CHVI - VI. The Decalogue: Table One-Duties to God:...

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VI. The Decalogue: Table One----Duties to God : "Decalogue" is Greek for "Ten Words," and the term is a faithful transliteration of the Hebraic understanding of "ten commandments." The root of the naming them the "Decalogue" has its basis in Exodus 34:28, and Deuteronomy 4:13. That they are said to be "words" reminds us that this portion of the Torah , "the Law," was actually spoken by YHWH to Moses, and then subsequently written (by YHWH) on tablets of stone. Identifying these commands as "words" may also reach back to the ritual pronouncements typical in the covenant-forming ceremony, but this is a matter of debate. There has been a tendency among Christians, and especially among Protestants who have been weaned upon reading Galatians through the eyes of Martin Luther, to see the Decalogue as being the nexus of Jewish legalism and therefore as the basis of an approach to salvation that was based in human deeds or works. This was certainly the polemic that St. Paul leveled against the Judaism of his day (as in Gal. 3), but our understanding of the Decalogue should not be shaped solely by Paul s critique of some of the problems that developed from it. Grace and Torah are not opposites; indeed, they are deeply interconnected. 1 The commandments were not given to Israel as a way of salvation; salvation had already been given at the Red (Reed) Sea crossing. The commandments were not given as a basis of relationship with YHWH; relationship had already been given as an act of sheer grace. The Decalogue was given to spell out what a faithful response to God s grace looks like. The commandments were not the basis of Israel s relationship with God; they were given as the means whereby the nation responded to YHWH s generous offer of relationship. The prologue to the Decalogue (in the Exodus account) makes clear the proper relationship between salvation 1 J.M. Meyers, Grace and Torah (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1975) offers an excellent, brief overview of this theme. 1
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( I bore you on eagle s wings ) covenant ( you shall be my own possession ) and the commandments ( if you will obey my voice ): 2 You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I have bore you on eagle s wings and brought you to myself. Now therefore, if you will obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my own possession among all peoples; for all the earth is mine, and you shall be a kingdom of priests, and a holy nation. Obedience to YHWH does not earn Israel grace or salvation; obedience is the expression of a faith filled heart. It longs to keep God s covenant, and therefore to keep the relationship with YHWH strong and vital. And when Israel failed to keep covenant with God, there were sacrificial liturgies prescribed by the Levital (Priestly) Law (Torah), that marked out a way to return to right relationship with God through acts of liturgical repentance and obedience. The focus of the Decalogue, as well as that of subsequent rabbinical law, was to mark out the way of
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CHVI - VI. The Decalogue: Table One-Duties to God:...

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