PDF Images in Catholicism ...Idolatry? Discourse on the First Commandment with Biblical Citations

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One can speak, therefore, of a cosmic covenant proportionate to the state of perversity and to the punishment. The initial impression is that the sign refers simply to the rainbow as the meteorological phenomenon which occurs after rain. From the point of view of the symbolism two details merit consideration here. First, the very shape of the bow, stretched towards heaven and no longer towards the earth, suggests the idea of peace, fruit of a purely gratuitous initiative by God; its position prevents any further arrow being aimed at the earth.

Moreover, as the bow reaches to heaven but rests on the earth as a kind of vertical bridge, it symbolizes the contact re-established between God and a reborn and saved humanity. From the point of view of ecology: human corruption and violence have great repercussions on our habitat and on the environment Gen 6. From the viewpoint of the management of resources: a certain control over animal life is given to human beings compare 9.

They must nevertheless respect every life as something mysterious 9. The broadening of the covenant to all living beings and to all the earth emphasizes the status of the human beings as companion to all created beings. In this context the re-wording of the exhortation to Noah, a second Adam, merits special attention. The full implications of this are that animals are handed over to human beings as nourishment 9. Their role as administrators and regents of creation has been relativized.

The explicit reference to Gen 1. It remains a standard of reference. The stories about Abraham-Isaac and those about Jacob are similar even in detail. Abraham and Jacob travel along the same routes, they cross the country from North to South following the same watershed. These topographical markers frame the literary complex of Gen 12—36 cf.

These literary facts are an invitation to read the narratives on Abraham in the broader context of the sequence concerning Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. The covenant given by the LORD has three corollaries: a promise, responsibility and a law. The promise is that of the land Gen This topic later receives a spiritual interpretation. The responsibility confided to Abraham concerns not only his own clan, but more broadly, all nations.

The biblical expression concerning this responsibility uses the vocabulary of blessing: Abraham must become a great and powerful nation, and all the nations of the earth will be blessed brk in him Gen Thus the covenant does not lead only to inheriting the gift of God a progeny and a land , it is at the same time a task to be accomplished.

This theological approach fruitfully describes the particular dimension and the universal validity of biblical morality. The Abraham and the Jacob cycles insist on the historical dimension of moral living. Both Abraham and Jacob follow a course of conversion which the narrative carefully describes. The covenant offered by God meets with human resistance. These biblical narratives here show the temporal dimension in which faithfulness to the covenant and obedience to God are worked out. In our description of the progressive understanding of the covenant we underlined certain essential traits.

The founding experience of the covenant occurs on Sinai. It is presented as a foundational historical event. It is entirely a gift of God, fruit of his unmerited initiative, and it binds both God grace and humanity the Law. It confers on newborn Israel the status of a people with full rights. We now present this response not in its theological and unchangeable totality the Law , but in its multiple and detailed expression, as it is applied to changing circumstances the laws. Every newly formed people must, first of all, provide itself with a constitution.

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Its redactional position Ex Paradoxically, the original tenor of the Decalogue reflects an ethic which is at the same time primitive and potentially very rich. Three aspects reveal the limitations of this ethic: its exteriority, its essentially communal nature and its mainly negative formulation of moral requirements.

In considering the literal sense, exegetes insist that originally every prohibition concerned external, visible and verifiable actions, including the hamad desire which introduces the last two commandments Ex Moreover, once freed from Egypt, this liberated people was in urgent need of precise rules to order its collective life in the desert. The Decalogue corresponds broadly to this demand, in such a way that in it we can see a fundamental law, a primitive national charter.

Eight of the ten commandments are formulated negatively, they are prohibitions, more or less like railings on a bridge. Only two are expressed in positive form, precepts to be fulfilled. The accent lies, therefore, on abstaining from socially harmful actions. This evidently does not exhaust all the possibilities of morality, whose purpose is broadly that of stimulating human activity to good action.

Three other characteristics, however, make of the original Decalogue an irreplaceable foundation for an inspiring morality that appeal to modern sensibilities: its range is virtually universal. It fits the theological framework of the covenant; it is rooted in a historical context of liberation. The values they promote are applicable to the whole of humanity in any region and in any period of history. Now a people that wants to be free of a suffocating external yoke and has just achieved this will be careful not to seek another enslaving and stifling internal yoke.

The Decalogue, in fact, opens the way to a morality of social liberation. In Israel the appreciation of freedom is wide enough to include the earth itself, all cultivable land.

A Biblical and Theological Dictionary , by Richard Watson

Every seven years sabbatical year and further every forty-nine years jubilee year there is an obligation to let the earth rest, free from every violence, safe from every plough and ploughshare cf. Lev The exteriority, the essentially communal nature and the mainly negative formulation of primitive Israelite ethics are features that hinder the Decalogue, presented on its own and exactly as it stands, from expressing adequately the ideal of moral life which the Church proposes to her contemporaries.

Under the influence of the discoveries of psychology, people today insist on the internal origin, even unconscious, of their external actions, in the form of thoughts, desires, obscure motives and unruly impulses. Despite awareness of the demands of community life, at the same time they react against the imperatives of an unlimited globalization and put more emphasis on the individual, on the self, on the desire for personal development.

Moreover in the last few decades in many societies there is a kind of allergy to any form of prohibition, which is seen, often erroneously, as a limitation and restriction on freedom. On the other hand the virtually universal range of biblical morality, its place in a theological covenantal framework and its roots in the historical context of liberation can have a certain attraction in our times. Who never dreams of a system of values that transcends and unites nationalities and cultures? The primary insistence on a theological approach rather than on a large number of behavioural precepts and prohibitions may arouse greater interest in the fundamentals of biblical morality among people who are allergic to laws that seem to limit personal liberty.

Awareness of the concrete circumstances in which the Decalogue took shape in history shows to what extent this basic and fundamental text, far from being restrictive or oppressive, in fact stands at the service of human freedom, both individual and collective.

The Decalogue contains all the elements necessary to provide a foundation for a balanced moral reflection suitable for our times. It is however not sufficient to translate it from the original Hebrew into a modern language.



In its canonical formulation it has the form of apodictic laws detailing a morality of duties deontology. Nothing prevents us understanding the contents of the Israelite charter in a different but no less faithful manner, in terms of a morality of values axiology. Transcribed in this way, the Decalogue acquires a greater clarity and contemporary appeal. Indeed, such an adjustment loses nothing but gains enormously in depth. Positive precepts, for their part, may go no further than some gesture or attitude to quiet the conscience; at most they may encourage a morality of minimal actions e.

A commitment to values, however, represents an open-ended project, whose demands are unlimited. Translated into a terminology of values the precepts of the Decalogue point to the following values: the Absolute, religious homage, time, the family, life, the stability of the male and female couple, freedom the Hebrew verb gnb probably refers to abduction not to the theft of material objects , good reputation, the household, the house and its material belongings.

The following propositions, each introduced by a verb, illustrate the dynamic to which each of these values gives rise. The ten values seen in the Decalogue are presented in decreasing order of value, from the most to the least important, God in the first place and material goods in the last. Within human relationships family, life, and a stable marriage head the list.

This analysis therefore offers humanity in search of autonomy a legal and moral support that can prove both fruitful and stable. It puts human beings before God. Indeed, material goods, economics in a certain sense, may stand at the head of the list. When a political and social system is founded, openly or not, on false basic values or uncertainty about values , when commerce and consumerism are considered more important than personal relationships, that system is fractured from its very beginning, and doomed, sooner or later, to collapse.

Heritage or Heresy

The ten values underlying the Decalogue offer a clear foundation for a charter of rights and of freedom to the whole of humanity:. This divine sovereignty, as it manifests itself in the founding event of the exodus, is exercised not according to an authoritarian and despotic manner, as so often occurs in the human control of rights and liberty, but rather in view of personal and community freedom. Finally, the biblical view of divine sovereignty propounds a world vision in which not merely the Church, but the cosmos, the environment and the totality of earthly goods belong, in the last resort, to God alone.

By presenting the Decalogue as the perennial foundation of a universal morality three important purposes are achieved: we open the treasures of the Word, we show its richness, we discover a language that appeals to the sensitivities of contemporary men and women. We list some salient elements :.


In his Sermon on the Mount Jesus recalls certain precepts of the Decalogue, carrying them further from three points of view: a deepening, an interiority and a challenge to surpass oneself to the point of reaching a perfection that is almost divine Mt 5. In discussing cultic purity Jesus points out that a person becomes truly impure through that which emerges from the heart. It is this that impels an individual to act against the Decalogue Mt The episode of the rich young man Mt From a minimal morality, essentially communitarian and negatively formulated vv.

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Rom Again citing the Decalogue Rom 2. This category usually comprises the Covenant Code Ex We shall present three moral themes that appear to be specially relevant in these codes. The apodictic laws of the Covenant Code, the Deuteronomic Code and the Law of Holiness agree in establishing measures destined to avoid the enslaving of the poor, as well as taking into consideration the periodical remission of their debts. These dispositions have at times an utopian dimension, as, for example, the sabbatical year Ex However, by imposing upon Israelite society the objective of combating and overcoming poverty, these laws recognize the difficulty of such a struggle Deut The battle against poverty presupposes the practice of an honest and impartial justice Ex This is applied in the name of God himself.

Various theological approaches are employed to establish it. Deuteronomy, on its part, insists on the particular statute about the land entrusted by God to the Israelites: Israel, beneficiary of the divine blessing, has the use but not the ownership of the land cf. Deut 6. The Hebrew Bible uses different words to indicate strangers: ger denotes the stranger residing permanently among the Israelites; the term nokri applies to a foreigner in transit, while toshab and sakir indicate, in the Law of Holiness, paid foreign labourers.