10 Commandments 2.0

By | Nov 16, 2011
Moses receiving the 10 commandments on Mount Sinai

the core of Judeo-Christian values

The Ten Commandments are the foundational laws for civilization. Individual cultures have laws that reflect these basic ones, as is evident from prohibitions against murder and adultery. Ancient cultures such as those in Mesopotamia had similar laws that predated the Ten Commandments, which indicates their universal appeal for ethics and morality. Some of the more famous Christian theologians such as Augustine and Martin Luther maintained that the Ten Commandments were foundational for Christian ethics. The Ten Commandments form the basis of our central core of values, and are central to American Judeo-Christian ethics. These core values are critical to our culture today.

Mark Rooker teaches at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, NC, and is author of The Ten Commandments: Ethics for the Twenty-first Century.

a Judeo-Christian-Islamic tradition

Commentators in America constantly talk of the Judeo-Christian tradition, but if we were to use the Ten Commandments as the yardstick, then America is very much a Judeo-Christian-Islamic nation. Muslims unequivocally believe in the Ten Commandments. Americans are often surprised to find out that about one-third of the Koran directly echoes Jewish and Christian sacred texts—including the entire Ten Commandments. Moses, who brought down the Commandments from God, is a highly revered and loved figure in Islam and is known as Musa. The inclusion of America’s seven million Muslims as part of the American religious tradition is therefore the elephant in the room. I cannot be a good Muslim without being conscious of my Jewish and Christian heritage. The Ten Commandments are universal. Muslims, however, are aggressively faithful to them because they still live in traditional societies and tend to be very religious. The Ten Commandments are relevant today not just for the Abrahamic peoples but for all people. One commandment that should be added is to love one another, which is attributed to Jesus. That should be the eleventh commandment for the 21st century because this is a century with so much hatred, violence and distrust. Today, this commandment is perhaps the most important as well as the most challenging.

Ambassador Akbar Ahmed is the Ibn Khaldun Chair of Islamic Studies at American University in Washington, DC.

a source of religious violence

Hinduism has principles of ethical and moral conduct that were put together many millenia ago and are relevant today. Called the Ten Commitments by Sage Patanjali, the originator of the principles of Yoga, they provide an ethical framework with lists of five things to do and five to avoid. The Yamas or restraints are: Do not harm (the basis for Gandhi’s principles of non-violence), do not lie, do not steal, do not overindulge and do not be greedy. The Niyamas or observances are: Be clean in mind and body, be content, be disciplined, be studious and surrender to God’s grace. The last is the only reference to God, and it refers to God as a universal being (God is One). The concept in the Ten Commandments about one God with the sense of an obligation to convert others to their God has caused great harm. The idea that God is a jealous God who will punish people who believe in other “gods” makes God more sectarian and has had tragic consequences in world history—killing “infidels” and creating pogroms and genocide—and continues to this day.

Ravi Sarma, M.D. is the immediate past president of the Hindu Temple of Atlanta, GA.


9 thoughts on “10 Commandments 2.0

  1. To avert this controversy I had professed to worship the word ‘LOVE’, the object of ‘LOVE’ and the very sentiment of ‘LOVE’ and the very source of ‘LOVE’.It has more power than any thing else as it is attributed to the supreme being itself.It is not a ship to sink in the midway like any other ships.It will survive the generation to come.

  2. Jim Bynum says:

    I am amazed at the comments, The Jewish priesthood was not allowed to put anyone to death during the time of Jesus. Yet, supposedly followers of Jesus have used the Ten Commandments to kill many people who violated them — even in early colonial times. It is impossible to separate the punishment from the Commandment, therefore they belong to the past.

  3. Baruch Cohon says:

    Should we rewrite the Big Ten? Discard them? Or should we take a mature look at them and realize that these ten statements from so many centuries ago have something valuable to tell us? Ten Statements, as they are called in Hebrew — “aseret hadibrot”– not commandments. If American leaders of a much more recent time saw fit to post them on public buildings, maybe they knew what they were doing. These statements are not an “establishment of religion” prohibited by the First Amendment. They are principles of right and wrong, ascribed to a supernatural source which is undefined. We will do well if we use them to guide our lives.

  4. Harry Freiberg says:

    I find it interesting and educational that of the Ten only 3 “Commandments” (aka Statements in the original) have become secular law…

    1. Bryan Berg says:

      And how would the other 7 possibly be made into law in a Country that upholds religious freedom? The first four are God and Religious observance based, so those can’t be a part of US Law. The fifth commandment would entail telling people how to parent, and is that a good idea? the 7th commandment has it’s own societal consequences, not to mention the reality of divorce, child support and child custody to go along with it. The 10th commandment would be a “thought police” type of law, wouldn’t it? So, it is interesting and educational, but maybe not in the way you might have been thinking?

  5. Davida Brown says:

    The most important point in this dialogue is: did God really say this? If we mean the God of Abraham, Isaac & Jacob, aka The God of Israel, who is ageless, timeless and sovereign over the universe, as well as Creator, then it would be absurd to think of eliminating these rules of life and certainly self-destructive to want to modify them for a modern liberal thinking world that is itching to remove all restraints and drive us all back to Sodom and Gomorrah or worse – the time of Noah and the flood (Yes, Virginia, there is a God and His Word is relevant and immutable. ) In the Christian New Testament, Jesus addresses an “unrepentant city” (Capernaum) and compared it to Sodom, stating: “Nevertheless I say to you that it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment, than for you.” Matthew 11:24. What would he say to the cities of today?

  6. Bryan Berg says:

    I would say that human beings wrote them. Nothing more than that. There is no “ageless, timeless creator”. That’s all part of human imagination, no different than the gods of the Romans, Greek, Dakota, Cree, Ojibwa, Aztecs, Egyptians, Myan, and and the myriad others that human beings have imagined and told stories about.

    Is there some human truth to some of it? Absolutely. Going around killing others doesn’t make for a helpful, healthy society (as a simple example), and it probably didn’t make sense to eat shellfish (or pork) if you didn’t know how to cook it properly. Though that begs the question – why weren’t those instructions included in the Bible?

    We have these “Commandments” and yet it seems like under the “right” circumstances, it’s OK to kill while wearing a belt in an army that has “God With Us” inscribed on it? Is that because some of us think we are more special than others that a commandment can be broken for some perceived greater good?

    So, to answer your question – what if there was no Noah and flood that completely wiped out everyone but one small nuclear family? What if there was no Moses (or Aaron, since he seemed to have been a convenient add-on to the Moses story for giving priests certain authorities), what if there was no Exodus? What if it’s all made up (the Noah Story, for one, was not a Christian or Jewish story originally, but it was turned into one), and none of it is divine?

    Does that make US Law any less important? I don’t think it does.

  7. Davida Brown says:

    Ecclesiastes states that there is a time for every matter under heaven, including: 3:3 “a time to kill and a time to heal;…3:8 a time to love and a time to hate; a time for war and a time for peace.” It was a great song way back when. You seem to be upset about all the killing depicted in the Bible. Without the Bible and “the big ten”, why would we think anything was wrong? The world existed before the written Bible, didn’t it? What was it like as written in the bibical account? Genesis 6:11 tells us: “Now the earth was corrupt in the sight of God, and the earth was filled with violence.” Earlier, in Genesis 6:8: “But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord.” It’s hard to believe that only one man among ? had an active conscience. This is an awareness of right and wrong. Where do we stand on this today? You say you don’t believe in God; you are one of many. But, what if there is a God and what if He did inspire the scriptures? Challenge: Ask Him.

  8. John Terrell says:

    Religion is a social more, varying from one culture to another. The moral code that provides the “cement” that allows people to live together peacefully and productively is universal: that code is based on one principle: do no harm to other members of the “tribe”. The Bible and other works have codified some version of the moral code, but the code existed long before organized religion.

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