The Ten Commandments for Jews, Christians, and Others

By Roger E. Van Harn | Go to book overview

Response

Leanne Van Dyk

The Bible story books my parents often read to me as a child included watercolor pictures of the prophet Moses coming down from Mount Sinai with the two stone tablets of the law in his arms. The commandments were numbered, with Roman numerals, usually, thus making clear which commandments were which. If only it were so clear. The commandments, of course, are not numbered in the biblical text, and so the demarcation of the commandments has long been disputed in the Christian and the Jewish traditions. For example, the Lutheran tradition, among others, includes what this volume identifies as the first commandment and the second commandment as one. The Jewish tradition ends the first commandment after the divine self-identification and makes the second commandment include both the prohibition of other gods and the prohibition of idolatry. Again, the Lutheran tradition divides the tenth commandment into two, distinguishing the coveting of someone’s wife from the coveting of someone’s property. There are deep theological and historical reasons at stake in all these differences. For the purposes of this response to Rabbi Polish’s chapter on the second commandment, it is sufficient to focus primarily on the second commandment identified as the prohibition against idolatry.

What, precisely, is the temptation that this commandment warns against, the actions this commandment prohibits? The translation of the Hebrew word pesel is often rendered “idol” or “image,” a visible representation of Yahweh. The commandment warns against construing anything that is created for the God that is creator. The second commandment’s comprehensive wording, “You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth,” makes it clear that an inven

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The Ten Commandments for Jews, Christians, and Others
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Foreword viii
  • Preface xi
  • The Ten Words - Exodus 20:2-17 (New Revised Standard Version) 1
  • The First Word - The Face of Ethical Encounter 3
  • Response 16
  • The Second Word - No Other Gods 23
  • Response 40
  • The Third Word - The Blessing of God’s Name 47
  • Response 62
  • The Fourth Word - The Sabbath Day 69
  • Response 80
  • The Fifth Word - Honoring Parents 87
  • Response 100
  • The Sixth Word - What Have You Done? 113
  • Response 127
  • Response 132
  • The Seventh Word - Sexuality and Marriage 135
  • Response 148
  • The Eighth Word - Calvin and the "Stewardship of Love" 157
  • Response 175
  • The Ninth Word - Bearing True Witness 179
  • Response 194
  • The Tenth Word - God or Mammon 199
  • Response 212
  • Afterword 218
  • Contributors 221
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