Were The Ten Commandments New?

Hello everyone and welcome back to Deeper Waters where we are diving into the ocean of truth. I’ve been looking lately at presuppositionalism and today, I’d like to look at the moral knowledge that we have that is found in the Old Testament. This is a mistake that atheists frequently make as well when they go to the Ten Commandments. What I’d like to discuss is if the Ten Commandments were really something new.

The Ten Commandments are often seen as the moral principles that Christians are to follow. Now to an extent, we are, but the Ten Commandments were never given to Gentiles. We are to follow the commandments not because we suddenly transform into the Jewish people, as if we have to keep Levitical Law as well, but because the Ten Commandments also correspond with Natural Law by and large. The one we could ask about the most would be the Sabbath command, but even then we can say that we ought to honor time.

Atheists will often point to claims such as the Law of Hammurabi containing such precepts as well and it being much more detailed. Ricky Geravis in an article he wrote claimed to be being a good Christian since he could claim that he was following the Ten Commandments, as if the definition of a Christian is one who follows the Ten Commandments.

What has this to do with the presuppositional approach? It is about moral knowledge. To see the problem with the atheist view on this, all we need to do is just consider something for a moment that should be painstakingly obvious. When God told the Israelites a command such as “Do not murder,” do we really think they heard that word from Moses and said “What?! We’re not supposed to be doing that?! Dang! Guess we’d better stop!”

Of course not. So what is the purpose if the Ten Commandments were nothing new? Why would God tell His people to do that which they already knew to do?

Question: When is it that a woman is told to love and cherish someone for the rest of her life?

Answer: A wedding.

Now the point here is that when a wedding takes place and a woman is given this charge by the minister, does the woman really think “Wait. I’m supposed to do that?!” I had no idea!”

No. Nor does a man think differently when he’s given a similar charge. They both state it however as a public proclamation of what they already have established for one another. It is no longer something kept between just the two of them. It is a promise that they have made and have now made in the eyes of God and man.

In essence, the Ten Commandments are God doing that to Israel. The fullness of what it meant to be God’s people would come later, but God is asking His people if they will be His bride and the obeying of them is saying “I do.” There is nothing new in them. They are instead the step taken to establish the covenant between God and Israel as a nation. He has bought them out of slavery and now He desires to make them His own.

This would also mean that this is part of moral knowledge. Even without having a thorough understanding, it was to be known that murder was wrong. They did not need to believe in the triune God to know that. Of course, the triune God is the basis for morality, but saying the triune God is the ontological basis for morality is different from saying one must have epistemological knowledge of the triune God in order to know that murder is wrong. I agree that one needs a basis, but I do not see any reason that God must be specifically Christian nor do I think such has been given.

For the atheist, to treat the Ten Commandments as new moral commands and think that following them establishes one as a Christian is simply false. In reality, on the externals, a lot of us do well at the Ten Commandments. We can have problems sometimes with things like lying, honoring parents, or coveting. For Christians, we can make idols in our hearts and fail to love God as we ought, but for the horizontal level, most of us today do fairly well.

Keep in mind however that Christ took these to a whole new level and on that new level, we tend to not do so well. That is the reality and in that case, we need the power of Christ in us in order to improve on those. However, even if from this point on in your life you lived them perfectly, it would not merit you salvation as you’d still have your past sins to atone for.

If the Commandments are seen instead as a marriage covenant, we see more of what is going on and we realize that following the teaching of God for Israel was a way of honoring their side of the covenant. Of course, we also know that they didn’t do too well, but let us remember the warning of Paul and not take pride for if the natural branches were cut off, we could be as well. For the Christian, we are to exhort one another to righteousness. Let’s keep doing such.

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4 Responses to “Were The Ten Commandments New?”

  1. Rob El Says:

    Hey Nick,

    Nick: “We are to follow the commandments not because we suddenly transform into the Jewish people, as if we have to keep Levitical Law as well”

    Reply: What’s the difference, in your mind, between the Levitical laws and, say the 10 commandments? In terms of adherence? Are they as important as the 10 commandments? You imply the Levitical laws were for the Jews? Does this mean the 10 commandments were (and are) for, say, everyone else? Did they also apply to the Jews, in any circumstance?

    I guess my main question is, and without getting into an atheist/theist battle, as I’m curious to the exegetical answer to this question, was there ever a case where the 10 commandments and the Levitical laws applied to a people or person, as there are some conflicts there aren’t there (I admit ignorance, and could be wrong)?

    For example: “Thou shall not kill”, versus say: “Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is an abomination” and the resulting punishment: “If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.”

    The punishment though I admit, most likely not a commandment in the strict sense, is still commanded in the: “And the Lord spake unto Moses saying:” sense. There seems to my eyes to be a contradiction in the commandments there? If there isn’t, how is it resolved?

    I know you’re busy, even just a quick response will do, just curious is all 🙂

    Hope you’re well!

  2. apologianick Says:

    Hey there friend!

    I understand where you’re coming from and I in fact plan on blogging on some aspects of Levitical Law provided I get around to it tomorrow. You can wait until then and see if that answers questions.

  3. Rob El Says:

    Thanks for the quick response! Look forward to reading it.

  4. Daniel Says:

    Great post, Nick! I found it to be very insightful and edifying. I would add that I see how the Natural Law articulated in the 10 commandments is readily carried over into the New Covenant in Christ’s blood and elevated to a new level, as seen from the Sermon on the Mount. You get at this when you talk about Christians making idols in our heart.

    RE: Rob El’s question concerning the “thou shalt not kill” commandment. I think a quotation from the New Testament (i.e. Paul) is very helpful in understanding how the Israelites intuitively saw no contradiction between the Ten Commandments and this death-penalty sanctioned in the Levitical law:

    “Romans 13:1) (NKJV) Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. 2) Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves. 3) For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same. 4) For he is God’s minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil.”

    I understand this to mean there is a gaping difference between killing someone because of personal motives, and putting someone to death as a judicial act according to established law. Since God is laying down the laws that will serve as the basis for the Israelite judicial system, there is no inconsistency between forbidding murder in a moral sense and sanctioning the death-penalty for an act deemed abominable to society. For though God is indeed establishing a covenant between Himself and Israel for which the marriage metaphor is apt, He is also establishing His bride as a kingdom, which they heretofore were not.

    I might also add: whatever one’s feelings toward homosexuality, I hope one can at least appreciate the logic behind so strictly forbidding it in the society: 1) who stood as a living witness to the God who created man and woman to become one flesh; 2) through whom the Messiah was to come by birth, and 3) where one’s place was determined entirely through lineage. Furthermore, homosexuality then seems to me to have been largely about the wanton expression and enlargement of one’s sexual urges and involved the exploitation of others; this is hardly compatible with the concepts of self-control and restraint of desire that go hand-in-hand with keeping the commandment, “thou shall not covet.” (Read the story in Genesis about Sodom and Gommorah; in Judges about Gibeah.)

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