Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The eleventh commandment?

Good Day Folks:

Not being a devotee we figured there were 10 Commandments. Turns out that may not be so. Always operated under the assumption don't anger the Gods and everything will be fine.

Are there more than ten? If there is an eleventh it should read, "Don't get caught!" The following article by the Globe and Mail's Michael Valpy sheds some light on the subject - cleverly written.

Clare L. Pieuk

Globe and Mail, Michael Valpy (October 10, 2009)

So Moses comes down from the top of Mount Sinai carrying the 15 Commandments …

Or maybe it’s 14 if he’s Lutheran, Anglican or Roman Catholic and not an Israelite. But not 10 – 10 is too likely to be a punctuation mistake.

Seventeen is possible.

Normally, none of this is a top-of-the-mind issue and most people are happy to go with the traditional 10 – which is the official tally all faiths wind up with when they package their numbers. The Bible never flat-out says there are 10 commandments, just that there are 10 “words” or 10 “utterances.” Although in fact there are more.

Discussion has been stirred by the arrival at Toronto’s Royal Ontario Museum of the world’s second oldest fragment of the written commandments, from the Bible’s Book of Deuteronomy dating to circa 30 BCE and found in 1952 as part of the Dead Sea scrolls discovery in the caves of Qumran.

Because of its sensitivity to light and humidity, the parchment will be on public display for just 80 hours – one week, beginning Saturday – and then returned to Israel’s Shrine of the Book Museum in Jerusalem which houses the scrolls.

It is, for its brief stay in Toronto, part of the second half of the ROM’s scrolls exhibit which will last until January 3, 2010.

The commandments are the moral foundation of the three Abrahamic religions: Judaism, Christianity and Islam. By tradition, they were authored by God and given to Moses on top of Mount Sinai.

The commandments in the ancient texts weren’t numbered or punctuated. “And the scroll we have is a great example of that,” said Risa Levitt-Kohn, director of the Jewish Studies Program at San Diego State University and the chief curator of the ROM scrolls exhibit.

When the commandments later were edited into the written scriptures of various faiths with chapters and verse divisions, there remained disagreement.

The Jews count the passage “I am the Lord your God” as a standalone first commandment; Anglicans, Lutherans and Roman Catholics consider it a preface: God introducing himself (“Hello, I’m God”) to those reading the commandments.

Different faiths do different counts on the prohibitions on coveting. For Jews, desiring your neighbour’s wife and his property is one commandment. Others make a distinction between coveting people and property.

“I’m not sure if there are specific reasons, except for the fact that each group just explained them this way,” said Chad Stauber, a doctoral student at University of Toronto whose dissertation is on one of the Dead Sea scrolls.

Said Dr. Levitt-Kohn: “I think it goes back to the fact there’s confusion in the original text. I’m not sure there are theological reasons.”

The ancient texts had no punctuation, no numbers, no divisions by chapter or verse. Those were all added later by editors of bibles of various faiths.

Seventeen is the largest number of commandments – and 14 or 15 is the more common tally – that scholars consider legitimate by studying unpunctuated scripture, cultural differences in desiring property, objects and people and what the commandments, as a body, actually meant.

This text is from the Book of Deuteronomy in the Jewish Publication Society Bible:

1. I the Lord am your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, the house of bondage.

2. You shall have no other gods beside Me.

3. You shall not make for yourself a sculptured image, any likeness of what is in the heavens above, or on the earth below, or in the waters below the earth.

4. You shall not bow down to them or serve them. For I the Lord your God am an impassioned God, visiting the guilt of the parents upon the children, upon the third and upon the fourth generations of those who reject Me, but showing kindness to the thousandth generation of those who love Me and keep My commandments.

5. You shall not swear falsely by the name of the Lord your God; for the Lord will not clear one who swears falsely by His name.

6. Observe the Sabbath day and keep it holy, as the Lord your God has commanded you. Six days you shall labour and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of the Lord your God; you shall not do any work – you, your son or your daughter, your male or female slave, your ox or your ass, or any of your cattle, or the stranger in your settlements, so that your male and female slave may rest as you do. Remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt and the Lord your God freed you from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, therefore the Lord your God has commanded you to observe the Sabbath day.

7. Honour your father and your mother, as the Lord your God has commanded you, that you may long endure, and that you may fare well, in the land that the Lord your God is assigning to you.

8. You shall not murder.

9. You shall not commit adultery.

10. You shall not steal.

11. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbour.

12. You shall not covet your neighbour's wife.

13. You shall not crave your neighbour's house,

(14) Or his field,

(15) Or his male or female slave,

(16) Or his ox or his ass,

(17) Or anything that is your neighbour's.


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