It is a fact that the re-writing, recopying and translation of the scriptures into various languages has resulted in a lot of errors, omissions and misrepresentations of the original meanings. The doctrine of the 10 commandments is one case in point. While I acknowledge them as the first 10 commandments, spoken by the Lord our God at Mount Sinai, I completely disagree on this set limit. The scriptures show that there are hundreds of God’s laws and commandments covering every sphere of human life which have been ignored partly because the doctrine of the 10 commandments blocks people’s views.
SundayWord by Prosper Tingini
It is also important to highlight that the numbering of chapters, verses and most of the abbreviations, were added by men to the original texts many centuries later. They were not acts of God, but human acts meant for easier reading and reference to the scriptures. Originally, the Hebrews had divided their own Hebrew Bible into verses, but not chapters. In the early 13th century, an English cleric named Stephen Langton redesigned the old scriptures into chapters and then numbered them. In the middle of the 16th century, a renowned French printer-scholar, Robert Estienne, went on to introduce the numbering of verses. As a consequence, some sentences of the old texts of the scriptures were either lumped together into one verse or some texts were separated into different verses, thus creating some distortions to the original scripture arrangements.
The first English translations of the scripture were the works of William Tyndale. His translations were vehemently opposed and were ordered to be burned as “untrue translations”. In October 1635, he was labelled as a religious traitor, arrested and publicly executed and burned at the stake. This attracted a lot of attention such that those condemned works were massively reprinted underground to meet public demand. The condemned translations became the “bestseller book” of all time, then. This transformed the same “untrue translations” into money-making Bible commercial ventures. The religiosity and accuracy of the English translations of the scriptures were surpassed by the human need for profit, as most of the condemned works were retained in subsequent versions to promote sales at the expense of the truth. Whether Tyndale acted alone or if there was a conspiracy to subvert the scriptures for some ulterior motives, is another matter. It would not be off the mark to suggest that the “error of the 10 commandments” doctrine originated therein, although most of the condemned works of Tyndale were to be found in the New Testament.
Copyright laws also prevented other subsequent scripture writers from recopying the exact words as spoken in earlier versions of the Bible in an effort to avoid plagiarism. New words with different meanings from the original texts were incorporated into newer versions of the scriptures as a means to subvert the copyright laws, with grave consequences.
If we follow the events at Mount Sinai in the scriptures closely, it is clear that after the Lord our God spoke of the 10th commandment, the dreadful and awesome presence of the Lord made the people gathered at the mountain begging Moses to let them withdraw from God’s presence and for Moses to continue to listen on their behalf to all else God wanted to say (Exodus 20 verse 18-20). Thereafter, the Lord continued to narrate via Moses numerous other laws and commandments for the next 40 days and nights (Exodus 24 verse 18).
Jumping to Exodus 31 verse 18, it reads; “And He gave to Moses, when He had made an end of speaking to him upon Mount Sinai, the two tables of the testimony, tables of stone, written with the finger of God”. In the same vein, Exodus 32 verse 15-16 proceeds to say, “And Moses turned and went down from the mountain with the two tables of the testimony in his hands, tables that were written on both sides; on one side and on the other they were written. And the tables were the work of God, and the writing was the writing of God, graven upon the stones”.
The scriptures proceed to tell the story of the molten golden calf which the people had erected, in violation of the second commandment spoken by God to them only 40 days earlier. So angered was the Lord with this that He told Moses that, henceforth, He was going to abandon them and withdraw His presence. Moses then pleaded with God to exercise His mercy towards the people. As a merciful God, He then forgave them, but gave them a set of 10 conditions for them to strictly follow to honour His forgiveness. These “10 commandments” would then form the basis of a New Covenant between God and the people.
Exodus 34 verse 12-26 lists the 10 commandments of the New Covenant as follows:
“Take heed to yourself, lest you make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land wither you go, lest it became a snare in the midst of you, you shall tear down their altars, and cut down their Asherim (for you shall worship no other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God), lest you make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land, and when they plan harlot after their gods and sacrifice to their gods and one invites you, you eat of his sacrifice, and you take of their daughters for your sons, and their daughters play harlot after their gods and make your sons play the harlot after their gods” (verse 12-16).
“You shall make for yourself no molten gods” (verse 17).
“The feast of the unleavened bread you shall keep. Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread, as I commanded you, at the time appointed in the month of Abib; for in the month of Abib you came out of Egypt” (verse 18).
“All that opens the womb of mine, all your male cattle, the firstlings of cow and sheep. The firstling of an ass you shall redeem with a lamb, or if you will not redeem it you shall break its neck. All the first borns of your sons you shall redeem. And none shall appear before me empty” (verse 19-20).
“Six days you shall work, but on the seventh day you shall rest; in ploughing time and in harvest time you shall rest” (verse 21).
“You shall observe the feast of weeks, the first fruits of wheat harvest” (verse 22).
“And you shall observe the feast of ingathering at the year’s end. Three times in the year shall all your males appear before the Lord God, the God of Israel. For I will cast out nations before you, and enlarge your borders; neither shall any man desire your land, when you go up to appear before the Lord your God three times in the year” (verse 23-24).
“You shall not offer the blood of my sacrifice with leaven; neither shall the sacrifice of the feast of the Passover be left until the morning” (verse 25).
“The first of the first fruits you shall bring to the house of the Lord your God” (verse 26[a]).
“You shall not boil a kid in its mother’s milk” (verse 26).
Thereafter the Lord immediately ordered Moses (Exodus 34 verse 27), “Write these words; in accordance with those words I have made a covenant (the new covenant) with you and with Israel”. Verse 28 then follows by revealing the first mention of the words “the 10 commandments” in the scriptures as a reference to the above 10 conditions of the new covenant. It reads “And Moses was there with the Lord forty days and forty nights (again), he neither ate bread nor drank water. And he (Moses) wrote upon the tables the words of the covenant, the 10 commandments”. These above are the reference to the factual 10 commandments. The “error” of interpretation then arises, in the sense that some people then misread this (verse 28) as if it was a reference to the first 10 commandments spoken by God at Mt Sinai, thus creating a falsehood which has prevailed to this very day.
By asking Moses to write down these 10 commandments in his own handwriting, the Lord wanted a distinction between the two sets of statutes. The 10 commandments of the new covenant would appear in Moses’ own handwriting, but all the original hundreds of other original commandments would still appear in God’s own handwriting, just as originally indicated in the scriptures. The two tables of stone, “written on both sides”, did not carry just the said 10 commandments, but a host of hundreds of other commandments, written in “God’s own handwriting”.
Furthermore, a critical analysis of the contents of the current English bibles would reveal that the words (the 10 commandments) as per English translations were not featured in the original Hebrews or Greek language manuscripts used for the translations. The terms “10 commandments” were incorrectly inserted in the place of the original terms meaning “words” as reflected and denoted in most footnotes of varous version of the Bible.
I also believe the slave trade that devastated black Africa and beyond for over 400 years at the same time as the scripture translations were taking place could have influenced conception of 10 commandments doctrine. Atrocities of slavery were so barbaric in nature they even exceeded the horrors committed by Adolf Hitler, yet very little is written about it. The Bible carries numerous laws on slavery enacted by the Lord our God in the next chapter after that of the 10 commandments. In Exodus 21, verse 16; He proclaimed, “Whoever steals a man, whether he sells him or is found in possession of him, shall be put to death.” How then could the missionaries or the slave traders preach the word of God to the very same slaves or natives in newly discovered colonies when they and their counterparts were subjecting other people to the very same evil practices condemned by the Lord? The practical solution to the problem would be achieved by creating an impression in the scriptures that God’s commandments ended with the 10th, thereby preventing people from proceeding to read on various others in the next chapter and other books.
Another intention would have been to divert people’s attention away from the Lord our God’s teachings contained in the Old Testament to the “new” teachings of Jesus Christ which taught people to accept oppression, suffering, submission and even to turn the other cheek when subjected to beatings in return for a guaranteed place in Heaven. The New Testament teachings provided the right cocktail as a medicine which allowed people to perpetuate cruel acts on other humans, at the same time pacifying the victims through the scriptures.
Prosper Tingini is a religious writer. He compiled a book titled, God’s Constitution For Mankind: The laws and commandments. His contact details are: 0771 260 195 or email: email@example.com