Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Devotion 6.15.17

Why do the commandments on my wall in the house look different from the ones in my church (and in the catechism)?

This is one of those little things that annoys me but it really shouldn’t.  It really is just a matter of tradition.  In the end, I would encourage you to teach it in the tradition in which we practice and worship.  Some church bodies number the 10 commandments differently.   Below is a list of “all” the commandments and if you read them you will notice there are 11.

  1. You shall have no other gods before me
  2. You shall not make for yourself an image
  3. You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God
  4. Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy
  5. Honor your father and your mother
  6. You shall not murder
  7. You shall not commit adultery
  8. You shall not steal
  9. You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor
  10. You shall not covet your neighbor’s house
  11. You shall not covet your neighbors wife, or manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to you neighbor.

Some traditions combine 1 and 2 as one commandment (as we Lutherans do) and others combine 10 and 11 (we Lutherans separate).  The debate can go on and has gone on even going back to the 3rd century.  The debate is even more complicated than just the two simple suggestions here.  Some Jewish traditions consider the 1st commandment to be what we call the preface, “I am the Lord your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.”  In the end, does it matter?  Not really.  Different traditions have their different ways.  I believe it would be easier to simply say we have 11, but that would mean changing a lot of books and history, including the Bible which refers to their being 10.  In the end, I don’t believe one way is right and the other wrong.  Though it is annoying.  But here is a little further explanation as to why we number the way we do.

Simply put, we number it the way we do because that is how it was numbered in the time of the Reformation. In fact it was Saint Augustine who numbered it this way, to which Luther was an Augustinian monk before the reformation.  Therefore still today Catholic and Lutheran churches follow the same numbering. 

What about the Bible?  Well, the Bible doesn’t help us much here.  We would say that the #2 above is simply epexegetical to meaning "it is further explaining."  But when you read the 10 commandments in Deuteronomy 5 with #10 and 11, there is a different word used for coveting wife and coveting everything else, therefore we separate them.  But the 10 commandments account in Exodus 20 do not have as clear a distinction.   It’s also important that when reading we remember that the verse numbering and paragraph breaks as they are were added by contemporary scholars, not part of the original text.  Therefore, their biases often are seen in numbering and break decisions. 

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