What are the Jewish ten commandments

When Jews and Christians changed the Ten Commandments

Biblical scholar J. Cornelis de Vos presents the first complete investigation of all ancient texts on the Decalogue - Jewish and Christian groups tightened or expanded the prohibitions and commandments in order to strengthen their group identity - Sexual ethical norms added, but none of the Ten Commandments was rejected for centuries

Press release of the Cluster of Excellence on November 4, 2016

According to the latest research, the Ten Commandments of the Bible were not as set in stone as expected in their first centuries of writing. “Groups of Jews and Christians changed them at times. One group tightened the prohibition of killing, another extended the prohibition of adultery to include sexual ethical norms, and a third added a new requirement to build a sanctuary, ”explains Bible researcher PD Dr. J. Cornelis de Vos from the Cluster of Excellence “Religion and Politics” at the University of Münster. He recently presented the first investigation of all the surviving Jewish and Christian texts from the early period of the Ten Commandments in antiquity, which refer to the norms of the Decalogue. “People never doubted that God addressed them directly with the Ten Commandments. But they did not shy away from reshaping the Decalogue and binding their own norms to it. In this way they created fixed rules that could strengthen their group internally and delimit it from the outside. But no command has ever been expressly rejected over the centuries. "

The monograph “Reception and Effect of the Decalogue in Jewish and Christian Writings up to AD 200” has been published by Brill publishers in Leiden and Boston. This shows a range of changes to the Ten Commandments, including multiple extensions of the prohibition of adultery to include norms of sexual ethics. "Numerous ancient writers - Jewish, Christian and pagan - were like many contemporaries of the opinion that desire was the root of all evil, and harbored a certain aversion to sexuality," says the researcher. "The texts added a number of sexual practices that were considered reprehensible and should be forbidden: fornication, molesting boys, homosexuality, abortion or the killing of newborns for lack of contraceptives." The early church order Didache takes effect around the year 100 AD Decalogue and adds to the prohibition of adultery: “You should not desecrate boys.” This is one of many examples of how the Ten Commandments were updated and adapted to the values ​​of one's own culture, so de Vos.

Samaritans changed the original of the Ten Commandments

In the basic study, the author examines all Jewish and Christian sources from around 300 BC to 200 AD that fall back on the Decalogue. He methodically analyzes them down to the smallest linguistic details such as changed letters, syllables or rearranged text sections, and works out differences to the two biblical versions of the Decalogue (Exodus / Exodus 20, 2-17 and Deuteronomy / Deuteronomy 5, 6-21 ) out. He also classifies the sources historically and socio-religiously. The theologian begins by analyzing the oldest translation of the Hebrew Bible, the Septuagint, into Greek. He then examines the Samaritan Pentateuch, Qumran scripts and the Syrian translation, as well as early Jewish scriptures, the New Testament and early Christian scriptures. “There were many changes,” says the author, “but no one expressly rejected any of the Ten Commandments or replaced them. Rather, the high normative rank was used to declare further rules to be just as binding. "

The Samaritan Jews went so far as to insert directly into the original. “The Samaritans condensed the Ten Commandments of the Torah to nine, in order to add another tenth commandment, probably towards the end of the 2nd century BC,” says the author. "In doing so, they legitimized the building of a shrine on Mount Gerizim in Samaria in competition with the Jewish temple in Jerusalem - a deliberate demarcation from the majority of Jews." The commandment, woven into the Decalogue, became so binding. “The basic norms of a group are charged with religious normativity. This could also be practiced by not including norms in the Ten Commandments, but bringing them closer to them in terms of text. "

The Sermon on the Mount demands strict commandments from Christians

The well-known Sermon on the Mount from the New Testament was also affected, as the biblical scholar shows: “The evangelist Matthew demands tightening of some commandments. Jesus says in the Gospel, which was written 80-90 AD: It is not just killing that is a serious offense, but also anger or quarrel, because it could lead to manslaughter. For the first time, the dispute is included in the ban on killing, ”says de Vos. Similarly, he says, the Sermon on the Mount extends the prohibition of adultery: Even if a man desires another man's wife, this is adultery in the heart. "The Ten Commandments of the Jewish Torah remain valid for Christians, but are tightened in the Gospel of Matthew."

Another finding: "The Ten Commandments were universally valid for all people - many Jews and Christians were convinced of that," said de Vos. This can be seen in the encounter with politics, philosophy and ethics of the non-Jewish and non-Christian environment. "In order to convince non-Jews of the universal connectivity of the Decalogue, Jewish aspects were played down, such as the prohibition to form an image of God." The Jews Aristobulus and Philo of Alexandria, for example, presented the Decalogue as the best universal philosophy. " According to Philo, the Decalogue corresponds to the universal law of nature. Aristobulus even deduced from the Sabbath commandment that the Jews are the best philosophers. "

What are the Ten Commandments?

The Ten Commandments are a series of commandments and prohibitions of the God of Israel in the Hebrew Bible. There they are in two places in slightly different versions, for example in the book of Deuteronomy (Deuteronomy) there is a somewhat more detailed explanation than in the book of Exodus (Exodus) why everyone should keep the Sabbath as a day of rest. The Decalogue is introduced as a direct speech from God to his people, the Israelites, and summarizes God's will for behavior towards him and his fellow men. The commandments of the Decalogue were presumably transmitted orally for several centuries until they found their place in the Torah, the first five books of the Bible. - The monograph presents research results of the project A9 “The Decalogue as a religious, ethical and political basic text” of the Cluster of Excellence, in which the author worked with the Protestant theologian Prof. Dr. Hermut Löhr worked. In the second funding phase, they lead the project A2-10 “The Jewish nomos between normativity and identity using the example of Alexandria in the 1.-3. Century AD ". De Vos is currently a substitute professor for the Old Testament and Ancient Judaism at the Institute for Protestant Theology at the University of Osnabrück. (ill / vvm)