The creation of the Anglican Church, and then the Protestant Reformation (that occurred about the same time as the invention of the printing press) led to the Believing masses having access, for the first time, to Holy Scripture. Those happenings were watershed moments in the life of the Church. We today, are also living in an era of sweeping changes within the Church primarily because of access to scholarship that had been hidden deep in the bowels of both Hebrew and Christian religious institutions. Laymen are now able to learn about the structure of the Hebrew language and the nuances of ancient Israelite culture; we have instant access to ancient documents like the Council of Nicea, the Gospel of Thomas, writings of the earliest Church fathers like Origen, Eusibius, and Jerome. No longer is information like this available only in our theological seminaries and private library collections. And, what we are finding out is that there were some hidden agendas at work that colored Scriptural interpretations and teachings. We even find the sources of some Church traditions, which, frankly, need to be removed from our lives. And, chief among those hidden and long forgotten agendas, and much to our shame, was a bias against anything Jewish, and a willingness to compromise Yehoveh’s teachings with pagan practices.
Let's start with the 10 commandments - or, as it should be translated, the 10 *words*. They are grossly mistranslated in most Bibles...but first, I want to ask you - do the 10 commandments apply to us today? ALL of them, or just *some* of them? Can we pick and choose? Why (or...why Not)?
The first major controversy is the NAME that these 10 items should be called. The title “The Ten Commandments” is itself not only made up and NEVER appears in the Bible, but the word “command” or “commandments” also never appears regarding these instructions. The Hebrew word that is usually translated as “command” or “commandment” is mitzvah. And mitzvah means “ruling”, such as a judge ruling on a legal issue. A mitzvah is not technically the original law, it is NOT a command. Instead, the word dabar is used. And, dabar means, “word”. So, the Greek translation of this Hebrew phrase is correct: Decalogue, meaning 10 words. This is not minor; because what the so-called 10 Commandments amount to are statements of fact from the Lord; they are the foundational principles from which all the following laws of Torah shall come.
The 2nd controversy discussed concerns the numbering of the commandments or words. In the original Scripture the first commandment was NOT “you shall have no other gods before me”; rather it was “I am Yehoveh your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt”. So, the first statement or principle of God is to identify Himself as YHWH. This was acutely important and necessary because all gods had names, and one needed to know just WHICH god was communicating his instructions. And so the god of the Hebrews gave the people of Israel His name: Yud-Heh-Vav-Heh. We’re not going to get into some long argument about pronouncing this name because there are varying reasonable opinions; but since the Jews stopped, about 300 BC, pronouncing the Lord’s name the vowel sounds used have been lost so it is difficult for anyone to claim with certainty that they know how it was verbalized.
Be that as it may, the “you shall have no other gods before me” was the original 2nd commandment. Sometime before the Babylonian exile, the Jews stopped treating the “I am Yehoveh who brought you out of the land of Egypt” as one of the Ten Words. After Babylon the Jewish sages began to once again include “I am Yehoveh your God……” as the 1st commandment. At the approach of the 2nd Temple Period it was once again excluded, and back and forth it has gone over the centuries. Later, Christians adopted the off-and-on Jewish Tradition and format of making the 2nd commandment as the first but for entirely different reasons; the original 1st commandment explicitly directed these 10 commands to Israel; and, since Constantine had officially deemed the Church as a *gentile* religion the mention of Israel had to be removed if the new anti-Jewish Church was going to consider the 10 Commandments as pertaining to Christians.
Now, a question that would be pretty reasonable to ask right about now, would be, ‘what would possibly be the motive for early Christian leaders to drop the 1st Commandment, and then for later Christian leaders to continue with that practice…..it doesn’t make any sense?’ Actually, it makes all kinds of sense. Let’s think for a minute about what we’ve learned over the last several weeks about the beginnings of Christianity. We know it began as a strictly Jewish movement, because it was all about Judaism looking for a Jewish Messiah. And, indeed, the Jewish Messiah came, He was and is Jewish, born to Jewish parents, in the Holy Land, and all of His first followers were Jewish. But very quickly after Yeshua’s death gentiles started to be included in the Jesus movement and in a few more years their numbers swelled primarily due to the work of the Apostle Paul. Yet for several decades after Yeshua’s death the Christian movement was still led by Jewish leadership. It wasn’t until sometime after 100 AD that the number of gentiles accepting Yeshua as Lord and Savior equaled or exceeded the number of Jews accepting Yeshua as Lord and Savior. And with that gentiles began to gain control over the early church. By the mid 100’s AD, gentiles were in powerful positions of authority within the Church, and an anti-Jewish mindset arose which led to an attempt to minimize Jewish influence within the Church. The FIRST center of Christianity was Jerusalem, because Jerusalem was the center of Jewish worship. Later the center of Christianity became Rome, because Rome was the center of the gentile world.
Early in the 300’s AD, the Emperor of Rome, Constantine, not only declared Christianity to be a legal religion for the Roman Empire, but that he himself preferred it. Further, that the Church was to become a gentiles only club and that Jews were now, by law, forbidden to participate unless they renounced their Jewish heritage and quite their Jewish traditions. It was the Roman Church, now better known as the Catholic Church, which (rightfully so) declared the 10 Commandments to be one of the founding pillars of Christianity. And, what they did in compiling their official list of the 10 Commandments was to exclude the first commandment, the first word as written in Holy Scripture and begin instead with the 2nd commandment. They did what the Jews had done for a time following Babylon: they simply took the Biblical 2nd Commandment, the 2nd Word, and divided it into 2. So, the 1st half of the Biblical 2nd commandment became commandment #1, and the 2nd half of the 2nd Biblical commandment, became commandment #2. So what was in Holy Scripture a single commandment overnight became two commandments. Take a look at the CJB. You’ll recall that our traditional 1st commandment is “Thou shall have no other gods before me”, and the traditional 2nd commandment is “ thou shall not make unto thee any graven image”. But, in original scripture those 2 commands TOGETHER are actually just one long command…..the original 2nd commandment. In essence, what the Church has called the 10 Commandments consists of only NINE!!
Now, why did the Roman Church do this? The Church, by the time of Constantine, wanted absolutely no connection between Jewishness and Christianity. They wanted to sever any relationship between the Jews and the new gentile Christian faith. They wanted to destroy any thought, any principle, revise any history that kept any element of Jewishness in what had become, by decree, an exclusively gentile religion. If they had kept the original 1st commandment, 1st word, in the list of the 10, it would have created a problem for their anti-Jewish agenda, by acknowledging that God gave these 10 Commandments, along with hundreds of others, to Israel (not to gentiles) whom He had redeemed from the hand of Egypt. And, since it would be 1000 years before the masses were permitted to even read, let alone own, Holy Scripture, whatever decrees the Church published became the truth. By leaving any reference to Israel OUT of the 10 Commandments this helped to cement the idea that Christianity was NOT for Jews. Which...is certainly NOT right, since, y'know, Jesus WAS a Jew, and was their promised Messiah...
Anyway, on to the 10 commandments:
1) I am YHWH your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the abode of slavery.
Most translations do NOT include God's name; instead they translate it as "Lord" or "Lord your God" or somesuch. That's kinda sad - he GAVE us his Name, we should be polite and use it! Yehoveh is also stating very plainly, that HE is the God of the Hebrews, that same one who struck Egypt, rescued Israel from Egypt, and brought them here, to Mt. Sinai. And, therefore, it is ISRAEL with whom He is making this covenant, not anyone else. But, we will find as we study the Mosaic Covenant, that foreigners, gentiles, may JOIN Israel, and they are to be considered as 1st class citizens. In other words, this covenant is with Israel and all who join themselves to Israel. This is nothing new, frankly. This provision of non-Israelites being joined to, grafted into, being adopted by, Israel was also part of the covenant Yehoveh made with Abraham.
The Lord is also making something else very clear, and we all need to take note: those people whom the Lord has redeemed have obligations to Him. Among those obligations are loyalty and obedience to His principles and ordinances. This brings up a principle that we often forget: the Torah commands, and all the Bible instructions (including those of our Savior) are ONLY for the redeemed. To follow the Lord’s principles and commands without FIRST being redeemed is the truest definition of legalism. But for a saved person to follow the Lord’s commands is the normal and expected response.
There is another underlying principle at play here: as a result of our acceptance of the Lord’s redemption, we take on certain obligations that the rest of the world does not have. Yehoveh says: I brought you out of bondage, and now HERE is what I expect of you. I cannot tell you how it depresses me that so many Believers honestly think that their redemption is the last “work” or “obligation” they ever have to God. Because our redemption is not a work of ourselves or any man in the first place: our redemption is a 100% work of the Lord.
2) You are to have no other gods before me. You are not to make for yourselves a carved image or any kind of representation of anything in heaven above, on the earth beneath or in the water below the shoreline. You are not to bow down to them or serve them; for I YHWH you God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for hte sins of the parents to the third adn fourth generation of those who hate me, but displaying grace to the thousandth generation of those who love me and obey my mitzvot.
This must go down as one of the most important of all the commandments; and as the one that might be the principle most consistently violated by God’s people throughout the entirety of the Bible. And this is because the insidious nature of idolatry shows up in ways that neither the people of the Bible era, nor we modern folks, expect.
Notice that there are 4 identifiable principles set down in the 2nd word: a) no other gods, b) don’t make images or symbols of deity, c) don’t worship images or symbols, and d) there is punishment for violating the previous 3 principles AND this punishment will go beyond you in time and affect your children. Yehoveh telling Israel they are to have no other gods is NOT just some quaint little saying. The Hebrew people ABSOLUTELY believed there were other gods in existence….gods that were gods for other nations and peoples. At this time, Israel’s take on what God meant by this, was that HE was to be the only God that they were permitted to have.
What is key to understanding the 2nd Word is that while the prohibition against making carved images and representations certainly applies to any Deity, real or imagined, this statement absolutely INCLUDES, and in fact may refer primarily to, the making of representations of the God of Israel. And the reason for this prohibition against god-images is twofold: first NO representation of Yehoveh can possibly be adequate or sufficiently holy. And, second the Lord is NOT of this world and therefore nothing that a man could make from his mind or hands, and nothing that could exist in a mere physical realm could ever capture God’s image. The Lord is NOT a part of this creation. He is NOT physical. He is above all things as the maker of all things; His is NOT IN all things. He is entirely different than any other being, or entity, or thing. Therefore any attempt at representation of His image is pure folly, inaccurate, and here in Exodus 20 He labels it as against His will.
Now, this (the 2nd Word) confronts me personally…it hits me head-on (and it might you as well)…. and in some ways I wish it didn’t. We are told in these verses, rather plainly with no wiggle room at all, NOT to make any representation of Deity (and most certainly NOT the holy Godhead) that incorporates a depiction of anything in the heavens, anything that lives on the dry earth, or anything that lives beneath the sea. This was a revolutionary concept for the world at that time, and the Hebrews really didn’t know how to take this command. Every known god from the time Mankind turned corrupt, right on up to the time of the Exodus, had some type of familiar visible representation…..and in fact demanded such a representation….. based on some creature or object that occurred in nature. Typically it was a star, or the sun, or the crescent moon, or an animal of some kind…..and in many cases it was a human form, or a hybrid animal-and-human form. The mind of that era thought that if one didn’t have a visible god-figure to worship, how could one worship at all?
Although many times the animal or object chosen to represent a particular god was what the people actually envisioned that god as looking like, as often as not it was that the form simply represented some attribute or ability of that god. A bull represented strength. A frog represented the life giving qualities of water. An eagle represented lofty majesty. Often if a god had multiple attributes several different symbols would be used for the same deity. Symbols for the same god could even vary from region to region and they might change over time and tended to reflect a society’s cultural traditions.
But here for the first time is a god, Yehoveh, that makes it an unbendable instruction that absolutely NO representation, no symbol, of any kind is to be made of His Person. Probably nobody in this room would disagree with this interpretation of this commandment.
If we look back into history we’ll see that only RARELY does an entirely new symbol come along. Humans have proven to be better copycats than creators. Most of the time one culture simply adopts a symbol from another or earlier culture, perhaps making a minor change in a symbol so as to make it his or her own, and then attaches a new meaning to it. Time passes and pretty soon the new user of that old symbol loses any idea of where it came from in the first place or that it is by no means their culture’s unique invention. Such is how it is with symbols, which for some reason mankind simply cannot seem to do without. Men are visually oriented creatures.
He goes on to explain more things....but let me ask you this: How many people associate a CROSS with christianity? And......wouldn't you say that using a Cross - a SYMBOL - violates this commandment? The cross is something earthly, it's used to represent God.......:gulp: Yeah. How many churches just here in America have broken this commandment? How many of US, supposedly Believers, have broken it unwittingly? I mean, *everyone* the world over associates the cross with christianity...therefore, they are associating it with the One True God.....and this is expressly forbidden right here.
I'm not pointing fingers at anyone......Steve bought me a beautiful cross necklace when Herself was born, and I wore it until the chain broke. I just never got around to replacing the chain.....I'm wondering now if the Spirt was trying to tell me something......
3) You are not to use lightly the name of YHWH your God, because YHWH will not leave unpunished someone who uses his name lightly.
This one isn't as hard as you might think - and it's not as *inclusive* as you'd think, either. What is God’s name? YHWH. God is not God’s name. God is just a general reference to Yehoveh. Let me repeat something I’ve said time and time again: the vast majority of the time in our Bibles that we see the word God or Lord the actual word in the original Hebrew is Yehoveh….God’s personal name. This is NOT conjecture or opinion; it’s just the simple truth. What do I mean by vast majority of the time? Something around 95%!! That’s right… for every 10 times you see the words God or Lord in your Bible, more than 9 of those times, the actual word is Yehoveh, God’s formal personal name.
While we often think of the primary principle of the 3rd Word in terms of a prohibition against using swear-words, that is not the entirety of what was meant by this… in fact that is a far too narrow sense of what is intended here. The Hebrew word that is usually translated as “in vain” is “shav”. Shav indeed means vanity, but it also means falseness, or worthlessness, carelessness or emptiness of speech. It means that using God’s name is to be done with great care, with the highest reverence.
It is this concept of human carelessness that eventually led the Jewish people into prohibiting the name of God to be spoken out loud altogether. In fact other than when copying Holy Scripture the Tradition is that His holy name is also not to be written. Therefore it is common in Jewish writings to see God written as G-d.
LJ said my entry was too long....so I'll post the rest in another batch or 2. :grin: