So you say you want the 10 Commandments in front of the courthouse because it unifies multiple faith traditions and exemplifies codified law. Or to simplify it: Everyone gets the 10 Commandments.
Only- that's not exactly true. It's often times presented in ways that not only point only to Christians, but not even all Christians. Let's pretend we are going to commission someone to build the 10 Commandments outside our local courthouse. Here are the questions I'd ask before we set to work.
The easy answer is Exodus 20. Yet, Exodus 20 is not the only place the commandments appear. It also appears in Deuteronomy 5:6–17 and Exodus 34. The scripture changes depending on which one we pick. Below are some ways they change.
How are you separating them?
In 1551, Robert Estienne put verse numbers in the New Testament. We generally use these separations when reading anything from the New Testament.
Around 916 AD the Hebrew Bible had stops added to the texts. When the Hebrew Bible was eventually translated into English, most of these stops became the natural ending of one verse moving into another.
Verses and chapters are meant to help a group of people find a specific text together. That does not mean it was how the original author intended his work to be separated. This is true of the 10 Commandments. The way the scripture is separated into Commandments greatly depends on one's faith tradition.
Below is a chart I did not create myself. Clicking it will take you to a Catholic Blogger and a pretty decent article on idols in the Church.
The moment we begin numbering, we've made a statement regarding our specific faith tradition. Just because it's the 10 Commandments, doesn't mean we are including Jewish, Islamic and Christian faith traditions. It wouldn't even include all Christians, as Catholic and Protestants number the commandments differently. Still, there's one more hang up to consider.
Every translation of the original text is a theological statement. What do I mean? Let's look at the Protestant and Jewish 6th Commandment.
Depending on how you understand the original Hebrew it reads two ways:
There are translations where the translation team decided murder was the more appropriate word. There are other translations where the translation team believed kill was the more appropriate translation. Many of these modern teams put the opposite word in the margins so the reader can see there was not consensus on the translation. (If you have one these, that's what those tiny words are at the bottom of text. The one that wins goes in the text, and the one that held a contingent of support but didn't win goes in the margins.
These questions come up throughout the Bible as translation is an art. Words don't have a one to one ratio. The translation used not only expresses the 10 Commandments in a certain language, but it also makes a statement on broader beliefs tied to that translation. Yes, the King James Version has beautiful language, but it is also rejected by modern scholars. It was phenomenal during the time, but we've learned so much more about the original text, and English has evolved.
The Commandments are different for my two favorite translations, the CEB and NRSV. The NRSV uses "shall not" while the CEB uses "do not." The NRSV uses the "shall not covet" while the CEB uses "do not desire." Going back to the first example, the NRSV is written, "You shall not murder," with "kill" in the margins. The CEB, conversely, has "Do not kill," in the text and "murder" in the margins.
I would translate the original Hebrew to mean "murder," yet I prefer the modern language of "do not." We can see the issues translation alone can create.
I just want you to take something you might have considered easy, and realize it's not. We are living in a world where we're being told it's yes/no, right/wrong, Choice A/Choice B. God didn't create the Earth in that manner, and we shouldn't separate it in that way. We're breaking apart. Whatever cracks existed in our society, the Pandemic has come through like a earthquake and pulled them apart. What would have taken years, has taken place in 6 months. ALL THE CRACKS.
I'm asking. No, I'm pleading. The next time you see something that has painted an issue as clear cut, stop. Try to see at least two more points of view. Try to understand how something isn't a good choice you fully believe is. Try to see how something is a good choice, that you fully believe is not. That's the glue we need right now. Honestly, it's too late to change what's coming. Our minds are made up one way or another (and I'm talking way more than just a political race.) We have reached the point of no return. What's coming is coming. We need to prepare to honestly and genuinely reconnect after everything has hit. That starts now, and it starts with seeing the glory in God's creation, and the diversity in God's work.