Tuesday, September 26, 2017

I Am The Lord Your God

That is how the first commandment is expressed in the Jewish tradition.  Just that. The part about other gods is put into commandment #2, along with the graven images. There is something very sensible about this. It puts the emphasis immediately on who God is and on his initiative, rather than starting the list of what his people should and shouldn't do.

*****

I will be teaching a class on the Ten Commandments for adult studies at church this coming winter or spring.  I have been scratching down ideas, and thought it would be best to develop the series here. I confess that you may be the real audience that I am talking to in my head about this, and I need to get things down in clear black-and-white so I can edit that part out to bring it to my real class.

I have stopped taking news about two weeks ago, in order to get to a more separate place when reading the Scriptures and other readings. Though, as CS Lewis noted, the news tends to come find us, as people cannot refrain from telling it to you. It's simple enough to turn off the news feed at the bottom of Bing and change your FB trending to science or sports, though I felt like Bilbo being unable to give up the ring. I kept meaning to do those simple things, yet always kept putting it off somehow. When I announce the class at worship (if they let me) I am going to ask those who will be coming to do the same, and stay off the news throughout the class. The tyranny of the urgent interferes with seeing and hearing clearly, I think.

For the same reason, I am planning on going light on the commandments about killing, adultery, and stealing. People reflexively go to cultural hot points there, wanting to get in their ideas about gay marriage, or the 1%, or whether we should have gone to war in Iraq. Just for starters. I imagine people will find topics to bring up that will suck even more oxygen out of the room.  I will save those commandments for the end, when we have built up the habit of not spending our time making accusations about what other people do and gotten used to hearing the commandments as being addressed to us, as individuals, as families, and as a congregation. How the nation should be responding is largely a fruitless discussion. Now that I think of it, I am going to stress that part about the commandments being given to us as a community, not as a checklist for us individually.

My comfort zone is giving a twenty-minute lecture of things People Should Know, and then dominating a discussion afterward.  That is not a good education model, so I am forcing myself out of that as much as I can. Less than half the class will do homework, so I can't rely on that so much, either. Most worksheet Q & A's for Christian studies make me cringe. Nonetheless, people learn better by doing and discussing rather than listening to assistant village idiots, so I will have to come up with something. For the first week, I think the exercise will be to re-memorise the Ten Commandments, starting in class (quietly, please) and continuing through the week.  Most of the class would have learned to recite them as children, usually in simplified form.  We don't tend to keep them in the front of our consciousness much after that, just pushing them back against the wall so they aren't in the way when the kids want to get up and dance.

I don't have much idea what I am going to do for the following exercises.

There will be readings, but I don't want them to be at tedious length in the class, and as I noted, I can't put much out there for homework. Perhaps I will email the reading to everyone early in the week, to get around the tendency to put things off by putting it right out in front of them. I will certainly get Lewis's "The Dangers of National Repentance" in there early, to highlight that we should not be confessing other people's sins. I also want to tie this in with God making a covenant with us, and studying a bit about that, but I wonder if that's not biting off too much?



Division of the Ten Commandments by religion/denomination
Commandment
Jewish (Talmudic)*
Anglican, Reformed, and other Christian
Orthodox Christian
Catholic, Lutheran**
I am the Lord your God
1
preface
1
1
You shall have no other gods before me
2
1
You shall not make for yourself an idol
2
2
Do not take the name of the Lord in vain
3
3
3
2
Remember the Sabbath and keep it holy
4
4
4
3
Honor your father and mother
5
5
5
4
You shall not kill/murder†
6
6
6
5
You shall not commit adultery
7
7
7
6
You shall not steal††
8
8
8
7
You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor
9
9
9
8
You shall not covet‡ your neighbor's wife
10
10
10
9
You shall not covet‡ anything that belongs to your neighbor
10

13 comments:

Boxty said...

I believe Dennis Prager has YouTube videos on the 10 Commandments as part of his Prager University series. It might help to see his perspective as a Jew as well as how he explains each of the commandments in five minute videos.

Prager is probably one of the most intellectual of the conservative talk show hosts. He has a graduate degree in Russian studies, speaks Russian, and Hebrew, teaches the Torah, and leads the Jewish high holidays every year.

james said...

Lots of hot button commandments there.

Don't take God's name in vain : claiming God's support for your pet projects, announcing that X is a punishment for Y

Honor parents : may be sore point, esp if parents are in special care facility

Don't covet : But our whole economy will come crashing down if we don't!

No idols : What is a political party but a machine to control the machinery of
government? Sometimes you can tell what's dearest to a person by how they react to insults to things, and sometimes it turns out to be a machine ...

Unknown said...

Romans 3;20.....for by the law is the knowledge of sin.

Romans 3;28......that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law of faith

Romans 4....Abraham believed God,and it was counted unto him for righteousness

Texan99 said...

James, do you really see covetousness as the basis for our economy? Wanting to earn things--or more generally to be paid for one's efforts--is a long way from coveting in my book. I call it coveting when you resent someone for possessing something you'd like to possess for yourself, especially by appropriating it against his will, or by stealth. I don't associate that kind of thing at all strongly with the idea of free markets.

Is this the idea that a free market flourishes only when people are motivated to keep up with the Joneses?

james said...

I call it envy when you resent someone else's good. (Somebody said that a difference between English and American labor unions was that the English ones said "He's no better than me, why should he have that fancy car?" and the American ones said "He's no better than me, I'm getting one of those too.")

When I hear about some new book/gadget/whatever and my gut reaction is "I want one," never mind whether I'd use it or even have a place to put it, I judge that my desires are out of whack.

In other words I think of coveting fairly broadly. There was a Cathy Sunday strip that dealt with this that I liked, but I can't find it. summary

'safari clothes that will never be near a jungle.'

'aerobic footwear that will never set foot in an aerobics class.'

'deep-sea dive watch that will never get damp.'
....
one says to the other: 'abstract materialism has arrived.' to which the other replies: 'we've moved past the things we want and need and are buying those things that have nothing to do with our lives.'

Texan99 said...

That's interesting. For me, there's a critical difference between seeing a slice of chocolate cake and (1) thinking, hmm, that looks good. I'd like to make an honest transaction with someone who's baked one, to our mutual benefit, vs. (2) thinking, dang it, why can't I be the one enjoying that instead of him?--I think I'll knock him over the head and take it. A free market has everything to do with one and almost nothing to do with the other, except that the problem of version number two will corrupt a free market almost as readily as it will a command-and-control economy.

Or say my neighbor has two red dresses and I have two blue ones. I don't covet her red dress, necessarily, but I may think she and I might both be better off if we each had one red and one blue, so we trade. I might not have thought of it until I saw her two red dresses, but that doesn't mean I covet them. You can base an economic system on that instinct, whereas you can't base it on a spiteful envy combined with a willingness to steal or cheat.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

This is helping me get my head around some of the lesson for that commandment, when I get there. I am going to be focusing on the impact on individuals and churches, not the nation. As to the latter, I have heard it said that socialism works well only if one has pure motives, which never happens. The free market works best when everyone has pure motives, but still works reasonably well even when they don't.

Texan99 said...

Socialism works well among people who are nearly as interested in each other's welfare as their own, such as among close family and friends. My husband and I operate on a largely socialist system. Markets work better for strangers--well intentioned, honest strangers. War is for the rest.

james said...

Reviewing what you've responded and what I wrote, I think I wasn't clear. I'm not thinking of capitalism per se, but the torrent of buy-buy-buy designed to get me to want things I don't need. Things I didn't know I didn't need are something else, and a little luxury I don't complain about (though some of the church fathers disagree with me on that); it's the extreme of desire that makes the evil. And if the extremes were cut back, sections of the economy would suffer--there are plenty of people working honest jobs providing services and goods that few people need but plenty of people are led to want.

It is not my job to reorganize the economy--preserve us from those who think it is theirs! It isn't even my job to persuade others that they're the slave of their desires. My job is to control my life. And there's this nifty chipset feature that would be cool to have in a replacement computer, but which years of experience tell me I'll never actually exercise...

Texan99 said...

Ah, but now you're not really talking about coveting, but about someone tempting you to greed or pride.

Uncle Bill said...

I found your table of how different denominations number the commandments to be interesting. As a Lutheran (currently), I don't think we really belong in that last column, but to be honest I don't think I have ever really heard it discussed. But growing up as a Methodist, I do clearly remember being taught that Methodists fell in the second column, and Roman Catholics in the last, as you show it. This was said to be due to the RC church wishing to downplay the whole "graven images" thing.

Anyway, my real question: what is the significance of the footnote markers (asterisks, etc)?

Uncle Bill said...

I found your table of how different denominations number the commandments to be interesting. As a Lutheran (currently), I don't think we really belong in that last column, but to be honest I don't think I have ever really heard it discussed. But growing up as a Methodist, I do clearly remember being taught that Methodists fell in the second column, and Roman Catholics in the last, as you show it. This was said to be due to the RC church wishing to downplay the whole "graven images" thing.

Anyway, my real question: what is the significance of the footnote markers (asterisks, etc)?

Assistant Village Idiot said...

@ Uncle Bill - http://www.10commandmentslist.com/