I really should read the Bible. I’m not one of those atheists who claims that my reading of the Bible actually caused my deconversion. I haven’t read it from cover to cover, primarily because it’s written so archaically, that I can’t get through it, and because there’s really no point to reading it. Logic says that you don’t put the cart before the horse, and logic also says you don’t read the Bible to find evidence of the existence of god. God must be proven first before I’d read it for that reason (and what other reason to read it?). To say god exists because the Bible says it’s true is circular.
If I had read the Bible, I could argue more persuasively with Christians about how foolish their reliance on a mere book written by goat herders thousands of years ago is misplaced, but then I really don’t care to have those types of arguments very often. It’s usually pointless, because their beliefs are really not based on what they read in that book, they are based on the desire to believe what they believe, because their beliefs are comforting, and they use the book to confirm their preconceived beliefs, to strengthen them, not prove them. They’ll point to the Bible and say “Look! Proof!” never quite understanding the logical fallacies they are committing in the process.
So while reading up on the Ten Commandments for a previous post I discovered something I didn’t know about them. The ones that Christians keep insisting we carve into stone and place on the courthouse lawn are not the Ten Commandments that god gave to Moses, that were etched in tablets and authorized as the “official” Ten Commandments. If I had read my Bible I would have known this.
The Ten Commandments we all were raised on are found in Exodus 20, and they are passed on to us through hearsay. All the bits about “Thou Shalt Not…” do this or that are contained there. However, nowhere in Exodus 20 does the so called Lord say that these are his “Ten Commandments”, nor are these 10 proscriptions ever referred to in the Bible as the “Ten Commandments”. They do appear to be certain rules that were made up and told to Moses at the time of his first trip up the mountain, but they were not etched onto the tablets that he brought down. In fact, he came down from the mountain and told the people the words, but there were no tablets. It wasn’t until he went up a second time that he was given tablets:
And he gave unto Moses, when he had made an end of communing with him upon mount Sinai, two tables of testimony, tables of stone, written with the finger of God. 1
15And Moses turned, and went down from the mount, and the two tables of the testimony were in his hand: the tables were written on both their sides; on the one side and on the other were they written.
16And the tables were the work of God, and the writing was the writing of God, graven upon the tables.
17And when Joshua heard the noise of the people as they shouted, he said unto Moses, There is a noise of war in the camp.
18And he said, It is not the voice of them that shout for mastery, neither is it the voice of them that cry for being overcome: but the noise of them that sing do I hear.
19And it came to pass, as soon as he came nigh unto the camp, that he saw the calf, and the dancing: and Moses’ anger waxed hot, and he cast the tables out of his hands, and brake them beneath the mount. 2
Nowhere prior to this does it say that the originally spoken proscriptions of Exodus 20 are what were written on the tablets. In fact, in Exodus 34, it clearly states the opposite, that it was the commandments set forth in Exodus 34 that were written on the tablets.
1And the LORD said unto Moses, Hew thee two tables of stone like unto the first: and I will write upon these tables the words that were in the first tables, which thou brakest 3
So, according to this passage the words on the first tables that he “brakest” are the same as the new set he’s going to give them. And what are they?
14For thou shalt worship no other god: for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God:
15Lest thou make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land, and they go a whoring after their gods, and do sacrifice unto their gods, and one call thee, and thou eat of his sacrifice;
16And thou take of their daughters unto thy sons, and their daughters go a whoring after their gods, and make thy sons go a whoring after their gods.
17Thou shalt make thee no molten gods.
18The feast of unleavened bread shalt thou keep. Seven days thou shalt eat unleavened bread, as I commanded thee, in the time of the month Abib: for in the month Abib thou camest out from Egypt.
19All that openeth the matrix is mine; and every firstling among thy cattle, whether ox or sheep, that is male.
20But the firstling of an ass thou shalt redeem with a lamb: and if thou redeem him not, then shalt thou break his neck. All the firstborn of thy sons thou shalt redeem. And none shall appear before me empty.
21Six days thou shalt work, but on the seventh day thou shalt rest: in earing time and in harvest thou shalt rest.
22And thou shalt observe the feast of weeks, of the firstfruits of wheat harvest, and the feast of ingathering at the year’s end.
23Thrice in the year shall all your menchildren appear before the LORD God, the God of Israel.
24For I will cast out the nations before thee, and enlarge thy borders: neither shall any man desire thy land, when thou shalt go up to appear before the LORD thy God thrice in the year.
25Thou shalt not offer the blood of my sacrifice with leaven; neither shall the sacrifice of the feast of the passover be left unto the morning.
26The first of the firstfruits of thy land thou shalt bring unto the house of the LORD thy God. Thou shalt not seethe a kid in his mother’s milk.
27And the LORD said unto Moses, Write thou these words: for after the tenor of these words I have made a covenant with thee and with Israel.
28And he was there with the LORD forty days and forty nights; he did neither eat bread, nor drink water. And he wrote upon the tables the words of the covenant, the ten commandments. 4
That was from the King James Version. Personally, I think the New International Version is easier to read and comprehend. Less archaic. Much clearer. I’ve highlighted the essential ten:
14Do not worship any other god, for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God.
15 “Be careful not to make a treaty with those who live in the land; for when they prostitute themselves to their gods and sacrifice to them, they will invite you and you will eat their sacrifices. 16 And when you choose some of their daughters as wives for your sons and those daughters prostitute themselves to their gods, they will lead your sons to do the same.
17 “Do not make any idols.
18 “Celebrate the Festival of Unleavened Bread. For seven days eat bread made without yeast, as I commanded you. Do this at the appointed time in the month of Aviv, for in that month you came out of Egypt.
19 “The first offspring of every womb belongs to me, including all the firstborn males of your livestock, whether from herd or flock. 20 Redeem the firstborn donkey with a lamb, but if you do not redeem it, break its neck. Redeem all your firstborn sons.
“No one is to appear before me empty-handed.
21 “Six days you shall labor, but on the seventh day you shall rest; even during the plowing season and harvest you must rest.
22 “Celebrate the Festival of Weeks with the firstfruits of the wheat harvest, and the Festival of Ingathering at the turn of the year.[a]
23Three times a year all your men are to appear before the Sovereign LORD, the God of Israel.24 I will drive out nations before you and enlarge your territory, and no one will covet your land when you go up three times each year to appear before the LORD your God.
25 “Do not offer the blood of a sacrifice to me along with anything containing yeast,
and do not let any of the sacrifice from the Passover Festival remain until morning.
26 “Bring the best of the firstfruits of your soil to the house of the LORD your God.
“Do not cook a young goat in its mother’s milk.”
27 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Write down these words, for in accordance with these words I have made a covenant with you and with Israel.” 28 Moses was there with the LORD forty days and forty nights without eating bread or drinking water. And he wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant—the Ten Commandments. 5
So all this time we thought that killing, lying and stealing were important proscriptions demanded by the Ten Commandments, when in fact resting on Sunday, refraining from blood sacrifices to god with leavened bread, and cooking goats in the milk of its mother are far more important.
Who would have known, except perhaps those that read and subscribe to the inerrant truth of the Bible?
It seems that if Christians insist on paying homage to the “Ten Commandments” by claiming that American law is based on them, they should honestly list what laws are actually based on the real Ten Commandments.
Frankly, I can’t remember ever defending anyone from the charge of cooking goats in its mother’s milk. And I guess skipping church and watching the Super Bowl should be a sacrament now.