Idolatry and the Ten Commandments   1 comment

Above:  Moses with the Ten Commandments, by Rembrandt van Rijn

2 Timothy 3:10-17 (Revised English Bible):

But you, my son, have observed closely my teaching and manner of life, my resolution, my faithfulness, patience, and spirit of love, and my fortitude under persecution and suffering–all I went through at Antioch, at Iconium, at Lystra, and the persecutions I endured; and from all of them the Lord rescued me.  Persecution will indeed come to everyone who wants to live a godly life as a follower of Christ Jesus, whereas evildoers and charlatans will progress from bad to worse, deceiving and deceived.  But for your part, stand by the truths you have learned them; remember that from early childhood you have been familiar with the sacred writings which have power to make you wise and lead you to salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.  All inspired scripture is has its use for teaching the truth and refuting error, or for reformation of manners and discipline in right living, so that the man of God may be capable and equipped for good work of every kind.

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Someone I met recently offered an observation:  Do not many public displays of the Ten Commandments constitute graven images, something one of those commandments forbids?  This thought had not occurred to me, but I conclude that he was correct.

Anything can be an idol if one makes it that.  A stone monument to the Ten Commandments is certainly graven, and it seems to be an image.  Indeed, one can focus so much on such a monument or even a cheap yard sign bearing the traditional English-language text of the Commandments that one transforms it into an idol, focusing on it instead of on God.

Likewise, the Bible can become an idol.  This was neither Paul’s intention nor a consequence of his actions.  In fact, he did not think of his writings as scriptural.  For him the Bible was the Hebrew Scriptures.  The Gospels and other texts now in the New Testament did not exist until after Paul died.  This is useful to recall when reading any part of the New Testament.  We who stand on tradition need to recall that there was a time when some of these traditions did not yet exist.

Pay attention:  I am about to do something quite rare–compliment the New International Version.  It does, however, offer the best translation of 2 Timothy 3:16:

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training and righteousness….

To inspire is to breathe.

As I read the Pauline epistles I find sublime passages, profound teachings (many of them rooted in particular cultural contexts), and statements one who knew he was writing scripture would not make.  Paul’s attitude toward marriage (full of grief–”I would spare you that,” he wrote–and better than fornication–consult 1 Corinthians 7:8-9, 28) does not sound like the ringing endorsement of that institution the Church proclaims.  Actually, those candid comments recommend Paul to me; he was not a poseur.

The bottom line is that God breathed through Paul and the other biblical authors.  God still breathes through their writings.  May we not ossify our traditions into idols, but rather embrace a living faith and relationship with the God who has embraced us.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 2, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT EUSEBIUS OF VERCELLI, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF SAMUEL DAVID FERGUSON, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF LIBERIA

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Published originally at ORDINARY TIME DEVOTIONS BY KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

Abbreviated from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/08/02/week-of-proper-4-friday-year-2/

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Posted August 11, 2011 by neatnik2009 in 2 Timothy

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One response to “Idolatry and the Ten Commandments

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  1. Pingback: Week of Proper 4: Friday, Year 2 « ORDINARY TIME DEVOTIONS BY KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

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