The Irrelevant Wisdom of the Ten Commandments

Ten CommandmentsFew Christians can list the Ten Commandments in order, but almost all are familiar with them:

  1. Have no other gods before me
  2. No graven images
  3. Don’t take the Lord’s name in vain
  4. Keep the Sabbath day
  5. Honor your mother and father
  6. Don’t kill
  7. No adultery
  8. Don’t steal
  9. Don’t lie
  10. Don’t covet

These are the well-known Ten Commandments from Exodus 20. What could be ambiguous about this list? Stay tuned as we run through the story.

It takes 11 more chapters for God to finish giving all his secondary commandments, first rules for how the people should conduct themselves and then rules for the temple and priests.

After weeks of waiting for Moses to return from Mt. Sinai, the anxious Israelites make a golden calf in chapter 32. Moses is furious when he returns. He smashes the tablets, has the calf ground up and force-fed to the faithless people, and orders the Levites to slaughter thousands of their fellow tribesmen.

Then follows an indeterminate amount of time during which God descended on Moses’ tent as a pillar of smoke and “the LORD used to speak to Moses face to face, just as a man speaks to his friend.”

As a side note, it’s interesting that this appearance of God to Moses (Ex. 33:11) as well as that to Abraham (Gen. 18:1–2) is denied in other parts of the Bible. We’re later told, “No one has seen God at any time” (John 1:18) and “No man has seen or can see [God]” (1 Tim. 6:16).

Back to our story: Moses goes up Sinai a second time in Exodus 34. God says, “I will write on the tablets the words that were on the former tablets which you shattered,” so we know that this nothing new, just a replacement set of commandments. But the contents are very different:

  1. Make no covenant with the Canaanite tribes
  2. Destroy their altars
  3. Make no idols (“molten gods”)
  4. Observe the Feast of Unleavened Bread
  5. “The first offspring from every womb belongs to me”
  6. Rest on the seventh day
  7. Celebrate the Feast of Weeks
  8. No leavened bread during Passover
  9. Bring the first fruits of the soil to the Lord
  10. “You shall not boil a young goat in its mother’s milk”

The chapter ends with these words: “And [Moses] wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant, the Ten Commandments.” This is the first time this label is used in the Bible.

You want to display the Ten Commandments in public? Go for it, but put up this list. It’s the official list, after all. These are the ten that wound up in the Ark of the Covenant.

Contrast this with the story of the first tablets, which concludes at the end of chapter 31, “[God] gave Moses the two tablets of the testimony, tablets of stone, written by the finger of God.” There is no mention of a “ten commandments,” and these stone tablets presumably contain all of the rules given in chapters 20 through 31.

Another detour: chapter 34 has this savage claim, “[God] will by no means leave the guilty unpunished, visiting the iniquity of fathers on the children and on the grandchildren to the third and fourth generations” (Ex. 34:7). And yet, three books later, we get this contradiction: “Fathers shall not be put to death for their children, nor children put to death for their fathers; each is to die for his own sin” (Deut. 24:16).

I’ve heard this rationalized this way: Deut. 24 is talking about what man must do. Man needs to treat people fairly and punish only the wrongdoers. Ex. 34 is talking about what God will do. God has a long memory and will hold a grudge against you to punish your descendants. It’s odd that Christians would imagine that God does something that is clearly immoral in our eyes. Anyway, God figures it out later: “The one who sins is the one who will die” (Ezekiel 18:4).

Speaking of punishments, the Ten Commandments list crimes without giving punishments. For you traditionalists who like the “thou shalt not” set of commandments, Positive Atheism has handy list of the corresponding punishments. God has a pretty limited imagination, and you can guess what they are: “He who sacrifices to any god, other than to the LORD alone, shall be utterly destroyed” (Ex. 22:20), “the one who blasphemes the name of the LORD shall surely be put to death” (Lev. 24:16), and so on.

Display the Ten Commandments in public, just put up the correct ten. Let’s finally put a stop to the abomination that is young goat cooked in goat milk.

Say what you will about the Ten Commandments, 
you must always come back to the pleasant fact 
that there are only ten of them. 
— H. L. Mencken

(This is an update of a post that originally appeared 3/19/12.)

Photo credit: Wikimedia

 

About Bob Seidensticker
  • Y. A. Warren

    I’d like to boil own the whole bible of “creation, death and resurrection/rebirth stories” to two commandments: Support mutually supportive life in each other and on earth, and give those who harm the vulnerable two choices: death by drowning or by suicide.

    I prefer things to be simple, when simplicity does the trick.

    • Greg G.

      I choose suicide by natural causes.

      • Y. A. Warren

        What is “suicide by natural causes?”

        • Greg G.

          Nobody wants to die and nobody wants to get old, but given the options, most of us would prefer to do both. Causing one’s own death is a matter of choosing a cause of death. The method I would choose is to have old age take its toll on my body. It’s the simplest method and “simplicity does the trick”.

        • wtfwjtd

          …so in this case, simplest may not necessarily be painless.

        • Greg G.

          That thought makes me appreciate Kenny Rogers’ The Gambler.

        • wtfwjtd

          Exactly! I think that’s how most of us imagine it, but precious few actually get it.

        • Greg G.

          I hate the thought of my wife waking up next to a corpse.

          Maybe it would be better to be shot when I’m 120 by the jealous husband of a woman 102 years younger than me… but only if I deserve it.

        • kraut2

          Actually – after sixty hobbies become more important than sex. Luckily both my wife and I like fishing…can be better than sex.

        • Greg G.

          Luckily both my wife and I like fishing…can be better than sex.

          Really? What do you use for bait?

        • kraut2

          For sex or for fishing?

        • Y. A. Warren

          If you harmed my child (not that I’m saying you would) I would not give you the option of dying peacefully in an unassisted manner. Do you think child molesters should have that option?

        • Greg G.

          I think the death penalty has no place in a modern civilization. I believe I have a greater chance of being executed for a crime I did not commit than I do for something I was guilty of, unless removing mattress tags becomes a capital offense.

        • Y. A. Warren

          I agree. This is why I propose suicide as an alternative.

        • Kodie

          You have to unless you’re a vigilante.

        • Y. A. Warren

          At this point in my life, I’d be happy to die defending my grandchildren. I’d also kill to stop those who threaten or do harm to them, happy to commit suicide or be killed by law “enforcement” officers.

        • Kodie

          Would you be happy if all of society dished out its justice like you would? I’m sorry but I don’t think you have thought this through.

        • Pofarmer

          If you’ve read much of Y.A. Warren, he indicated at one point he had been abused by a Catholic Priest as a child. I don’t agree with much of his theology, but I’ll happily cut him some slack here.

        • Kodie

          That’s why people get therapy, so they don’t plot out just how they’ll snap later.

        • MNb

          Yes. I’m a utilitarian and making child molesters die unpeacefully does not improve things anyway. Let them die peacefully in prison.

        • Y. A. Warren

          They are often acquitted and are very seldom sentenced to life in prison or the death penalty, so they go on to harm more children. This is not justice.

        • Kodie

          I think you have a warped ideal of justice. It’s not just what you think it is, it’s what society agrees it is. If you would be happy living in a society where people are free to exact violence against anyone they feel has done something wrong to them, or even just alleged child molesters, then that’s not a peaceful society. Your attitudes about what’s “sacred” may have colored this in for you – if it’s not “sacred” then it’s vile, then you can kill it. It’s not just up to you. We have to live here in a world with nutty you and your nutty violent ideas and that’s not peaceful or free or “sacred”. If it’s good enough for you, then it’s good enough for everyone to decide, to judge, and to dispense whatever justice they see fit, and obliterate things that don’t fit into their idyllic vision and sacred whatever.

          I know you’re just being protective like an animal, but that doesn’t make your reaction the right way.

        • MNb

          Unsubstantiated BS.

        • kraut2

          Do you do that only if you catch someone in the act or also on hearsay?
          You are pretty loose with your vigilantism. And I am for one would be happy to to throw the book at anybody who thinks that vigilantism is an acceptable practice and anybody is above the law. If you kill in self defense or preventing an act of violence – that is one thing, but also another thing is the use of reasonable force. And that is where guys like you get into hot water easily..

        • Y. A. Warren

          If you take a child’s innocence, you have killed a part of that child. As one who has been molested as a child, I would gladly kill, and be put to death, rather than see someone do the same to my child or grandchild.

        • Kodie

          So anytime you take something from a child, something has to be taken from a society handling problems maturely? I’m sorry that happened to you, but your idea of justice is warped! You almost seem to have the wishful thinking that something bad could happen so you could permit yourself to transfer your pain onto another person with the violence you feel from victimization. Child molesters are disgusting people, but your immediate reaction to go straight to violence, straight to ending your own life to protect a child – who has hypothetically already been violated, by the way – doesn’t fix anything and only makes society worse.

          What you are doing is saying what you want to do. What you are ignoring is that if it were the way justice were handled in society, people could individually decide what disgusts them, and do the judging and sentencing themselves – not a good model for a free and peaceful society in general. You have tunnel vision over your own reaction to one single crime, but you clearly haven’t pondered what a society with lots of people like you would be like to live in, for your children and grandchildren, if no one else!

          With that said, I think what’s most disgusting about humans and religious people, to me, is the attitude that each person selects a few other persons to care about and everyone else can go fuck themselves for all they care, and you are definitely exposing yourself as being a selfish human, and not the compassionate type you like people to know you as. If you don’t care what else happens to society if you could just bash the shit out of one offender who assaulted your select few, then you are not a person I would admire, nor do I think you’re a positive example to those people you say you care about. I don’t want you dead for that, but people like you are the kind of people who destroy my optimism for humanity.

        • Y. A. Warren

          I did not say that I want to harm those who harmed me, but I would and have stood between those who attempted to harm other children and the children, not all related to me, BTW.

          It is my opinion that no child should be unwanted and/or unprotected from predators.

          You seem to track me in order to insult me. If you have respectful questions, why don’t you ask them instead of making huge leaps of opinion about me?

        • Kodie

          I get email notifications every time someone in this thread comments. If you don’t want people to respond to you, don’t say things that they might have something to say about. Your opinions and your actions respondent to them are two different things. There is nothing wrong with wanting to protect children from predators – taking them out yourself is pointless and makes for a dangerous society. You still are taking this personally about you and haven’t once said how you would feel if all of society served justice like you would. Lots of people have personal experiences, and personal opinions about things they would protect against with violence – the question at the moment that you keep ignoring is:

          Is it ok for everyone to develop a personal code of justice to act upon wherever they are offended, or just you?

        • Y. A. Warren

          I am a fan of what Jesus supposedly said, “If a person harms a child, it would be better for him to have a millstone tied around his neck and to be thrown into the sea.”

          The innocent and vulnerable are special cases that need extremes to protect them.

        • Kodie

          I don’t agree with your methods, and I still think everyone can think of special cases in their own opinion. What works for society is not reacting violently to something that has already happened. If a person supposedly has harmed a child, you agree with a character named Jesus who said, let’s just exterminate these. I don’t agree, I don’t think that’s how you solve problems.

          To put this on another situation, a lot of people came out to say, like, after a school shooting, that these shooters are just disgusting and horrible and ought to die, and nobody name their names and make them famous. To me, that’s not how you solve a social problem – to sit in judgment of people after the fact and point fingers hypocritically. Whatever makes people sick enough to do that is quiet enough for people to ignore all the while and only helplessly pounce on them afterwards to make up for their guilt of ignoring it before it happened.

          Like I said, it’s almost like people want bad things to happen so they can dispense judgment and justice the harsh way than care for another human before a crisis actually happens. How does this protect “innocent” children? It helps them grow up “innocent” and I don’t mean that in a good way. Innocence is the pointing of fingers at the guilty, the self-righteous labeling oneself “I didn’t do it” so they can point the finger at someone with a gun or a dick or whatever, the “one” who harmed the child. How is it protecting children to assault their perpetrators after the fact, so you can claim innocence and teach them to ignore what’s going on around them?

          Christianity means “to be judgmental”. Ultimately, people want there to be a god who does things to the people we decide deserve to be punished. Preventing all crimes seems a little bit unfeasible, but people act like it’s totally impossible, and would-be perpetrators quietly seethe in poison until they act. We’re not a helpful society that looks out for one another. We reject people who need help, and let them work out their own toxic coping mechanisms. These children are only innocent because they don’t know anything, but you do.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          I’m sympathetic to your views about standing up for children, but I don’t think Jesus is on the same page here. He’s only talking about people leading children astray theologically.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          The difference may be “killing to protect a child” vs. “getting revenge on someone after he hurt a child.” Maybe both ideas are in play here. Clarify?

        • Y. A. Warren

          I believe that protecting the trust and hope in children for as long as possible is the hope for a more humane world.

          I admit to a visceral reaction to the subject of crimes against children because they program the brain while it is most malleable. When you take the sense of safety from a child, you have destroyed part of that child’s belief in the goodness of humanity. To permanently take away your ability to take this spark from another child is not, in my worldview, revenge; it is restitution and justice. I vote for “millstones tied around their necks and thrown into the sea.”

        • MNb

          You don’t do that by killing off pedofiles.

        • Y. A. Warren

          No? How do you propose protecting children from repeat offender pedophiles?

        • Kodie

          Prevent them from offending in the first place – how do we do that? By giving them access to children with their innocence and trust and vulnerability preserved? No.

          Those are their favorite victims. We need to teach children what they might encounter and what to do about it when they do. Pedophiles hone in on the child who is not expecting them and work through their innocence and trust not to report them, “let this be our secret”. The adult knows this is wrong, and gains the child’s trust because they are innocent and trusting. They cannot gain a child’s trust if the child has been warned.

          Continue to stigmatize mental illness?

          No. Help people before they can act on their impulses and give them a safe place to work through their issues without harming anyone. If you heard of a person who wanted to have sex with children, would you automatically kill them to prevent their first instance, or would you think that person is themselves a victim of bad thoughts? It is really difficult but upon the rest of us, because people act badly and make poor choices when they are rejected when they ask for help.

          You seem to take a crime after it happens and judge the perpetrator as a complete and utter waste of humanity. What were they before they did that? You want people to think you are a compassionate person in a wild world of selfish people, protecting yourself against the world by surrounding yourself with goodness, but if you think a pedophile is “simply evil” and nothing else, you’re solving a symptom and not the problem.

          “Justice” by punishing people after the fact is a fantasy. We make the world they can commit crimes in, and then you want them to take all the blame and just exterminate them. “Justice” is the fantasy that makes people sure there’s a heaven and a hell that will sort people eventually, because you and I have no absolute control, and it’s the same fantasy that makes you think it’s ok to just kill people who do things you think are bad, and live yourself blameless for helping create a society where people can succeed in hurting others. By focusing on the preservation of innocence, you are helping the pedophiles.

        • Y. A. Warren

          How do you propose to teach an infant how to protect him/herself from a pedophile?

        • Kodie

          So that’s your strategy?

        • Y. A. Warren

          I ask again: How do you propose to teach an infant how to protect him/herself from a pedophile?

        • Kodie

          How do you propose to protect an infant from a pedophile by killing them afterwards?

        • Y. A. Warren

          Dead people can’t commit pedophilia again.

        • Kodie

          That doesn’t mean there won’t be other pedophiles. Does it restore anyone’s innocence for you to martyr yourself or exterminate someone who has wronged you? And I asked before, is this a workable solution in our society, or just a fantasy you haven’t worked through in therapy?

        • Y. A. Warren

          There will be one less known pedophile.

          Though I am not a “Christian,” I am familiar with their Bible. i am particularly fond of the examples in the stories of Jesus. (It matters not to me whether Jesus was actually a man or a myth.) I do believe that the Jesus of the New Testament is about exemplifying justice in humanity.

          The two stories, attributed to Jesus, that I most quote are:

          Matthew 18:6 (American Standard Version)
          6 But whoso shall cause one of these little ones that believe on me to stumble, it is profitable for him that a great millstone should be hanged about his neck, and [that] he should be sunk in the depth of the sea.

          Matthew 18:15-18 RSV
          “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”

        • Kodie

          Sorry, that sounds like sanctimonious bullshit. You read the bible without any critical analysis. “That sounds about right” and move on, you know right from wrong and give yourself a license to kill straight from biblical “instruction”. You sound just like a Christian would – if it’s in the bible, it must be sound.

        • Y. A. Warren

          I ask you questions that you don’t seem to get around to answering.

        • Kodie

          Like how is your plan supposed to work in society? Or is it just an exception for you? You never answered that, so I don’t see where you moving the goalpost to “infants” is any different than a pro-lifer trying to get a win for their team by only focusing on late-term abortions. Sorry, your assessment and solution is “simple” but too simple. You’re a judgmental person with violence and vigilantism and you get your permission from the bible. I see you’re going to dig in your heels with this and not listen to anyone else or answer anyone’s good questions either. You have a simplistic fantasy solution to a symptom, not the causes, just like religious people want for hell and god’s judgment, and want to live blameless for providing a society where criminals are encouraged and allowed to succeed.

          As for your attitude in covering for the religious need for comfort and the child’s preservation of perfection and innocence, you are naive, and not half as compassionate as you like to think you are. You just live in a world where fantasies you like are true or can be true if people would just stop being like they are and be more like you – in the dictionary, that’s called sanctimony.

        • Kodie

          I might also add that you and I live in a world where a sizable portion of the population believes that gay man equals pedophile, and you have previously weighed in against reforming them of their naive, uneducated, and comforting notions.

        • Y. A. Warren

          I am not responsible for the opinions of “a sizable portion of the population.”

          “you have previously weighed in against reforming them of their naive, uneducated, and comforting notions.” When did I weigh in on this?

          I have a son and some of my best male friends are gay.

        • Kodie

          You put up a fuss about protecting innocent Christians who need their security blanket, like, all the time. You are responsible for giving them shelter from valid criticism because it’s “too harsh” and their comfort is more important to you.

        • Kodie

          More to the point, you say you are not responsible for what they think, but if they have permission from the same bible that you take permission from, of course they will kill gay people to prevent the abuse of children. You are not responsible for setting an example? They are only trying to protect children from abuse, who cares if they’re mixed up. That’s the society you seem to be in favor of.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Prison and making ex-sex offenders known within their neighborhoods? The status quo ain’t flawless, but it seems to do a good job balancing the rights of felons and other citizens.

        • Kodie

          My trust and hope was protected and preserved for a long time, and I think that’s why I’m such a dysfunctional adult. I refused to give up for a long time, and it just kept wearing me down. The world is not like I hoped or expected or would like it to be – at all, and I was ill-prepared. Of course I don’t think children should be abused, but I don’t think “innocence” is something that is a terrific value to have. Innocence is ignorance and obliviousness, and the world will crush them eventually, if not through abuse, then just how people really are, once they find out. If you can’t navigate in the real world, you’re dead or you’ll wish you were. It’s as good as religion, raising children to believe in a fantasy because of some ideal you hold as “innocence”. Innocence is not beautiful to me.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Clint Eastwood’s movie Gran Torino had sort of a reverse-vigilante thing going on. Nice ending, I thought.

        • kraut2

          “I would choose is to have old age take its toll on my body.”

          I hope your wish does not come true to the extend that before it really starts to hurt you die. I am 65, and every month something new starts to hurt that you even didn’t know it could.

      • RichardSRussell

        There’s a story (probably apocryphal) about one of those stock interviews some reporter did with an old coot turning 100, and it had all the standard stuff: “To what do you attribute your long life?”, “What changes have impressed you most?”, etc. The newly minted centenarian was pretty forthcoming, so toward the end of the interview the reporter figured he might not mind a kind of uncomfortable question: “Feel free not to answer if you don’t want, but at your age you must have given a fair amount of thot to the subject of death. Any idea how you’d like to go?”

        “Yup,” said the old gent, with a twinkle in his eye. “I’d like to be shot by a jealous husband.”

        • Greg G.

          Bob may be on to something when he said great minds think alike. Or is it groupthink. I used a version of that earlier.

          Another interviewer asked a codger at what age a man loses interest in sex.

          The old guy says, “I don’t know yet.”

        • kraut2

          The old guy says, “I don’t know yet.”

          Don’t get your hopes up.

  • Jason

    I just reread Exodus yesterday. Thanks for the post. My favorite part is after Moses comes down the mountain and finds his people worshiping the golden calf. As punishment, he instructs all the Levites to run through the camp killing people: “The sons of Levi did as Moses commanded, and about three thousand of the people fell that day.” Interestingly, “Don’t kill” didn’t make the second list.

  • RichardSRussell

    Mark Twain had a brief essay on the Ten Commandments:
    http://www.ratbags.com/rsoles/comment/twain03.htm

    Not one of his better efforts, IMHO, but he gets quickly to the one commandment that everybody remembers.

    • Pofarmer

      I’m reading Christian Science right now in fits and starts. Hilarious, but it’s such a soft target.

    • wtfwjtd

      That MT essay reminds me of another MT short story, I believe it was entitled “The Mysterious Stranger”. I’ve gotta say there were many things that Twain wrote that I am mighty impressed with, but many times when he discusses the topic of morality he sounds rather amateurish and ordinary, I’m sorry to say.

      • RichardSRussell

        The Mysterious Stranger is particularly unsatisfying, because Twain took 3-4 runs at it (it was supposed to be a novel) over the course of 15-20 years, but he was never able to get a version to work out to his liking, and none of them have what you’d call a decent conclusion.

        A mysterious stranger also shows up in his short story “The War Prayer”, which is available free on line (public domain, you know) and is a pretty damn powerful read for a 5-minute investment of your time.

        • wtfwjtd

          Thanks for the link Richard, that’s a much better Twain read for sure. To get a sense of how he changed over the years, A Connecticut Yankee is a good read. What starts off as a light-hearted farce eventually ends in a dark and rather complicated way. This mirrored some tragic events that occured over the same period in Twain’s personal life, and is a very poignant reminder of how life’s experiences have a forceful impact on our own outlook on life.

  • natsera

    Whassamatta, you want a set of myths, told by different people, written down by other different people, over a long span of time, to be authoritative or something? There are theoretically 613 commandments, better thought of as laws, which were formulated, by, guess what, people in charge of the government, and their opinions did surely vary! But I guess I’m not going to murder anyone today (the correct Hebrew meaning of that commandment is murder, not kill), and I sorta think pretty much most mentally sound people in the world won’t, either. LOL!!

  • wtfwjtd

    Why the Christian fetish for cluttering up public property with that first list? Do they really imagine that our society is going to start prosecuting people for blasphemy and thought crimes?
    Also, since Christians are really hung up on that first list as “God’s laws”, why don’t they advocate God’s punishment for violations? (If you haven’t figured it out, it’s pretty much death for anything on the list.) We all know that “A law without punishment is merely advice.”

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      Seen correctly, a public display of the Ten Commandments should be embarrassing to the Christian. They can preach or hand out leaflets about the Ten Commandments all they want thanks to the U.S. Constitution, with which the Ten Commandments conflicts. The Constitution allows their silly superstition (and all the others). Only in their own minds does the 10 C’s form the foundation.

      • Kodie

        When they are forced to take it down and make a stink about it, they are violating the first one. If god is real, there should be nothing to fear, should there? If they’re doing the things they should, they’re safe, right? If I understand the “graven images” or “idols” commandment correctly, god is not the thing and god cannot be destroyed by the absence or destruction of a thing, nor the relationship one claims to have with him, be that a cross or a bible or a church, or any blasphemy or ignorance or denial by anyone else.

        These people are pawns and nothing else. The issue is manufactured to set one side against another. They want to mark their territory (that isn’t theirs) and undermine the government’s power against anyone who disagrees with their religion. They’re already the majority of US citizens, what are they threatened by? The smallest little voice of someone who dares to say they don’t believe in god or that, as established by the 1st amendment, we all deserve freedom, even them, but they can’t take mine for themselves.

        They put a lot of energy into the petty issue of stealing my freedom, but then you hear a bunch of people say “let them be”, it’s just a cross or a plaque, why be petty also. They have their freedom and they’re taking mine, that’s not petty to me. If they actually followed the commandments, they wouldn’t covet my freedom, and they wouldn’t lie to take it. While they are at it, they are ignoring the first one, they are spending energy on politics over their god, not because of him. I think god, if he’s real, ought to be a big boy and handle these issue without them, but they are pawns of the church, and the church isn’t about being good commandment-followers, it’s about making money for nothing.

        The more people they can fool into acting on that project, the more they can get more people to the church and to tithe to keep the church in its lucrative business, but these people think they belong to the “good fight” against government and busybodies trying to outlaw religion and make them have to hide in underground Christian lairs where they’re not free to have personal thoughts and relationships about and with the imaginary character of their choice. If it were anyone but god, they might be considered dangerous for having these thoughts, and they might be examined by a doctor and locked up in a padded room in a jacket with sleeves that tie in the back. Maybe that’s what they are paranoid about.

    • smrnda

      What I also don’t get is that churches get all this tax-exempt land of their own – why can’t they put their monuments up on that, instead of on government property?

      • wtfwjtd

        I guess it’s like the small children you see on some of those “funny home video” shows. They only throw a tantrum when the camera is rolling; and,when no one’s looking, they move to where they can be seen. No one really gives a rat’s arse if Christians put up their idols on their own property, so they raise a stink and get push-back by trying to force a government endorsement of their religion. Plus, they get a double-bonus because being denied a privileged place on government property means they can bleat about being “persecuted” by all those filthy atheists.

    • guest

      It’s only American Christians. Probably because of the American culture of showing-off and shouting about everything.

  • Pofarmer

    What I wanna know, is why it took a month, or whatever, for God to write on the tablets with his own hand? Maybe he was dictating to Moses with the Chisel? Maybe the whole thing is made up? I’m always bewildered how you could lose something so powerful and important as the Ark of the Covenant. It’s kind of like Paul talks about Jesus, “Way back when when we had the Ark of the Covenant, man, we were really something.”

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      Hey, c’mon–God’s only human.

      • Pofarmer

        Hey Bob. There’s a series on the spirituality channel called ” the mind the brain and God that might be up your ally.

    • Ron

      The text says: “Moses was there with the Lord forty days and forty nights without eating bread or drinking water.”

      Perhaps Moses kept conking out from dehydration.

      Or perhaps Moses was filled with other spirits:

      “When Aaron and all the Israelites saw Moses, his face was radiant, and they were afraid to come near him.” (Ex 34:30, NIV)

      Wink wink, nudge nudge, say no more!

      • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

        The text says: “Moses was there with the Lord forty days and forty nights
        without eating bread or drinking water.”

        Don’t forget that they hadn’t invented Porta-potties yet. You wouldn’t want Mo to go whizzing on holy ground.

  • Castilliano

    What I’ve found works pretty well is to compare the standard 10 to patriotic standards and the U.S. Constitution.

    Have no other gods before me
    —Unconstitutional, we’re a melting pot

    No graven images
    —Unconstitutional

    Don’t take the Lord’s name in vain
    —Unconstitutional, freedom of speech

    Keep the Sabbath day
    —No mention, perhaps unconstitutional (and rejected by Jesus)

    Honor your mother and father
    —No mention (and rejected by Jesus’ commands)

    Don’t kill
    —Universal law, right to self-defense or to bear arms? (and performed by dozens of OT figures)
    (Variant of “Don’t Murder” still performed by many OT figures.)

    No adultery
    —No mention, legal in a majority of states, unenforced in rest

    Don’t steal
    —Universal law

    Don’t lie
    —Universal ethic, law only covers specific infractions

    Don’t covet
    —Coveting is ingrained in the notion of capitalism

    So two and a half commandments made it into the Constitution, one more is unenforced in the states that do have such a law, so about 1/3 at most.
    Of course, I’ve never had to actually go through them all because the first ones are so blatantly un-American that they’ve conceded at the get-go.

    It really amazes me how many Christians, the very ones looking at these rules as they put them up, cannot see this disconnect. Faith blinds.
    Cheers.

    • wtfwjtd

      Whoa there buddy, are you suggesting that the United States isn’t a Christian Nation(TM)? I mean, that’s a viewpoint that…it’s…well, it makes perfect sense, come to think of it!

    • Ron

      Speaking of disconnect, it can’t get any more disconnected than a group of Christians praying for economic recovery while standing around the Wall St. Bull.

      • smrnda

        It’s something when a group of people can be so un-self-aware.

    • https://www.youtube.com/user/damekellen/ Dame Kellen

      I can’t speak for all of xtianity, but I’m pretty sure this is why the Roman Catholic Church(TM) has confession. (Sorry, “The Sacrament of Reconciliation.”) You know, where you sit in a closet and tell a man behind a screen that you’re really, really sorry for what you did? That helps smooth the whole thing over.

      • Pofarmer

        The RCC has confession because it’s one more lever of control.

    • Kodie

      Re: Sabbath – it used to be everything was closed on Sundays. I’m not necessarily sure that was adherence to a law or because shop-owners were also Christian and following their commandment or preferred one day off work – a day when a lot of people have time to do leisurely shopping. I do know they softened and eventually did away with the blue laws* in NY and MA (the only two states where I’ve lived). In NY where I lived in 2003 or so, they finally allowed liquor stores to be open on Sundays IF they closed another day of the week, and since then, they are open 7 days (if the store-owner wishes). I’m not sure when it also changed in Massachusetts, but within a similar time frame. At the time they allowed a liquor store to be open on Sunday if they closed a different day, it was still difficult to find one open on Sunday- I was tasked with scouring the yellow pages** to find one to pick up a couple bottles for an event we were hosting, and the only one I found was in a bad section, where you have to ask the counterperson to fetch what you want instead of choose it from the shelf and bring it to the register.

      *A kind of nutty aversion to catering to vice on the lord’s day.
      **Business listings in the phone book***
      ***Where we used to have to look up phone numbers.

      • Castilliano

        Yeah, knowing of some of those laws I put “perhaps” in.
        My family had a vacation in New Mexico with us coming from all over. Planes land, trip to store, cart of alcohol (and food :P), followed by remorseful look from cashier. “Umm…” It was Sunday. We were all baffled, though I kind of chuckled because I don’t drink.

        I believe there have been areas with laws against working on Sundays, some leaving only necessary jobs untouched like police, hospitals, etc. The few I knew of have been declared unconstitutional, and my memories are coming from decades back. [So, yes, I know what yellow pages are. :)]
        I vaguely recall a story where the Christians were going to obey the Sabbath anyway. Then backtracked when they saw how successful their rivals were doing. Imagine that.
        I run into local businesses with Sundays off, and people too, but the majority of my Christian friends whose employers are open on Sundays do work Sundays. “Jesus did.”
        There was one case I didn’t follow up on where a non-Christian running a restaurant wanted to serve alcohol on Sundays and the odds were in his favor in court.

        For amusement I like to ask, “What day do pastors work?”
        “What day are pastors not supposed to work?”
        (This is one reason I respect the organic church movement more than most other denominations.)
        Cheers.

  • kraut2

    If the first transcript was destroyed – how come we know of it? And if we know of it and somebody had remembered – why was a second different version necessary?
    They could have just rewritten the first one??????

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      You may already know this, but this brings to mind the Documentary Hypothesis, an interpretation that makes sense of the many duplicate stories in the Bible–two creation stories, two Flood stories, two Goliath stories, and two Ten Commandments stories.

      The second set was (not surprisingly) from the Priestly source since it talks more about niceties that would matter more to priests. This was the last of the four sources.

      • kraut2

        I am aware of the different narratives combined later on, but I always find funny the reality of often incongruous and contradictory versions and the twisted attempts by literalists to shoehorn that into the one version of the true word of god…which true one?

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Bob Price hypothesizes that when you have two similar stories, each with their partisans, a compiler couldn’t afford to annoy either group. Solution: take ’em both.

        • Pofarmer

          Maybe the guys compiling were scribes from different tribes and good drinking buddies. “Aw hell, Joe, let’s just put em all in and they can pick the one they like.”

        • Greg G.

          I thought there was something about the priests being required to read the texts aloud to the people every seven years. There would be some parts remembered well while others would sound new each time. By melding the texts, they could get away with some redactions. As long as each person heard their favorite line, everyone felt fulfilled with the new insights, as they had every other time they heard it.

          I always enjoyed watching the Naked Gun movies as it seemed no matter how many times I had seen one, I always caught a new visual gag or two in the background. Having the fledging parts of the Bible read to you would be like that. They didn’t get a great deal of entertainment.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Didn’t take much to entertain the folks back then, I guess.

        • Greg G.

          That was their passive entertainment. Their active entertainment would have been stonings.

        • wtfwjtd

          From the Life of Brian, when Brian and his mother are listening to the Messiah giving the Beatitudes: “Come on son, let’s go. I want to go see a stoning”. Brian: “Oh ma, you can see a stoning any old time.”

  • Greg G.

    What is the chapter and verse where Moses comes down from the mountain and says the following?

    ” I have good news and bad news. I talked him down to ten but adultery is still in it.”

  • https://www.youtube.com/user/damekellen/ Dame Kellen

    Number five of the new list, “The first offspring from every womb belongs to me,” is kind of creepy to me. You see, my Catholic parents named me “Elizabeth,” which means “Consecrated to god.” You guessed, I am the first born. (Not counting mom’s first miscarriage.) Shortly after realizing there was no god, I made the (completely independent) decision to legally change my name. It had nothing to do with the meaning of “Elizabeth” and everything to do with “Kellen” looking like a portmanteau of “Helen” and “Keller” (Helen Keller was my hero when I was a young child). There’s just an irrational part of my brain that doesn’t want all this to be a coincidence.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      Helen Keller got into some extreme politics in her later life, didn’t she?

      But that’s a cool name. I’m more boring than you.

  • RichardSRussell

    Back when I was a history major, I was privileged to see a draft copy of the 10 Commandments, with pencilled notations in God’s own handwriting in the margins. Seems the Big Guy was undecided until the very last moment whether to go with “Thou shalt treat women and dark-skinned people as equals.” but finally decided to devote that particular slot to the vexatious and insidious problem of graven images.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      Wow–you’re even older than I thought!!

      The story that I heard was that he was wrestling with “Thou shalt not enslave people or commit genocide” and decided to pitch that in favor of “Don’t covet.”

      • Greg G.

        Wasn’t Richard a Jehovah’s Eye Witness?

      • JT Rager

        I still think that one that said “Don’t fucking rape people” was a pretty decent one.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Yeah–too bad that one got cut in the final edit.

  • Bruno

    You might want to check your facts before posting. The 10 commandments are listed in Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5.

    Exodus 34 does not list the 10 commandments. Here is the breakdown (I’ve listed the verse numbers beside the commandments):

    1. Make no covenant with the Canaanite tribes vs 12 & 15

    2. Destroy their altars v 13

    3. Do not worship any other God v 14

    4. Don’t make idols v 17

    5. Celebrate Festival of Unleavened Bread v1 8

    6. Redeem the firstborn vs 19-29

    7. Keep the Sabbath v 21

    8. Celebrate the Festival of Weeks v 22

    9. Men are to gather 3 times a year v 23-24

    10. Do not offer the blood of sacrifice with yeast v 25a

    11. Don’t keep the Passover sacrifice overnight v 25b

    12. Bring the firstfruits v 26

    13. Don’t cook a young goat in its mother’s milk v 27

    Furthermore, God wrote the 10 Commandments on the tablets see Exodus 34:1 and 28. Moses wrote these 13 commandments down by implication not on the tablets.

    • Greg G.

      Exodus34:28 He was there with the Lord forty days and forty nights; he neither ate bread nor drank water. And he wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant, the ten commandments.

      In verse 1, God says he will write on the tablets but he apparently uses Moses’ hands.

      Verse 28 says there are ten commandments. You must have miscounted or put in some separations that God didn’t intend.

      Exodus 20 refers to God as “the Lord they God” from the Hebrew “Yehovah Elohim”. Exodus 34 refers to God as “the Lord” or “Yehovah” in the Hebrew. That’s a sign of redaction of the stories of two groups.

      Check out 2 Kings 22 to learn how we got Deuteronomy. King Josiah ordered the priests to turn over all their money to some contractors to do renovations on the temple, but nobody was to ask for an accounting because the contractors were honest. (See, our country is founded on Judeo-Christian principles.)

      A worker finds something, supposedly written by Moses and missing for 600 years.

      Deuteronomy 12 tells them to destroy other altars and to only offer their sacrifices at one particular place, which is convenient for the priests at the temple. It allows for the people to slaughter animals, except first-borns, but they must share with any Levites.

      So, it ends up being a win-win for the contractors and the temple priests but a loss for the priests of altars that are more convenient for people.

      Everybody smells something fishy here but believers must put on God-goggles and spray some air freshener to say that it’s all hunky-dory.

      • Ron

        Sheesh! There you go again undermining someone’s carefully cultivated opinions with your facts and evidence. You’re such a big meanie.

      • Jason

        “Deuteronomy 12 tells them to destroy other altars and to only offer
        their sacrifices at one particular place, which is convenient for the
        priests at the temple.”

        There are a number of differences between the laws in Deut and Ex but this one is most revealing to me. When they “found” Deut as described in Kings, the kingdom of Israel in the north had already been destroyed. Prior to that, sacrifice could be offered from anywhere (as we see the patriarch’s doing in Genesis). Suddenly a new set of laws were discovered and the Jerusalem Temple, which just happens to be in the south (i.e. Judah), becomes the only place where one can appropriately sacrifice.

      • Pofarmer

        You keep blowing my mind.

        • Greg G.

          2 Kings 18:5 He[Hezekiah] trusted in the Lord the God of Israel; so that there was no one like him among all the kings of Judah after him, or among those who were before him.

          2 Kings 23:25 Before him[Josiah] there was no king like him, who turned to the Lord with all his heart, with all his soul, and with all his might, according to all the law of Moses; nor did any like him arise after him.

          They don’t say that about every king but how can they say it about more than one?

        • Castilliano

          Every king is a special flower, unique in Yahweh’s eyes. :)

        • TheNuszAbides

          er… one-of-an-A-kind and one-of-a-B-kind? i see egregious vagueness in the lack of detail (though Hezekiah appears to have not specifically accorded to All The Law), but no inherent contradiction.

      • Bruno

        In verse 1, God says he will write on the tablets but he apparently uses Moses’ hands.

        Read more carefully verse 1 God says he will write on tablets and verse 28 says he did which is confirmed in Deut 10:1-5

        At that time the Lord said to me, ‘Cut for yourself two tablets of stone like the first, and come up to me on the mountain and make an ark of wood. And I will write on the tablets the words that were on the first tablets that you broke, and you shall put them in the ark. ‘ So I made an ark of acacia wood, and cut two tablets of stone like the first, and went up the mountain with the two tablets in my hand. And he wrote on the tablets, in the same writing as before, the Ten Commandments that the Lord had spoken to you on the mountain out of the midst of the fire on the day of the assembly. And the Lord gave them to me.

        Verse 28 says there are ten commandments. You must have miscounted or put in some separations that God didn’t intend.

        Count them yourself.

        Check out 2 Kings 22 to learn how we got Deuteronomy… worker finds something, supposedly written by Moses and missing for 600 years.

        This view is common amongst liberal scholarship going back to the 18th and 19th centuries. One of the problems with this view is that the form of suzerainty-treaties went through six distinctly different phases from circa 2500 to circa 650. Deuteronomy follows the pattern of phase V dated 1400 – 1200 BC long before the time of Josiah and consistent with a Mosaic authorship.

        • Greg G.

          Thank you for the reply, Bruno.

          Either you have pointed out a direct contradiction with the discrepancy between Exodus 34:28 and Deuteronomy 10:1-5 or the Deuteronomist merely expurgated Moses’ role in the carving of the stone. Why would Moses have to hew out tablets anyway? Couldn’t God just zap perfect tablets into existence with the writing already there?

          I don’t dispute that there are more than ten suggestions in the passage, but the passage insists that there are ten. I had in mind the way Catholics divide the ten commandments from elsewhere vs the way Protestants divide the commandments of the same passage, as Bob pointed out in a nearby comment.

          Some scholars say that Exodus follows the Hittites’ suzerain model which was used by the Egyptians and the Assyrians, which would have been in effect right into Josiah’s reign. That isn’t relevant though. The Exodus writers didn’t have a model to go on and chose to use the suzerain model. The Deuteronomist had the Exodus model and used it. So any coincidence with a suzerain model is secondary. (I think I got all the auto-corrections of suzerain turning into Sumerian. If not, please make the substitution for me. I’m not used to this operating system.)

          Your model raises questions. How did the text get into the Temple that was built in Solomon’s era? Where was it before then? Why were there no other copies? If it had been smuggled in inside the Ark of the Covenant, how did it get there? Why wasn’t the person who found it zapped, like the guy who steadied it when a carrier stumbled? If it was a consecrated priest wearing his ephod, why would he look where no other priest had looked for 600 years? If Deuteronomy was meant to be an abrogation for the laws of Exodus and Leviticus, why were they maintained instead of Deuteronomy?

          Deuteronomy was just the excuse the priests of the temple needed to eliminate their competition. What a coincidence it was “found” then.

          The forgery of Deuteronomy is a more plausible scenario. The texts had been in flux for a few hundred years with mergings and redactions. The Babylonian exile solidified the texts as they were at that time, so any plans the temple priests may have envisioned were ended. The few revisions were additions with no apparent deletions, such as God’s promises to David that his seed would be on the throne forever.

        • Bruno

          On the original topic of the alleged 10 commandments of Exodus 34 see my responses to Bob.

          Your model raises questions. How did the text get into the Temple that was built in Solomon’s era? Where was it before then? Why were there no other copies?

          The history recounted in Kings is of monarch after monarch who led the people to idol worship. The text discovered had either been hidden or perhaps simply ignored because no one was interested.

          Deuteronomy was not abrogation of Exodus and Leviticus but rather “It is, rather, “an amplification and advancement of the covenant text first articulated to Moses and Israel at Sinai nearly forty years earlier.” see Deuteronomy and JEDP

          Liberal scholarship places the writing of the J strand as early as 950 bc, the E strand at 900–750 bc and the the P strand in the 5 century.

          On this basis it’s not clear how the Deuteronomist used the Exodus model to structure Deuteronomy according to the suzerain – treaty structure used in the period 1400-1200BC

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          So you are familiar with the Documentary Hypothesis. Good–there’s your explanation for the 2 conflicting versions of the 10 Cs.

        • Greg G.

          Hi Bruno,

          Thanks for the reply and for reminding me that the P story, and thus Leviticus, is later than Deuteronomy.

          Holding has an interesting piece on the chiasmus of Deuteronomy to argue that it is whole and intact as is.

          Deuteronomy 34:5-6,10 (NRSV)
          5 Then Moses, the servant of the Lord, died there in the land of Moab, at the Lord’s command. 6 He was buried in a valley in the land of Moab, opposite Beth-peor, but no one knows his burial place to this day.

          10 Never since has there arisen a prophet in Israel like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face.

          If the chiastic structure proves that Deuteronomy is a complete unit, verse 5 tells us Moses did not write it and verse 10 implies that it was written at a time late enough to make it worth mentioning.

          Holding asks:

          Why was it necessary to have Deuteronomy at all?

          The roots of the proto-J&E story would likely come from older tales, not popping up out of nowhere. After David’s kingdom was split, the proto-J&E stories would have diverged. When the Assyrians invaded during Hezekiah’s time, refugees froim the north would have come south. The priests wanted to accommodate each faction without alienating their own respective bases, so they worked together to meld and redact the two stories into a proto-Genesis-Exodus-Numbers story.

          After the refugee generation died off, there was no need for the cumbersome, contradictory proto-GeExNu. The time was ripe for reform by Josiah’s time.

          Holding takes up Meredith Kline’s argument that Deuteronomy has elements of Hittile suzerain treaties that are not in Assyrian suzerain treaties. Where the J and E fragments agree, it is most likely that the agreement comes from the proto-J&E story, but when they differ, it could be that either one of the two comes from proto-J&E, or that neither agree with proto-J&E. It seems to me that the differences that Kline argues that Deuteronomy did not come from an Assyrian suzerain model are elements that are found in the common parts of the J & E Ten Commandments stories. So while Kline may be right that it is not based on the suzerain treaties of Josiah’s time, it doesn’t follow that Deuteronomy is based directly on a suzerain treaty model, either.

          They probably would have gotten away with it if those pesky Babylonians hadn’t interfered. The priests still weren’t happy with the redacted J&E monstrosity so they penned the P story. By the time the exile ended, they considered all of them as important and melded and redacted them in an attempt to make them a coherent whole.

          2 Kings 18:5 He[Hezekiah] trusted in the Lord the God of Israel; so that there was no one like him among all the kings of Judah after him, or among those who were before him.

          2 Kings 23:25 Before him[Josiah] there was no king like him, who turned to the Lord with all his heart, with all his soul, and with all his might, according to all the law of Moses; nor did any like him arise after him.

          The Deuteronomy 34:10 flourish was quite popular and used loosely by Josiah’s contemporaries.

        • Bruno

          Hi Greg

          If the chiastic structure proves that Deuteronomy is a complete unit, verse 5 tells us Moses did not write it and verse 10 implies that it was written at a time late enough to make it worth mentioning.

          Verses 5 & 10 are later editorial inserts/updates for the benefit of a later generation quite a common practice in ANE literature. These verses do not negate original Mosaic authorship.

          As you say the chiastic structure argues for the unity of Deuteronomy. This fact along with the structure of the phase V suzerainty treaty as noted by the Egyptologist Kenneth Kitchen dates Deuteronomy specifically to 1400-1200 BC. This in turn strengthens the case for Mosaic authorship with some later editorial updates.

        • Greg G.

          On the original topic of the alleged 10 commandments of Exodus 34 see my responses to Bob.

          See Different Versions of the Ten Commandments

          Catholic vs. Protestant Commandments for how the Ten to Twenty Commandments can be divided. The OT does not clearly define them, it only says there are ten.

          Even Jesus took three swings and struck out:

          Matthew 19:18 He said to him, “Which?” And Jesus said, “You shall not kill, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness, 19 Honor your father and mother, and, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

          Mark 10:19 You know the commandments: ‘Do not kill, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.'”

          Luke 18:20 You know the commandments: ‘Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Honor your father and mother.'”

          He names only five but Mark has him adding “Do not defraud” which was dropped by Luke and Matthew, while Matthew has him adding Leviticus 19:18 from Mark 12:31, which Mark got from Galatians 5:14, which Paul got from Rabbi Hillel, a first century BC Pharisee who sued up the Torah as “Don’t do what your neighbor hates. All the rest is commentary.”

          Paul had a crack at the commandments in Romans 13:9-10:

          9 The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery; You shall not murder; You shall not steal; You shall not covet”; and any other commandment, are summed up in this word, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law.

          The Ten Commandments are just a theory.

        • Bruno

          Sorry but you are grasping at straws. Jesus and Paul are only giving representative sets of commandments not complete lists.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Count them yourself.

          Let’s go over this again. In Ex. 34:28, God says that there are ten. I’m pretty sure the Big Guy would know.

          And, as we’ve already discussed, the conventional Ten can be split different ways as well.

        • Bruno

          God says they are ten and read in context those ten are from Exodus 20.

          Your analogy doesn’t work. Catholics and Lutherans enumerate the ten commandments differently to other Protestants, but they don’t have different numbers of commandments. Both groups recognise the ten commandments as those listed in Exodus 20 & Deut 5.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Sounds like this conversation will never go anywhere.

          You’re seriously saying that Ex. 34 is talking about the commandments 14 chapters earlier and not the list just a few sentences earlier??

          Catholics and Lutherans enumerate the ten commandments differently to other Protestants, but they don’t have different numbers of commandments

          This really isn’t that hard. If, from the standpoint of one denomination, the other denomination is combining 2 commandments and expanding another one into two, then they are telling you how to divide the commandments into eleven.

          Yes, the divisions of these commandments are ambiguous. When God says that Ex. 34 has ten commandments, well then I guess it has ten commandments. Or is God a liar? Or stupid?

          Of course, if you want to say that this phrase in Ex. 34 applies to that list in Ex. 20 then I guess we’ve taken hermaneutics to a whole new level of nuttiness.

        • Bruno

          You’re seriously saying that Ex. 34 is talking about the commandments 14 chapters earlier and not the list just a few sentences earlier??

          Yes it’s as plain as day from verse 1.

          “The Lord said to Moses, “Cut for yourself two tablets of stone like the first, and I will write on the tablets the words that were on the first tablets, which you broke.”

          Which words were on the first tablets? Certainly not the list in Exodus 34. Even if you want to argue that Moses did the actual writing on the tablets (verse 1 says he didn’t) then according to verse 1 it’s the same words that were on the original tablets i.e. the Ten Commandments according to verse 28.

          It’s a simple matter of narrative context and basic logic.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Which words were on the first tablets? Certainly not the list in Exodus 34.

          Don’t read too good, do you? God just told you that the contents of Ex. 34, the words that God is about to write, are what was on the first set of tablets.

          You keep pushing back, but it’s not me you should be annoyed at. I’m just the messenger. If you’re saying that Big G is forgetful or stupid or a liar, that’s fine, but take it up with Him.

          according to verse 1 it’s the same words that were on the original tablets i.e. the Ten Commandments according to verse 28.

          Yes, that is quite plain. That the words in Ex. 20 don’t look like the actual set that God dictates in Ex. 34 and are therefore contained within the Ark of the Covenant is certainly a puzzle. Doesn’t keep me up at night, though—my natural explanations work just fine. You’re in kind of a pickle, though.

        • Bruno

          Wow I’m impressed at how intent you are to insert a square peg in round hole.

          Unfortunately, the interpretation you subscribe to as I’ve noted doesn’t fit the context of chapter 34 let alone the narrative arc of Exodus.

          The narrative relates how God brings an oppressed people out of slavery for the intent purpose of meeting with himself. A series of plagues ensue because Pharaoh is rather stubborn. The Red(Reed sea) is parted and the people escape making their way to Sinai to meet with God.

          Chapter 19 prepares the reader for the climax of meeting with dire warnings and requirements for purification. God arrives with smoke, fire, lightening and thunder and an extraordinarily loud trumpet. The narrator is clearly bringing the story to a climax. It’s impossible to miss.

          Then God speaks and the narrator has set us up to know that what God speaks is of first importance.

          Does he speak the list of commands from Exodus 34? Clearly he doesn’t. God proclaims the well known commandments of Exodus 20.

          Between Exodus 20 and Exodus 34 the narrator never even hints that the first tablets contained the commandments of Exodus 34.

          You don’t have assume that the text is inspired by God to see the direction of the narrative. Even if the text has been compiled from multiple sources, the narrative arc of the final version has led the reader straight to Exodus 20.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Wow I’m impressed at how intent you are to insert a square peg in round hole.

          When someone tells me that the sky is purple, not blue, I guess I do get a little agitated at this affront to common sense.

          Does he speak the list of commands from Exodus 34? Clearly he doesn’t. God proclaims the well known commandments of Exodus 20.

          Uh, yeah. In Ex. 20, he gives us Ex. 20. I think we’re on the same page here.

          Between Exodus 20 and Exodus 34 the narrator never even hints that the first tablets contained the commandments of Exodus 34.

          I don’t even know what we’re talking about now. You see the difference, and your conclusion is that Ex. 20 must be the one and only contents of the 10 Cs. How then do you explain Ex. 34 which is obviously giving a very different set? Seems like you just pound your little fists and focus on a subset of the facts: you like Ex. 20, God says that the new version is the same set, so there. You ignore the obvious fact that Ex. 34 is indeed a very, very different set.

          I’ve been assuming all along that you know about the Documentary Hypothesis, but perhaps that’s a bad assumption.

          Ex. 34 is a late addition. It comes from the P (Priestly) source. Ex. 20 is older and comes from the E or J source. A compiler merged the various incompatible sources together. That’s why you have 2 Ten Commandments stories, 2 Creation stories, 2 Goliath stories, and 2 Flood stories.

          You don’t have assume that the text is inspired by God to see the direction of the narrative. Even if the text has been compiled from multiple sources, the narrative arc of the final version has led the reader straight to Exodus 20.

          A simple natural explanation. QED.

        • Greg G.

          Are you sure that Dt 34 is a P story? Both Dt 20 and 34 have God interacting with Moses directly which is something the P god doesn’t do. He’s cosmic. That’s what made the Hebrew god so awesome when they melded the J, E, and P god together to get a cosmic god who interacted with individuals.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Good point. Wikipedia says:

          The book of Exodus is also divided between the Yahwist and P, and the usual understanding is that the Priestly writer(s) were adding to an already-existing Yahwist narrative.[23] Chapters 1-24 (from bondage in Egypt to God’s appearances at Sinai) and chapters 32-34 (the golden calf incident) are from the Yahwist and P’s additions are relatively minor, noting Israel’s obedience to the command to be fruitful and the orderly nature of Israel even in Egypt

          Is this to say that J put two incompatible 10 Cs stories in?

        • Greg G.

          Exodus 20:11 “For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but rested the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day and consecrated it.”

          That is definitely a P verse but overall the chapter feels like E with some “Yahweh” redaction to me. Exodus 34 looks like J as the only “elohim” is used for the word “god” and not a name.
          Exodus 34 doesn’t give a justification for observing the Sabbath like Ex 20:11 or the one in Deuteronomy 5.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          What explains the two radically different 10 Commandments in Exodus?

        • Greg G.

          Exodus 20 is a Frankenstein’s monster. It has parts of J, E, D and P. It is like a J or E story because God is interacting directly with humans and uses “Yehovah” and “Elohim” together to name God.. But Exodus 34 seems to be classic J.so by elimination, it must be E. Verse 11 comes from the P fragment that ended up as Genesis 1. Verse 4 uses language similar to Deuteronomy 5:8.

          Much of the text in between chapters 20 and 34 must be redaction, too. The smashing of the tablets must be to account for the second version. The golden calf must be to account for the “molten image” ban in Exodus 34:17.

          It could be that Deuteronomy 5 draws on the Exodus 20 E account that got heavily redacted later.

          Exodus 20:4 and Deuteronomy 5:8 use “pecel” that the KJV translates as a graven image while Exodus 34:17 uses “maccekah” for a molten or cast image. So one group used a cast image at their altar while the other used a graven image at theirs, so they each tried to delegitimize the other clan of priests.

          In Judges 17, both words are used together in a way that could be a Hebrew doublet. The KJV translates it as two objects while the NRSV translates it as one object. In Chapter 18, the two words are used in the same sentence but separated by other objects, so it seems like they are distinct. The KJV translates them as two objects and the NRSV still translates them as one object.

          I have plenty of ideas but no idea which idea is the ideal explanation.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          I’m just thinking out loud here, but the calf was not just a Baal worship thing but also what distinguished Israel’s practice (God’s throne was a young bull) from Judah’s (it was a cherub).

          The E source was from Israel, so that “no molten images” thing and the passage about the wicked calf statue might’ve been an anti-E, anti-Israel passage.

        • Greg G.

          Yes, and cream of goat veal may have been an Israeli delicacy.

          EDIT: If someone is not familiar with Exodus 34:26b, here it is:

          You shall not boil a kid in its mother’s milk.

          Without that, my reply may have seemed like sarcastic disagreement instead of the intended agreement.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Actually, I think I heard that it was Babylonian. My interpretation: Don’t maintain habits picked up while we were in captivity.

        • Greg G.

          There is probably many habits one could pick up in prison that should be dropped when you get out. I wouldn’t know from first-hand experience.

          That brings to mind a first date I had once. The lady said she was glad that I didn’t seem like a convicted felon.

          I replied, “No, never convicted.”

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          That’s certainly an interesting pickup line. You must be quite the Casanova.

        • Bruno

          I’m familiar with the Documentary Hypothesis and that it has spawned many contradictory variants – a clear indicator that the methodology is flawed.

          But even if for arguments sake we assume that one of it’s variants is correct, it doesn’t change the fact that the final version has a narrative structure.

          Seems like you just pound your little fists and focus on a subset of the facts: you like Ex. 20, God says that the new version is the same set, so there.

          The interpretation you subscribe to is based on isolating Exodus 34:28 (a one verse subset) from the context of chapter 34 and from the larger narrative.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          I’m familiar with the Documentary Hypothesis and that it has spawned many contradictory variants – a clear indicator that the methodology is flawed.

          Yeah, next you’ll be saying that because there’s not universal agreement on Punctuated Equilibrium that evolution is flawed.

          Show me a better way to explain the duplicate versions of so many OT stories—Genesis, Flood, Goliath, and 10 Cs.

          it doesn’t change the fact that the final version has a narrative structure.

          That’s surprising—I thought that the elephant in the room was the contradictory versions of the 10 Cs. Did the topic change?

          The interpretation you subscribe to is based on isolating Exodus 34:28 (a one verse subset) from the context of chapter 34 and from the larger narrative.

          You have a list of commands, concluded with “And [Moses] wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant—the Ten Commandments.” Seems like my interpretation is the fair one. Show me how I’m not letting the text speak for itself but am instead shoehorning it to fit my presupposition.

        • Bruno

          Yeah, next you’ll be saying that because there’s not universal agreement on Punctuated Equilibrium that evolution is flawed.

          That’s a faulty analogy PE only questions the how of evolution not whether it occurred or not. The Documentary Hypothesis multiple variants yield contradictory conclusions.

          Show me a better way to explain the duplicate versions of so many OT stories—Genesis, Flood, Goliath, and 10 Cs.

          Discourse analysis.studies how texts achieve their communicative purposes, through language structure, narrative devices etc.

          If you’re interested in an example in practice check out: A Text Linguistic Study of the Jacob Narrative

        • Bruno

          Yeah, next you’ll be saying that because there’s not universal agreement on Punctuated Equilibrium that evolution is flawed.

          That’s a faulty analogy PE only questions the how of evolution not whether it occurred or not. The Documentary Hypothesis’ multiple variants yield contradictory results.

          Show me a better way to explain the duplicate versions of so many OT stories—Genesis, Flood, Goliath, and 10 Cs.

          Discourse analysis.studies how texts achieve their communicative purposes, through language structure, narrative devices etc.

          If you’re interested in an example in practice check out: A Text Linguistic Study of the Jacob Narrative

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Link doesn’t work.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          OK–now the link works. tl;dr on the link, but I’d be interested in a summary if you’re so motivated.

          Punctuated Equilibrium or not both accept evolution. You’re right. Documentary Hypothesis versions 1, 2, or 3 all explain the duplicate stories in the same way–the amalgamation of various sources. Looks like a pretty good parallel to me.

          Expand on discourse analysis. Show how it explains the duplicated stories that I mentioned.

        • TheNuszAbides

          Wait, did Bruno just stop arguing there because he inflated your “You’re right.” beyond reason?

        • Greg G.

          Why didn’t God just miraculously repair the broken tablets? I bet Satan could have stuck the pieces together the same way he puts fossils in rocks.

        • TheNuszAbides

          one of my favorite Bill Hicks bits:

          …Dinosaur.
          If the world’s 12,000[sic] years old and the Bible covers it, why didn’t someone bring up ******’ dinosaurs? You’d think someone would have brought that up somewhere in the goddamn book.

          …And Jesus and the disciples walked down the path towards Nazareth but, oh, the path was blocked by a giant brontosaurus with a splinter in his paw. And
          the disciples did run a-screamin’, “What a big ******’ lizard, Lord!”
          “I’m sure gonna mention this in my book”, said Luke.
          “Well, I’m sure gonna mention it in my book”, said Matthew.
          “I’m not sure what I saw” said Thomas.
          Timothy nudged him. “It was a big ******’ lizard, Thomas!”
          But Jesus was unafraid. And he took the splinter from the brontosaurus’ paw and the brontosaurus became his friend. And Jesus sent him to Scotland where he lived in a loch oh, so many years attracting fat American families with their fat ******’ dollars to look for the Loch Ness Monster. And oh, the Scots did praise the Lord. Thank you, Lord. Thank you, Lord.

          12,000 years old… I asked this guy-
          Come on, man. Dinosaur fossils. What’s the deal?
          He goes, “God put those here to test our faith.”
          … I think God put you here to test my faith, dude. I think I’ve figured this out. That’s what this guy said.
          Does it bother anyone here- the idea that God might be ******’ with our heads? Anyone have trouble sleepin’ restfully with that thought in their head? God’s runnin’ around, buryin’ fossils. “Oh, ho, ho! We’ll see who
          believes in me now! Oh, ho, ho. I’m a prankster God! I am killing me, oh, ho, ho!”
          You die, you go to Saint Peter-
          “Did you believe in dinosaurs?”
          “Well, yeah. There was fossils everywhere!”
          BOOM! AAAHHH!
          “What are you, an idiot? God was ******’ with you! Giant flyin’ lizards! You moron! That’s one of God’s easiest jokes!”
          “It seemed so plausible! AAAGHHH!”
          Bound for the lake of fire.

        • Andrea Fitzgerald

          FYI Dinosaurs reigned on the earth over 65 MILLION YEARS ago, long before any ancient ancestors of men were a twinkle in anyone’s eye. I don’t understand your reasoning.

        • Greg G.

          He is quoting a comedian and he marked the 12,000 years with “[sic]”.

        • TheNuszAbides

          it’s not reasoning and it’s not mine–it’s a quotation of stand-up comedy which comments on some of the more extreme examples of creationist ‘reasoning’.

        • Andrea Fitzgerald

          Got that now, thanks.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      You might want to check your facts before posting.

      Great minds think alike! The same thought comes to mind for me. Ex. 34:28 says, “And he wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant—the Ten Commandments.” If God calls them the Ten Commandments, perhaps that should be good enough for you.

      If your point is that you can find 13 commandments here, keep in mind that the division with the conventional Ten is ambiguous as well. That’s why there’s the Catholic version and the Protestant version (and maybe others).

      (But, looking ahead, I see that Greg G. has covered much of this.)

      • Greg G.

        Back then, the only numbers they had were 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 12, 40, 70, and 72. They also had hundreds and thousands but nobody knew how great those numbers actually were.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          (I think they had 7 and 12 twice.)

        • Greg G.

          Now you’re talking advanced mathematics. Most of them reached their little finger and kept counting “ten, ten, ten, ten…”

    • Andrea Fitzgerald

      YOU might want to check YOUR facts. There are actually 613 commandments in the Old Testament – called the Mitzvot.

  • John Hodges

    THE UNCENSORED TEN COMMANDMENTS

    ——
    The First Commandment:
    Exodus 20:2, Deuteronomy 5:6
    I am Yahveh your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. You shall have no other gods before me.

    The First Penalty:
    2 Chronicles 15:13 …whoever would not seek Yahveh, the God of Israel, should be put to death, whether young or old, man or woman.

    Exodus 22:20 Whoever sacrifices to any god, save to Yahveh only, shall be utterly destroyed.

    Deuteronomy 13:6-9 If your brother, the son of your mother, or your daughter, or the wife of your bosom, or your friend who is as your own soul, entices you secretly, saying, ‘let us go and serve other gods’, … you shall not yield to him or listen to him, nor shall your eye pity him, nor shall you spare him, nor shall you conceal him; but you shall kill him; your hand shall be first against him to put him to death, and afterwards the hand of all the people.

    ——
    The Second Commandment:
    Exodus 20:4, Deuteronomy 5:8
    You shall not make for yourself a graven 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 Yahveh your God am a jealous god, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon 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.

    The Second Penalty:
    Exodus 32:27 Thus says Yahveh God of Israel, put every man his sword on his side, and go to and fro from gate to gate throughout the camp, and slay every man his brother, and every man his companion, and every man his neighbor. [Who broke the above commandment.]

    ——
    The Third Commandment:
    Exodus 20:7, Deuteronomy 5:11
    You shall not take the name of Yahveh your God in vain; for Yahveh will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain.

    The Third Penalty:
    Leviticus 24:16 He who blasphemes the name of Yahveh shall be put to death; all of the congregation shall stone him.

    ——
    The Fourth Commandment:
    Exodus 20:8, Deuteronomy 5:12
    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 Yahveh your God; in it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, or your male slave, or your female slave, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates; for in six days Yahveh made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day; therefore Yahveh blessed the seventh day and hallowed it.

    The Fourth Penalty:
    Exodus 31:14-15 You shall keep the sabbath, because it is holy for you; every one who profanes it shall be put to death; whoever does any work on it, that soul shall be cut off from among his people. Six days shall work be done, but the seventh day is a sabbath of solemn rest, holy to Yahveh; whoever does any work on the sabbath day shall be put to death.

    Exodus 35:2 Six days shall work be done, but on the seventh day you shall have a holy sabbath of solemn rest to Yahveh; whoever does any work on it shall be put to death; you shall kindle no fire in all your habitations on the sabbath day.

    ——
    The Fifth Commandment:
    Exodus 20:12, Deuteronomy 5:16
    Honor your father and mother, that your days may be long in the land which Yahveh your God gives you.

    The Fifth Penalty:
    Leviticus 20:9 For every one who curses his father or his mother shall be put to death; he has cursed his father or his mother, his blood is upon him.
    Matthew 15:4 For Yahveh commanded, “honor your father and your mother”, and “He who speaks evil of father or mother, let him surely die.”

    Deuteronomy 21:18 If a man has a stubborn and rebellious son, who will not obey the voice of his father or the voice of his mother…. Then all the men of the city shall stone him to death with stones…

    [Also relevant here is Proverbs 23:13-14. Withhold not correction from the child: for if thou beatest him with the rod, he shall not die. Thou shalt beat him with the rod, and shalt deliver his soul from hell.]

    ——
    The Sixth Commandment:
    Exodus 20:13, Deuteronomy 5:17
    You shall not kill.

    The Sixth Penalty:
    Exodus 21:12 Whoever strikes a man so that he dies shall be put to death.

    Leviticus 24:17 He who kills a man shall be put to death.

    ——
    The Seventh Commandment:
    Exodus 20:14, Deuteronomy 5:18
    You shall not commit adultery.

    The Seventh Penalty:
    Leviticus 20:10 If a man commit adultery with the wife of his neighbor, both the adulterer and the adulteress shall be put to death.
    Deuteronomy 22:22 If a man is found lying with the wife of another man, both of them shall die, the man who lay with the woman, and the woman; so shall you purge the evil from Israel.
    [Having multiple wives, or keeping concubines, or having sex with prostitutes, is not adultery; adultery in the Bible consists of creating doubt about paternity, i.e. having sex with another man’s wife.]

    ——
    The Eighth Commandment:
    Exodus 20:15, Deuteronomy 5:19
    You shall not steal.

    The Eighth Penalty:
    For stealing slaves, Exodus 21:16: Whoever steals a man, whether he sells him or is found in possession of him, shall be put to death.
    For a thief caught in the act, Exodus 22:2: If a thief is found breaking in, and is struck so that he dies, there shall be no bloodguilt for him; but if the sun has risen on him, there shall be bloodguilt for him.

    For stealing most things other than slaves, penalties involve making restitution and paying fines. Exodus 22:1-3: If a man steals an ox or a sheep, and kills it or sells it, he shall pay five oxen for an ox, and four sheep for a sheep… If the stolen beast is found in his possession… he shall pay double. He shall make restitution; if he has nothing, then he shall be sold [into slavery] for his theft.

    ——
    The Ninth Commandment:
    Exodus 20:16, Deuteronomy 5:20
    You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.

    The Ninth Penalty:
    Prov. 19:9 A false witness shall not be unpunished, and he that speaketh lies shall perish.
    This seems to be more of a rhetorical warning than a law, however. Some examples: 1 Kings 21, 2 Kings 5, those who testified falsely got off with only a curse on themselves and their descendants.

    ——
    The Tenth Commandment:
    Exodus 20:17, Deuteronomy 5:21
    You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male slave, or his female slave, or his ox, or his ass, or anything that is your neighbor’s.

    There seems to be no particular penalty specified in the Bible for this, other than the following.

    ——
    There are dire warnings of doom for those who break any of the Commandments. Deuteronomy 28:17-68 is a great rant, very much worth reading.

    Matthew 5:17 Jesus says: Think not that I have come to abolish the law and the prophets; I have come not to abolish them but to fulfil them. For truly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the law until all is accomplished. Whoever then relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but he who does them and teaches them shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

    • TheNuszAbides

      Leviticus 24:17 He who kills a man shall be put to death.

      …such an elegant solution! why didn’t someone think of that sooner?

  • John Hodges

    The Uncensored Ten commandments is available on my blog at

    http://www.atheistnexus.org/profiles/blogs/the-uncensored-ten

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      Good stuff

  • Jenny

    Ugh.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      I interpret that to mean that you see this post as a powerful body blow to Christian apologetics. Is that right?

      • Jenny

        Not really – more like there is some discrepancy about which spell will turn someone into a bat.

        • busterggi

          Don’t be ridiculous – MLB didn’t exist in biblical times.

  • busterggi

    144 comments on this topic? That’s just gross.


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