Good morning. In the last message, I showed you that instead of “The 10 Commandments,” it should be “The 10 Words.” Something else most of our modern Bibles miss is that in the original text, each of the verses has a single Hebrew letter in the left-hand margin. These represent numbers because, in the Hebrew language, the alphabetic letters are also used to represent numbers. The first Hebrew letter you see is an aleph. In addition to being part of the alphabet, aleph also represents the number “1.” The second letter you see (below the Aleph) is the Hebrew letter Bet, which also represents the number “2.” And, this it goes until we come to the Hebrew letter Yud, which represents the number “10.”
That shouldn’t be too hard to figure out. Now, for whatever reason, our modern Bibles have decided to delete the numbering of the commands or words.
Why I am bringing this up is because there is a confusion on the first word (or if you prefer, commandment). Let’s put this to the test. Without looking at any of your Bibles, can anyone tell me what is the very first of the 10 Commandments, or 10 Words? I bet it is “I am the Lord thy God, you shall have no other gods before me.” I have also seen it taught simply as “You shall have no other gods before me.”
Well, if you find a Bible that attempts to preserve the original meaning of the text, like, for instance, one of my favorites is the Complete Jewish Bible. In this Bible, you see it as it was in the original Hebrew, and guess what? What we have always thought was the first Commandment is not the first commandment. The first commandment — the first word — is actually “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the abode of slavery.”
The “you shall have no other gods before me” is actually the second commandment. In Hebrew, the first commandment correctly reads “I am Yahweh your Elohim, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the abode of slavery.” That‘s right, where just about every Bible ever made says “I am the Lord your God,” the original Hebrew uses both God‘s personal name and His title.
One time, when I was sharing this anomaly about the first commandment being deleted from the Christian version of the 10 Commandments (it‘s not deleted from our Bibles, it is just not considered the first of the 10 Commandments), a couple of people came up to me and said: “Well, yeah, but what you call the ‘First Commandment’ doesn’t even qualify as a commandment because it is just a statement, a kind of preamble, so it doesn’t belong in the list of the 10 Commandments.” Well, that‘s pretty sound reasoning, except for one thing; as we just learned, God never calls the content of Exodus 20 “The 10 Commandments.” His title for this is “The 10 Words.” There is a big difference between “words” and “commandments.” So, the man-made title of 10 Commandments mischaracterizes the nature and purpose of the 10 Words. In fact, these are more principles than commandments.
Now, the reason that we should include “I am Yahweh your God (Elohim) who brought you out of the land of Egypt out of the abode of slavery” as a so-called commandment is because it has always been there in the original text as the first of the ten. It is even assigned the number one in the original Hebrew. All modern Hebrew scholarship is unanimous on this.
Now, a question that would be pretty reasonable to ask right about now would be, “Why would (or did) the early Christian leaders drop the first Commandment . . . It doesn’t make any sense?” Actually, it makes all kinds of sense.
All you have to do is think about the beginnings of Christianity. We know it began as a strictly Jewish movement because it was all about Judaism looking for a Jewish Messiah. Well, finally, the Jewish Messiah came. He was and is Jewish, born to Jewish parents, in the Jewish Holy Land, and all of His first followers were Jewish.
However, very quickly after Jesus’ death, gentiles started to be included in the Jesus movement and in a few more years their numbers swelled primarily due to Paul’s work. Yet for several decades after Yeshua’s death, the Christian movement was still led by Jewish leadership. It wasn’t until sometime after 100 AD that the number of gentiles accepting Yeshua as Lord and Savior equaled or exceeded the number of Jews accepting Yeshua as Lord and Savior. And with that gentiles began to gain control over the early church.
By the mid 100‘s AD, gentiles were in powerful positions of authority within the Church, and an anti-Jewish mindset began to grow which led to an attempt to minimize Jewish influence within the Church. The first center of Christianity was Jerusalem because Jerusalem was the center of Jewish worship. Later the center of Christianity became Rome because Rome was the center of the gentile world. Early in the 300‘s AD, the Emperor of Rome, Constantine, declared Christianity to be a legal religion for the Roman Empire. Eventually, the Church became a gentiles only club and Jews were now, by law, forbidden to participate unless they renounced their Jewish heritage and no longer celebrated their Jewish traditions.
It was the Roman Church, now better known as the Catholic Church, which (rightfully so) declared the 10 Commandments to be one of the founding pillars of Christianity. And, what they did in compiling their official list of the 10 Commandments was to exclude the first commandment, the first word as written in Scripture and began instead with the second commandment. They simply took the Biblical second Commandment, the second Word, and divided it into two. The first half of the Biblical second commandment became the first commandment, and the second half of the second Biblical commandment became the second commandment. Simple, really.
What was in the Scripture a single commandment. overnight became two commandments. Take a look at the Complete Jewish Bible. In the original scripture those two commands together are actually just one long command — the original second commandment. In essence, what the Church has called the 10 Commandments consists of only nine! Oh!
Now, why did the Roman Church do this? By the time of Constantine, the Roman Church wanted absolutely no connection between Jewishness and Christianity. They wanted to sever any relationship between the Jews and the new gentile Christian faith. Their desire was to destroy any thought, any principle, revise any history that kept any element of Jewishness in what had become, by decree, an exclusively gentile religion. This cannot be argued. It is the sad history of our Christian faith.
Now, if they had kept the original first commandment, first word, in the list of the 10, it would have created a problem for their anti-Jewish agenda. By acknowledging that God gave these 10 Commandments, along with hundreds of others, to Israel (not to gentiles) whom He had redeemed from the hand of Egypt, the gentile believers would disavow the church’s Antisemitism. And, since it would be 1000 years before the masses were permitted to even read, let alone own, Scripture, whatever decrees the Church published became the truth. By leaving any reference to Israel out of the 10 Commandments helped to cement the idea that Christianity wasn’t for Jews.
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