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Saturday, August 25, 2012

Jesus and the Ten Commandments

A few weeks ago, I posted on the commandments of Jesus, especially those found in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7).

I wish to muse about what Jesus had to say about the Ten Commandments, which are found in Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5. (There are no significant differences between the two statements.) See here for the Wikipedia article on the Ten Commandments.

The Ten Commandments are these: (See the Wikipedia article -- there are variations in the ways people number them.)
1) Don't have any other gods.
2) Don't worship anything man-made.
3) Don't use God's name frivolously.
4) Rest on the Sabbath Day.
5) Honor your parents.
6) Don't commit murder.
7) Don't commit adultery.
8) Don't steal.
9) Don't offer false testimony*.
10) Don't lust after anything someone else has.

*Note that this is not "Don't lie." Lying is usually wrong, but the commandment is more specific, probably because of the significance of testifying falsely in court. There are examples of lies told, in the Old Testament, that were apparently approved by God. In no case were these told to give an advantage to the liar. Usually, they were to protect someone else. Also, the 7th commandment doesn't explicitly forbid fornication, not because fornication is not sinful, but because keeping a marriage covenant is so important.

Jesus mentioned some of the Ten Commandments. Here's what He had to say:
Matthew 19:16 Behold, one came to him and said, “Good teacher, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?”
17 He said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but one, that is, God. But if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments.”
18 He said to him, “Which ones?”
Jesus said, “‘You shall not murder.’ ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ ‘You shall not steal.’ ‘You shall not offer false testimony.’ 19 ‘Honor your father and mother.’ And, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’” (All scripture quotations from the World English Bible, which is public domain.)

From the context, and what Jesus said  in Matthew 19, I conclude that Jesus affirmed Commandments 5 through 9. He not only affirmed the 6th and 7th commandments, but he expanded on them, in the Sermon on the Mount. The last part of verse 19, which Jesus quoted from Leviticus 19:18, would seem to cover the 10th commandment. So what about the first four? Jesus also spoke about the first and second commandment:

Matthew 22:35 One of them, a lawyer, asked him a question, testing him. 36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the law?”
37 Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and great commandment. 39 A second likewise is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.” (The quote in verse 37 is from Deuteronomy 6:5, and it is the relevant portion of the quotation. If we really love God, there won't be any other gods in our lives.)

He also said: Matthew 5:33 “Again you have heard that it was said to them of old time, ‘You shall not make false vows, but shall perform to the Lord your vows,’ 34 but I tell you, don’t swear at all: neither by heaven, for it is the throne of God; 35 nor by the earth, for it is the footstool of his feet; nor by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. 36 Neither shall you swear by your head, for you can’t make one hair white or black. 37 But let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes’ and your ‘No’ be ‘No.’ Whatever is more than these is of the evil one. That affirms the 3rd commandment.

The 4th commandment wasn't exactly affirmed by Christ, or by the early church. Christ said that the Sabbath was made for us, not us for the Sabbath, in Mark 2:23-28. There were occasions when Jesus healed on the Sabbath. The early church began celebrating on Sunday, apparently, not on the Sabbath (which is between sundown on Friday and sundown on Saturday). Paul said that some people regarded certain days, and some did not, in Romans 14:6, and indicated that either could be a means of honoring God. The New Testament, however, does not set aside, but affirms, the main principles of the 4th commandment, namely that it's a good idea to take some regular rest from work, and it's also a good idea to worship with others on a regular basis. (See here for more on the 4th commandment.)

Thanks for reading! Honor God and love your neighbors.


Philip Smith said...

Thank you for this.

Good analysis.

Martin LaBar said...

You are welcome. Thanks for reading and commenting.