Sunday, 25 February 2007
Dennis Decodes the Decalogue
If you haven't found it in the comments section yet, here's Dennis Diehl's take on the Ten Commandments/Decalogue.
The Big Ten are responsible for more carnage in the lives of real people at the hands of the righteous as any document could ever be. Everyone is just sure they know their eternal and universal truth. Most don't consider the cultic and polytheistic culture they spring from.
1. No other god before ME. There were many other gods literally believed in and obeyed. This Israelite cultic God is a jealous God and wants no competition from Israel. This God does not say there are no other gods, he just says don't mess with them or you and your kids will be punished for three or maybe four generations into the future. This God is unaware of his onlyness. The religion of Abraham is hardly monotheistic, but evolves. God is EL, derived from previous Cannanite concepts and now expanded.
2. No graven images. Not much obeyed in any Hebrew or Christian culture. The Temple was full of them. Moses made bronze ones and Aaron made gold ones. No fear of El here obviously. Megiddo was littered with Israelite graven images when I was there.
3. No name in vain. Not so much cussing as respect, and this God of the Mountains had better not hear the name of Baal, Astarte, Her, Him, Molech or Osiris. Remember, I am a jealous god. Not being held "guiltless" was not a good indication of one's longevity and you fall outside of the rule that we don't murder around here. Please, no nuances of meaning between kill and murder! The weak are always murdered by the powerful who define it as killing. Some people need killing is their motto. Our killing still obeys not murdering... uh huh.
4. Keep the Sabbath because I literally made all life in six days and had to rest myself, so you will too. Of course, this is not literally true so one has to decide if mythology can be a good reason to enforce a literal behavior. It's certainly no way to categorize people as the chosen or unchosen.
Like Paul who enforces the woman's role in church based on the mythology of a literal sin of a woman named Eve, and the "fact" that "for men don't come from women, but women from men."
Don't get me wrong. I always enjoyed sabbath. Who wouldn't. I enjoyed Sunday as a Presbyterian growing up. But as a tool to judge someone's obedience and spiritual worth to the jealous God, not so much. The implications of enforcing literal behaviors based on mythological events is staggering to an open mind.
5. Honor mom and dad. Pretty universal admonition here in all cultures. Certainly not invented by the one true God as if others could not come up with this. How this is interpreted in the OT is interesting as not doing so means, "then kill the kid and mom has to not cry about it." It's a command in Israel with a big "or else" attached. Well they all are.
6. No murder, killing etc. This in practical fact meant "each other." Everyone else is fair game if they get in the way of God's chosen people. It also meant nothing to the kings of Israel or Moses, who when bringing the Big Ten down the Mountain to begin with, got pissed at the crowd's thinking, after 40 days missing in action, ordered "every man to slay his neighbor and in that day about 3000 perished." What a guy! "Here, let me put these tablets down and murder a few thousand more of you."
7. No adultery. Mostly for women and Kings that God told if he had only asked, God would have given him more women and stuff. Women were property, that's why you didn't covet them. Adultery might cast doubt on paternity and inheritances. No adultery in this culture was not a love thing, it was a legal thing so the wrong kid did not get the wrong daddy's stuff. It was birth control with a kick... death for the woman and no mention of the guy for the most part. Even in the NT, the woman was caught in adultery, not the man so much.
8. No stealing. Well ok, you can plunder stuff and the young chicks and their booty of those you have been asked to slaughter in my name, amen. Good thing this was not in place when you guys plundered Egypt on the way out. How much stuff can you drag in to the waste howling wilderness (and you'd think we could find some of it strewn along the sands of time).
9 No lying. Unless you are Abraham, Isaac, or Jacob, David, all the prophets and the priests. Other than that, don't do it. In the NT, Peter "kills" Ananias and Sapphira for saying one thing and doing another. This, the man who said one thing to Jesus (I will never deny you) and did another (fled). Of course, Luke was telling that story in Acts to make fun of Peter who was not on Paul's list of potential church leaders for his denials. No, two church members were killed and buried by the church. "Hey Pastor Peter, my parents didn't come home from church, what gives?"
All this to say, the Big Ten were written for a cultic society and translated as meaningful for ours and all humans, which for the most part they are. They weren't born in a vaccum however and we get so used to reading them as moderns, we fail to identify their cultic origins. Besides, the Bible can't agree on whether there were Ten given that day or many many more. Depends on which book you read and what "is" is... :)
10 No coveting wives, oxen, asses (the animal) or stuff. Good way to live too but throwing women in the mix is cultic and patriarchal to the max. For women, this is a control issue by men. Some women wish they were coveted and cherished by these guys.
In reality, humans love to break the rules. The more rules, the more breakage. Evangelical Christians have the highest rates of divorce, adultery, stealing, lying and eating out on the sabbath :) The Baptist church has the highest rate of minister turn over, due to breakage of the big ten. Pentecostals tend to have the highest rates for adultery and sexual deviance due the emotional nature of those that are Pentecostals. I guess if death was the penalty, we'd have more compliance, but "obey me or I'll kill you," seems rude.