The Sinai Myth

The Sinai Myth

The Sinai Myth

The Sinai Myth

Excerpt

One of my friends was horrified when he heard I was doing a book "about the Ten Commandments." "No one," he protested, "is interested in them any more."

What can one say in response to such a comment? It is certainly true that our catechisms and our moral theology books turned the Ten Commandments into a rigid ethical code from which we were supposed to deduce detailed norms for all our decisions about behavior. Such inflexible codes of behavior became first oppressive and then irrelevant. If it be true that no one is interested in the Ten Commandments, the reason may well be that the Decalogue was converted into a harsh, legalistic code despite Yahweh and Jesus. The problem still remains: Why did something, now judged to be so inhuman, have such tremendous importance to so many people for so long?

The Sinai experience was not fundamentally an ethical vision at all. It was a religious event, an encounter of man with God. The ethical code which emerged from that encounter was simple, not especially original, and rather of secondary importance. In our catechism classes and in our moral theology courses we skipped over the first three or four commandments rapidly. Graven images were no problem, taking God's name in vain was only a . . .

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