14 February 2007

Letter to the Editor

In the Saturday, 3 February 2007 issue of the Effingham Daily News a Letter to the Editor was titled, "Don't publicize your faith, live your faith," to which I promptly wrote a reply.

The initial letter reads as follows:

In a recent letter in the Letters to the Editor of the Effingham Daily News there have been many issues raised about public display of the Ten Commandments and Prayer in Schools. While I do agree that religion in this country is under fire by the ACLU and our judicial system, I have a hard time understanding why there is such uproar about these two issues.
1. Why are we so "up in arms" about displaying the Ten Commandments? The Ten Commandments were given only to the House of Israel - to the Jews, Exodus 34:27-28. The Ten Commandments were never given to Christians. Isn't Effingham County predominantly a "Christian" county? Although there may be some Jews in this community - I do not know of any personally. These commandments were never given to Catholics, Protestant [sic] or Christians. And according to Colossians 2:8-14 the "commandments wiritten in stone" were nailed to the Cross of Christ. In II Corinthians 3:1-18 we are to turn away from the "ordinance written on stone" to be servants of a new covenant. Some other passages in reference to the abolishing of the old law are Eph. 2:15, Gal 3:19-29, and Heb. 9:1-17. If you seek to be justified by the Ten Commandments you have been severed from Christ - Galatians 5:2-6. It doesn't get much plainer than that.
As for there being a difference between the Catholic and Protestant Ten Commandments, the commandments are listed in Exodus 20:1-17 in plain English. There is no excuse for there being two different lists.
2. As for prayer in school - the attack is against open public prayers. There is no attack against our private prayers. A Christian can pray anytime, anywhere to God the Father without open public gatherings or openly praying in classes. The Scriptures teach us how to pray in secret Matthew 6:5-8. We will get no attack from the ACLU for praying in secret. The Scriptures actually teach many warnings against open public prayers because it can be so easily misused (Matt. 6:7, 23:14, Mark 12:40, and many others). There are many ways to pray. I am praying right now as I work on this letter and no one around me even knows.
So I guess all the uproar is about hanging on to an old abolished law on some plaques on the courthouse wall and our need to have public prayers so that others will see how religious we are. A practicing Christian with the proper knowledge of the Scriptures can show the world their conviction, their faith, by their daily conduct and way of life (and it doesn't require wall plagues [sic] and public prayer meetings to prove who they are). Their manner of life will be their testimony - I Corinthians 7:12-17, Romans 8:1-17. Christ asks us to show our faith by - living the life and walking the walk. Pray with your children before you send them to school. Pray with them when they get back home. Teach them how to pray on the run if they have to [sic]. Teach them not to put their faith in religious symblos, but more importantly, teach them how to live righteously in this world.
Michael Antrim
Watson
The editor titled my letter in response, "A history of the Ten Commandments." It reads as follows:

In his Letter to the Editor published in the 3 February 2007 issue of the Effingham Daily News, Mr. Michael Antrim said, “As for there being a difference between the Catholic and Protestant Ten Commandments, the commandments are listed in Exodus 20:1-17 in plain English. There is no excuse for there being two different lists.”

Mr. Antrim is not entirely correct in his assessment. First, the Book of Exodus was not given to the Jews in English, but in Hebrew. The “plain English” to which Mr. Antrim refers is not always the same. One need only pick up three or four different Bibles to realize that not all publishers translate the Hebrew in the same way.

Second, Mr. Antrim is correct that the Ten Commandments are listed in Exodus 20:1-17. However, there is also a second listing of the Ten Commandments given in Deuteronomy 5:6-12. A simple and thorough reading will reveal that the two lists, although they contain the same Commandments, are not identical in wording.

Third, even though the Ten Commandments are listed in both Exodus and Deuteronomy, they are numbered in neither of the two accounts; they are given, not numerated.

The “Catholic” numbering of the Ten Commandments is as follows, and has been since at least the time of Saint Augustine (354-430) and company:

1. I am the Lord your God. You shall not have strange gods before me.
2. You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain.
3. Remember to keep holy the Lord’s Day.
4. Honor your father and mother.
5. You shall not kill.
6. You shall not commit adultery.
7. You shall not steal.
8. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
9. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife.

10. You shall not covet your neighbor’s goods.

The Church Fathers formulated the commandments in this fashion, focusing primarily on the Decalogue as given in Deuteronomy. This Catholic - a word which means “universal” - version of the Ten Commandments was used until the time of John Calvin (1509-1564) and continues to be used by Catholic the world over. In fact, even Martin Luther (1483-1546) supported the use of the Catholic version.

Calvin and other reformers revised the ordering of the Ten Commandments – especially to support their attack on statues – as follows:

1. I am the Lord your God, you shall have no other gods before me.
2. You shall not make graven images.
3. You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain.
4. Remember the Sabbath Day to keep it holy.
5. Honor your father and mother.
6. You shall not kill.
7. You shall not commit adultery.
8. You shall not steal.
9. You shall not bear false witness.
10. You shall not covet.

The reformers formulated this second version of the commandments, focusing primarily on the Decalogue as given in Exodus.

The difference in the two renderings lies in the split of the traditional rendering of the first commandment into two different commandments and the combination of the traditional ninth and tenth commandments into a single commandment. The typical Protestant formulation of the Ten Commandments is, then, not even five centuries old.

Mr. Antrim’s assertion that “these commandments were never given to the Catholics, Protestant [sic] or Christians” is also not entirely correct. The passages he cites are true, but he fails to take into account the words of the Savior himself: “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets. I have come not to abolish but to fulfill. Amen, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or the smallest part of a letter will pass from the law, until all things have taken place” (Matthew 5:17-18).

Furthermore, when the rich young man asked Jesus, “Teacher, what good must I do to gain eternal life?”, Jesus answered, “If you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments” (Matthew 19:16-17). The Ten Commandments are, therefore, essential to Christian discipleship. Entering into eternal life requires the keeping of the commandments, while becoming perfect requires that you “sell what you have and give to [the] poor” (Matthew 19:21). Christians live out their baptism by keeping the Ten Commandments because they show us the way to life.

It should also be noted that Christians can be divided into a number of groups: Roman Catholic, Eastern Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant. Anyone who claims to be a Christian but not a Catholic or an Orthodox is a Protestant; the category of “Christian”, as Mr. Antrim seems to suggest, cannot stand beside that of “Catholic” or “Protestant”, for both Catholics and Protestants are Christians.

It is true, as Mr. Antrim says, that “a practicing Christian with the proper knowledge of the Scriptures can show the world their conviction, their faith, by their daily conduct and way of life.” If you have doubts, simply read James 2:14-26. Mr. Antrim is also quite right to encourage increased prayer at home and away, and to this encouragement I add my support.

The Rev. Daren J. Zehnle, S.T.B., M.Div.
Effingham
We'll see what kind of a response I get.

4 comments:

  1. Wow, you said a mouthful! Great clarification.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Awesome.

    I'll start forwarding scraps from the Gallipolis Daily Tribune to you for your response.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Send them on and I'll do what I can.

    ReplyDelete