Article Reblog: "Partisan Crisis"

June 6, 2017 Tuesday

Written by Bill Shuey on May 27, 2017.

The Ten Commandments or ten suggestions as some take them to be, have been a hotly discussed topic in America for years. Proponents, mostly fundamentalist Christians, want the edicts displayed in all schools and public buildings, while opponents — the more liberal Christians, deists, and secularists, want them confined to a religious setting. When one researches the history of the Ten Commandments one discovers some interesting facts.

The oldest known set of rules known to man is attributed to Ur-Nammu, who was a king of the ancient Sumerians. Those laws are so ancient they cannot be accurately dated and show more tolerance and common sense than some of our laws today. Following the laws of Ur-Nammu by several centuries is the Code of Hammurabi, which is attributed to a king of Babylonia who lived circa 1800 BCE — which would mean he preceded the biblical Moses, by several centuries. What makes this all the more interesting is that the commandments outlined in Exodus at times copy the Code of Hammurabi in content! It should be noted at this point that it is impossible to plagiarize a later writing in an earlier effort. Therefore, the Old Testament writers obviously borrowed what is assumed to be the very words of God from an earlier set of laws. That doesn't mean that God didn't dictate the Law of Hammurabi, but it does reveal the Ten Commandments weren't revolutionary. The Holy Writ states, "There is nothing new under the Sun" and the contents of the Ten Commandments were definitely not new even during the supposed time of Moses.

The first thing a serious study of the Ten Commandments will reveal is there are far more than ten and the commandments as delineated in Exodus and Deuteronomy are at variance one with the other. Also, what most Christian adherents have been taught as the simple straightforward Ten Commandments are not that simple or straightforward? For example: what is normally displayed on a Ten Commandment printout as "I am the Lord your God; you shall have no other gods before me," is actually "I am the Lord 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." Exodus 20:2-3. This is important because if you take the full content of the original quotes into account, then Moses would have needed a large wagon to have brought the inscribed rocks (tablets) down from the mountain. Obviously they have been shortened for ease of quotation.

Of more than passing interest is the fact that there is absolutely nothing in either Old Testament version to suggest that the laws (Ten Commandments) were directed at anyone other than those whom God had "brought out of the land of Egypt . . ." Certainly there is no human alive today who was in captivity in Egypt and no certainty that any particular individual is even a descendant of anyone who was a captive in Egypt. Of course Jews and Christians have adopted the decrees as applicable to them. Interestingly the Old Testament writer(s) did not claim that God physically wrote the commandments on the stones as is widely supposed — Moses purportedly chiseled the edicts on the stones.

Some Bible scholars are convinced that during the Babylonian exile Jews constructed a code of laws from verbal accounts passed down through their history. Believing these laws would have greater import if they were represented as coming from a Moses and/or God, they may have incorporated the verbal accounts into a specific story. This theory is at least somewhat supported by I Esdras 14:22 "I [Ezra] shall write all that has been done in the world since the beginning and the things that were written by law."

The fourth commandment states: "Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labor . . ." Exodus 20:8-9 Certainly early man worked six days and many probably worked seven but this is hardly the case in the modern era where we have a forty hour workweek and retirement plans which allow us to not work at all if we are so inclined. Certainly an omniscient God would have looked into the future and saw that man would no longer work six days. So are we to still keep the Sabbath holy? And will God ascribe any significance to our observance if we don't work six days, or at all? A deal is a deal!

The last six commandments offer only societal advice, which if followed will serve man well—one would think any right-thinking religious or even non-believing individual would embrace these principles without hesitation.

Have a good week.

Bill Shuey is a freelance writer in the White Mountains of New Hampshire.

If I remember the story correctly, God wrote the first Ten Commandments, then when Moses came down he found everybody had melted down their golden jewellry to make a calf, so in a fit of rage he broke the commandments over the idol. Then he trekked back up the mountain and had to write it down himself the second time.

One of the interesting articles I read once described various rules found in virtually every religion and generally outlined the moral compass that seemed inherent in every person.

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