Sei sulla pagina 1di 19

HYSELL, Matthew G.

The Ten Commandments That Werent?

Matthew G. Hysell BST-: Pentateuch 16 April 2012 THE TEN COMMANDMENTS THAT WERENT?
Introduction Popular imagination can often be a stumbling block in the Christians encounter with the Scriptures. Eisegesis is precisely this reading into a text something which is foreign to its narrative or historical structure. For as central as Christmas is to Christianity, many people are surprised that the Infancy Narrative can be found only in Matthew and Luke and neither in Mark and John; moreover, the plot of the birth itself and of the visit of the Magi are found in completely separate accounts. Thus, for Christians who are accustomed to seeing a crche with shepherds and three kings, approaching the Christmas story in Luke can be a rude awakening. Two other examples should suffice to show how the popular imagination often overrides Biblical literacy. When one thinks of the Twelve Apostles or even just the Apostles, Judas Iscariot is implicitly includedwhen in fact, the final count replaced him with Matthias, and St Paul is given some vague inclusion among The Twelve when in fact he is not. We also have the motif of the two conjoined stone tablets with the Ten Commandmentsit can be seen in many forms of religious architecture and art, not excepting Cecil DeMilles classic film by the same title. As a result, the narrative of Exodus 20ff and Deuteronomy 5ff is approached with false expectations and has even given rise to sectarian groups with deliberate tendencies to exaggerate the importance of the Ten Commandments in their own religious systems. The fact that is often overlookedusually because most do not even bother to compareis that the narratives of God delivering the Law to Moses in Exodus and Deuteronomy differ considerably. This essay argues that, at least in the Exodus version of the story, the Ten Commandments as conceived in the popular imagination is at worst a fictional re-telling of the event and at best only a cursory reading of the same event. Moreover, the phrase Ten Commandments is used in Ex 34:28, besides being an

HYSELL, Matthew G.

The Ten Commandments That Werent?

inaccurate translation of , refers to a completely different set of mitzvah than what has been relayed in traditional catechesis. The question, therefore, is a pastoral one: if the Ten Commandments as traditionally taught in moral catechesis is an inaccurate reflection of the Biblical narrative, in what way can they still be retrieved such that it respects the Tradition? 1I will propose that, consonant with the current Jewish understanding of the Aseret ha-Dibrot, the Scholastic method of interpreting the Scriptures according to a tropological sense is the best way to not only retrieve the Tradition but also to understand the possible intent of the Holy Spirit in moving the Church to teach the Ten Commandments in moral catechesis. The Exodus Account of the Mosaic Law We begin by taking note of a very specific nomenclature in the gospels: the Law and the Prophets (e.g., Mt. 5:17, 7:12, 22:40; Lk 16:16, 24:44). Jesus references to the Old Testament saw the Law and the Prophets as a dual unity in a way that failed to dichotomize the Ten Commandments from the rest of the Mosaic Law: It was never said, the Ten Commandments, the Law, and the Prophets We will come back to this precise point with respect to Jewish religious observance: at a certain point in history, the daily recitation of the Ten Commandments were suppressed because it gave the false impression that these alone were given to Moses on Sinai. What happened in the Exodus account? The narrative spans from chapter 19 through 40:33 and is divided into three sections, the first with a series of laws composed by Moses at Gods bidding on the book of the covenant and two on table[t]s of stone. After their departure from Egypt, on the third new moon, the Israelites arrived at the wilderness of Sinai and set up camp before the mountain (19:1-2). Moses then went up to God who called to him out of the mountain. There God reminded him that it was God who protected the Israelites from the Egyptians and brought them to the wilderness of Sinai: Now, therefore, if you will obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my own possession among all peoples... (19:5).
1

It should be noted that A fivefold Torah, with Deut[eronomy] as a separate book, is not attested before the Roman Period. See J. Blenkinsopp, Deuteronomy, in R. Brown, J. Fitzmyer, and R. Murphy, The New Jerome Biblical Commentary (Toronto, ON: Novalis, 2000), 94.

HYSELL, Matthew G.

The Ten Commandments That Werent?

Moses then returns and called the elders of the people, and set before them all these words which the Lord had commanded him. In reply, all the people answered together and said, All that the Lord has spoken we will do (19:7-8). Moses then returns to God and reports the agreement of the people and God indicates that He will approach Moses in a theophany of a thick cloud, that the people may hear when I speak to you, and may also believe you for ever (19:8-9). It is clear, then, that Moses plays a mediating role between God who speaks from Mount Sinai and the children of Israel. Next, God commands Moses to inform the Israelites that they must prepare themselves for the theophany on Sinai: on the first two days, they will wash their clothing and on the third day the Lord will come down upon Mount Sinai in the sight o fall the people (19:11). They are warned not to ascend the mountain, not even to touch the border of the mountain. Even animals that violate this commandment were to be executed. This separation between Sinai and Israel indicates the holiness of God, who demands moral rectitude and a special vocation in order to as much as touch Sinai. On the third day, a theophany takes place with thunders and lightings, and a thick cloud upon the mountain, and a very loud trumpet blast (19:16). Moses leads Israel to God near the base of the Mountain (19:17). It appears that at this point, Moses is still at the base of Sinai since he conversing with God (19:19) and only subsequently is he summoned to the top of the mountain to meet God who came down upon Mount Sinai (19:19-20). What Moses and God conversed about is not recorded, only that [a]nd as the sound o the trumpet grew louder and louder, Moses spoke, and God answered him in thunder (19:19). After ascending Sinai according to Gods summons, Moses is then sent back to Israel to reiterate the warning not to touch the base of the mountain, but also to let the priests who come near to the Lord consecrate themselves (19:22). After reminding God of the proscription of touching Sinai, Moses is sent to retrieve his brother Aaron but to leave the priests behind (19:24, 25). What follows in the next chapter is a queue of mitzvah closely resembling the Ten Commandments found in traditional moral catechesis. On the basis of 19:24, 25, it would appear that Aaron was with Moses when God spoke all these words (20:1) which takes up the first section of the

HYSELL, Matthew G.

The Ten Commandments That Werent?

handing-on of the Law (20:1-23:33). As we will see, the Law appears to be handed-on to Moses, at least in the Exodus version of the event, three times. After the enumeration of the traditional Ten Commandments in 20:1-19, there is a short intermission showing the reaction of the Israelites to the theophany on Sinai: Now when all the people perceived the thundering and the lightning and the sound of the trumpet and the mountain smoking, the people were afraid and trembled, and they stood afar off (20:18). It would appear that the Israelites are shouting to Moses from the base of the mountain towards the top: You speak to us, and we will hear; but let not God speak to us, lest we die. In reply, Moses reassures the Israelites and exhorts them to obedience. What is clear is that the Israelites were able to eavesdrop on the theophany at Sinai (20:18; cf. 19:9). Uncertain, however, is whether the Israelites were able to understand what was spoken by God to Moses, since the narrator clearly states that they heard the thundering and the lightning and the sound of the trumpet... (20:18). Significantly, the handing-on of the law does not conclude with the tenth Commandment. The pericope of Exodus 20:18-20 is simply an intermission before a more numerous set of mitzvah which spans 20:21 through 23:33: the law concerning the altar2 (20:21-26); the law concerning slaves (21:111); the law concerning violence (21:12-27); laws concerning property (21:28-36); laws of restitution (22:1-15); social and religious laws (22:16-31); justice for all (23:1-9); sabbatical year and Sabbath (23:10-13); the annual festivals (23:14-19). The section at the end (23:20-33) contains a series of promises, prescriptions, and proscriptions for the Israelites when they enter the land of Canaan. Thus the first body of laws comes to a close. Beginning at 24:1, God commands Moses to come up to the Lord with Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventh elders of Israel, and to worship Him afar off but the people shall not come up with him (24:1, 2). Again, the narrativity here is ambiguous since there is no indication that Moses descended from Sinai after the first handing-on of the law. At 24:3, the narrator writes: Moses came and told the people all the words of the Lord and all the ordinances. In
2

These section headings are taken from the Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition of the Bible.

HYSELL, Matthew G.

The Ten Commandments That Werent?

the literal sense, then, the best understanding is perhaps that 24:1, 2 is a conclusion to the divine discourse which spans 20:21 though 23:33, which would mean that this pericope is part and parcel of this same discourse. The verse at 24:3 appears strongly suggestive of the possibility that Moses relayed the divine commandsincluding the one of 24:1, 2in what he told the people at 24:3. After exhorting the Israelites to obey all the words of the Lord and all the ordinances, the Israelites comply: All the words which the Lord has spoken we will do (24:3, 4). Next comes a scene that is rarely, if ever, mentioned in explaining the Biblical antecedents of the Ten Comandments in moral catechesis: And Moses wrote all the words of the Lord (24:4a)the best reading suggests that not only were the traditional Ten Commandments handed to Moses on Sinai, but also a broader set of mitzvoth, but that Moses had written the laws God handed over, which is at strong variance with the traditional story of God Himself writing the Ten Commandments. Then we must ask, write on what? 24:7 narrates, Then he [= Moses] took the book of the covenant and read it in the hearing of the people, and they said, All that the Lord has spoken we will do, and we will be obedient (24:7). At 24:8, a covenant is made with the people with the altar Moses built at the base of Sinai (24:4b-6) and splashed it upon the Israelites. This is only the first part of the handing-on of the Law. The interlude at 24:9-18 introduces the reader to a number of elements found in the traditional narrative of the Ten Commandments yet, curiously, distinct from it. The second body of laws will span from 25:1 through 31:17. Beginning the second section of the handing-on of the Law is another theophany witnesses by Moses, Aaron, Nadab, Abihu, and seventy elders of Israel, apparently approaching Mount Sinai but not actually ascending it (24:9, cf. 24:12). They men saw the God of Israel; and there was under His feet as it were a pavement of sapphire stone, like the very heaven for clearness... they behold God, and ate and drank (24:10, 11b). God then commands Moses to Come up to Me on the mountain, and wait there... (24:12), which indicates that Moses was separated from the company. Then: ...and I will give you the tables of stone, with the law and the commandment, which I have written for their instruction. But Moses does not ascend Sinai alone; he brings with him Joshua (24:13a) ...up into the mountain of God 5

HYSELL, Matthew G.

The Ten Commandments That Werent?

(24:13b). Aaron stays behind with the elders to govern the children of Israel during the time Moses is upon Sinai (24:14).

Then Moses went up on the mountain, and the cloud covered the mountain. The glory of the lord settled on Mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it six days, and on the seventh day he called to Moses out of the midst of the cloud. Now the appearance of the glory of the Lord was like a devouring fire at the top of the mountain in teh sight of the people of Israel. And Moses entered the cloud, and went upon the mountain. And Moses was on the mountain forty days and forty nights.

Thus a third theophany takes place, which Israel witnesses. Despite 24:13, the narrator seems to indicate that Moses alone entered into the Presence of God, even though all of Israel could see the glory of the Lord. The narrativity is confusing, because at 24:15, Moses went up on the mountain but at 24:18, Moses entered the cloud, and went up on the mountain. We are not entirely interested in the microchronology of the narrative, but it is worth noting that the apparently convoluted narrativity of God handing the Law to Moses on Sinai is entirely absent from the popular imagination. It was in this episodethe second section of the Lawthat Moses is upon Sinai for forty days and nights. Note too that the entire body of laws contained in 25:2-31:17, following the narrators introduction at 25:1, The Lord said to Moses..., contains nothing of the traditional Ten Commandments. To press this point further, note that the popular imagination has roughly five commandments on one tablet and another five on the other tablet of stone. The narrative of Exodus, chapters twenty through twenty-four, has this body of commandments and ordinances written on the book of the covenant and then another series of lawsencompassing 25:1 through 31:17were given to Moses when [God] made an end of speaking with him upon Mount Sinai, the two tables of the testimony, tables of stone, written with the finger of God (31:18). The popular imagination of five commandments on one table and the other five on the second table is not consistent with the narrative, not only because the so-called Ten Commandments were not even on the tables, the tables actually had laws and commandments on both sides: And Moses turned, and went down from the mountain with the two tables of the testimony in his hands, tables that were written on both sides, on the one side and on the other side they were written (32:15).

HYSELL, Matthew G.

The Ten Commandments That Werent?

The Golden Calf interlude in chapter 32 introduces another phase in the giving of the Law. After Moses sees the idolatry of the Israelites, he threw the tables out of his hands and broke them at the foot of the mountain (32:19). The destruction of the tablets does not simply indicate the fury of Moses but rather the broken relationship between Israel and God. The covenant, literally, is broken. We cannot enter into detail here the intermission of chapter 33 (though it is curious that the language shiftsalbeit brieflyfrom Sinai to Horeb at 33:6). At the beginning of chapter 34, God tells Moses, Cut two tables of stone like the first, and I will write upon the tables the words that were on the first tables, which you broke (v. 1; cf. v. 4). As per Gods command, Moses again ascends Mount Sinai and there God renews the Covenant (34:10). What follows, in my opinion, is a most curious episode in salvation-history that is seldom, if ever, mentioned. After sternly commanding Moses (and, by extension, the Israelites) to remain untouched by the paganism of the surrounding regions, God says:
You shall make for yourself no molten gods. The feast of unleavened bread you shall keep. Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread, as I commanded you, at the time appointed in the month of Abib; for in the month Abib you came out from Egypt. All that opens the womb is mind, all your male cattle, the firstlings of cow and sheep. The firstling of an ass you shall redeem with a lamb, or if you willnot redeem it you shall break its neck. All the first born of your sons you shall redeem. And none shall appear before me empty. Six days you shall work, but on the seventh day you shall rest, in plowing time and in harvest you shall rest. And you shall observe the feast of weeks, the first fruits of wheat harvest, and the feast of ingathering at the years end. Three times in the year shall all your males appear before the Lorde God, the God of Israel. For I will cast out nations before you, and enlarge your borders; neither shall any man desire your land, when you go up to appear before the Lord your God three times in the year. You shall not offer the blood of my sacrifice with the leaven; neither shall the sacrifice of the feast of the Passover be left until the morning. The first of the first fruits of your ground you shall bring to the house of the Lord your God. You shall not boil a kid in its mothers milk (34:17-26).

What is doubly significant, is that the very next pericope reads: Write these words; in accordance with these words I have made a covenant with you and with Israel (34:27). After indicating that Moses was upon Sinai, for a second time, forty days and forty nights, we read: And he wrote upon the tables the words of the covenant, the ten commandments (v. 28). Two problems jump out. First, the reader is informed at 34:1 that God would write on the tables; at 34:27, 28c that Moses wrote the words upon the tables. Second, we are introduced, for the first time in

HYSELL, Matthew G.

The Ten Commandments That Werent?

the Exodus narrative, the appellation ten commandments (

, ).3 Returning to

our recent observation about the Ten Commandments on two tables, whereas in the first giving of the law, the entirety of laws found in 25:1-31:17 were all written on two tables, front and back, the second giving of the lawonly the ten commandments strictly speakingwere written on the tables (34:28c). Thus yet another discrepancy emergesif God tells Moses that he will write upon the tables on the words that were on the first tables (34:1b), why, then do we not only see (i) a new and completely different set of laws, (ii) much shorter than the first, called, strictly speaking, (iii) the ten commandments? These questions, although they touch on the topic of this present essay, cannot be discussed here, although they must be raised. The pericope of 34:29-35 tells the famous story of Moses face shining after he comes down from Sinai. Bear in mind that this happens only after the giving of the second set of tables which are completely different form the first set. The film by Cecil DeMille, on the other hand, gives the impression that the pericope of 34:29-35 takes place immediately after 20:20. After this, beginning with 35:1, Moses relays to the Israelites a wider body of laws which includes Sabbath regulations (35:2-3), preparations for making the Tabernacle (35:4-19), offerings for the Tabernacle (35:20-29), Bezalel and Oholiab (35:30-36:7), construction of the Tabernacle (36:8-38), making the Ark of the Covenant (37:1-9), making the table for the Bread of Presence (37:10-16), making the Lampstand (37:17-24), making the Altar of Incense (37:25-28), making the Anointing Oil and Incense (37:29), making the Altar of Burnt Offering (38:1-8), making the Court of the Tabernacle (38:9-20), materials of the Tabernacle (38:21-31), and the making the vestments for the priesthood (39:1-30).4 What would strike the contemporary reader as unusual about Ex 35-39:31 is that it appears, initially, to be a body of laws given to the Israelites. At 39:32ff, we discover that the reception of the law as an active oneat the end of the laws, the reader discovers that Thus all of the work of the tabernacle

Do not be convinced that I am conversant in Hebrew; I only have reading ability in Greek. For Hebrew lexical tools, I make use of the online NET Bible, Bible Works 6.0, and the Interlinear Scripture Analyzer. 4 The titles for these section headings are taken from the Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition.

HYSELL, Matthew G.

The Ten Commandments That Werent?

of the tent of meeting was finished; and the people of Israel had done according to all that the Lord had commanded Moses; so had they done (v. 32). Thus the book of Exodus concludes with the Israelites carrying out the commands in 35-39. A Closer Look at the Ten Commandments We must now press the question: If Ex 34:28 is the only place in the narrative where ten commandments were used, why (i) did it come to be assigned to the traditional ten commandments, (ii) why were the traditional ten commandments said to have been ten imperatives, and (iii) why were they called commandments? (i) The Misnomer of Ten Commandments to Ex 20:1-19 First of all, the appellation ten commandments, as we have seen, appears in Exodus only at 34:28 and refers to the body of laws found in vv. 17-26. It is by cross-wiring Deut 10:4, And he [= Moses] wrote on the tables, as at the first writing, the ten commandments which the Lord had spoke to you on the mountain out of the midst of the fire on the day of the assembly The passage of Deut 10:4 parallels Ex 34:1, except the Deuteronomy account narrates the giving of the traditional Decalogue and applies the name ten commandments to something different than what Exodus had in mind. In other words, whereas Ex 34 introduces a second set of tablets, while claiming to be identical to the first set and gives the second set the name of the commandments, Deuteronomy does not enumerate the body of laws found in Ex 34 though it does refer to a second set of tablets, identifies it with Deut 5:1-21. It is only by the absence of the enumeration of the mitzvot found in Ex 34:17-26 in the narration of Deut 6 that the appellation Ten Commandments were applied to Ex 20 and Deut 5. It should be noted that many scholars believe Deuteronomy to be a seventh-century commentary on the Law of Mosesit is the first text to speak of Law in a uniplural senseand since it is far removed from the perhaps more historical version of the events narrated in Exodus, it is therefore less of an historical document and more of a theological reflection or commentary of the laws received at Sinai.5

L. Boadt, Reading the Old Testament (Mawah, NJ: Paulist Press, 1984), 193.

HYSELL, Matthew G.

The Ten Commandments That Werent?

In every commentary I have read, no discussion has been given to the fact that ten commandments in Ex 34:28/Deut 10:4 has been hastily applied to the traditional Decalogue. The closest distinction I have been able to find between the so-called Decalogue on the two sets of tablets found in Exodus has been simply a distinction between the moral Decalogue and the ritual Decalogue but still without any further delineation.6 (ii) Why Ten Commandments? What is even more puzzling is the name ten commandments is applied to a body of laws that has more than ten imperatives. There are, in fact, twelve negative imperatives ( )and three positive imperatives (Remember the Sabbath and to keep it holy as well as to honour ones parents). Strictly, speaking, then, there are fourteen imperatives in what is popularly called the ten commandments. However, we may even be raising a moot point here, since the phrase behind Ex 34:28 and Deut 10:4 is not ten commandments but words or things, which was translated into the LXX as and passed into Christian culture as Decalogus. As far as documentary evidence goes, Philo of Alexandria has the distinction of at least crystallizing the custom of giving the appellation Decalogue to Ex 20:2-17, found in his text A Treatise Concerning the Ten Commandments, Which are the Heads of the Law.7 The Talmud makes a similar claim, though we pass over this because we cannot assume much, if any, influence upon Christian thought (unless the text in question bears a long history). Philo, especially given his influence on the Fourth Gospel, must be taken a priori as most likely a high influence on the Christian reception of the so-called Decalogue. The Church Father who appears to be the first to address the Decalogue at any depth is St Augustine of Hippo Regius in his Qustionum in Heptateuchum libri VII.8 The Catechism of the Catholic Church makes the curious claim that the role of the ten commandments in catechetical history owes to the thought of St Augustine:

J. McKenzie mentions this somewhat disinterestedly in his Dictionary of the Bible (Milwaukee, WI: Bruce Publishing Company, 1965), 187. 7 Available on the Web at http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/yonge/book26.html. 8 Book 2, Question 71.

10

HYSELL, Matthew G.

The Ten Commandments That Werent?

Ever since St. Augustine, the Ten Commandments have occupied a predominant place in the catechesis of baptismal candidates and the faithful. In the fifteenth century, the custom arose of expressing the commandments of the Decalogue in rhymed formulae, easy to memorize and in positive form. They are still in use today. The catechisms of the Church have often expounded Christian morality by following the order of the Ten Commandments.9

It is beyond the scope of this paper to examine in detail the influence of St Augustine on the use of the ten commandments in Catholic moral catechesis, though necessary in pursuit of our question. (iii) Why Ten Commandments? As far as we are able to tell, the appellation ten commandments entered English usage with the printing of the Geneva Bible in 1560: So he was there with the LORD forty days and forty nights; and did neither eat bread nor drink water. And he wrote in the Tablets the words of the covenant, even the Ten Commandments.10 Prior to the Geneva Bible, English translations make use of slight variants of Ten Wordsthe versions produced by Myles Coverdale (1535) and William Tyndale (Pentateuch, 1530) both have ten verses. Subsequent translations to the Geneva Biblethe Bishops Bible (1572) and the Authorized Version (1611) apparently maintained ten commandments and thus entered into popular English usage. As we have already observed, the Hebrew phrase supposedly behind ten commandments is aseret ha-dvarim, not asaret ha-mitzvot. What stands behind ten commandments is very likely the Latin decem praecepta which may have had its catapult into traditional Catholic moral catechesis by St Augustine in his Quaestiones in Hepteteuchum libri VII, although there is mention of them in the Didache in an expanded form.11 It was not until the Fourth Ecumenical Council of the Lateran that the ten commandments were introduced into catechesis in any obligatory fashion, and then reiterated at the Ecumenical Council of Trent. It has consistently made its appearances in written catechisms ever since. Nevertheless, it remains to be discovered why and how the ten words or decalogus metamorphosed into decem praecepta. It is also fair to ask whether the Romance langaugessuch as
9

2065. On the Web at http://www.genevabible.org/files/Geneva_Bible/Old_Testament/Exodus.pdf, retrieved 14 April 2012. 11 Chapters 1, 2.


10

11

HYSELL, Matthew G.

The Ten Commandments That Werent?

Frenchs dix commandements, Spanishs diez mandamientos, and Italians dieci comandamentiadopted their respective cognates of ten commandments on the basis of a prior Latin decem praecepta or by way of an Anglicizing influence from the Geneva Bible and subsequent English versions, as would seem more likely since commandements, mandamientos, and comandamenti seem to be more apt cognates of commandment than praecepta. A Jewish Understanding and a Possible Catholic Retrieval At this point it is worthwhile to make brief mention of the history of Jewish liturgy with respect to the Aseret ha-Dibrot. The Jewish festival of Shauvot or the Feast of Weeks which stands behind the Christian solemnity of Pentecost commemorates the giving of the Torah to Moses on Mount Sinai (cf. Ex 34:22; Deut 16:10). The connexion between the Torah and Shauvot, however, is a rabbinic tradition12 which was, nonetheless, a belief widespread in Jesus time. Of special concern to Jewish liturgists is the fact that of the Torah, the Aseret ha-Dibrot is read only at Shauvot, despite its seminal importance. Rabbi David Golinkin, president and rector of the Schechter Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem, asks: given their centrality, why not read the Ten Commandments every day just as we read the Shema? The question becomes even more poignant when one considers that the Decalogue was indeed read daily in the Second Temple period. Dr Golinkin indicates several pieces of evidence pointing to this practise. The Nash Papyrus, published in 1903, an Egyptian text written in first half of the second century before Christ, contained the Decalogue and the Shema, which scholars believe was a liturgical text. The Dead Sea Scrolls also contained three small texts containing the Decalogue, the Shema, and other passages from Deuteronomy and Exodus which scholar Esther Eshel believes was a collection of prayers recited daily by the Qumran community. Most importantly, the Misnah Talmud 5:1 states that priests in the Temple recited a queue of biblical texts every day, including the Decalogue. The

12

Tosefta Megillah 3:5; Yerushalmi Megillah 3:7, fol. 74b; and Bavli Megillah 31a; on the Web at www.myjewishlearning.com/holidays/Jewish_Holidays/Shavuot/In_the_Community/Torah_Reading_and_Haftarah/The_Ten_Co mmandments/In_Liturgy.shtml#.T2dlc4vk5JM.facebook, retrieved 10 April 2012.

12

HYSELL, Matthew G.

The Ten Commandments That Werent?

phylacteries, at one point, even included a text of the Decalogue, attested by the Sifrei Devarim and St Jerome13. So we reiterate Dr Golinkins question, why were they eliminated from such central symbols of Jewish piety? Dr Golinkin then procures evidence from the Yerushalmi Berakhot (ch. 1, fol. 3c)14 in which two sages, Rav Matana and Rabi Shmuel bar Nahman insist that It would be proper to read the Ten Commandments every day; and why dont we? Because of the zeal of the heretics lest they say, These alone were given to Moses on Sinai. Thus, at least prior to the fifth century A.D., the opinion that the Decalogue alone was given to Moses on Sinai was opposed by the Jewish leadership in Palestine and it is a real possibility that it was an opinion held by no small contingent. Similarly, the Babylonian Talmud states: They were already abolished because of the murmuring of heretics, which indicates that some peoplewho they are we cannot know for certain, though Christians, Philo, Gnostics, and Samaritans have been proposedconsidered the Decalogue to be the totality of the Law given to Moses on Sinai. Jewish liturgy had eliminated the daily recitation of the Decalogue precisely to strike at this error. In the mediaeval period, the Jewish philosopher and theologian Maimonides wanted to prevent synagogue assemblies from standing for the Decalogue as it tended to give the impression that certain parts of the Law of Moses were more eminent than the rest. and they think that the Torah contains different levels and some parts are better than others, and this is very bad. The rejection of a supereminence of the Aseret ha-Dibrot over the rest of the Torah is strongly indicated by the common Jewish doctrine that the Ten Words, rather than being suspended over and against the other 603 mitzvot, in fact summarizes the totality of the Law. The earliest known evidence of the distribution of the 603 commandments subsumed under one of each of the Decalogue is found in Rav Saadia Gaon in his liturgical hymn Azharot composed for Shauvot.

13 14

Commentary on Ezekiel, 24:17. English translation of this text is available on the Web at http://halakhah.com/yerushalmi_berakhot_tzvee_zahavy_2010.pdf, retrieved 10 April 2012.

13

HYSELL, Matthew G.

The Ten Commandments That Werent?

Given the ambiguity of the Ten Commandments in the Old Testament, what are Christians to make of the catechetical tradition of including the Decalogue in moral formation? After all, the major catechisms of the Churchthe Roman Catechism, the Catechism of St Thomas Aquinas, the Catechism of St Pius X, and the recent universal Catechism of the Catholic Church all include a section on Christian morality with the Decalogue as its vertebrae. Despite what appears to be overwhelming evidence that the popular imaginations conception of the Decalogue is patently false, I am hesitant to write it off completely. There is something to be said about the force of tradition and the sensus fidelium when it comes to the Decalogue and moral catechesis. The answer, I would propose, is to be found in the Scholastic method of interpreting the Scriptures, here applied to the Law of Moses as a whole. As St Gregory the Great teaches, the Scriptures bear both a literal and a spiritual interpretation, the latter building, necessarily, upon the former. From the spiritual sense are derived four streams believed to have been originated by St John Cassian but popularly relayed by a medieval couplet, attributed to Augustine of Denmark: Lettera gesta docet, quid credas allegoria, moralis quid agas, quo tendas anagogia. The Catechism of the Catholic Church translates this as The letter speaks of deeds; allegory to faith; the moral how to act, anagogy to our destiny.15 As St Thomas Aquinas explains
That signification whereby things signified by words have themselves also a signification is called the spiritual sense, which is based on the literal, and presupposes it. Now this spiritual sense has a threefold division. For as the Apostle says (Hebrews 10:1) the Old Law is a figure of the New Law, and Dionysius says (Coel. Hier. i) "the New Law itself is a figure of future glory." Again, in the New Law, whatever our Head has done is a type of what we ought to do. Therefore, so far as the things of the Old Law signify the things of the New Law, there is the allegorical sense; so far as the things done in Christ, or so far as the things which signify Christ, are types of what we ought to do, there is the moral sense. But so far as they signify what relates to eternal glory, there is the anagogical sense. Since the literal sense is that which the author intends, and since the author of Holy Writ is God, Who by one act comprehends all things by His intellect, it is not unfitting, as Augustine says (Confess. xii), if, even according to the literal sense, one word in Holy Writ should have several senses. 16

Since moral catechesis which employs the Decalogue addresses what we ought to do, there is the moral sense, it follows that the moral sense of the Scriptures, also called the tropological sense,

15 16

Catechism of the Catholic Church, 118; cf. 115-117. S.th. Ia, q. 1, art. 10, respondeo.

14

HYSELL, Matthew G.

The Ten Commandments That Werent?

should have a certain bearing on the interpretation of the Law of Moses. How can this be done? In other words, what methodology can be employed such that the tropological sense of Scriptures can in fact validate the use of the Decalogue in moral catechesis even if the isolation of the Ten Commandments is from the rest of the Law of Moses rests on a hasty reading of the Scriptures? The answer, I would suggest, is instigated by the Jewish approach to the Aseret ha-Dibrot, namely, that they are not supereminent mitzvot among the 613 but, rather, overarching categories under which each of the 603 other mitzvoth are subsumed under these ten, as Philo of Alexandria so clearly taught. The tropological sense, it would seem, could have been developed (or at least should be) in a way similar to a philosophical validation of Triadology. As the Fathers and Scholastics consistently tell us, natural reason is incapable of thinking up the doctrine of the Triune God. Yet, after Divine Revelation has disclosed the Triunity of God, the philosopher is equipped, on the basis of reason, to see how sensible Trinitarian metaphysics is. Similarly, the so-called Decalogue of the traditional Ten Commandmentsdespite it being a misnomercould be a divinely revealed set of natural laws that make sense, as precepts of the Natural Law, in hindsight. Such a Natural Law grasp of the Decalogue has given the Church a broader understanding of each commandmentthe oft-repeated Sixth Commandment, for instance, as being a broad and general proscription of sexual license. We see a development of this in the first instance of canon and liturgical law, the Didache, in which the first two chapters appear to be expansions of the duties towards God and neighbor. By the time of St Augustine, it would appear, sufficient reflection was given to Ex 20:2-17/Deut 5:6-21 such that elements of the natural law were gleaned from them and taken to be a kind of codification of moral imperatives binding upon all people. Thus a tropological sense of the so-called Decalogue by which it was retrieved and weighed as binding upon Christians still. The Challenge of Pauline Supercessionism More to the point, certain elements in proto-Pauline and deutero-Pauline writings are strongly suggestive of the fact that the totality of the Law of Moses is no longer binding on Christians. In 1 Cor 3:2-11, St Paul wrote, 15

HYSELL, Matthew G.

The Ten Commandments That Werent?

You yourselves are our letter of recommendation, written on your hearts, to be known and read by all men; and you show that you are a letter from Christ delivered by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on the tablets of human hearts Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God. Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to claim anything as coming from us; our sufficiency is from God, who has qualified us to be ministers of a New Covenant, not in a written code but in the Spirit; for the written code kills, but the Spirit gives life. Now if the dispensation of death, carved in letters on stone, came with such splendor that the Israelites could not look at Moses face because of its brightness, fading as this was, will not the dispensation of the Spirit be attended with greater splendor? For if there was a splendor in the dispensation of condemnation, the dispensation of righteousness must far exceed it in splendor. Indeed, in this case, what once had splendor has come to have no splendor at all, because of the splendor that surpasses it. For if what faded away came with splendor, what is permanent must have much more splendor.

Here, St Paul is clearly distinguishing the Law of Moses from the law of grace bestowed by the Holy Spirit. He speaks of the tablets of stone (v. 3) and distinguishes it from the individual Christian who is a letter from Christwrittenwith the Spirit of the living God. In fact, it was the written code which kills, as opposed to the Spirit who bestows life. This strongly resembles St Pauls argument in Rom 3:19-20, in which he argues that the Law was instituted precisely to convict its observants of the inescapability of sin and to prove that one cannot maintain personal holiness on the basis of obedience alone. The same is argued in Gal 3:19-26. Thus St Paul refers to the period of the Laws obligatory status as the dispensation of death and the dispensation of condemnation and contrasts it with the splendor of the dispensation of righteousness. This should be hardly surprising, as St Paul alludes (v. 6) to the prophecy of Jeremiah (31:31-33). At the end, St Paul alludes to the transitory character of the Law of Moses in v. 11 as one that has faded away and yields to something permanent (v. 11). Hence in Gal 3:23-24, St Paul argues that Now before faith came, we were confined under the Law, kept under restraint until faith should be revealed. So that the Law was our custodian until Christ came, that we might be justified by faith. The deuteron-Pauline writings are even more forceful in pointing out the transitory nature of the Law of Moses. The author (St Paul?) argues that the Cross has abolished the ethnic division between Jews and Gentiles: For He is our peace, who has made us both one, and has broken down the dividing wall of hostility, by abolishing the in his flesh the law of commandments and ordinances (Eph 2:1415a). 16

HYSELL, Matthew G.

The Ten Commandments That Werent?

As Catholics, obviously, we cannot so blithely cast off the usage of the Decalogue in moral catechesis. In point of fact, the Ecumenical Council of Trent (Session VI), in its Decree on Justification, canon 19, teaches that If anyone says that nothing besides faith is commanded in the Gospel, that other things are indifferent, neither commanded nor forbidden, but free; or that the ten commandments in no way pertain to Christians, let him be anathema.17 How, then, do we reconcile Pauline Supercessionismespecially with regards to the Law of Mosesand the Churchs insistence on the continued obligatory character of the (moral) Decalogue? The answer, as I have already hinted at, can be found in Rom 1:18-32, in which St Paul insists that the Natural Law is self-evident enough that very few people can be excused of culpability for committing serious sins. By a prolonged reflection on the Natural Law and then a kind of hindsight of the Ex 20:2-17/Deut 5:6-21, the Churchs moral tradition was able to salvage the text for moral catechesis. Admittedly, the history of the (moral) Decalogue presents itself as having a very convoluted and checkered history. But we should not imagine that it is unique in the Churchs catechetical tradition. The enumeration of the twelve fruits of the Holy Spirit, for example, is found only in the Western Texttradition of Gal 5:22-23. Conclusion By way of conclusion, we simply enumerate what we have discovered: 1. The phrase ten commandments appears in both Ex and Deut only at the incident of the second set of Tablets. 2. In Ex, the phrase ten commandments is specifically applied to 34:17-26. 3. In Deut, the phrase ten commandments is applied to 5:6-21 by way of allusion. 4. The application of the phrase ten commandments appears to be a cross-wiring of Ex 20:217/Deut 5:6-21 and Deut 10:4. 5. The cross-wiring in n. 4 above obscures the fact that the Deuteronomists ten commandments were written on stone tablets whereas the Exodus account has it on the book of the covenant. 6. Nn. 4, 5 above entered into the religious consciousness of the Jewish people at least by the time of Philo of Alexandria and the Talmud. 7. Despite Pauline supercessionism, Christians inherited a moral expansion of the Deuteronomists ten commandments in chapters 1, 2 of the Didache. 8. And, despite Pauline supercessionism, we can retrieve the Decalogue on the basis of a Natural Law hindsight of the same such that each commandment represents a broad prescription or proscription covering the totality human moral behaviour.
17

On the Web at http://www.ewtn.com/library/COUNCILS/TRENT6.HTM#1, retrieved 14 April 2012.

17

HYSELL, Matthew G.

The Ten Commandments That Werent?

9. Most likely St Augustines Questions on the Heptateuch solidified the role of now-called ten commandments in Catholic moral catechesis. 10. Moral catechesis utilizing the traditional ten commandments was embedded into the Churchs paedagogy at Lateran IV and Trent. Comparison of the Exodus and Deuteronomy Accounts of the Giving of the Mosaic Law
Introduction to the Mosaic Law: The Israelites exhorted to obedience, Ex 19:9d-25 Moses upon Mt Sinai a first time: The book of the Covenant written by Moses Ex 20-23; 24:1-8 Incl. the traditional ten commandments, Ex 20:2-17 Moses upon Mt Sinai a second time: I will give you tablets of stone (Ex 24:12) Body of laws thus given, Ex 25:1-31:17; When God finished speaking with Moses on Mount Sinai, he gave him the two tablets of the Covenant, tablets of stone, written with the finger of God (Ex 31:18); Tablets written on both sides, Ex 32:15 Golden Calf incident, Ex 32 N.B.: Horeb introduced at Ex 33:6 First pair of stone tablets destroyed, Ex 32:19 Second pair of tablets, Ex 34:1 Laws given, Ex 34:17-26 Ten Words ( , ) introduced, Ex 34:28 Said to be like the first set of tablets; no evidence is apparent. Moses descends with shining face, Ex 34:29-35 Other laws explained by Moses, Ex 35ff No Blessings and curses No mention of the Covenant renewed at Moab. First pair of stone tablets destroyed, Deut 9:17 Second pair of tablets, Deut 10:1-2 No individual laws mentioned Ten Words ( , ) introduced, Deut 10:4 Said to be like the first set of tablets; no evidence is apparent. No mention of Moses shining face Other laws explained by Moses, Deut 11-26 Blessings and curses, Deut 27, 28 Covenant renewed at Moab, Deut 29 Tablets apparently written on one side Golden Calf incident alluded to, Deut 9:15-29 Introduction to the Mosaic Law: The Israelites exhorted to obedience, Deut 4 Moses upon Mt Horeb a first time: (No book of the Covenant) The traditional ten commandments, Deut 5:6-21 written on two stone tablets, Deut 5:22 Moses preaches an expansion of the laws contained in the two stone tablets, Deut 6:1-14

18

HYSELL, Matthew G.

The Ten Commandments That Werent?

Bibliography AARON, DAVID A. Etched in Stone: The Emergence of the Decalogue. London, UK: T & T Clar, 2006. BOADT, LAWRENCE. Reading the Old Testament: An Introduction. Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 2002. BROWN, RAYMOND E., ROLAND E. MURPHY, and JOSEPH A. FITZMYER, ed. The New Jerome Biblical Commentary. Toronot, ON: Novalis, 2000. DUGGAN, MICHAEL. The Consuming Fire: A Christian Guide to the Old Testament. San Francisco, CA: Ignatius Press, 1991. FULLER, REGINALD G. A New Catholic Commentary on Holy Scripture. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson and Sons, 1969. GOLINKIN, DAVID. Whatever Happened to the Ten Commandments? On the Web at http://www.myjewishlearning.com/holidays/Jewish_Holidays/Shavuot/In_the_Community/Tora h_Reading_and_Haftarah/The_Ten_Commandments/In_Liturgy.shtml. MCKENZIE, JOHN. Dictionary of the Bible. Milwaukee, WI: Bruce Publishing Company, 1965. NOTH, MARTIN. Exodus: A Commentary, trans. J.S. Bowden. Philadelphia, PA: The Westminster Press, 1962. PHILO JUDAEUS OF ALEXANDRIA. The Decalogue. On the Web at http://www.earlyjewishwritings.com/text/philo/book26.html. REVENTLOW, HENNING GRAF and YAIR HOFFMAN. The Decalogue in Jewish and Christian Tradition. London, UK: T & T Clark, 2010. RICH, TRACEY R. Asaret ha-Dibrot: The Ten Commandments. On the Web at http://www.jewfaq.org/10.htm. SKA, JEAN-LOUIS. Introduction to Reading the Pentateuch. Eisenbrauns, 2006. VON RAD, GERHARD. Deuteronomy: A Commentary, trans. D. Barton. Philadelphia, PA: The Westminster Press, 1966.

19