Etched in stone; inscribed in the heart…

I’ve been struggling with what to write because the last few weeks I have been getting questions from a lot of you on my posts.  I am so glad most of you find my blog enlightening.  For those of you who are fearful of the fate of my soul, I am not worried.  I don’t believe in the existence of a hell or a devil.  I view hell as a scare tactic and the devil as a mere cop-out for being responsible for your own actions.

In my last blog post I discussed that I respected the character of Jesus and was going to write about his teachings.  However, before any discussion can be had on anything Jesus may have said it is important to know the most widely accepted beliefs of who Jesus was and the climate he is said to have lived in.  (I say beliefs because we have no way of proving any of this so we cannot say these are facts.)

  • Jesus was Jewish.
  • There were multiple denominations and sects of Judaism during the time he is said to have lived.
  • Some sects observed the Talmud and some observed other unwritten laws but, all of them observed the 10 Commandments.
  • For the most part all of Jesus’ teachings were based on the 10 Commandments.
  • There are 2 versions of the 10 Commandments, one in the book of Exodus (Exodus 20:2–17) and the other in the book of Deuteronomy (Deuteronomy 5:6–21).

According to Jewish Scripture the 10 Commandments found in the book of Exodus were actually carved into stone tablets by God and given to Moses on a mountain in the Sinai peninsula (some say Mt. Horeb others Mt. Sinai).  Whether it actually happened that way or not is not important, as the 10 commandments are a relevant and powerful code of ethics.

There are multiple ways of dividing them but, generally the 10 commandments are as follows:

  1. I am the Lord your God. You shall have no other gods before me.
  2. You shall not make for yourself an idol.
  3. Do not take the name of the Lord in vain.
  4. Remember the Sabbath and keep it holy.
  5. Honor your father and mother.
  6. You shall not kill/murder.
  7. You shall not commit adultery.
  8. You shall not steal.
  9. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
  10. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife. You shall not covet anything that belongs to your neighbor.

For the most part these are relatively self-explanatory but,  Jesus simplified the first 3 commandments into “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and strength” and the last 7 he summed up as “Love your neighbor as yourself”.   This universal law of love Jesus is said to have taught, should be enough for man to build a sense of morality.  The flaw in this approach is that it leads to an element of subjectivity that can vary by one’s interpretation of the meaning of love and how much they may or may not love themself.   Therefore I think it is necessary to clarify some of them without the corruption of centuries of translation, editing, modifications, and unnecessary dogma.

Here is my translation of the 10 Commandments:

  1. Respect the Creator and all Creation/Nature.
  2. Do not put your faith in objects (like money) or people.
  3. Do not break promises.
  4. Remember to balance your time and always set time aside to rest.
  5. Respect your parents.
  6. Do not murder.
  7. Do not commit adultery.
  8. Do not steal.
  9. Do not lie.
  10. Be grateful for what you have and not envious of what others have.

Using this as a foundation, can you imagine the way the world would be?   If we respected our creator and nature, we would not pollute or take things like the air we breathe for granted.  If we didn’t revolve our lives around money, there would be no greed and no poverty.  Imagine a world without broken promises, where fathers and mothers set work aside to spend with their children.  Imagine a world where everyone respects life and you never have to fear for your own safety.  Imagine a society built on trust and honor.

“This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel
    after that time,” declares the Lord.
“I will put my law in their minds
    and write it on their hearts.
I will be their God,
    and they will be my people.
No longer will they teach their neighbor,
    or say to one another, ‘Know the Lord,’
because they will all know me,
    from the least of them to the greatest,”
declares the Lord.
“For I will forgive their wickedness
    and will remember their sins no more.  (Jeremiah 31:33-34)

Jesus is essentially reiterating a message from Jeremiah that was centuries old.  The overall theme of all of the teachings of Jesus was that these commandments are useless if they are only etched in stone. They should be written in our minds and inscribed in our hearts.  Our intentions are just as important as our actions.  To act without conscious is empty and shallow. To love with conditions is not love.  To give for the sake of giving and not a reward is true charity and true charity is the highest expression of love.

© Nelson Rose, The Quest for Light

9 thoughts on “Etched in stone; inscribed in the heart…

    • I like a lot of the beliefs and practices of the Buddhist. I don’t think I am much of a follower of any specific religion though. I believe the path a person walks is between the individual and their Creator.

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  1. Hi — I like your blog. It’s reflective and promotes good discussion. Keep it up. I think you make good points here, and I hope you won’t mind if I offer a couple of small details that came to my mind too. The third Commandment has another interesting dimension to it a lot of people aren’t aware of. In the Hebrew, the verb connected with the “you shall not” is nasa’, which means “to lift up” — in this case, lifting up a deity’s name signifies that a person is swearing an oath in that deity’s name. In the ancient world and the Bible, this was a grave thing, and if you did it “in vain/emptiness/falsely” (Hebrew shava’), you committed a grave offense and could bring down that deity’s anger. So the third Commandment in its ancient context has the sense, “You shall not swear vainly (emptily) by the name of Yahweh your God.” Just a random interesting consideration.

    Also I think you meant that the Jews observed the Torah in the first century CE, right? The Talmud was not put together until several hundred years later; but you’re absolutely right that the “oral law” components of what would become the Talmud were certainly forming during the first century. Thanks for subscribing to The Thoughtful Theist, by the way. 🙂 I’ll definitely be back to visit your blog.

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    • Thanks for stopping in. I appreciate the feedback. In regards to the 3rd commandment, I just simplified it to what I believe is relevant today. Its is commonplace now to make oaths and promises (often with a hand on a Bible) and my point is simple, if you make a promise keep it. Less dogmatic in my opinion. Thoughts?

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      • Oh, I couldn’t agree more. People today swear oaths and promise things all over the place without honoring the fact that they’ve done so. To many, it just doesn’t mean anything. So they had the same problems in biblical times as we have today on that score. I’m constantly struck by how many things people do today that they also did generations ago. I read the Autobiography of Mark Twain and laughed out loud every time he described the behavior of politicians in his day. It was like reading a modern editorial.

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        • Albert Einstein once said “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”. Apparently as a race, we appear to be insane. Some of the things we repeat just baffle the mind.

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  2. If there is no hell or the devil… why are there people who worship the devil?
    Who/what is scripture referring to when it says: Eph 6:12 For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.
    Who are the rulers of the darkness and where is this “high place”? Do you think such a place is in the earth realm?
    If there’s no hell or the devil why are there murders, seducing spirits, divinations, paganism, hatred, jealousy, anger etc?

    2Co 4:4 In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.
    So, I ask again– who is the god of this world?
    Luke 4:5 And the devil, taking him up into a high mountain, shewed unto him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. 6 And the devil said unto him, All this power will I give thee, and the glory of them: for that is delivered unto me; and to whomsoever I will I give it.
    Who delivered it to the devil?

    You don’t need to go to my blog, but if you do… scroll down to the video reference section and watch at least one of the videos. My hope is that you will come away with something you hadn’t thought of before. The devil is real my friend.
    God’s grace be with you.

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    • The Ancients – Thank you for stopping by and expressing your opinion. I apologize in advance if I offend you with my response.

      Why do people worship the devil? I don’t know, why do people worship a man (Jesus)? Why did people worship cows and the sun? Just because people believe in something doesn’t mean its true or has credibility.

      You are quoting Paul/Saul of Tarsus. His letters are opinions and commentary. They are of no authority, highly dogmatic, and none of his writings are based on facts or eye witness testimony. Paul never met Jesus, never traveled with him, and therefore everything he wrote carries no more weight then anything you or I write in our blogs because they are only his opinions. I hate to be quick to dismiss but, I will dismiss Paul’s writings when discuss matters of fact.

      Luke also never met Jesus and he wrote his entire account based on his interpretation of other accounts and it is therfore heresay. While I do believe his Gospel to be the most eloquently written, it is not an eye witness account. The Bible is a mixture of history, allegory, and folk tales. This particular story of an evil deity (devil) tempting a man who is said to be God personified, is a fabulous tale that is more sutiable for children’s books. Who exactly witnessed this? It is written as if the author was there and not as if the author received this info from Jesus. So in this case, if this story actually happened then Jesus and Satan were the only 2 there, and there is nothing in the Bible that says otherwise and there is nothing in the Bible that says how any of the disciples knew and Luke, not being a disciple himself got the information from someone else who did not witness the events either so it is heresay upon heresay.

      That being said the devil never existed as an equal to the Almighty (as an opposite and evil version) until the New Testament. The entire concept is insulting to the Great Creator of the Universe. The Old Testament referred to an accuser and that accuser was a servant of God, not an equal evil deity. I do not believe in a devil. I don’t believe Jesus was God either. He was the son of God but, so am I and every other man as well as all women are daughters of God. I value the character and the teachings of Jesus. His charitable nature and message of universal love is of the highest moral and eithical nature and there are no teachings inculcated by any other man that surpass them.

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  3. I think the disagreement going on here (particularly about the authority of the Bible) hinges on the question and nature of faith — which, of course, is not based on empirical evidence, but personal feeling. I think even Paul said that the nature of faith has to do with “things not seen.” I’m not going to weigh in on such a huge subject here, but I’d highly recommend the book “The Dynamics of Faith,” by Paul Tillich. He’s considered the greatest Protestant theologian of the 20th century, and The Dynamics of Faith is pretty short and accessible. It is not written to convince anyone of the Christian faith; rather, it discusses the very nature of faith itself as being the state of “ultimate concern” (he also argues that even atheists engage this “ultimate concern,” though many deny it).

    If anyone’s interested, I talk about that question of evil in my post “Chaos, Evil, God, Gods” at http://thoughtfultheist.com/2010/05/27/chaos-evil-god-gods/

    Ciao

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