Tuesday, 28 January 2014

The Ten Commandments, Deconstructed

The Ten Commandments, Deconstructed

I reckon we all need therapy sessions, to help cope with having been taught such ghastly fiction as Holy Writ. I tend to agree with the atheist Richard Dawkins concerning the O.T. ethics. Take, for example, all that Cecil B De Mille stuff over the Ten Commandments. Moses comes down from the mountain with the tablets of  stone, and smashes them.

Hold it right there.

First, he had to smash them, or else everyone would be asking, in what language was it written? Did God invent the alphabet for these tablets? Second, we could only know what was on them if Moses wrote the Book of  Exodus, however it has a chapter describing his death so that’s unlikely. Third, if the Hebrews had a load of gold jewellery, why would they want to melt them down to make a golden calf (the occasion of Moses smashing the tablets)? There was no calf-deity, no calf-god is going to rescue them or console them. Fourth, this lousy scriptwriter presupposes that the Hebrews could just construct a furnace reaching a thousand degrees centigrade, to melt gold. Did they bring all the apparatus for that out of Egypt?
Fifthly, the Levite killer-priests then go on a rampage slaughtering three thousand men, women and children - with God’s blessing, of course. (Exodus 32: 25-9), It served them right, etc. This anti-God-from Hell always needs blood. But, how come only the priests had swords, did they get these in Egypt or what? The bible tells us that the men offered no resistance as the Levite killer-priests hacked about at their women and children. Remember, this is reading the story of the Ten Commandments being brought down from Mount Sinai. Normally the warrior-caste and priestly caste are separate, but not here.
This was retrospective justice, punishing the Hebrews for transgressing a commandment that Yahweh was about to give ('Thou shalt have no other god but Me') - rather like the victorious allies at  Nuremberg, who made up new laws, then punished the Nazis for having previously transgressed them.
 (Much later on, when the Hebrews get to Canaan and start wiping out entire communities and cities ‘with the edge of the sword’ – how do they make the swords in the desert? And we all know the answer – these lousy scriptwriters didn’t bother with things like that. I mean Jonah being in the whale for three days is Holy Writ, and you are bothering about where their swords came from?)
What has to be the single maddest scene in the Bible, with the Ten Commandments smashed to bits, and thousands writhing around in a death-agony after God’s own priests had been on their bloody rampage: then Moses makes potable gold, he somehow alchemically dissolves the Golden Calf into drinkable, colloidal gold - and goes about administering it to everyone. Uh-huh.

Moses goes back up the mountain and gets a replacement set, but the commandments had then changed. The Sabbath once a week had - on the first set - been a blessing when no work should be done, in the Fourth Commandment: but now it’s a death-curse, anyone found working on the Sabbath ‘will surely die’. At this point, if not before, we realize that it’s just a badly-told story, because no culture could ever have existed, where anyone found working on that one day of the week gets killed. The replacement set ought to be the one where we know the words – after all the first was smashed to bits wasn’t it? - but instead it becomes rather diffuse.

(Tiffany’s comment: ‘He then went back up, unaccountably, and got a second set of tablets from this god – supposedly with the exact same commandments – but in reality, while a few of them slightly resemble their earlier counterparts, the majority are completely different… there is also a third set of “10 Commandments” with no resemblance to the first two…” p.67.)

On the same page as the Ten Commandments in Exodus, right after in fact, we get God discussing how to sell off your daughter as a sex-slave: He advises putting in a money-back guarantee clause in case satisfaction is not obtained (21:7-8). 

When a man sells his daughter as a slave, she shall not go out as the male slaves do. If she does not please her master, who has designated her for himself, then he shall let her be redeemed; 

 To call this an ethically-challenged deity would be a grave understatement. On the same page the deity also starts listing the various types of persons who need to be killed, for example: "you shall not permit a sorceress to live' (32:18) - that kicked off the witch-burning in Europe, one of the darker pages of its history.

Hebrew tribes in Canaan were polytheistic from the 9th-6th century BC. Records show Yahweh worship coexisting with worship of Ashtoreth, with other El and Baal deities: ‘The link between YHWH and Asherath was part of Israelite mythology…  during the ninth to seventh centuries BCE, Israelites adored certainly one, but most likely a few – not many – goddesses’ (Z. Zevit, Religions of ancient Israel p.651) Records do not show literacy in Israel or Judah before the 8th century BCE. They did not eat pork, shown by an absence of pig-bones. 
 The single male, monotheistic god of the Bible probably got going with the Persian empire under Cyrus the great, or maybe later when Darius II set up a province of the Persian Empire in Judea. Around 450 BCE a temple to the One God was set up in Jerusalem (time of Ezra and Nehemah), and the Persians were not too bothered what the locals called this deity.Then the holy scribblers got going writing the books, weaving Hebrew stories and folk-memories together, and pulling together a ‘glorious past’. 

If you are wondering in what century the Ten Commandments might have appeared, note that the Fourth Commandment has a seven-day week. The seven-day week appears in history in the first and second centuries BC, with the first day of week of a known date being in 30 BC - the days of the week have rolled on ever since then. The two apocryphal works Book of Jubilees and Book of Enoch belong to the 1st -second centuries BC for the earliest stratum of their texts, and they have indications of the seven-day week in use. But the week as such is not in Enoch, tho its in Hebrew and has much about the calendar. Do you want to believe the Hebrews were using a seven day week calendar for centuries before this, before anyone else got to hear about it? They may have invented the seven day week, but I would not recommend putting that prior to, say, the 2nd-3rd centuries BCE.  

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