Thursday, January 8, 2015

The Ten Commandments Revised by a Pastor in South Carolina?

photo be John Taylor / flickr
A friend of mine sent me this story and wanted to know what I thought. It seems that a Pastor down the road in Anderson South Carolina has purported to have heard God speak directly to him on the eve of Christmas. I always get a mite suspicious when some preacher lets us know what God said to him. I never heard God speak directly to me. Maybe I’m not spur-itual enough. I have felt the moving of the spirit or I would never have spent my whole life in the service of the church. I have been touched, warmed and felt the presence of God from time to time. And sometimes I have taken off my shoes because the ground on which I stood was holy. But God never called me on the telephone.

So—my suspicious hackles made me wonder what was going on here. Seems like this pastor of what we call (I hate the term) mega-church—Perry Noble told his Christmas Eve congregation that God spoke to him personally and told him to change his Christmas Eve sermon. Well and good. He supposedly grabbed his pen and spent ten minutes on the sermon. Not so good.

What God told him was that the Ten Commandments weren’t really commandments at all. (This was on Christmas Eve?) The Pastor had been to Israel and met this born-again Israeli driver. The man told him that the word, commandment was not really a Hebrew word. The Reverend took this Israeli driver’s word as fact. He never checked a commentary. He never dug into the origin of the Ten Commandments. He must not have known that. So he builds a case for calling the Commandments Ten Sayings at best. He also said they could be called Ten Promises.

Consequently God told him to revise the old words--Commandments to make them more palatable to nonbelievers. So he followed God’s orders.

This was his Revised Standard Version which he said came from God:

1—No other Gods—translated: You do not have to live in constant disappointment anymore.

2—No images—translated: You can be free from rituals and religion and trust in a relationship.

3—No taking Lord’s name in vain—translated: You can trust in a name that’s above every name.

4—Sabbath day keeping—translated: You can rest.

5—Honor parents—translated: Your family does not have to fall apart.

6—No murder—translated: You do not have to live in a constant state of anger because you will be motivated by love and not hate.

7—No adultery—translated: You do not have to live a life dominated by the guilt, pain and shame associated with sexual sin.

8—No stealing—translated: I will provide.

9—No false testimony—translated: You do not have to pretend.

10—No coveting—translated: I will be enough.

The Ten Commandments have been called: “The Magna Charta of the Social Order." The commands of God are sprinkled all the way through the Bible. Check out any Concordance. Page after page lists the places you will find Command or Commandment in the Bible. The word commandment means mandate or charged with responsibility. The Hebrews talked about The Ten Words—and Word was a monumental thing:When the Lord God spoke great things always took place. The world was created.The Red Sea rolled back. A baby in an out of the way place would change it all.

Later the word, commandment was associated with law. In Exodus and Deuteronomy we read where God somehow spoke to Moses and gave him the glue that would hold the community together.And some of those words can  be found in other cultures and faiths.

This attempt at revision reminds me of a story Lloyd Douglas, the writer of another day told. He had a friend who was a violin teacher. One day Douglas asked him, “What’s the good news for today.” The music teacher went over to a tuning fork suspended by a cord and struck it with a mallet. “That is the good news for today.” He continued, “My friend, that sound is an “A”. It was an “A” all day yesterday. It will be an “A” all day tomorrow, next week, and for a thousand years. The soprano upstairs may warble off-key, the tenor next door may flat his high notes, and the piano across the hall maybe out of tune. Noise all around us, noise; but that, my friend is an “A”.

Of course the Commandments must be reinterpreted for every age. You might check out Chris Hedges’, Losing Moses on the Freeway. He hammers out what he thinks these commandments mean for our nation today. And the demands Hedges finds in the Commandments are hard as nails. But we do not alter or twist or change the basic meaning of the commandments. And any time you hear somebody talking about how God’s speaks to him or her you might just wonder what is going on. Somehow God spoke to Moses, yes—but I don’t think any Pastor today can revise what has stood for thousands of years. I am sure the Pastor in Anderson means well--but next time I hope, as the Scriptures say, he will test the spirits to make sure they are of God. 


  1. I don't think The Lord would think there's anything "noble" about this revision of God's Word!

  2. i think i disagree with you on this one. i really liked this and thought of it more as an expansion than a reinterpretation. it really spoke to me. i think that god has given us all glimmers of the truth, but only she knows it all. i'm probably not theologically correct but theology is the study of god. it's not the definitive word.