24 June 2006

The Ten Commandments: Jesus couldn't name them all either

Last week on the Colbert Report, Rep. Lynn Westmoreland (co-sponsor of a bill requiring the display of the Ten Commandments) couldn't name the Ten Commandments. He only listed three on the show, although his office claims he got to seven, but the other four were edited out.

If he did make it to seven, then he should feel pretty good about it, since Jesus only came up with five when he was asked the same question in the gospel of Matthew, and the last one on Jesus' list is from Leviticus 19:18, not the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:2-17, Deuteronomy 5:6-21).

. . . if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments. He [the rich young man] saith unto him, Which? Jesus said, Thou shalt do no murder, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Honour thy father and thy mother: and, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. -- Matthew 19:17-19

(Notice that the only commandments that Jesus lists are the good ones -- the secular humanist ones that deal with relationships among humans. Nothing about worshiping one god, making graven images, honoring the Sabbath, or taking the Lord's name in vain -- nothing that is about God.)

So let's give Westmoreland a break here. If he couldn't name all the ten commandments or named a few that aren't in the Big Ten, then so what? Not even Jesus could name them all correctly.

As Westmoreland's press secretary said, "I challenge anybody outside of the clergy to try to (name them all)." Both Jesus and Westmoreland failed that challenge; but then, they're not members of the clergy.

Here's a fun video about the Ten Commandments numbering problem.


Brucker said...

I've been able to name all ten commandments since I was a kid. I'm surprised to occasionally hear statistics on what a small percentage of the population can name them all. (Of course I recognize the real irony is this guy supporting a law mandating the ten commandments' display, and not being able to name nore of them if not all.)

I'm curious, could you name them all, Steve? I'm guessing if any atheist could, you could.

Steve Wells said...

I'm not sure I could, though I think I could do better than Westmoreland or Jesus.

They aren't numbered in the Bible and they're numbered differently by Catholics and Protestants. To try to deal with the numbering problem, the Eagle's Ten Commandments monuments had to make various versions to try to satisfy everyone. Eventually they just gave an un-numbered list of eleven commandments and let the reader number them however he or she saw fit.

Ray said...

Um... there's only TEN. Ten!!! I think any of us who sat through CCD or Sunday School as kids could name them. Or get to at least, like, nine. TEN!!! It's not like trying to name all the books of the bible or anything. With that one, I could probably get between three and seven...

jg said...

Nope. Can't name 'em. And I went to church 3 or 4 times a week for the first 12 years of my life.

Anonymous said...

Oh, it's much better than this!

Remember that "Matthew" copied and "corrected" the gospel of Mark, and not only does Jesus in Mark not name them all, he gets one of them WRONG:

MK10:19 Thou knowest the commandments, Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Defraud not, Honour thy father and mother.

Mickey said...

I was always taught that the 10 commandments were what moses brought down from the mountain. And people usually display them in tablet form in there houses and other places. If you asked most people they would agree that what moses brought down from the mountain on the tablets were the 10 commandments. Now the first commandments that god supposedly gave to the jewish nation were the ones that said do not commit adultery, do not kill, do not steal, do not bear false witness, honour thy father and mother and so on. At the point of giving the 10th commandment the children of israel ran away because of all the noise and stuff coming from the mountain. They told moses that they didn't want to hear god anymore because the were scared and he should go back and get the rest of the commandments. So he did and god continues to give moses other commandments. So if the children of israel hadn't ran away we would have more than 10 commandments. god continues to give out commandments in the remaining part of Exodus 20 and the commandments don't stop until chapter 24 of Exodus. So we could well have had "the 147 commandments". Moses is instructed to come up the mountain in chapter and god gives him a bunch more commandments all the way over to chapter 31. And as you probably well know moses destroys the tablets because of the golden calf incident. Well along about chapter 34 moses is instructed to come back up the mountain and god gives him ten commandments:
(1)Thou can only worship god.
(2)Do not make any graven images.
(3)The feast of unleavened bread shalt thou keep.
(4)All that openeth the matrix is mine.
(5)Six days thou shalt work, but on the seventh day thou shalt rest.
(6)And thou shalt observe the feast of weeks, of the firstfruits of wheat harvest, and the feast of ingathering at the year's end.
(7)Thrice in the year shall all your menchildren appear before the LORD God.
(8)Thou shalt not offer the blood of my sacrifice with leaven; neither shall the sacrifice of the feast of the passover be left unto the morning.
(9)The first of the firstfruits of thy land thou shalt bring unto the house of the LORD thy God.
(10)Thou shalt not seethe a kid in his mother's milk.
Then the following happens: "And the lord said unto moses, Write thou these words: for after the tenor of these words I have made a covenant with thee and with israel. And he was there with the lord forty days and forty nights; he did neither eat bread, nor drink water. And he wrote upon the tables the words of the covenant, the ten commandments".
What did that last sentence say? The ten commandments. That was what was on the tablets moses brought down off the mountains, not the other stuff about adultry, killing, stealing and all the others. But religious people still claim something else as the 10 commandments. Of course jesus didn't call them the 10 commandments but only. the commandments. But religion has made the 10 commandments a contradiction. me, I'm a agnostic and don't know if I can believe any of this stuff.