Ten_CommandmentsAs I have previously noted, our church is preaching through Deuteronomy. The basic assumption of our church has been that the law is wisdom for us. Thus it can be both “useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,” (2 Tim. 3:16) and something that we are no longer ‘under’ in the strictest sense (Rom. 6:4).

Two weeks ago we went through the Ten Commandments. Our pastor took a particularly helpful approach to understanding the Ten Commandments. He started by looking at Jesus’ interpretation of two of the Ten Commandments in the Sermon on the Mount. These are 1) the prohibition of murder in Matt 5:21-26 and 2) the prohibition of adultery in Matt 5:27-30. Based on his study of Jesus’ hermeneutic in these two texts he proposed the following observations:

  1. Jesus reads the Law as an internal/heart thing
  2. Jesus reads the Law as between God and man, and man and man
  3. Jesus reads the Law as active, not passive

 I think this is a helpful hermeneutic for working with the Law. Our Bible Study decided to go through the Ten Commandments, applying this hermeneutic, and see what kind of results it yielded. Below is our version of the Ten Commandments, worded like Jesus’ interactions with the Law from the Ten Commandments:

  1. You have heard it said, ‘You shall have no other gods before me’ (Deut. 5:7), but I say to you,  anyone who views anything as equal to or in place of the One God is guilty of having another God. Therefore, you shall view God as the one and only and allow nothing to be on par with him.
  2. You have heard it said, ‘You shall not make an idol’ (Deut. 5:8), but I say to you, do not confuse the creator with the created. View God as the Creator that he is and do not seek to compare him to other deities or religions.
  3. You have heard it said, ‘Do not take the Lord’s name in vain’ (Deut. 5:11), but I say to you, revere the Lord and speak highly of him in front of others. You should be scandalized when someone speaks ill of your Father in Heaven.
  4. You have heard it said, ‘you shall keep the Sabbath’ (Deut. 5:12), but I say to you not only should you seek to enter God’s rest, but also invite others to enter into God’s rest.
  5. You have heard it said, ‘honor your father and mother’ (Deut. 5:16), but I say to you, view and speak highly of your parents and elders.
  6. You have heard it said ‘do not murder,’ (Deut. 5:17), but I say to you “if you are angry with a brother or sister, you are liable to judgment” work for reconciliation with your brothers and your sisters (Matt. 5:21-26)
  7. You have heard it said, ‘do not commit adultery’ (Deut. 5:18), but I say to you, “everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart,” therefore pursue righteousness with any means necessary (Matt. 5:27-30).
  8. You have heard it said, ‘do not steal’ (Deut 5:19), but I say to you if you desire something that does not belong to you, you have already stolen it. Therefore, be grateful for what you have and be generous with your belongs recognizing that all things are a gift from God.
  9. You have heard it said, ‘do not testify falsely’ (Deut 5:20), but I say to you anyone who allows negative things to be said about others is guilty of this. Therefore, think and speak highly of others and do not allow your neighbor to be slandered.
  10. You have heard it said, ‘do not covet’ (Deut 5:21), but I say to you be grateful for what you have and be generous with your belongs recognizing that all things are a gift from God.

This sort of exercise worked better for some commandments than others. But it was a helpful exercise for us to rethink about the way we view the Ten Commandments. I’m not saying that any of our above interpretations should be normative (with the exception of the two by Jesus) but it is what we came up with and it came from some fruitful conversation.

I think too often Christians accept the Ten Commandments wholeheartedly and are then semi-Marcionites with the rest of the Law. The Ten Commandments were also part of the ANE (that’s Ancient Near East) law code that is the book of Deuteronomy and it is inconsistent to view them as more normative than the rest of the Law. In all this, I know that I need to be rethinking the way I relate to the Law. But hopefully, that will come out as our church continues to wrestle with Deuteronomy.

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