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The Ten Commandments

Posted by Smokey Stover on July 01, 2005

In Reply to: The Ten Commandments posted by abe on June 30, 2005

: : : : : : : : :
: : : : : : : : : question: Current US news has made me curious about the history of the phrase "The Ten Commandments". There must be scores, perhaps hundreds of commandments in the Bible. These few must have been selected because of the story about Moses and the tablets. Then someone, centuries ago must have counted them and, probably first in Latin, dubbed them "The Ten Commandments".

: : : : : : : : One of the great movie moments was in "History of the World," where Mel Brooks, as Moses, comes down from the mountain with the three tablets, announching he had been given "these fifteen -" (drops one tablet, which smashes to pieces) "um, TEN commandments..."

: : : : : : : I'm not sure but I gather that no one has a clue. An almost identical question on a quite different forum doesn't seem to come up with anything except the [quite amusing] Mel Brooks story. Seriously folks, anyone have a clue as to when someone selected these ten and dubbed them "The ten....."?

: : : : : : BTW: me again. Some smartaleck said that the answer to the "The.." question was included in the Supreme Court's Kentucky decision. I will go looking for that but if you've any thoughts on that please share them.

: : : : : That particular set of commandments is known collectively as the Decalogue, from Gre*k deka = ten and logos = word.

: : : : Decalogue, I like that. Thanks

: : : Am I missing something? There are lots of commandments, sort of, here and there in the Bible, and social conservatives have mined Leviticus to find rules that they like (ignoring the rest, like marrying your brother's widow, or not eating pork). But only Moses went up a mountain and came back down with exactly ten rules on stone tablets. And Moses was a named leader and a hero in a time of crisis for the Jewish people. Most of the other rules are more diffusely stated, and few are attributed to a leader of stature, if there is anyone of the stature of Moses.
: : : I suppose a Christian would find rules laid out by Jesus. But Jesus wasn't the type to bring in a written list and say, Okay, everybody, listen up. Moreover, his rules don't sit very well with the people who really like rules. The rule-loving class really likes Moses' commandments because they are so definite, so legalistic, and so easily enumerated. (Except that the Catholics and Protestants number them differently.) So what's the question?
: : : I don't wish to be disrespectful, but there is the obvious fact that rules tend to appear when there is "a need" for them, that is, when some people are having a good time doing things often regarded with disapproval. Like dancing before graven images. SS

: : Not eating owl. That's the important one.

: [We don't have anyway to edit here do we? Here I have pasted my latest with edits in brackets.] This is a phrase forum and [my original] question was about [the history of] a phrase containing the count, the number "ten", which someone [quite easonably I should think] suggests goes back to a Greek word. Do Biblical scolars may[be] have an even older phrase containing the count?

Yes, Smokey did miss something. And I'm still missing it. But I take your point when you scold me for not understanding your question. Perhaps I still fail to understand it, and for that I apologize. SS

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