servant, or your ox or your donkey or any of your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates, that your male servant and your female servant may rest as well as you. You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the your God brought you out from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the your God commanded you to keep the Sabbath day.
5 5 5 4 4 4 5 Honour thy father and thy mother 12 “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the your God is giving you. 16 “‘Honor your father and your mother, as the your God commanded you, that your days may be long, and that it may go well with you in the land that the your God is giving you.
6 7 6 5 5 5 6 Thou shalt not kill 13 “You shall not murder. 17 “‘You shall not murder.
7 6 7 6 6 6 7 Thou shalt not commit adultery 14 “You shall not commit adultery. 18 “‘And you shall not commit adultery.
8 8 8 7 7 7 8 Thou shalt not steal 15 “You shall not steal. 19 “‘And you shall not steal.
9 9 9 8 8 8 9 Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour 16 “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor. 20 “‘And you shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
10 10 10 10 10 9 10 Thou shalt not covet 17a “You shall not covet your neighbor's house; 21b “‘And you shall not desire your neighbor's house
10 10 10 9 9 10 10 Thou shalt not covet 17b “you shall not covet your neighbor's wife, 21a “‘And you shall not covet your neighbor's wife.
10 10 10 10 10 10 10 Thou shalt not covet 17c “or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor's.” 21c “or his male servant, or his female servant, his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor's.’
  • All scripture quotes above are from the English Standard Version. Click on verses at top of columns for other versions.

Religious interpretations

Judaism

In Judaism, the Ten Commandments provide God's universal and timeless standard of right and wrong, unlike about 200 of the other 603 commandments in the Torah, which describe various duties and ceremonies such as the kashrut dietary laws and now unobservable rituals to be performed by priests in the Holy Temple.[17]They form the basis of Jewish law.[18]

In some traditions, worshipers rise for the reading of the Ten Commandments to highlight their special significance[19] even though many rabbis, including Maimonides, have come out against this custom since one may come to think that the Ten Commandments are more important than the rest of the Mitzvot.[20] (See below: Use In Jewish Ritual.)

The two tablets

Main article: Tablets of Stone

The arrangement of the commandments on the two tablets is interpreted in different ways in the classical Jewish tradition. Rabbi Hanina ben Gamaliel says that each tablet contained five commandments, "but the Sages say ten on one tablet and ten on the other".[21] Because the commandments establish a covenant, it is possible that they were duplicated on both tablets. This can be compared to diplomatic treaties of Ancient Egypt, in which a copy was made for each party.[22]

According to the Talmud, the compendium of traditional Rabbinic Jewish law, tradition, and interpretation, one interpretation of the biblical verse "the tablets were written on both their sides",[23] is that the carving went through the full thickness of the tablets, yet was miraculously legible from both sides.[24]

Significance of the Decalogue

The Ten Commandments are not given any greater significance in observance or special status. In fact, when undue emphasis was being placed on them, their daily communal recitation was discontinued.[25] Jewish tradition does, however, recognize them as the theological basis for the rest of the commandments; a number of works (starting with Rabbi Saadia Gaon) have made groupings of the commandments according to their links with the Ten Commandments.

The traditional Rabbinical Jewish belief is that the observance of these commandments and the other mitzvot are required solely of the Jewish people, and that the laws incumbent on humanity in general are outlined in the seven Noahide laws (several of which overlap with the Ten Commandments). In the era of the Sanhedrin transgressing any one of six of the Ten Commandments theoretically carried the death penalty, the exceptions being the First Commandment, honoring your father and mother, saying God's name in vain, and coveting, though this was rarely enforced due to a large number of stringent evidentiary requirements imposed by the oral law.

Use In Jewish ritual

During the period of the Second Temple, the Ten Commandments were recited daily.[19] The Mishnah records that in the Temple, it was the practice to recite them every day before the reading of the Shema Yisrael (as preserved, for example, in the Nash Papyrus, a Hebrew manuscript fragment from 150–100 BCE found in Egypt, containing a version of the ten commandments and the beginning of the Shema); but that this practice was abolished in the synagogues so as not to give ammunition to heretics who claimed that they were the only important part of Jewish law,[26] or so as to dispute a claim by early Christians that only the Ten Commandments were handed down at Mount Sinai rather than the whole Torah.[19]

In later centuries, rabbis continued to omit the Ten Commandments from daily liturgy in order to prevent a confusion among Jews that they are only bound by the Ten Commandments, and not also by many other biblical and talmudic laws, such as the requirement to observe holy days other than the sabbath.[19]

Today, the Ten Commandments are heard in the synagogue three times a year: as they come up during the readings of Exodus and Deuteronomy, and during the festival of Shavuot.[19] The Exodus version is read in parashat Yitro around late January–February, and on the festival of Shavuot, and the Deuteronomy version in parashat Va'etchanan in August–September.

In printed Deuteronomy  5:6–18.

Samaritan

The Samaritan Pentateuch varies in the Ten Commandments passages, both in that the Samaritan Deuteronomical version of the passage is much closer to that in Exodus, and in the addition of a commandment on the sanctity of Mount Gerizim.

The text of the commandment follows:

And it shall come to pass when the Lord thy God will bring thee into the land of the Canaanites whither thou goest to take possession of it, thou shalt erect unto thee large stones, and thou shalt cover them with lime, and thou shalt write upon the stones all the words of this Law, and it shall come to pass when ye cross the Jordan, ye shall erect these stones which I command thee upon Mount Gerizim, and thou shalt build there an altar unto the Lord thy God, an altar of stones, and thou shalt not lift upon them iron, of perfect stones shalt thou build thine altar, and thou shalt bring upon it burnt offerings to the Lord thy God, and thou shalt sacrifice peace offerings, and thou shalt eat there and rejoice before the Lord thy God. That mountain is on the other side of the Jordan at the end of the road towards the going down of the sun in the land of the Canaanites who dwell in the Arabah facing Gilgal close by Elon Moreh facing Shechem.[27]

Christianity

Christians believe the Ten Commandments have divine authority and continue to be valid, though they have different interpretations and uses of them.[28] Through most of Christian history, the decalogue has been considered a summary of God's law and standard of behavior, and has been central to Christian life, piety, and worship.[29]

Even after rejecting the Roman Catholic moral theology, giving less importance to biblical law in order to better hear and be moved by the gospel, early Protestant theologians still took the Ten Commandments to be the starting point of Christian moral life.[30] Different versions of Christianity have varied in how they have translated the bare principles into the specifics that make up a full Christian ethic.[30] Where Catholicism emphasizes taking action to fulfill the Ten Commandments, Protestantism uses the Ten Commandments for two purposes: to outline the Christian life to each person, and to make each person realize, through their failure to live that life, that they lack the ability to do it on their own.[30]

Herbert Huffmon considers the Ten Commandments to concern matters of fundamental importance: the greatest obligation (to worship only God), the greatest injury to a person (murder), the greatest injury to family bonds (adultery), the greatest injury to commerce and law (bearing false witness), the greatest inter-generational obligation (honor to parents), the greatest obligation to community (truthfulness), the greatest injury to moveable property (theft).[31]

Huffmon writes that the Ten Commandments were written with room for varying interpretation because they are fundamental.[31] They are not as explicit[31] or detailed as rules and regulations[32] or many other biblical laws and commandments, because they provide guiding principles that apply universally, across changing circumstances. They do not specify punishments for their violation. Their precise import must be worked out in each separate situation.[32]

Various aspects of the Bible have been considered indications of a special status of the Ten Commandments among all other Old Testament laws. They have a uniquely terse style.

References in the New Testament

During his first and great commandment.

And, behold, one came and said unto him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life? And he said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments. He saith unto him, Which? Jesus said, Thou shalt do no murder, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Honour thy father and thy mother: and, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
—Matthew 19:16-19

In his epistle to the Romans, Paul the apostle also mentioned five of the Ten Commandments and associated them with the neighbourly love commandment.

Romans 13:8 Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law.
9 For this, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Thou shalt not covet; and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
10 Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.

—Romans 13:8-10 KJV

Catholicism

In Roman Catholicism, Jesus freed Christians from Jewish religious law, but not from their obligation to keep the Ten Commandments.[34] They are to the moral order what the creation story is to the natural order.[34]

According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church—the official exposition of the Catholic Church's Christian beliefs—the Commandments are considered essential for spiritual good health and growth,[35] and serve as the basis for social justice.[36] Church teaching of the Commandments is largely based on the Old and New Testaments and the writings of the early Church Fathers.[37] In the New Testament, Jesus acknowledged their validity and instructed his disciples to go further, demanding a righteousness exceeding that of the scribes and Pharisees.[38] Summarized by Jesus into two "great commandments" that teach the love of God and love of neighbor,[39] they instruct individuals on their relationships with both.

Eastern Orthodoxy

The Eastern Orthodox Church holds its moral truths to be chiefly contained in the Ten Commandments.[40] A confession begins with the Confessor reciting the Ten Commandments and asking the penitent which of them he has broken.[41]


Lutheranism

The Lutheran division of the commandments follows the one established by St. Augustine, following the then current synagogue scribal division. The first three commandments govern the relationship between God and humans, the fourth through eighth govern public relationships between people, and the last two govern private thoughts. See Luther's Small Catechism[42] and Large Catechism.[16]

Latter-day Saints

Thomas S. Monson said about the Ten Commandments, "The Ten Commandments are just that—commandments. They are not suggestions. They are every bit as requisite today as they were when God gave them to the children of Israel."[43] The Ten Commandments have been repeated in the Book of Mormon and in Doctrine and Covenants.[44] In the Book of Mosiah, a prophet named Abinadi taught the Ten Commandments in the court of King Noah and was martyred for his righteousness.[45] The importance of the Ten Commandments has been featured in many Mormon publications.[46] According to church teaching Abinadi knew the Ten Commandments from the Brass Plates.[47]

The Ten Commandments in the Book of Mormon Book of Mosiah
I am the Lord thy God. Thou shalt have no other God before me. Mosiah 12:35
Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing in heaven above, or things which are in the earth beneath. Mosiah 12:36
Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain; for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain. Mosiah 13:15
Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Mosiah 13:16
Honor thy father and thy mother, that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee. Mosiah 13:20
Thou shalt not kill. Mosiah 13:21
Thou shalt not commit adultery. Mosiah 13:22
Thou shalt not steal. Mosiah 13:22
Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor. Mosiah 13:23
Thou shalt not covet. Mosiah 13:24

According to the church: "Jesus did not reject the law of Moses—the Torah—as found in the Old Testament. Rather, He used it to affirm its own truthfulness and give a more complete meaning."[48]

New Covenant Theology

Main article: New Covenant Theology

New Covenant Theology (NCT) is a recently expressed Christian theological view of redemptive history which claims that all Old Covenant laws have been cancelled[49] in favor of the Law of Christ or New Covenant law of the New Testament. This can be summarized as the ethical expectation found in the New Testament. New Covenant Theology does not reject all religious law, they only reject Old Covenant law. NCT is in contrast with other views on biblical law in that most others do not believe the Ten Commandments and Divine laws of the Old Covenant have been cancelled and prefer the term "Supersessionism" (rather than "cancelled" or "abrogated") for the rest. In 2001, Richard Barcellos, an associate professor and pastor of a Reformed Baptist Church in California, published a critique of NCT for proposing that the Ten Commandments have been cancelled.[50]

Main points of interpretative difference

Sabbath day

Main articles: Sabbath in Christianity and Shabbat

Sabbath in Christianity is a weekly day of rest or religious observance, derived from the sabbath.[51] Non-Sabbatarianism is the principle of Christian liberty from being bound to physical sabbath observance. Most dictionaries provide both first-day and seventh-day definitions for "sabbath" and "Sabbatarian", among other related uses.

Until the 2nd and 3rd century, Christians kept the Jewish Sabbath, which occurs from Friday night to Saturday night each week. Observing the Sabbath on Sunday, the day of resurrection, gradually became the dominant Christian practice from the Jewish-Roman wars onward. Before then, Christianity was predominantly still a Jewish sect. The Church's general repudiation of Jewish practices during this period is apparent in the Council of Laodicea (4th Century AD) where Canons 37–38 state: "It is not lawful to receive portions sent from the feasts of Jews or heretics, nor to feast together with them" and "It is not lawful to receive unleavened bread from the Jews, nor to be partakers of their impiety".[52]

Canon 29 of the Laodicean council specificially refers to the sabbath: "Christians must not judaize by resting on the [Jewish] Sabbath, but must work on that day, rather honoring the Lord's Day; and, if they can, resting then as Christians. But if any shall be found to be judaizers, let them be anathema (excommunicated) from Christ."[52]

Killing or murder

Main article: You shall not murder


Multiple translations exist of the fifth/sixth commandment; the Hebrew words לא תרצח (lo tirtzach) are variously translated as "thou shalt not kill" or "thou shalt not murder".[53]

The imperative is against unlawful killing resulting in

You shall not steal

Main article: You shall not steal

Significant voices among academic theologians (such as German Old Testament scholar Albrecht Alt: Das Verbot des Diebstahls im Dekalog (1953)) suggest that commandment "you shall not steal" was originally intended against stealing people—against abductions and slavery, in agreement with the Talmudic interpretation of the statement as "you shall not kidnap" (Sanhedrin 86a).

Idolatry

In Christianity's earliest centuries, some Christians had informally adorned their homes and places of worship with images of Christ and the saints, while some thought it inappropriate. No church council had ruled on whether such practices constituted idolatry. The controversy reached crisis level in the 8th century, during the period of iconoclasm: the smashing of icons.[57]

In 726, Emperor Leo III ordered all images removed from all churches; in 730, a council forbade veneration of images, citing the Second Commandment; in 787, the Seventh Ecumenical Council reversed the preceding rulings, condemning iconoclasm and sanctioning the veneration of images; in 815, Leo V called yet another council, which reinstated iconoclasm; in 843, Empress Theodora again reinstated veneration of icons.[57] This mostly settled the matter until the Protestant Reformation, when John Calvin declared that the ruling of the Seventh Ecumenical Council "emanated from Satan".[57] Protestant iconoclasts at this time destroyed statues, pictures, stained glass, and artistic masterpieces.[57]

The Eastern Orthodox Church celebrates Theodora's restoration of the icons every year on the First Sunday of Great Lent.[57] Eastern Orthodox tradition teaches that while images of God, the Father, remain prohibited, depictions of Jesus as the incarnation of God as a visible human are permissible. To emphasize the theological importance of the incarnation, the Orthodox Church encourages the use of icons in church and private devotions, but prefers a two-dimensional depiction[58] as a reminder of this theological aspect. Icons depict the spiritual dimension of their subject rather than attempting a naturalistic portrayal.[57] In modern use (usually as a result of Roman Catholic influence), more naturalistic images and images of the Father, however, also appear occasionally in Orthodox churches, but statues, i.e. three-dimensional depictions, continue to be banned.[58]

The Roman Catholic Church holds that one may build and use "likenesses", as long as the object is not worshipped. Many Roman Catholic Churches and services feature images; some feature statues. For Roman Catholics, this practice is understood as fulfilling the Second Commandment, as they understand that these images are not being worshipped.

For Jews and Muslims, veneration violates the Second Commandment. Jews and Muslims read this commandment as prohibiting the use of idols and images in any way.

Some Protestants will picture Jesus in his human form, while refusing to make any image of God or Jesus in Heaven.

Strict Amish people forbid any sort of image, such as photographs.

Critical historical analysis

Early theories

Critical scholarship is divided over its interpretation of the ten commandment texts.

The classic form of higher criticism was Julius Wellhausen's documentary hypothesis (see JEDP), first published in 1878. According to his scheme, Exodus 20-23 and 34 were composed by the J or Jehovist writer and "might be regarded as the document which formed the starting point of the religious history of Israel."[59] Deuteronomy 5 would then reflect Josiah's attempt to link the document produced by his court to the older Mosaic tradition.

In a 2002 analysis of the history of this position, Dr. Bernard M. Levinson has argued that this reconstruction assumes a Christian perspective, and dates back to Johann Wolfgang von Goethe's polemic against Judaism, which asserted that religions evolve from the more ritualistic to the more ethical. Goethe thus argued that the Ten Commandments revealed to Moses at Mt. Sinai would have emphasized rituals, and that the "ethical" Decalogue Christians recite in their own churches was composed at a later date, when Israelite prophets had begun to prophesy the coming of the messiah, Jesus Christ. Dr. Levinson points out that there is no evidence, internal to the Hebrew Bible or in external sources, to support this conjecture. He concludes that its vogue among later critical historians represents the persistence of this polemic that the supersession of Judaism by Christianity is part of a longer history of progress from the ritualistic to the ethical.[60]

By the 1930s, historians who accepted the basic premises of multiple authorship had come to reject the idea of an orderly evolution of Israelite religion. Critics instead began to suppose that law and ritual could be of equal importance, while taking different form, at different times. This means that there is no longer any a priori reason to believe that Exodus 20: 2-17 and Exodus 34: 10-28 were composed during different stages of Israelite history. For example, critical historian John Bright also dates the Jahwist texts to the tenth century BCE, but believes that they express a theology that "had already been normalized in the period of the Judges" (i.e. of the tribal alliance).[61] He concurs about the importance of the decalogue as "a central feature in the covenant that brought together Israel into being as a people"[62] but views the parallels between Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5, along with other evidence, as reason to believe that it is relatively close to its original form and Mosaic in origin.[63]

Hittite treaties

According to John Bright, however, there is an important distinction between the Decalogue and the "book of the covenant" (Exodus 21-23 and 34:10–24). The Decalogue, he argues, was modeled on the suzerainty treaties of the Hittites (and other Mesopotamian Empires), that is, represents the relationship between God and Israel as a relationship between king and vassal, and enacts that bond.[64]

"The prologue of the Hittite treaty reminds his vassals of his benevolent acts.. (compare with Exodus 20:2 "I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.") The Hittite treaty also stipulated the obligations imposed by the ruler on his vassals, which included a prohibition of relations with peoples outside the empire, or enmity between those within." [65] (Exodus 20:3 "You shall have no other gods before Me.") Viewed as a treaty rather than a law code, its purpose is not so much to regulate human affairs as to define the scope of the king's power.[66]

Julius Morgenstern argued that Exodus 34 is distinct from the Jahwist document, identifying it with king Asa's reforms in 899 BCE.[67] Bright, however, believes that like the Decalogue this text has its origins in the time of the tribal alliance. The book of the covenant, he notes, bears a greater similarity to Mesopotamian law codes (e.g. the Code of Hammurabi which was inscribed on a stone stele). He argues that the function of this "book" is to move from the realm of treaty to the realm of law: "The Book of the Covenant (Ex., chs. 21 to 23; cf. ch. 34), which is no official state law, but a description of normative Israelite judicial procedure in the days of the Judges, is the best example of this process."[68] According to Bright, then, this body of law too predates the monarchy.[69]

Hilton J. Blik writes that the phrasing in the Decalogue`s instructions suggests that it was conceived in a mainly polytheistic milieu, evident especially in the formulation of "no-other-gods-before-me" commandment.[70]

Dating

If the Ten Commandments are based on Hittite forms that would date it somewhere between the 14th-12th century BCE.[71] Archaeologists Israel Finkelstein and Neil Asher Silberman argue that "the astonishing composition came together... in the seventh century BCE".[72] Critical scholar Yehezkel Kaufmann (1960) dates the oral form of the covenant to the time of Josiah.[73] An even later date (after 586 BCE) is suggested by David H. Aaron.[74]

The Ritual Decalogue

Main article: Ritual Decalogue

Some proponents of the Documentary hypothesis have argued that the biblical text in Exodus 34:28[75] identifies a different list as the ten commandments, that of Exodus 34:11–27.[76] Since this passage does not prohibit murder, adultery, theft, etc., but instead deals with the proper worship of Yahweh, some scholars call it the "Ritual Decalogue", and disambiguate the ten commandments of traditional understanding as the "Ethical Decalogue".[77][78][79][80]

According to these scholars the Bible includes multiple versions of events. On the basis of many points of analysis including linguistic it is shown as a patchwork of sources sometimes with bridging comments by the editor (Redactor) but otherwise left intact from the original, frequently side by side.[81]

Richard Elliott Friedman argues that the Ten Commandments at Exodus 20:1-17 "does not appear to belong to any of the major sources. It is likely to be an independent document, which was inserted here by the Redactor."[82] In his view, the Covenant Code follows that version of the Ten Commandments in the northern Israel E narrative. In the J narrative in Exodus 34 the editor of the combined story known as the Redactor (or RJE), adds in an explanation that these are a replacement for the earlier tablets which were shattered. "In the combined JE text, it would be awkward to picture God just commanding Moses to make some tablets, as if there were no history to this matter, so RJE adds the explanation that these are a replacement for the earlier tablets that were shattered."[83]

He writes that Exodus 34:14-26 is the J text of the Ten Commandments: "The first two commandments and the sabbath commandment have parallels in the other versions of the Ten Commandments. (Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5)... The other seven commandments here are completely different."[84] He suggests that differences in the J and E versions of the Ten Commandments story are a result of power struggles in the priesthood. The writer has Moses smash the tablets "because this raised doubts about the Judah's central religious shrine" [85]

According to Kaufmann, the Decalogue and the book of the covenant represent two ways of manifesting God's presence in Israel: the Ten Commandments taking the archaic and material form of stone tablets kept in the ark of the covenant, while the book of the covenant took oral form to be recited to the people.[73]

United States debate over display on public property

There have been recurring disputes in the United States concerning the posting of the ten commandments on public property. Certain conservative religious groups have taken the banning of officially sanctioned prayer from public schools by the U.S. Supreme Court as a threat to the expression of religion in public life. In response, they have successfully lobbied many state and local governments to display the ten commandments in public buildings. Displaying the commandments can reflect a sectarian position if they are numbered. Protestants and Orthodox, Roman Catholics, and Jews number the commandments differently. However, this problem can be circumvented by omitting the numbers, as was done at the Texas capitol (shown here). Hundreds of these monuments—including some of those causing dispute—were originally placed by director Cecil B. DeMille as a publicity stunt to promote his 1956 film The Ten Commandments.[86]

Others oppose the posting of the ten commandments on public property, arguing that it violates the establishment clause of the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States.

In contrast, groups supporting the public display of the ten commandments claim that the commandments are not necessarily religious but represent the moral and legal foundation of society, and are appropriate to be displayed as a historical source of present day legal codes. Also, some argue that prohibiting the public practice of religion is a violation of the first amendment's guarantee of freedom of religion.

U.S. legislators counter that the ten commandments are derived from Judeo-Christian religions. The statement "Thou shalt have no other gods before me" excludes Hinduism and Zoroastrianism for example, which are not Judeo-Christian, monotheistic religions. Whether the Constitution prohibits the posting of the commandments or not, there are additional political and civil rights issues regarding the posting of what is construed as religious doctrine. Excluding religions that have not accepted the ten commandments creates the appearance of impropriety. The perception that a US state church has been established is viewed as repugnant, the impression being that the intent of the establishment clause regarding freedom of religion is undermined.

In addition, it has been argued if the commandments are posted, it would require that members of other religions be allowed to post the particular tenets of their religions as well. For example, an organization called Summum has won court cases against municipalities in Utah for refusing to allow the group to erect a monument of Summum aphorisms next to the ten commandments. The cases were won on the grounds that Summum's right to freedom of speech was denied and the governments had engaged in discrimination. Instead of allowing Summum to erect its monument, the local governments chose to remove their ten commandments.

Some religious Jews oppose the posting of the ten commandments in public schools, as they feel it is wrong for public schools to teach their children Judaism. The argument is that if a Jewish parent wishes to teach their child to be a Jew, then this education should come only from practicing Jews. This position is based on the demographic fact that the vast majority of public school teachers in the United States are not Jews; the same is true for the students. This same reasoning and position is also held by many believers in other religions. Many Christians have some concerns about this as well; for example, can Catholic parents count on Protestant or Orthodox Christian teachers to tell their children their particular understanding of the commandments? Differences in the interpretation and translation of these commandments, as noted above, can sometimes be significant.

Organizations such as the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) have launched lawsuits challenging the posting of the ten commandments in public buildings. Opponents of these displays include a number of religious groups, including some Christian denominations, both because they do not want government to be issuing religious doctrine, and because they feel strongly that the commandments are inherently religious. Many commentators see this issue as part of a wider culture war between liberal and conservative elements in American society. In response to the perceived attacks on traditional society, other legal organizations, such as the Liberty Counsel, have risen to advocate the conservative interpretation.

Cultural references

Two famous films of this name were directed by Cecil B. DeMille, a silent movie released in 1923 starring Theodore Roberts as Moses, and a color VistaVision version of 1956, starring Charlton Heston as Moses. The Decalogue, a 1989 Polish film series directed by Krzysztof Kieślowski, and The Ten, a 2007 American film, use the ten commandments as a structure for 10 smaller stories.[87]

See also

Bible portal
Book of Mormon portal

References

Further reading

  • http://the10com.org/index.html
  • .
  • Markl, Dominik (2012): "The Decalogue in History: A Preliminary Survey of the Fields and Genres of its Reception", in: Zeitschrift für Altorientalische und Biblische Rechtsgeschichte - vol. 18, nº., pp. 279–293. (pdf)

External links

  • Ten Commandments: Ex. 20 version (The Hebrew Bible in English by Jewish Publication Society, 1917 ed.

This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and USA.gov, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for USA.gov and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
 
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
 
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.