The 10 or so Commandments

Today’s trivia: There are not 10 commandments.

Or maybe there are, but if there are, no one knows what they are.

Despite Hollywood movies, God never said, here are 10 commandments, written and numbered on stone tablets. God supposedly said some stuff that people wrote down in documents that eventually made it into the bibles in the chapter Exodus (and again for some reason in Deuteronomy).

Quick step back — extremely contrary to what people think, there is no Christian bible. There has never been a Christian bible. There shouldn’t be a Christian bible. God never wrote a bible. There just ain’t no such thing. Instead, a bunch of people said, hey, we want to know religious and history stuff, which magazine articles should we read? So the guys at religious-documents-R-us said, hey, that’s a good question, why don’t you read these? (some nitpickers might claim that the actual name was Hosius of Corduba and his Council of Nicaea of 325 CE but i like my name better) (nittier pickers will point out that The First Council of Nicaea isn’t the only one and there were other convocations so it’s more accurate to refer to religious-documents-R-us so that you don’t think Nicaea was the only one)

Anyway, some people several hundred years after Jesus died said, hey, let’s make a book, so they rummaged around in the thousands of documents they had and said, let’s include this one, let’s skip this one, let’s put this one first, etc. So no one, God or anyone else, wrote a bible, the bible we have is compilation of things made by committee.

That’s how the bibles started. Bibles, plural. There were several groups that picked the papers to use and they picked different ones, so you have different collections, all of them called the Christian Bible.

So that’s where they started. Then they said, this Bible is a mistake, let’s change it. This went on for close to 2,000 years and might happen again (they might still add Thomas, Barnabas, Hermas, etc.). As an example of a change, Romans was added to the bible in 325 but Hebrews was rejected because the religious experts of the time decided Hebrews was bullshit. This might be in part because they thought it was written by a woman and a lot of the priests back then picked things that made old white guys look good and women bad because they were sexist (duh). A couple hundred years later, they said, you know what, a woman probably didn’t write it, let’s add it to The Bible. Peter 2 and John 3 were also modifications made two hundred years later. The Bible changed again 500 years after that when the Catholic church split in two (people in this country don’t seem to know much about the other Catholic church). 500 years after that (we’re in the 16th century now), they changed The Bible again (no, not the Luther thing, which was yet another change, this was The Council of Trent which added additional texts such as Judith, Tobit and Maccabees 1 and 2 and modified existing stuff such as Esther and Daniel; at some point later, don’t remember when, they added 3 Maccabees and a couple of psalms such as Benedictus; that’s Catholics, the Eastern Orthodox added Esdras and Ezra-Nehemiah, which the Catholics said nope to).

The bible is what it is because a bunch of old white men got to choose what went into the bible so bias obviously played a big role. Even more obvious than sexism was, um, priestism. This comes in two forms. First, they skipped any text that said people could have a good relationship with God without going to church or having priests (gospels of Thomas, Mary and the other gnostic texts).

Second, they made up new shit. When i said they made a collage out of a bunch of magazine articles, i was lying. That implies that they didn’t change the articles, and they totally did. A fun past time of biblical scholars is dating paragraphs in The Bible. Stuff is divided into original, old and new, formally called the E, J and P traditions. The totally politically motivated one is P, for priestly, as in stuff made up by priests. It’s all the stuff that says God is great and strong and the only god and all that other nonsense.

Hmm, that’s another big tangent and we’re already off topic so i’ll keep this part brief. Look at the first page of The Bible. It tells two entirely different, completely contradictory, one-story-is-obviously-a-lie versions of how the universe was created. In the first (Gensis 1:1), God snaps his fingers and invents light, time, life, etc. No big whoop. Almost immediately after that (Gensis 2:2) they try again, saying that God is a less-than-omnipotent, stupid screw up who has to mold man out of clay (as opposed to just snapping his fingers), screws up and makes man unhappy (the first man, WHOSE NAME IS NOT ADAM, is bored), tries to fix it and screws up again (he invents animals thinking it will make the unnamed man happy, which is totally wrong), tries to fix that by making a woman which requires him to scavenge parts out of the man, etc. In Genesis 1, the god who can snap his fingers and things happen perfectly is omnipotent as well as, we’re later told, omniscient and omnibenevolent. He’s omni everything — he’s perfect. In Genesis 2, God is way more powerful than us, because hey, he’s a god (as in, one of many), but he’s hardly finger snapping all powerful much less “i know how to solve your problem” omniscient. The perfect god was a P tradition story, invented by priests to give them control over people, and the screwup god is a J tradition (E is pretty rare).

There the priests created an alternate story. In some they keep but butcher the shit out of them. A good example of that is Job. Go re-read that someday. It has 6 chapters. The inner chapters (God’s a dick, the end) are E tradition. As with censoring The Grimm Brothers Tales, people tried to make the story less horrible by surrounding it with chapters that make God seem like less of a dick (chapters 2 and 5). That’s the J tradition. God’s still a dick though. So the priests added two more bookends (chapters 1 and 6) to make God seem like a nice guy. Which they probably figured they did because two thousand years ago people were horrible people (the happy ending they added was that God killed Job’s wife and children to test him but when he failed the test and forced God to admit that he was wrong and his satan was right he apologized to and rewarded Job by giving him a new wife and kids; he could have brought his family back to life but the belief among men at that time was that women were interchangeable so as long as you have one, what do you care if your family is murdered? It was a different time…)

Anyway, the point is, there isn’t *A* bible, there’s lots of them, all of them were made out of spare parts rather than written, the parts were picked by bias and so when different groups had different biases they got different bibles, and the different bibles kept changing, so there are lots of them. Which is important to the point i want to make.

But first, one last comment on the different bibles — One really big difference between bibles is whether they include John. This is also called Revelations, also called The Apocalypse, also called the bat shit insane part of the bible that most people rejected for the obvious reason that it’s horrible. In case you aren’t sure which part that is, that’s the part of The Bible that claims there’s going to be an apocalypse. It is the only book in the entire New Testament that makes prophecies about the future. It’s also the only part where instead of saying “Jesus loves everyone, being nice is nice” it says “fuck you assholes, if you don’t believe in Jesus you’re going to suffer”. The part of the Bible that hate-filled people put on bumper stickers on their car (“In case of The Rapture this car will be unmanned”, “If you don’t think there’s a God you better be right”) is the part most people putting together The Bible said, oh hell no, God didn’t author or inspire this part, this was made by a jerkwad human who hated Jesus and God’s children. 666, anti-christs (plural), the beast, the whore of Babylon, the second coming, the Rapture, etc., all that WWJD-not-this stuff that angry non-Christian “Christians” love to talk about far more than the parts with Jesus in them, isn’t considered an actual part of The Bible, it’s considered garbage. It is probably the best part of The Bible however because Jesus, a communist, hippy, free health care pacifist, makes for lousy movies. We prefer movies with Satan, Hell and other things that are not Christian (as in, literally, not in The Bible; sinners being sent to Hell to be tortured by Satan has never been in The Bible, those are pagan beliefs that some people keep up because they like it better than Christianity).

OK, so…

The point of today’s i-swear-it-was-going-to-be-short post is that there is no such thing as The 10 Commandments. Why? Because there are lots of different bibles. Now, all of them have God’s commandments (the ONLY part of the Old Testament that is rules Christians were originally supposed to follow; why people think ANY other part of the Old Testament is God’s rule or desire completely escapes me). All of them also have 10 commandments, because 10 seems like a cool number (literally, not making that up). But the rules differ. A little. For two reasons.

First, translation. If you haven’t read The Bible in Aramaic and Greek, you have never read The Bible and if you think you know what The Bible says you’re an idiot. Translation problems (and, in the King James version, the heavy editing done to make it sound better) are the reasons why we think adam (meaning man) is a person’s name. It also affects some big decisions. Kind of. If you say “You are not allowed to kill”, it’s pretty clear that God means you can’t kill, but if you translate that as “You are not allowed to murder”, well, it still means you can’t kill anyone, but people who enjoy killing will (and did) argue that murder doesn’t mean “kill”, it means “kill without a good reason”, meaning you can still kill people in self defense or they’re criminals or if they won’t have sex with you or if they say your hair looks bad (again, nor hyperbole, as should be obvious from the story of Ham; if you don’t know the story, the short version is that Noah’s son Ham accidentally walked in on his dad when he was naked so Noah declared that from then on all black people must be slaves of the white man; Ham is Hebrew for black and Egyptian for slave; yes, this is why people in the US said it was OK to buy, torture, rape and kill Africans). Anyway, how you translate οὐ φονεύσεις or לֹא תִּרְצָח to English determines whether you’re allowed to have a death penalty and military and part of why Jesus had to come back, let people stab him and say “see, this is what he means, bitch”.

The second reason is that, even when you know the translation, you don’t know which parts are rules and which parts go together. For example, what’s the first commandment? A lot of people say it’s “If you want to be Jewish or Christian, you can’t treat the other gods as more important than me, i have to be your primary god” (the priests invented the idea that there was only one god; it was understood for most of Christianity that there were lots of gods). In the Catholic and Reformed Protestant bibles, the first commandment also includes “i’m your god”. In the Talmud, “i’m your god” is the first commandment and “you’re not allowed to worship gods more than me”. “Don’t kill anyone ever for any reason, no exceptions” is commandment 5 in the Augustine, Catholic and Lutheran bibles, 6 in the Septuagint (the original texts included in The Bibles were in multiple languages; Septuagint and Calvin chose to translate the Greek versions, Catholic used the Hebrew versions), Talmud and Reformed Protestant bibles and 7 in the Philo (also based on Greek, but text is in a different order). As for coveting, for the Eastern Orthodox, commandment 10 says you (meaning a man; the bible isn’t for women because women are the property of men) can’t covet a man’s house, wife or other property (animals, slaves, etc.). For Catholics, 9 is no wishing that other guy’s wife was yours (again, only applies to men) and 10 is not wishing you had their house, cat, etc.

So there you go. There is no “10 Commandments”, there are many different sets of commandments. They’re all similar (minus looking for loopholes based on language) but they aren’t the same and there isn’t just one or even a primary one.

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