the Ten Commandments part 2 of 2
THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT
Protestant: EX. 20:12 - Honor your father and your mother, so that your days may be long in the land that the LORD your God is giving you.
DEUT. 5:16 - Honor your father and your mother, as the LORD your God commanded you; that your days may be prolonged, and that it may go well with you, in the land which the LORD your God gives you.
Catholic - You shall not kill.
MEANING OF HONORING YOUR PARENTS
In a modern context, it is hard to disagree that children should honor their parents; but it is just as just as decent of parents to honor their children; without mutual honor the relationship breaks down. The enduring love and affection between parent and child is of one of life's great pleasures. However, matters of honor and decency between kin do not qualify as matters of law. This Commandment was not formulated to encourage love and affection between parents and children.
This law is related to the first four Commandments. In the biblical context, "honor" was the remedy for preventing heresy. It means strict conformity to the religion of your parents or risk losing your life and your land. In those days, your property was not just your homestead; it was your livelihood and your life. Without land you had no place for raising livestock and crops. Without land you were exiled from God. Without God you were as good as dead. For their own self-serving convenience, the Christian versions leave out the second phrase.
The commandment was also meant to ensure that adult male children took responsibility for the support and protection of their aging parents. The rule did not apply to daughters because upon marriage they became the property of their husbands, and then owed their loyalty to their husband's families. Obviously the law was produced by older males. That it had to be included in the code reflects the insecurity of family bonds and loyalty in ancient times.
Two passages expand on the harshness of this law. In Lev. 20:1-9, anyone whose children worship the God Molech is stoned to death. If a child insults his father or mother, he will be put to death. According to Deut. 13:6-11, if a blood relative secretively tries to entice you to a different faith you are to kill him. Deut. 29:18-29 is even more damning against heretics. Supposedly, in the Second Commandment, (Ex. 20:5) your children are supposed to be punished to the fourth generation.
Thankfully, in modern society there is no threat against life and land ownership, though this law sanctions child beating. It takes a fanatical parent to disown a child for not blindly accepting his beliefs or for marrying someone of a different faith.
Jesus attitude toward his parents was in violation of this commandment. He never referred to Joseph as "Father." Instead, he recognized only God as his Father. And neither did he address Mary as "Mother." At a wedding feast in Cana (John 2:4) he used the impersonal "woman." Jesus said his purpose was to set children against their parents (Matt. 10:35). He called upon those who would follow him to "hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters" (Luke 14:26).
THE SIXTH COMMANDMENT
Protestant: EX. 20:13 - You shall not kill.
DEUT. 5:17 - You shall not kill.
Catholic - You shall not commit adultery.
KILL OR MURDER?
The Catholic and the KJV version use "kill." The Jewish version and several modern Protestant versions use "murder." In the modern world, "kill" could apply to any form of life from humans to mammals and for some, all animals. It could even apply to plant life. The wording is so vague that it could mean to outlaw killing in self-defense. "Murder" at least pertains to written law. It is the only one of three of the Ten Commandments with any relevance to modern law.
The words can be construed contradictorily. When applied to the abortion debate, "kill" could apply to a fetus;" "murder" supports the legal definition. "Kill" prohibits capital punishment; "murder" allows it. "Kill" prohibits meat eating; "murder" allows it. In matters of war, killing the enemy is encouraged but murdering them is prohibited. What about irresponsible killing, accidental killing and suicide? This law does not even reserve the right to kill on matters of self-preservation. When you think about it, every animal has to kill something to survive. So without specific definitions of what actions are prohibited and what penalties are to follow, the wording is meaningless.
THOU SHALL KILL IN MY NAME
In fact, the Bible often glorifies violent killing and the slaughter of innocent men, women and children.
The story of the brothers Cain and Able (Gen. 4:17-5:32) is often interpreted as an example of God's repulsion against killing but the story has the opposite twist. Abel was a herdsman who made animal offerings to God. Cain was a farmer who offered his crops. Cain got jealous and killed his brother because God favored animal offerings. God "punished" him by making him unable to farm and sent him away with a mark on him for protection from foreigners. Cain, of course, would have to become a herdsman. He eventually founds a city, marries, has a lot of children, and lived to the ripe old age of 930.
In Ex. 2:11-15, the same Moses who promulgated this law killed an Egyptian for hitting a Hebrew. He tried to hide it, but when Pharaoh found out about it he had to flee for his life. This must have qualified him to lead the Israelites out of Egypt. Shortly thereafter (Ex. 3:2-10) an angel appointed him to lead the people out of Egypt.
In Ex. 32:27-28 Moses had 3,000 Israelites killed at the command "Put your sword on your side, each of you! Go back and forth from gate to gate throughout the camp, and each of you kill your brother, your friend, and your neighbor."
In Num. 31:17, 18 we have the words of Moses after his army "avenged" the Midianites because their women tempted his men into pagan worship. After killing the entire adult male population, his commanders brought back women and children as prisoners. In anger he said "Now therefore, kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman who has known a man by sleeping with him. Being a merciful man he provided for one exception: "But all the young girls, who have not known a man by sleeping with him, keep alive for yourselves."
Moses found many ways to say "kill" without saying "kill." Deut. 7:16: "You shall devour all the peoples that the LORD your God is giving over to you, showing them no pity; you shall not serve their gods, for that would be a snare to you." And Deut. 20:17: "You shall annihilate them-the Hittites and the Amorites, the Canaanites and the Perizzites, the Hivites and the Jebusites."
I could go on and on with examples of sanctioned killing in the name of God. The Book of Joshua is the bloodiest book in the Bible depicting when the Israelites rampaged through Canaan. A bitter irony came about when the Jews got themselves credited for the death of Jesus. According to Jesus, in John 7:19"Did not Moses give you the law? Yet none of you keeps the law. Why are you looking for an opportunity to kill me?" Perhaps if those ancient Jews were not so bloodthirsty, their progeny would not have had to suffer so much killing at the hands of the Christians.
THE SEVENTH COMMANDMENT
Protestant: EX. 20:14- You shall not commit adultery.
DEUT. 5:18 - Neither shall you commit adultery.
Catholic - You shall not steal.
THE DEFINITION OF ADULTERY
In the secular world, adultery is defined as a male-female sexual relationship between a married person and a partner not legally married to the first. In the theological world adultery defines anything other then sex between a married male and female. In Matthew 5:27-28, Jesus defined adultery as looking at a woman lustfully. In Mat 5:32, he included marriage to a divorced woman adulterer. According to Paragraph 2336 of the Catholic catechism book, "adultery" encompasses the whole of human sexuality.
Lev. 20:10-21 defines a host of prohibited sex acts. It prescribes the death penalty to both parties for the following: a man with his neighbor's wife, his father's wife, his daughter-in-law, another male, his mother-in-law, an animal, and between a woman and an animal. Undefined punishment applies to sex acts with a sister, half-sister, a menstruating woman, aunts, and sisters-in-law.
In Deut. 22:13-21, if a man takes a disliking to his bride and he falsely claims she is not a virgin; the parents must present the cloth she last slept on. A bloodless cloth was accepted as proof her hymen was not ruptured — pity to those who menstruated early. If they prove her previous virginity, the husband is to be flogged and pay reparations to the parents. But if she is guilty, she is to be stoned to death in front of her father's house for bringing shame to his name.
Deut. 22:23-24 prescribes death to both if the woman is a betrothed virgin and she consents. If she doesn't consent, the man dies. If these pious religionists truly believed that God was omnipotent, they would not have appointed themselves to do his dirty work for him.
Num. 5:11-31 outlines a trial by ordeal to determine guilt if a husband is suspicious that his wife has committed an adulterous act. She is forced to drink a concoction of water, dirt and ash, which will make her belly swell and her thighs waste away. If she survives the ordeal, she will still able to bear children.
COMMON LAW MARRIAGE
The groundwork is found in Gen. 1:27-28 where God created a male and a female out of nothing. He blessed them and told them to "be fruitful and multiply," but nothing came of it. Perhaps when he rested on the seventh day, his first creation died. In Gen. 2:7 he made a second attempt. This time he made the first man from clay and in Gen. 2:22, the first woman from the man's rib. They were not married in the traditional sense because God did not create a clergyman to marry them. Gen. 4:1 declares the first woman a wife, so we could interpret this as an endorsement for common law marriage.
Just about every established religion condemns male homosexuality in the harshest terms without equivocation. The traditional condemnation against sex between men can be found in the story of Sodom and Gomorrah (Gen. 19:1-11). When the men of Sodom demanded to rape Lot's two male guests (also described as angels), but they were thwarted by blinding light. Lot is portrayed as one of the Bible's virtuous heroes even though he tried to save his guests by offering the crowd his two virgin daughters.
I see this often in contemporary life. When a politician is on the right side of a cause, there is almost nothing he can do wrong. Such a case applies to David's bisexual affair with Jonathan. When the two first met (1 Sam 18:1-5) it was love at first sight. If it was brotherly love, Jonathan would not have stripped naked in front of David. The love affair did not stop at exhibitionism. When Saul found about it (1 Sam 20:13) he accused his son Jonathan of shaming his mother's nakedness. In 2 Sam 1:26, David described his love for Jonathan as greater then his love of women.
Lev. 20:13 mandates death to those who commit homosexual acts.
In Gen. 38:2-10, Judah's firstborn son, Er, died after his marriage to Tamar before he had a chance to produce children. When Judah ordered his second son, Onan, to impregnate Tamar, Onan chose instead to spill his semen on the ground. So God killed him. Leviticus 15:16-17 pronounces a man unclean if he spills his seed. Spilling seed would include coitus interruptus — vaginal withdrawal before ejaculation. Deut. 23:9-11 deals with wet dreams. A man is not to engage in battle if he contaminates himself. He has to leave camp to wash and is not return until sunset.
Deut. 23:2 pronounces bastards — children born of an adulterous union — social outcasts. That would automatically exclude participating in religious affairs.
One of the greatest ironies of the Bible is that both Moses and Jesus qualify as bastards; that is they were born of an illegitimate relationship. According to Ex. 6:20, Moses father married his paternal aunt. Lev. 20:19 forbids this incestuous relationship. God, the creator could have created Jesus from nothing. But instead he chose to impregnate Mary while she was betrothed to Joseph. When Mary told Joseph she was pregnant (Mat 1:18-19), Joseph wanted to divorce her. Or is it if God is the father, gods can do no wrong.
This commandment was not founded on morality; it was a taboo founded on sympathetic magic - the common primitive belief that a person or thing can be supernaturally affected through any name or an object that represents it. The fear was that it had detrimental influence on the pursuits of the husband: disloyalty on the part of one would affect the welfare of the other.
A good example of sympathetic magic can be found in Gen. 30:37-41 where Jacob bred speckles into a herd of solid colored cattle and sheep by laying rods in front of their water hole. He stripped some bark from the rods so they were speckled with white streaks. If they should conceive when they saw the rods, their offspring would come out speckled.
THE EIGHTH COMMANDMENT
Protestant: EX. 20:15 - You shall not steal
DEUT. 5:19 - Neither shall you steal.
Catholic - You shall not bear false witness against your neighbors.
Of the Ten Commandments, stealing is one of three that has any legitimacy in modern law. It means simply do not to take someone else's property without their consent. It applied to tangible assets such as property, food, and livestock. In those days, the loss of any of them could mean starvation or death. Thus it was classed as a capital offense. The principle of honesty did not exist at this time; it was a superstitious taboo.
The term "neighbor" applied exclusively to members of the tribe. In the book of Joshua, the Hebrews killed and plundered whoever they conquered.
Deut. 19:14 forbade moving your neighbor's landmark. It was equivalent to stealing land. We might wonder what relevance it had to a wandering tribe who had no land to protect. Deut. 27:7 made it a curse. Lev. 19:13 included fraud. So let's not treat this command as some profound concept thanks to God. Even wild animals are known to respect each other's territory.
In Ex. 3:21-22 Moses told the Israelites to steal jewelry, gold, silver and clothes from the Egyptians before they left. Stealing in God's name was acceptable. Anybody outside the tribe was fair game.
The positive "thou shall be honest" provides a principle to live by. The negative, "thou shall not steal," is easy to circumvent. Religion's greatest failure is in the field of ethics because it considers ritual performances the equivalent of moral acts. The function of religion is not to make men virtuous; it is to make them conform to the faith. The sequence of these commandments demonstrates that the greatest sins are those acts against the faith.
THE NINTH COMMANDMENT
Protestant: EX. 20:16- You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
DEUT. 5:20 - Neither shall you bear false witness against your neighbor.
Catholic - You shall not covet your neighbor's wife.
The classic misinterpretation of this command is to interpret "neighbor" as anybody you come in contact with. Again, the Ten Commandments are a tribal code of ethics. Neighbor meant any member of the tribe. It was essential for the solidarity of the tribe that all band together for the common good. Anyone not in the tribe was an enemy. To restate this command in universal terms, it should read something like: "Thou shall not lie." The examples below draw clear distinctions.
Deut. 14:21 disapproves of eating an animal that died itself. But it is permissible to give it to a stranger or sell it to an alien. Deut. 15:1-3 uses the words "neighbor" and "brother" synonymously when it says a fellow Hebrew may cancel his neighbor's debt after seven years; but the debt of a foreigner may be exacted again. Deut. 23:19-20 prohibits charging interest to a brother, but allows charging a foreigner. Lev. 19:16-18 clearly equates "your neighbor" with "your own people." Clannishness appears in Lev. 25:44 where Hebrews were are allowed to have slaves from other nations, but not from the people of Israel.
Another reason strangers were not accorded the same consideration as neighbors is because they believed and worshiped other gods. Ex 12:43 prohibits strangers from participating in the Passover. Lev. 22:25 prohibits accepting sacrificial animals from foreigners because they are desecrated. A similar prohibition is repeated in Ex 29:33 with outsiders forbidden to eat holy food. In Lev. 22:10 and outsider is not allowed to eat a holy thing.
Paul couldn't understand why lying for God was a sin.
7But if through my falsehood God's truthfulness abounds to his glory, why am I still being condemned as a sinner? (Rom. 3:7)
THE TENTH COMMANDMENT
Protestant: EX. 20:17 - You shall not covet your neighbor's house; you shall not covet your neighbor's wife, or male or female slave, or ox, or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.
DEUT. 5:21 - Neither shall you covet your neighbor's wife; and you shall not desire your neighbor's house, his field, or his manservant, or his maidservant, his ox, or his ass, or anything that is your neighbor's.
Catholic: You shall not covet your neighbor's goods.
According to scripture, there was one and only one time when God spoke to the Israelites - there was no second time. So when we see differences in wording we should ponder which is the more authoritative. If God spoke only once, then the law should be frozen to the time to when is alleged to have said it. The prize should always go to the original version, which is Exodus. Thus, we must presume that the priest who wrote the Deuteronomy version had no other information except Exodus. But he had also had to reconcile Exodus with the cultural values of his own time. The difference in the wording has to do with the status of women in the social pecking order.
The Tenth is about property values. The content of the first phrase of Exodus version tells us that a man's house and his land is his most important possession. His wife comes second, then his slaves, and then his livestock. This makes sense from a purely practical point of view. Without real estate, a man would have no place to farm, and thus no livelihood. He couldn't support a wife and would have no use for slaves and livestock. Land was the hardest to come by, wives a little easier, slaves easier still, and livestock the easiest. I note too, that wives are not exempted from working on the Sabbath. Clearly and simply, women were a unique form of property.
The Deuteronomy version grammatically separates women from property. So we can conclude that the improved status of women was a product of social evolution and not of divine law. Modern apologists argue that two sentences imply separate commandments, perhaps an eleventh commandment. No way! Each commandment is structured by verse, not by sentence. Women were property in biblical days and no amount of verbal squirming can change that fact.
GOD AS ROLE MODEL
Jealousy and envy are two forms of covetousness. If God created men in his image, it would be impossible for him to be different.
Ex. 20:5 .for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, punishing children for the iniquity of parents, to the third and the fourth generation of those who reject me,
BACK TO THE PRESENT
There was a celebrated case involving Chief Justice Roy Moore, who was forced to remove a huge granite monument of the Ten Commandments from the Alabama courthouse. He also had a hand carved plaque of the Ten Commandments in his courtroom, and he opened court sessions with prayers led by a local clergyman. The Alabama nine-member Court of the Judiciary removed Moore from his position as chief justice for defying a federal judge's order to remove the Ten Commandments from the rotunda of the state courthouse.
That Moore has become a folk hero among evangelists says a lot about their irrepressible zeal, to convert the United States into a homogonous Christian nation. One of Moore's chief defenders was the Christian Coalition of Alabama. Another Christian zealot, James Dobson, called the decision "an insult to all the people of faith, who are being told that the public acknowledgement of God is unconstitutional." Another supporter, Flip Benham, said Moore "has done more to remind this country of her biblical roots, and the ethical, moral, and legal foundations than any other person in the past 50 years."
Keep in mind that judges take an oath to uphold the Constitution of the United States which includes the First Amendment, the separation of church and state. U.S. District Judge Janice Rogers Brown wrote the only dissent against removing the monument. She wrote, "We are dealing with an intentional, purposeful intrusion into a religious organization's expression of its religious tenets and sense of mission."
Her opinion deserves some reflection. In effect she is saying that if American taxpayers aren't subsidizing Christian propaganda they are violating their constitutional right to fulfill their sense of mission. There are many Americans worried about a takeover by Muslims. But it seems to me that we face a more serious threat from Christian and Jewish zealots.