Ten Commandments

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Ten Commandments

The commandments

I am the LORD thy God
Thou shalt have no other gods
No graven images or likenesses
Not take the LORD's name in vain
Remember the sabbath day
Honour thy father and thy mother
Thou shalt not kill
Thou shalt not commit adultery
Thou shalt not steal
Thou shalt not bear false witness
Thou shalt not covet

Related articles

Tablets of Stone
Ritual Decalogue
Catholic doctrine view

This is an image of a copy of the 1675 Ten Commandments, at the Amsterdam Esnoga synagogue, produced on parchment in 1768 by Jekuthiel Sofer, a prolific Jewish eighteenth century scribe in Amsterdam. It has Hebrew language writing in two columns separated between, and surrounded by, ornate flowery patterns.
This 1768 parchment (612×502 mm) by Jekuthiel Sofer emulated the 1675 Ten Commandments at the Amsterdam Esnoga synagogue. [1]

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 most forms of Christianity. They include instructions to worship only God and to keep the sabbath, and prohibitions against idolatry, blasphemy, murder, theft, 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.

Contents

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 King James Version as "ten commandments". Most major English versions follow the Authorized Version.[3]

The English name "Decalogue" is derived from the Greek translation δέκα λόγους deka logous "ten terms", found in the Septuagint (or LXX) at Exodus 34:28[3] and Deuteronomy 10:4.[4]

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 Exodus 19 after the arrival of the children of Israel at Mount Sinai, also called Horeb. In the morning of the "third day" of their encampment, "there were thunders and lightnings, and a thick cloud upon the mount, and the voice of the trumpet exceeding loud", and the people assembled at the base of the mount. After "the LORD came down upon mount Sinai", Moses went up briefly and returned and prepared the people, and then in Exodus 20 "God spake" to all the people the words of the covenant, "even ten commandments"[5] as it is written. The people were afraid to hear more and moved "afar off" and even Moses said, "I exceedingly fear and quake".[6] Nevertheless, he drew near the "thick darkness"[7] to hear the additional statutes and "judgments", (Exodus 21–23) all which he "wrote"[8] in the "book of the covenant"[9] which he read to the people the next morning, and they agreed to be obedient and do all that the LORD had said. Moses escorted a select group consisting of Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and "seventy of the elders of Israel" to a location on the mount where they worshipped "afar off"[10] and they "saw the God of Israel" above a "paved work" like clear sapphire stone. (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 tables in Exodus 24:12,13

This is an image of an oil on canvas picture by Rembrandt (1659) of a bearded man representing Moses with two tables of stone of the ten commandments held high in both hands.
Moses with the Ten Commandments by Rembrandt (1659)

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." (Exodus 24:16-18) And Moses said, "the LORD delivered unto me two tables of stone written with the finger of God; and on them was written according to all the words, which the LORD spake with you in the mount out of the midst of the fire in the day of the assembly." (Deuteronomy 9:10) Before the full forty days expired, the children of Israel decided that something happened to Moses, and compelled Aaron to fashion a golden calf, and he "built an altar before it" (Ex.32:1–5) and the people "worshipped" the calf. (Ex.32:6–8) After the full forty days, Moses and Joshua came down from the mountain with the tables of stone: "And it came to pass, as soon as he came nigh unto the camp, that he saw the calf, and the dancing: and Moses’ anger waxed hot, and he cast the tables out of his hands, and brake them beneath the mount." (Ex.32:19) After the events in chapters 32 and 33, the LORD told Moses, "Hew thee two tables of stone like unto the first: and I will write upon these tables the words that were in the first tables, which thou brakest." (Ex.34:1) "And he wrote on the tables, according to the first writing, the ten commandments, which the LORD spake unto you in the mount out of the midst of the fire in the day of the assembly: and the LORD gave them unto me." (Deuteronomy 10:4)

According to Jewish tradition, Exodus 20:1–17 constitutes God's first recitation and inscription of the ten commandments on the two tables,[11] which were broken in pieces by Moses, and later rewritten on replacement stones and placed in the ark of the covenant;[12] and 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. While the Bible itself assigns the count of "ten", using the Hebrew phrase asereth ha-debarim ('the ten words', 'statements' or 'sayings'), the phrase does not appear in Exodus 20 or Deuteronomy 5.[13]

Two texts with numbering schemes

The two texts commonly known as the Ten Commandments are given in two books of the Bible: Exodus 20:1–17 and Deuteronomy 5:4–21.

Religious groups use one of three historical divisions of Exodus 20:1–17 into ten parts[14] tabulated below:

The Ten Commandments
PhiTalAugExodus 20:1-17Deuteronomy 5:4-21
11 And God spake all these words, saying,4–5 The LORD talked with you face to face in the mount out of the midst of the fire ... saying,
Pre12 I am the LORD thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.6 I am the LORD thy God, which brought thee out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage.
1213 Thou shalt have no other gods before me.7 Thou shalt have none other gods before me.
2214 Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth:8 Thou shalt not make thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the waters beneath the earth:
2215 Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me;9 Thou shalt not bow down thyself unto them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me,
2216 And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.10 And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me and keep my commandments.
3327 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.11 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.
4438 Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.12 Keep the sabbath day to sanctify it, as the LORD thy God hath commanded thee.
4439 Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work:13 Six days thou shalt labour, and do all thy work:
44310 But the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates:14 But the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, nor thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thine ox, nor thine ass, nor any of thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates; that thy manservant and thy maidservant may rest as well as thou.
44311 For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.15 And remember that thou wast a servant in the land of Egypt, and that the LORD thy God brought thee out thence through a mighty hand and by a stretched out arm: therefore the LORD thy God commanded thee to keep the sabbath day.
55412 Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee.16 Honour thy father and thy mother, as the LORD thy God hath commanded thee; that thy days may be prolonged, and that it may go well with thee, in the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee.
66513 Thou shalt not kill.17 Thou shalt not kill.
77614 Thou shalt not commit adultery.18 Neither shalt thou commit adultery.
88715 Thou shalt not steal.19 Neither shalt thou steal.
99816 Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour.20 Neither shalt thou bear false witness against thy neighbour.
1010917 Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's house,21 Neither shalt thou desire thy neighbour's wife,
101010thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour's.neither shalt thou covet thy neighbour's house, his field, or his manservant, or his maidservant, his ox, or his ass, or any thing that is thy neighbour's.

 * All scripture quotes above are from the King James Version. Click on verses at top of columns for other versions.

Importance within Judaism and Christianity

The Ten Commandments concern only 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 intergenerational obligation (honor to parents), the greatest obligation to community (truthfulness), the greatest injury to moveable property (theft).[19]

Because they are fundamental, the Ten Commandments are written with room for varying interpretation.[19] They are not as explicit[19] or detailed as rules and regulations[20] 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.[20]

The Bible indicates the special status of the Ten Commandments among all other Old Testament laws in several ways. They have a uniquely terse style.[21] Of all the biblical laws and commandments, the Ten Commandments alone[21] were "written with the finger of God" (Exodus 31:18). And lastly, the stone tablets were placed in the Ark of the Covenant (Exodus 25:21).[21]

In Judaism, the Ten Commandments provide God's universal and timeless standard of right and wrong, unlike 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.[22] They form the basis of Jewish law.[23]

During the period of the Second Temple, the Ten Commandments were recited daily.[24] They were removed from daily liturgy to dispute a claim by early Christians that only the Ten Commandments were handed down at Mount Sinai rather than the whole Torah.[24] 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.[24] 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.[24] In some traditions the worshippers rise for their reading to highlight their special significance.[24]

The Eastern Orthodox Church holds its moral truths to be chiefly contained in the Ten Commandments.[25] A confession begins with the Confessor reciting the Ten Commandments and asking the penitent which of them he has broken.[26]

In Roman Catholicism, Jesus freed Christians from the Jewish obligation to keep the 613 mitzvot, but not from their obligation to keep the Ten Commandments.[27] They are to the moral order what the creation story is to the natural order.[27]

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.[28] Different versions of Christianity have varied in how they have translated the bare principles into the specifics that make up a full Christian ethic.[28] 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.[28] Thus for Protestant Christianity, the Ten Commandments primarily serve to lead each Christian to the grace of God.

Religious interpretations

Judaism

The Two Tablets

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".[29] Because the commandments establish a covenant, it is likely 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.[30]

According to the Talmud, the compendium of traditional Rabbinic Jewish law, tradition, and interpretation, the biblical verse "the tablets were written on both their sides",[31] implies that the carving went through the full thickness of the tablets. The stones in the center part of some letters were not connected to the rest of the tablet, but they did not fall out. Moreover, the writing was also legible from both sides; it was not a mirror image of the text on the other side. The Talmud regards both phenomena as miraculous.[32] According to the Medieval Sefer ha-Chinuch, the first four statements concern the relationship between God and humans, while the next six statements concern the relationships between people.

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.[33] 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

The Mishnah records that it was the practice, in the Temple, to recite the Ten Commandments every day before the reading of the Shema (as preserved, for example, in the Nash Papyrus from c. 150 BCE); 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.[34]

In the normal course of the reading of the Torah, the Ten Commandments are read twice a year: the Exodus version in parashat Yitro around late January–February, and the Deuteronomy version in parashat Va'etchanan in August–September. In addition, the Exodus version constitutes the main Torah reading for the festival of Shavuot. It is widespread custom for the congregation to stand while they are being read 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.[35]

In printed Bibles the Ten Commandments carry two sets of cantillation marks. The ta'am 'elyon (upper accentuation), which makes each Commandment into a separate verse, is used for public Torah reading, while the ta'am tachton (lower accentuation), which divides the text into verses of more even length, is used for private reading or study. The verse numbering in Christian Bibles follows the ta'am elyon while that in Jewish Bibles follows the ta'am tachton. In Jewish Bibles the references to the Ten Commandments are therefore Exodus 20:2–14[36] and Deuteronomy 5:6–18.[37]

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.[38]

Christianity

Reference by Jesus

In the Gospel of Matthew 19:16–19, Jesus repeated five of the Ten Commandments, followed by that commandment called "the second" (Mat.22:34–40) after the first and great commandment.

Matthew 19:16 And, behold, one came and said unto him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?
17 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.
18 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,
19 Honour thy father and thy mother: and, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.

Matthew 19:16-19 KJV
Compare with Mark & Luke.

Reference by Paul

In his epistle to the Romans, the apostle Paul 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

Roman Catholicism

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,[39] and serve as the basis for social justice.[40] Church teaching of the Commandments is largely based on the Old and New Testaments and the writings of the early Church Fathers.[41] 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.[42] Summarized by Jesus into two "great commandments" that teach the love of God and love of neighbor,[43] they instruct individuals on their relationships with both.

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[44] and Large Catechism.[45]

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[46] 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.[47]

Islam

The Qur'an states that "tablets" were given to Moses, without quoting their contents explicitly:

"And We ordained laws for him in the tablets in all matters, both commanding and explaining all things, (and said): 'Take and hold these with firmness, and enjoin thy people to hold fast by the best in the precepts: soon shall I show you the homes of the wicked,- (How they lie desolate).'" (Quran 7:145)

These tablets are not broken in the Qur'an, but picked up later:

"When Moses came back to his people, angry and grieved, he said: 'Evil it is that ye have done in my place in my absence: did ye make haste to bring on the judgment of your Lord?' He put down the tablets, seized his brother by (the hair of) his head, and dragged him to him..." (Quran 7:150). "When the anger of Moses was appeased, he took up the tablets: in the writing thereon was guidance and Mercy for such as fear their Lord." (Quran 7:154).

Main points of interpretative difference

Sabbath day

Sabbath in Christianity is a weekly day of rest or religious observance, derived from the sabbath.[48] 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, with the practice of Sunday, the day of resurrection, gradually becoming the dominant day of observance from the Jewish-Roman wars onward; until this christianity was predominantly still a jewish sect. The Catholic 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".[49] 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."[49]

Killing or murder

The Sixth Commandment, as translated by the Book of Common Prayer (1549).
The image is from the altar screen of the Temple Church near the Law Courts in London.

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".[50]

The imperative is against unlawful killing resulting in bloodguilt.[51] The Hebrew Bible contains numerous prohibitions against unlawful killing, but also allows for justified killing in the context of warfare (1Kings 2:5–6), capital punishment (Leviticus 20:9–16) and self-defence (Exodus 22:2–3). The New Testament is in agreement that murder is a grave moral evil,[52] and maintains the Old Testament view of bloodguilt.[53]

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. 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.[54] This mostly settled the matter until the Protestant Reformation, when John Calvin declared that the ruling of the Seventh Ecumenical Council "emanated from Satan".[54] Protestant iconoclasts at this time destroyed statues, pictures, stained glass, and artistic masterpieces.[54]

The Eastern Orthodox Church celebrates Theodora's restoration of the icons every year on the First Sunday of Great Lent.[54] 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[55] as a reminder of this theological aspect. Icons depict the spiritual dimension of their subject rather than attempting a naturalistic portrayal.[54] 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.[55]

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."[56] 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.[57]

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).[58] He concurs about the importance of the decalogue as "a central feature in the covenant that brought together Israel into being as a people"[59] 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.[60]

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.[61]

"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." [62](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.[63]

Julius Morgenstern argued that Exodus 34 is distinct from the Jahwist document, identifying it with king Asa's reforms in 899 BCE.[64] 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."[65] According to Bright, then, this body of law too predates the monarchy.[66]

Dating

If the Ten Commandments are based on Hittite forms that would date it somewhere between the 14th-12th century BCE.[67] Archaeologists Israel Finkelstein and Neil Asher Silberman argue that "the astonishing composition came together... in the seventh century BCE".[68] Critical scholar Yehezkel Kaufmann (1960) dates the oral form of the covenant to the time of Josiah.[69] An even later date (after 586 BCE) is suggested by David H. Aaron.[70]

The Ritual Decalogue

Some proponents of the Documentary hypothesis have argued that the biblical text in Exodus 34:28[71] identifies a different list as the ten commandments, that of Exodus 34:11–27.[72] 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".[73][74][75][76]

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.[77]

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."[78] 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."[79] 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."[80] 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" [81]

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.[69]

United States debate over display on public property

Picture of a large stone monument displaying the ten commandments with the Texas State Capitol in Austin in the background. The picture was part of a news release Wednesday, March second, 2005, by then Attorney General Abbott.
Ten Commandments display at the Texas State Capitol in Austin.

There have been recurring disputes in the United States concerning the posting of the ten commandments on public property. Certain conservative religious groups[who?] 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. Posting the Decalogue on a public building can take a sectarian stance, if numbered. Protestants and Orthodox, Roman Catholics, and Jews number the commandments differently. However, this problem can be circumnavigated by simply not numbering the commandments, 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.[82]

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[who?] 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[who?] 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[citation needed] 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 by the name of 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[who?] 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[who?], both because they don't 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 1988 Polish film, and The Ten, a 2007 American film, use the ten commandments as a structure for 10 smaller stories.[83]

See also

Non Judeo-Christian:

General:

References

  1. ^ "UBA: Rosenthaliana 1768 [English: 1768: The Ten Commandments, copied in Amsterdam Jekuthiel Sofer]" (in Dutch). http://cf.uba.uva.nl/nl/publicaties/treasures/page/p34.html. Retrieved 26 April 2012. 
  2. ^ Rooker, Mark (2010). The Ten Commandments: Ethics for the Twenty-First Century. Nashville, Tennessee: B&H Publishing Group. p. 3. ISBN 0-8054-4716-4. http://books.google.com/books?id=1WUzUAdWRVUC&pg=PA3&lpg=PA3&hl=en#v=onepage&q&f=false. Retrieved 2011-10-02. "The Ten Commandments are literally the "Ten Words" (ăśeret hadděbārîm) in Hebrew. The use of the term dābār, "word," in this phrase distinguishes these laws from the rest of the commandments (mişwâ), statutes (hōq), and regulations (mišpāţ) in the Old Testament." 
  3. ^ a b Exodus 34:28 – multiple versions and languages
  4. ^ Deuteronomy 10:4 – multiple versions and languages
  5. ^ Deuteronomy 4:13, 5:22
  6. ^ Hebrews 12:20-21
  7. ^ Exodus 20:21
  8. ^ Exodus 24:4
  9. ^ Exodus 24:7
  10. ^ Exodus 24:1,9
  11. ^ Exodus.20:1;Exodus.32:15-19 
  12. ^ Deuteronomy.4:10-13;Deut.5:22;Deut.9:17;Deut.10:1-5 
  13. ^ 3 verses with the phrase ten commandments: Exodus.34:28;Deuteronomy.4:13;Deuteronomy.10:4 
  14. ^ What Are the Ten Commandments
  15. ^ The Works of Philo Judaeus — The Decalogue Περι των Δέκα Λογίων
    The Ten Commandments — Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America Has Ex.20:1–3 as 1st commandment
  16. ^ Flavius Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, Book 3, Chapter 5, Section 5: "The first commandment teaches us, That there is but one God, and that we ought to worship him only;—the second commands us not to make the image of any living creature to worship it;—the third, That we must not swear by God in a false matter;—the fourth, That we must keep the seventh day, by resting from all sorts of work;—the fifth, That we must honor our parents;—the sixth, That we must abstain from murder;—the seventh, That we must not commit adultery;—the eighth, That we must not be guilty of theft;—the ninth, That we must not bear false witness;—the tenth, That we must not admit of the desire of any thing that is another's." —Josephus, Antiq.B.3,C.5,S.8, last sentence: "When he had said this, he showed them the two tables, with the ten commandments engraven upon them, five upon each table; and the writing was by the hand of God."
  17. ^ Judaism 101: Aseret ha-Dibrot: The "Ten Commandments"
  18. ^ Augustine, "Questions of Exodus:" Quæstionum in Heptateuchum libri VII, Book II, Question lxxi.
    Luther's small catechism — ten commandments
  19. ^ a b c Herbert Huffmon, "The Fundamental Code Illustrated: The Third Commandment," in The Ten Commandments: The Reciprocity of Faithfulness, ed. William P. Brown., pp. 205–212. Westminster John Knox Press (2004). ISBN 0-664-22323-0
  20. ^ a b William Barclay, The Ten Commandments. Westminster John Knox Press (2001), originally The Plain Man's Guide to Ethics (1973). ISBN 0-664-22346-X
  21. ^ a b c Gail R. O'Day and David L. Petersen, Theological Bible Commentary, p. 34. Westminster John Knox Press (2009) ISBN 0-664-22711-2
  22. ^ Wayne D. Dosick, Living Judaism: The Complete Guide to Jewish Belief, Tradition, and Practice, pp. 31–33. HarperCollins (1995). ISBN 0-06-062179-6
  23. ^ Norman Solomon, Judaism, p. 17. Sterling Publishing Company (2009) ISBN 1-4027-6884-2
  24. ^ a b c d e Simon Glustrom, The Myth and Reality of Judaism, pp 113–114. Behrman House (1989). ISBN 0-87441-479-2
  25. ^ Sebastian Dabovich, Preaching in the Russian Church, p. 65. Cubery (1899).
  26. ^ Alexander Hugh Hore, Eighteen Centuries of the Orthodox Church, p. 36. J. Parker and Co. (1899).
  27. ^ a b Jan Kreeft, Catholic Christianity: A Complete Catechism of Catholic Beliefs based on the Catechism of the Catholic Church, ch. 5. Ignatius Press (2001). ISBN 0-89870-798-6
  28. ^ a b c Timothy Sedgwick, The Christian Moral Life: Practices of Piety, pp. 9–20. Church Publishing (2008). ISBN 1-59627-100-0
  29. ^ Rabbi Ishmael. Horowitz-Rabin (ed.). ed. Mekhilta. pp. 233, Tractate de-ba-Hodesh, 5. 
  30. ^ Margaliot, Dr. Meshulam (July 2004). "What was Written on the Two Tablets?". Bar-Ilan University. http://www.biu.ac.il/JH/Parasha/eng/kitisa/mar.html. Retrieved 2006-09-20. 
  31. ^ Exodus  32:15
  32. ^ Babylonian Talmud, tractate Shabbat 104a.
  33. ^ Talmud. tractate Berachot 12a.
  34. ^ Yerushalmi Berakhot, Chapter 1, fol. 3c. See also Rabbi David Golinkin, Whatever Happened to the Ten Commandments?
  35. ^ http://www.chiefrabbi.org/ReadArtical.aspx?id=1872
  36. ^ Exodus  20:2–14
  37. ^ Deuteronomy  5:6–18
  38. ^ Gaster, Moses (1923). "The Samaritan Tenth Commandment". The Samaritans, Their History, Doctrines and Literature. The Schweich Lectures. http://shomron0.tripod.com/update12.19.2002o.html. 
  39. ^ Kreeft, Peter (2001). Catholic Christianity. Ignatius Press. ISBN 0-89870-798-6.  pp. 201–203 (Google preview p.201)
  40. ^ Carmody, Timothy R. (2004). Reading the Bible. Paulist Press. ISBN 978-0-8091-4189-0.  p. 82
  41. ^ Paragraph number 2052–2074 (1994). "Catechism of the Catholic Church". Libreria Editrice Vaticana. http://www.vatican.va/archive/catechism/p3s2.htm. Retrieved 8 June 2009. 
  42. ^ Kreeft, Peter (2001). Catholic Christianity. Ignatius Press. ISBN 0-89870-798-6.  p. 202 (Google preview p.202)
  43. ^ Schreck, Alan (1999). The Essential Catholic Catechism. Servant Publications. ISBN 1-56955-128-6.  p. 303
  44. ^ Luther's Small Catechism (1529)
  45. ^ Luther's Large Catechism (1529)
  46. ^ ALL Old Testament Laws Cancelled: 24 Reasons Why All Old Testament Laws Are Cancelled and All New Testament Laws Are for Our Obedience, Greg Gibson, 2008, page 7: "New Covenant Theology ... [has]... a better priest, better sacrifice, and better covenant (containing a better law)."
  47. ^ In Defense of the Decalogue : A Critique of New Covenant Theology, Richard Barcellos, Founder's Press, 2001. Barcellos is an associate professor of New Testament Studies at the Midwest Center for Theological Studies.
  48. ^ (Hebrew: שַׁבָּת‎, shabbâth, Hebrew word #7676 in Strong's, meaning intensive "repose").
  49. ^ a b Synod of Laodicea (4th Century) – New Advent
  50. ^ Exodus 20:13 Multiple versions and languages.
  51. ^ Bloodguilt, Jewish Virtual Library, Genesis 4:10, Genesis 9:6, Genesis 42:22, Exodus 22:2-2, Leviticus 17:4, Leviticus 20, Numbers 20, Deuteronomy 19, Deuteronomy 32:43, Joshua 2:19, Judges 9:24, 1 Samuel 25, 2 Samuel 1, 2 Samuel 21, 1 Kings 2, 1 Kings 21:19, 2 Kings 24:4, Psalm 9:12, Psalm 51:14, Psalm 106:38, Proverbs 6:17, Isaiah 1:15, Isaiah 26:21, Jeremiah 22:17, Lamentations 4:13, Ezekiel 9:9, Ezekiel 36:18, Hosea 4:2, Joel 3:19, Habakkuk 2:8, Matthew 23:30-35, Matthew 27:4, Luke 11:50-51, Romans 3:15, Revelation 6:10, Revelation 18:24
  52. ^ Matthew 5:21, Matthew 15:19, Matthew 19:19, Matthew 22:7, Mark 10:19, Luke 18:20, Romans 13:9, 1 Timothy 1:9, James 2:11, Revelation 21:8
  53. ^ Matthew 23:30-35, Matthew 27:4, Luke 11:50-51, Romans 3:15, Revelation 6:10, Revelation 18:24
  54. ^ a b c d e Archpriest John W. Morris, The Historic Church: An Orthodox View of Christian History, chapter 7. AuthorHouse (2011) ISBN 1-4567-3492-X
  55. ^ a b Alexander Hugh Hore, Eighteen Centuries of the Orthodox Church, J. Parker and co. (1899)
    "The images or Icons, as they are called, of the Greek Church are not, it must be remarked, sculptured images, but flat pictures or mosaics; not even the Crucifix is sanctioned; and herein consists the difference between the Greek and Roman Churches, in the latter of which both pictures and statues are allowed, and venerated with equal honour." p.353
  56. ^ Julius Wellhausen 1973 Prolegomena to the history of Israel Glouster, MA: Peter Smith. 392
  57. ^ Levinson, Bernard M. (July 2002). "Goethe's Analysis of Exodus 34 and Its Influence on Julius Wellhausen: The Pfropfung of the Documentary Hypothesis". Zeitschrift für die Alttestamentliche Wissenschaft 114 (2): 212–223
  58. ^ John Bright 1972 A History of Israel Second Edition. Philadelphia: the Westminster Press. 142-143
    4th edition p.146-147 ISBN 0-664-22068-1
  59. ^ Bright, John, 2000, A History of Israel 4th ed. p.146
  60. ^ John Bright 1972 A History of Israel Second Edition. Philadelphia: the Westminster Press. 142 4th ed. p.146+
  61. ^ John Bright 1972 A History of Israel Second Edition. Philadelphia: the Westminster Press. 146-147 4th ed. p.150-151
  62. ^ Cornfeld, Gaalyahu Ed Pictorial Biblical Encyclopedia, MacMillan 1964 p 237
  63. ^ John Bright 1972 A History of Israel Second Edition. Philadelphia: the Westminster Press. 165 4th ed. p.169-170
  64. ^ Morgenstern, Julius (1927), The Oldest Document of the Hexateuch, IV, HUAC 
  65. ^ Bright, John, 2000, A History of Israel 4th ed. p.173
  66. ^ John Bright 1972 A History of Israel Second Edition. Philadelphia: the Westminster Press. 166 4th ed. p.170+
  67. ^ Israel Finkelstein, Neil Asher Silberman (2002). The Bible Unearthed. p 63. ISBN 0-7432-2338-1
  68. ^ Israel Finkelstein, Neil Asher Silberman (2002). The Bible Unearthed, p. 70.
  69. ^ a b Yehezkal Kaufmann 1960 The Religion of Israel: From its beginnings to the Babylonian Exile trans. and Abridged by Moshe Greenberg. New York: Schocken Books 174-175.
  70. ^ "Etched in Stone: The Emergence of the Decalogue" PDF (99.8 KB), The Chronicle, Hebrew Union College - Jewish Institute of Religion, Issue 68, 2006, p. 42. "a critical survey of biblical literature demonstrates no cognizance of the ten commandments prior to the post-exilic period (after 586 B.C.E.)"
  71. ^ Exodus 34:28
  72. ^ Exodus 34:11–27
  73. ^ The New Oxford Annotated Bible with the Apocrypha. Augmented Third Edition, New Revised Standard Version, 2007
  74. ^ The Hebrew Bible: A Brief Socio-Literary Introduction. Norman Gottwald, 2008
  75. ^ Dictionary of the Old Testament: Pentateuch. T. Desmond Alexander and David Weston Baker, 2003
  76. ^ Commentary on the Torah. Richard Elliott Friedman, 2003
  77. ^ Friedman, Richard Elliott The Bible with Sources Revealed 2003 p 7
  78. ^ Friedman, Richard Elliott The Bible with Sources Revealed 2003 page 153
  79. ^ Friedman, Richard Elliott "The Bible with Sources Revealed 2003 page 177
  80. ^ Friedman, Richard Elliott The Bible with Sources Revealed 2003 page 179
  81. ^ Friedman, Richard Elliott "Who Wrote The Bible?" 1987 pp 73-4
  82. ^ MPR: The Ten Commandments: Religious or historical symbol?
  83. ^ The Ten (2007) - IMDb

Further reading

External links