The Decalogue, A Critical Analysis
My own understanding of the Decalogue has it that it was a rabbinical construction (some would say “Priestly group”) edited many times over the generations to cause it better to conform to the developing self-understanding of the Hebrew-Jewish people as it appropriate context. It was redacted to fit the developing redemptive context, in other words, in which the people saw its own place and God’s rulership and “management style,” as we might call it today, over the covenantal people.
First, we should note that these commandments seem rather clearly to contradict the very notion of the wisdom tradition represented by the Proverbs of Solomon, which neither specify commmandments – the actual proverbs, not the sayings of the Wise – nor are reducible to ten anything. There are far more than ten lessons there, and they are given as observationally-based inductions, with their concomitant imperatives only implied.
The Proverbs cannot be derived from these, nor are they reducible to these commandments.
Second, if these are as important and seemingly sufficient as some pretend, they refute the 613 commandments of the Torah, and repeat many of them as redundant (and therefore unnecessary).
Third, the tenth commandment, “You shall not covet” is plainly bogus. There can be no legal regulation of what transpires internally only, nor can any penalties be imposed by law externally for their violation. A law without a penalty specified for its violation is a mere recommendation. Torah never names such a penalty. Moreover, desire for material goods is part of what is commanded in the “dominion mandate,” and is a good thing. It even drives markets – Wall Street humorously contrasts “fear versus greed” and the market movers (When greed wins, the markets rise; when fear gains the upper hand, the markets slump). Go greed.
Greed leads to dominion, when properly managed, and lust leads to marriage and children when properly managed. God created both from the beginning, and created all things very good – include the sex drive and the acquisition drive. Solomon specialized in both.
Therefore, no one cannot learn from the abuse of these by watching their results (the point of the Proverbs).
Fourth, the negative statements of these laws is deficient since it shows that they are neither of the light of nature nor could have existed from the beginning.
Fifth, they could not have been written on the heart because they are obviously and uniquely Semitic and Hebrew. They are tied to the Exodus event in the prologue, as are their prohibitions against idols, which assume a unique priestly system in place never mentioned in the Proverbs (priests and priesthood never receive explicit mention in the Proverbs – no not once — because they are not of the light of nature). The second’s commandment’s phrase, “Bow down to nor serve” implies the kind of worship and priestly service that does not exist at all in Christendom, nor in many other religions, and so is not of the light of nature and simply does not apply in those cultures.
Sixth, this Semitic innovation even more clearly represents a Hebrew culture (not the universal of nature’s light which applies to all cultures) in the fifth commandment’s promise — “in the land the Lord your God is giving you” (Israel, not elsewhere).
Seventh, while the commandments acknowledge (as does Torah) that God requites payment for sin doubly, meaning that God judges reflexively always (as like a mirror) – whether to punish or else to reward – he cannot do anything at all reflexively with worship. Worship itself is an overdriven, frenzied kind of response to God’s great goodness to us, for which we are to show gratitude and offer thanks often, but about which we are never to worship – whether God or anything else.
Worship is illegitimate per se. This point of view is never once considered in the entire Bible. But the light of nature makes it plain that God does not want worship because He cannot give it back. It is not so with love, praise or adoration – fathers can adore their children, but neither can worship the other.
Reflexive judgment disqualifies “worship” altogether as a legitimate response to anyone or anything, ever. That is the true view of nature’s light. Instead, “You shall love the Lord your God … and your neighbor as yourself.”
I intend to expand this brief critique over the next few days to include a much more thorough look at them, and a far better alternative way of promoting commandments derived from the light of nature (and not surprisingly, from the Proverbs occasionally).