Tuesday, July 25, 2006

What Version?

I often get questions about the version of the Ten Commandments displayed on our monument, mostly from reporters. A few passers by may ask, but it’s rare. Still, it’s a good question and one with a good answer.

We chose the most popular, truncated rendering of the Commandments in the King James translation that begins, “Thou shalt have no other gods before me,” enumerates the commandment, “Thou shalt not kill,” as the sixth and combines all the edicts against coveting as the tenth. We figured that would resonate with the largest number of readers.

As you may know, there a difference between our presentation of the Commandments and how Jews typically enumerate them, and how Lutherans and Catholics, along with certain other Christians divide them.

When I’m debating the public display of the Commandments, my opponents often try to use these different “versions” as a club for beating us back into a corner. Alas, it fails every time. Why? Because each tradition—that is Jewish, Catholic and Protestant, respects and endorses the rendering of the others. This is because the essential meaning of the Commandments isn’t changed by how they are enumerated. No matter how you break them up, it’s all the same words in each variation.

Add to this fact that there was no punctuation as we know it in ancient Hebrew. Translators only inserted punctuation centuries after the Great Words were brought down from Sinai. So, the actual enumeration is a modern invention.

A good way to read the Commandments is without any punctuation or line breakage. Just read them like one great big run-on sentence. Once you do it, you’ll get the meaning in the exercise: God had a lot to say about what we were and were not supposed to do. Reading it without punctuation prejudice leaves it quite clear what God wants and doesn’t want from us.

That’s where our focus should be—not on the inconsequential distraction of who gets to apply the numbers to the lines!

1 comment:

oldtownboys said...

Your are Nice. And so is your site! Maybe you need some more pictures. Will return in the near future.