Which Ten Commandments?

Ed Brayton fills us in on the ridiculous Ten Commandments legislation in Louisiana, where they are actually editing the Ten Commandments. Whenever I hear about this kind of nuttiness, I always want to ask: which version of the Ten Commandments?

In the Hebrew Bible (the 'Old Testament'), there are three versions of the Ten Commandments: Exodus 20:2-17, Deuteronomy 5:6-21, and Exodus 34:10-27. (note: I've linked to the original Hebrew version and the English translation, as opposed to versions translated from Hebrew to Greek to Latin to English. It was written in a language that we can understand after all).

The first two versions are similar and are probably familiar to most people. But for the Biblically-challenged, here's a synopsis:

  • 1) I'm God. No ecclesiastical hanky-panky.
  • 2) Don't make graven images, and don't worship idols.
  • 3) Don't take God's name in vain.
  • 4) Observe the Sabbath.
  • 5) Honor your mother and father.
  • 6) Don't murder.
  • 7) Don't commit adultery.
  • 8) Don't steal.
  • 9) Don't bear false witness.
  • 10) Don't covet your neighbor's stuff ("stuff" includes his wimmens).
  • Whle the first two have a slightly different order, they're identical in content. But the third version (Exodus 34) is very different. In fact, some scholoars argue it really shouldn't be called the Ten Commandments, but instead, the Twelve Commandments. Here they are:

  • 1) Don't make a covenant with the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites.
  • 2) Destroy the idols of said heathens.
  • 3) Don't worship other gods.
  • 4) Don't make idols.
  • 5) Observe Passover.
  • 6) Sacrifice the firstborn animals, and redeem your firstborn sons (later on, the best 'first-fruits' are supposed to be brought to the Temple, but I'll throw that in here).
  • 7) Observe the Sabbath.
  • 8) Observe Shavuot and Sukkot.
  • 9) Go to the Temple three times per year.
  • 10) Don't offer the blood of sacrifices with leavened bread.
  • 11) Don't leave the Passover sacrifice sitting around until morning.
  • 12) Don't cook a lamb in its mother's milk.
  • Now, I think this version of the Ten Commandments should be posted everywhere. Why? First, it raises self-esteem: it's very easy to fulfill most of these, since there's no more Temple. Second, some fundamentalists will take this so seriously that they'll sit in a hut for seven weeks to observe Sukkot. Third, adultery is fair game. Just sayin'. Fourth, the whole Jebusite issue is vital for American jurisprudence.

    Finally, those Perizzites are very, very tricksy...


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    It's even worse than that. There are also several different translations of the exodus/deut version. I never remember the details; I know that at least one omits the "I'm the big guy" as a commandment, and then splits the 10th into two.


    You're right about the several different translations of the 'standard' Commandments. Those translations, however, are not from the original Hebrew. They're from the Greek Septaguint, and then often derived from a Latin translation of that, and then from an English translation of the Latin. Then there's the standard theological fussing about to top it all off.

    As someone who's Jewish, I don't understand what's wrong with the Hebrew version of the Bible: from the Dead Sea Scrolls, we know the modern Hebrew version is accurate.

    Jebusites, represent!