The Ten Commandment Problem

Normally I talk about the commandments being problematic in relation to our ability to keep them.  God knew Israel, and all mankind for that matter, would fail to keep the Law.  What we need is an all sufficient savior.  The commandments have a purpose, but they cannot make a person righteous.  Think of them as a ruler used to measure how far we fall short.  Jesus told the Pharisees they kept the letter of the Law but did not understand the spirit of the Law.  Paul calls the Law a burden we are not able to bear.  Moses was the first person to break all ten commandments; wait for it…

Chaplain Mike of Internet Monk points out a different kind of problem.  Counting the Commandments is about how different traditions number the list.  It makes a difference in the interpretation.  Did you know the list Catholics use has no command to not make a graven image?  By combining “graven image” with “no other gods” you end up with two coveting commandments.  On the other hand, keeping the command to covet together as one separates “make no graven image” from “no other gods.”  That seems to be two different commands requiring the same thing.  Mike offers an alternative, click over and see what he has to say about the Talmud.

I thought perhaps the reason we have a numbering problem was that the scriptures do not list any numbers.  Does the Bible actually say there were ten commandments?  And the answer is yes, it does.  Deuteronomy 4:13 says “And he declared to you his covenant, which he commanded you to perform, that is, the Ten Commandments, and he wrote them on two tablets of stone.”  ESV, NIV and KJV all say ten commandments, I checked.  So add to our other problems with the commandments… a math problem.

Ultimately the discussion is academic.  No matter how they are numbered we will read the list and then fail to keep them.  But it is interesting.  Check out Mike’s post and then tell us: How do you count the commandments?

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6 thoughts on “The Ten Commandment Problem

  1. It’s also interesting to read the ten commandments in light of the Babylonian Suzerin Treaty tradition (something suggested by Dr. Ken Matthews). The parallels are amazing (in a sense, they are God’s peace treaty with humanity). There the two tablets don’t contain 5 on one and 5 on another, but the complete set on both. In the tradition of the Suzerin treaty, each party would take a copy and place it their temple as a declaration to the world of the agreement between the two. By having the two tablets come together in the ark of *covenant* it signifies that God has come to meet humanity in a covenant relationship.

  2. I don’t see that how they are numbered really makes any difference. Regardless of numbering, they are ALL commands of God. If we break any one of them (and who has not broken the first one?) and we are guilty of breaking all.

    Praise God for the blood of Christ that cleanses us from all sin.

    What an amazing God!

  3. We live under a New Commandment/ New Covenant in Jesus blood. We are not under the old but under the new. That is why Jesus died.
    John 15:12 Luke 22:17-20

    I wish the Church would follow Jesus and not all the other “stuff”

  4. We are guilty of breaking the commandments. The discussion of numbering is purely academic (I said this). But we don’t need to dismiss the commandments or the Law completely. There is a reason the Old Testament is a big hunk of our Bible.

    Jesus told the Pharisees they kept the letter of the Law but missed the spirit of the Law. Those commandments were meant to teach us something about God. What does it say about a God that wants us to not kill one another? Honor our parents? Honor marriage? When the rich young ruler asked Jesus how to inherit eternal life, Jesus starts listing commandments. Paul says the Law is a burden that we cannot bear, but he also says the Law is a tutor. It cannot make us righteous but makes a good teacher; it is very useful for guidance towards what pleases God.

    “I wish the Church would follow Jesus and not all the other ‘stuff’ ”
    Jesus had a lot to say about some of that other “stuff,” including the commandments. He fulfilled the Law and the Prophets, but certainly didn’t do away with them. Remember Jesus’ answer to which command is the greatest? “Love the Lord you God…” and “Love your neighbor as yourself” are quotes from the Old Testament Law. Those are found in Leviticus and Deuteronomy.

  5. Are you saying that the New Covenant and the Old go together. What about Act 15?

    I read the Torah and Haftarah every week like in the synagogue. But then I read the Brit Chadashah also. ALL of it points to Messiah Jesus. I see Jesus fulling the Law and the prophets and evey part of the law. That is why I KNOW THAT I KNOW THAT i’m under a new covenant.

    Jesus made a greater better covenant. Look at the whole book of Hebrews.

    May I suggest that you look into Wayne Monbleau’s teaching on the New Covenant . http://www.lovinggrace.org

    I will say no more. May the Lord bless you

  6. I’m saying that without the Old Testament, nothing in the book of Hebrews makes any sense. Every time Jesus, the Apostles or Paul quote scripture they are referencing what we would call the Old Testament. Acts 15 quotes several verses from the Prophet Amos.

    The Bible from beginning to end tells one story, that of how a Holy God relates to a sinful, fallen, broken people. At the center of the story is Jesus. Consider Phillip and the Ethiopian eunuch, Acts 8. He was reading Isaiah, and Phillip began there and preached the Gospel. The eunuch was saved, baptized, and carried the Gospel to Ethiopia.

    We must include reading the Old Testament as part of our scripture study. Jesus is our high priest, which we can only understand after learning about the Levitical priesthood. The Last Supper made sense to Jesus’ disciples because they were steeped in the tradition of Passover. He is the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world, but the significance of that title can only be clearly understood in the light of Old Testament sacrifice. “The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.” Gospels? New Testament epistle? No, that was written by Isaiah. The sermon in Isaiah 1 is just as relevant to any New Testament church today as it was in Isaiah’s time.

    The Bible is God’s Word. Do we live under the Old Covenant? No. But Jesus fulfills the Law and Prophets, he does not do away with them.

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