The Ten Commandments: are they still relevant? – Part 1
The Ten Commandments that was written by the very hand of God, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, have for the last century or so been under direct attack as to their relevancy for modern mankind. Albeit, the Word of God has always been under attack since Adam and Eve were in the garden. But for today’s people, many believe that the major attack came against God, His Bible, and anything labeled God, when the United States Supreme Court ruled in 1962 that prayer could no longer be made in public schools. But it really began in the late 1800’s when scientific exploration and philosophical studies were beginning to come into their own. Basically, modern men got too big for their own britches and began to question the relevancy of not only the Bible, but even God Himself. This is where the concept came into being, which is: “God is dead.” However, it took almost another century to bring it into fruition. We began to see it blossom in the 1960’s.
But there is another argument that surprisingly comes out of so-called Christian circles. While this writer is not denouncing any Christian denomination, the dilemma arises from Martin Luther’s writings, (which you can find at http://www.iclnet.org). This writer posits that during the next four centuries, the ideas received from Luther’s famous “95 Thesis,” which he nailed to the door of the church in Wittenburg, Germany, began to be used in a way it was never intended by its author. Martin Luther penned his ’95 Thesis’ in response to the abuses that the Roman Catholic church, at that particular time, were inflicting upon people when it came to ‘indulgences’, which are prayers that one had to pay for to effect a particular outcome. It should be noted that Luther was also a priest in the same religion, but he had become disillusioned by the excesses that he saw happening around him.
It should be noted that the understanding of any ideology doesn’t become corrupted or tainted overnight. So, do these misunderstandings belong solely to any one denomination? Absolutely not, because many Christian groups contributed their share as well. So you might ask, “exactly what misunderstanding are you talking about?” There’s a term used in the Roman Catholic faith called ex cathedra, which means that any edict, teaching, or concept that comes forth from the Vatican is on the same par as if it had been uttered from God’s very Throne.
Because of the concept of ex cathedra, there came to be confusion concerning God ‘s Law v. Church laws/rulings and the knowledge of any prerequisites concerning this boundary line thus became blurred. Luther’s 95 Thesis opposed church laws, not God’s Laws. However, as a result, Luther was opposed to ‘works,’ which is why he didn’t believe that the Biblical books of Hebrews or James were of any canonical authority. His beliefs arose out of his fight against church laws. This is why he came to believe that “man is not saved by works (church laws), but by God’s grace only.” Therefore, he penned his famous words, Sola Scriptura, translated: “Scriptures only.”
Since the Bible was originally written in Koine Greek, there is only one Greek word for ‘law,’ which is νομοs (nomos), which is in its lexical (root) form. Since there is only one Greek word translated as ‘law’ in English, the critical understanding of it becomes context specific. So when a person reads a Bible passage where ‘law’ is mentioned, s/he has to determine if it is referring to God’s Law, the Law of Christ, Mosaic law or some other law; such as the law of sin, the law of death, human laws, or natural laws, etc. In order to not mislead or confuse anyone, there is a distinction between God’s Law and Mosaic Law. What is this distinction? God’s Law came from His own Hand, and we know them as the Ten Commandments. They are also called the Decalogue or the Ten Words, but there is a difference between Mosaic law, which is what Moses penned.
If you recall the Biblical passage in Exodus 18:13-27:
And it came to pass on the morrow, that Moses sat to judge the people: and the people stood by Moses from the morning unto the evening. And when Moses’ father in law saw all that he did to the people, he said, What is this thing that thou doest to the people? why sittest thou thyself alone, and all the people stand by thee from morning unto even?And Moses said unto his father in law, Because the people come unto me to enquire of God: When they have a matter, they come unto me; and I judge between one and another, and I do make them know the statutes of God, and his laws. And Moses’ father in law said unto him, The thing that thou doest is not good. Thou wilt surely wear away, both thou, and this people that is with thee: for this thing is too heavy for thee; thou art not able to perform it thyself alone.
Moses was sitting on the judgment bench from dawn to dusk basically, hearing the complaints of the people when they had issues with other Israelites. Obviously, there must have been a scribe who was writing down the case notes, i.e. a court reporter. This is why the Mosaic law is referred to as Casuistic law; because the individual laws or findings arose out of a court case and Moses handed down his verdict. The denotative meaning of this is: “a person who studies and resolves moral problems of judgment or conduct arising in specific situations.”
But as Moses himself goes on to tell Jethro, his father-in-law, that the truly difficult cases, the ones that he could not find any precedent to construct a ruling, by studying The Ten Commandments, he then took the case before God Himself to inquire, and thus received a ‘fresh word,’ as Pentecostals are wont to call it.
Now can these individual laws where Moses handed down his verdict, based upon the Ten Commandments, still be considered as God’s Law? Yes, they can.
This study will continue in Part 2. God Bless you.