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June 19, 2006

The Six Commandments

David Plotz, on Slate, is "Blogging the Bible":

Please forgive me for the following sentence, which is, I realize, a point made by approximately 3.28 billion people before me: If you had to summarize morality into a few sentences, the Ten Commandments is about as good as you can do. The last six commandments--honor parents, don't murder, don't commit adultery, don't steal, don't bear false witness, don't covet--pretty much cover it.

Or not. Is coveting thy neighbor's house, wife, etc. -- which seems (unless something has been lost in the translation) merely a jealous thought -- as immoral, say, as ignoring thy neighbor's plea for help? Is bearing false witness as immoral as cheating or back stabbing or exploiting or enslaving or starting an unnecessary war or befogging peoples' view of their lives with mumbo jumbo about supernatural beings? I will have nothing bad to say about the injunction to honor parents; however, doing unto others as you would want them to do to you -- not included in this version of the list -- seems a bit more elemental and far-reaching. Approximately 3.28 billion people, as we know, can be wrong.

What would be a more persuasive six or ten (Plotz has left out all the "jealous God" and idols and sabbath stuff) commandments?

Posted by Mitchell Stephens at June 19, 2006 3:46 PM


In Proverbs 6:16 These six things the Lord hates,
Yes, seven are an abomination to Him:
17 A proud look,
A lying tongue,
Hands that shed innocent blood,
18 A heart that devises wicked plans,
Feet that are swift in running to evil,
19 A false witness who speaks lies,
And one who sows discord among brethren.

I am only sharing this to perhaps give you more to build on as you write concerning the mandates of the Judaeo-Christian God, and how what He insists on demonstrates His character.

Posted by: Bonnie Kim at June 19, 2006 4:00 PM

As a computer scientist I can only count to 1 so
here is my whole list:

All you need is love
All you need is love
All you need is love, love
Love is all you need

Posted by: Jay Saul at June 19, 2006 5:50 PM

The search for a religion seems to be the search for the "abolute truth". Some people stop searching too soon.

Posted by: beepbeepitsme at June 19, 2006 10:08 PM

god, or whatever, bless Jay Saul, and the Beatles too. Love, and breathing, and the wisdom to understand that the search for any absolutes in this contingent, fragile human existence is bound to end in futility. Dance, instead.

Posted by: JM at June 19, 2006 10:48 PM

Perhaps I missed the point of the post? I concluded that Mitch is looking at whether or not the character of the God of the Bible, specifically the God of the Ten Commandments is a God of the same likely character that those who believe in Him ascribe to Him. Whether what He requires is consistent with who people say He is.

Yes, love is the end of the law...the fulfillment of it all. Love your neighbor as yourself. And if you are a theist, love God with all your heart, soul, and strength.

And in life, yes, like the song says,
I hope you dance!

Posted by: Bonnie Kim at June 20, 2006 12:07 AM

The best that can be said of the commandments are that they are sound bytes that flaunt vague concepts. More is not possible in so few words.

Even the rest of the bible with its mass of apparent contradictions is of no help. A definitive work on morality even if it were possible would be massively bigger that the entire bible.

Posted by: Boelf at June 20, 2006 8:14 AM

Interesting way of thinking about the point of the original post, Bonnie K. I guess I heard a bit of righteous indignation there that 'not coveting' etc. was being posed (on Slate post) as more 'moral' than the specifics Mitch raised (deluding people into going to war etc)... but perhaps that's my own sentiment.

The whole idea of 'commandments' (especially any that are written in stone with god's alleged firebrand) scares me, particularly when we're setting them up in various state buildings. Isn't the imposition of 'morality' in this way merely a forced attempt to lock down the contingent? ethics and values are obviously critical to social interaction yet 'commandments' are always hierarchical exercises of power, no? Uncertain how love can be the 'end' of a commandment, if love is akin to freedom.

Posted by: JM at June 20, 2006 9:01 AM

Yes, Slater pointed out that motives and even a higher system of moral and ethical 'othermindedness' than that posed in The Ten Commandments.

But I still felt that the idea was to look at a god who would formulate a social structure of moral obedience to him by those ten rules.

I believe that love is perhaps akin to freedom but surely not synomynous to it. Freedom begets love and love begets sacrifice. Sacrifice does know boundaries employed.

If we are to look at the Jesus of the Bible, do we see a man who maintained the Ten Rules or a man whose modus viviendi rose from freedom, love and sacrifice?

People can be both free and sacrificial. The substantial and cohesive motivator is love.

I don't personally believe for one minute that we can know right government with The Ten Rules or with a Pablo Neruda poem written in stone or hung in the corridors of state buildings.

At least where I am at in the journey of life, I would believe that only what is written in our hearts is what is of value in society.

Religion honors the dogma of stone, but perhaps faith that is not hampered by institution adventures freely to love, but in that love does find essential sacrifice to express it.

And we all have faith in something, even if it is not in a god...no one lives with only reason. That is an impossibility.

Posted by: Bonnie Kim at June 20, 2006 10:09 AM

BK: guess I'm not convinced that love is primarily sacrificial, though obviously that's an important dimension; perhaps one best observed/expressed in the patriarchal paradigm that other entries on this site have explored--the one that leads to the institution of the family, the state, morality, dogma, firebranding in stone... Think this is why I'm more w/ Nietzsche on christianity, and why I rejected it growing up. The Jesus of the bible seems a whole lot more interesting than what religion has made of him, I have to say.

Posted by: JM at June 21, 2006 10:43 AM

Thanks for the thoughts JM. Love need not always demonstrate sacrifice but love is a will to sacrifice if the need to is present. At least that is what I think.
Yup, about Jesus! An atheist friend and I have conversed about Jesus the Humanitarian. It is there...

Though one story in particular troubles me about Jesus. If he did indeed cast devils out of a man, why upon the request of those so named Legion, did he grant their wish to be sent into the nearby herd of pigs?

A critical point between that act of power used and the animal rights as quoted in Proverbs 12:10 A righteous man regards the life of his animal,
But the tender mercies of the wicked are cruel.

Posted by: Bonnie Kim at June 21, 2006 1:21 PM

How about these six?

1. Think.
2. Empathize.
3. Co-operate.
4. Interract with others.
5. Leave everything in better shape than you found it.
6. Act to reduce suffering, with hope that others will do the same.

Posted by: Crosius at June 25, 2006 12:06 PM

Love is the most undefinable thing, it is at the center of the mystery, which is to say it is the most mysterious part of the mystery, which is to say almost nothing. Pair o ducks.

Posted by: Jay Saul at June 25, 2006 1:00 PM

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