Do you remember the political and legal fights over displaying the Ten Commandments in courts and public spaces? In the Bible Belt they appear with almost boring regularity. And when they happen I always wanted to ask, which Ten Commandments are they so obdurately requiring and defending.
I want to ask because each main Judeo-Christian tradition has its very own version of the Ten Commandments. Jews, Roman Catholics, and Protestants each have their different version. They always end up with TEN commandments - but each tradition reaches that number differently.
And it goes as far as artistic representation of the ten commandments. When they are presented on two tablets one can usually tell which religious tradition is presenting them. Jews divide commandments 5 on each tablet. Roman Catholics and Lutherans, not always, but often divide them 3 commandments on one tablet and 7 on the other. Calvinists and other Protestants often have 4 and 6.
The Bible itself does not make things any easier because in the Bible there are two versions of the Ten Commandments. One is in the book of Exodus and another version is in Deuteronomy. AND THEY ARE NOT IDENTICAL. These two versions contain about two dozen differences. Some differences are just minor - stylistic (presence or absence of copula), some are more substantial - lexical (choice of words and synonyms). But for instance the entire explanation why to keep Sabbath holy is completely different between versions.
I take these differences and this diversity as the Holy Spirit reminding us that what really matters are not individual words, but their essence, their meaning, their message.
Join us this Sunday when we discern and rejoice in the diversity of the Law and its message.
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