The Ten Commandments: Living for God & Living with Others
In our civic life, The Ten Commandments are prominently displayed in courthouses and other municipal buildings across the country. In popular culture, the 1956 film starring Charlton Heston is shown every year around every Easter season. But did you know that The Ten Commandments have been a feature of Anglican worship since the 16th century?
More than a list of don’ts, they represent God’s earnest desire to be in fellowship with the people God has redeemed. Ultimately, they reveal a God that wants to be known. As a way to embrace self-reflection this Lent and draw from the deep wells of Anglican liturgical practice, let us commit to a thoughtful review of the Scriptural context for the Ten Commandments.
During this course developed by Pastor Anthony, we hope to: Gain insight from the Scriptural context and content of the Ten Commandments; further develop familiarity with The Book of Common Prayer and other liturgical resources; and practice self-reflection around the Ten Commandments as one way of embracing Lenten spirituality.
Week 1 – Introduction
Since 1973, the 1965 Cecil B. DeMille classic film The Ten Commandments, is shown on network television across the United States of America. Replicas of the commandments are the centers of controversies over their display in municipal buildings. And beginning around the 16th century, they have been associated with Anglican worship.
The Ten Commandments are all around us, but what do they mean, and is there a way they can be useful in informing our faith today? In this session, we are introduced to the Ten Commandments’ Biblical context, an essential step in understanding them. We’ll also look at how our chief worship and theological resources, the Book of Common Prayer and the Hymnal, give present-day importance for them in our spiritual lives.
Week 2 – It’s About Relationship, Part 1
At present, there are at least two opposite modern interpretations of the Ten
Commandments. On the one hand, they are moral absolutes for all people everywhere. On the other hand, they are all but dismissed. According to this view, Jesus Christ only gave two commandments that essentially negate the ten given to the Children of Israel and Moses.
The biblical narrative’s geographical and cultural context gives us a clue as to how we can use the Ten Commandments as a resource for spiritual growth without falling into the trap of legalism or objective dismissal of them. We should remember that for the Children of Israel and all believers in Jesus, covenant and community are significant threads that bind us in love to God through Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit; and to one another.
Covenants are about guidelines that give shape to a relationship between two parties. And we are in a relationship with God not only as individuals but also as a community. The covenant community has a connection to God and with each other. The covenant helps us recognize God and our true selves more clearly, the ones God calls to himself. Said another way, covenants are about people and how they are known to each other.
With that in mind, we can take a closer look at the structure of the Ten Commandments themselves
Week 3 – It’s About Relationship, Part 2
If one accepts the view that the 10 Commandments, or the Decalogue, are words that constitute the community as one in relationship to a Creator, is it law at all? Even within the narrative framework that we have examined, the Ten Commandments also have legal connotations. If you have access to a Bible Dictionary, review helpful entries such as “covenant” and “law.” Specifically, the kinds of prohibitions seen in the Ten Commandments are often referred to as apodictic law. Apodictic law seems to establish moral or religious precedents. In the ancient Near East, apodictic laws often carried the threat of physical violence or death (The Decalogue does not have such punishments. Violations of some of the commandments become capital offenses outside of the Decalogue’s narrative context. This means the community’s ideas of how to embody them develop over time.) This is yet another way the children of Israel’s ethical and religious culture is shaped in but not relegated to the ethical and religious norms of its surrounding culture.
This week, we examine the fifth through the tenth commandments, words which seem to more clearly define how the historic peoples were to live in community with one another.
Week 4 – Summing it All Up
Now that we have investigated the context and content of the Ten Commandments as the original covenant between God and the Children of Israel, we must now ask an important question. What does Jesus have to say about the Ten Commandments? As constituents of the new covenant, aren’t we just supposed to love each other?
This week, we examine Jesus’ teachings. And applying some of the same study principles demonstrated in the previous weeks, we might come away with a clearer picture of Jesus, the new covenant, and Jesus’ commandment to “love one another.”