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This is not a forum for partisan expressions, party wars, or insult. Its function is to discuss the way biblical teachings relate to our governmental systems.

The US Legal system and the 10 commandments

Postby Stranger » Wed Apr 11, 2018 10:59 pm

The US legal system has absolutely nothing to do with the 10 commandments.

One popular argument for why the 10 commandments should be on the walls of a courthouse or in front of one is that our legal system is actually inspired by the ten commandments. See also god has written the law on all of our hearts, or something similar.

But I would say that not only is our government not based on the ten commandments, some of the way our government is set up directly contradicts the ten commandments. I'll use the protestant version as that's the one I was raised with.

You shall have no other gods before me.
Already we have our first contradiction. The first amendment states that congress can make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof. Specifying which gods you may have in which order is a law respecting an establishment of religion.

You shall have no graven images, don't worship them or serve them, etc.
Another contradiction. Worshiping graven images is exercising your religion. To have a law against that would be unconstitutional.

You shall not take the Lord's name in vain.
I'm not aware of any blasphemy laws that are enforced by the federal government.

Honor the Sabbath Day.
Now this is an interesting one as there used to be a lot of people who would close on Sunday, or do similar things to respect the sabbath. But most of those were decisions from people, not any laws from the government. And whatever laws there might have been are long gone by now.

You shall honor your father and mother.
Interestingly enough Eastern cultures tend to be more concerned with honoring parents than western culture. But either way there really isn't any laws or anything in our government that requires honoring parents.

Thou shalt not kill.
Now all the way in 6 is the only commandment with a direct correlation to the american legal system. But not killing isn't unique to the ten commandments. There were legal systems that existed before the bible that had this rule. Now you can argue that it's 'god writing on people's hearts' but considering how few of these rules are commonly recognized now or in the past as moral and necessary for society I kind of doubt that's the case. But you can't argue that it's because of the ten commandments.

Adultery.
I am not aware of any laws now or in the past against adultery.

steal.
See killing.

lying
Depends on how you intrepret it. If you intrepret it as pejury then we go back to the not unique. If it's lying in general, there are good reasons to lie (like protecting jews from nazis)

Coveting.
Do I even need to explain this one? George Carlin did a whole routine on how our economy is based on coveting. If you're confused on this one let me know.

So all ten commandments and there are only 3 with direct correlations to our government and laws. And those 3 aren't even unique to the ten commandments. Or the first ones to say it. So when our laws only have a 30% correlation with the 10 commandments I honestly don't understand how anyone can say they are based on the ten commandments.
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Re: The US Legal system and the 10 commandments

Postby jimwalton » Wed Apr 11, 2018 11:07 pm

I mostly agree with you, but not totally. The 10 commandments are not to be interpreted as a legal code, but rather as a statement of covenant policy. They're so general that they're really not enforceable through any judicial system. They're really more like a Bill of Rights. What is being protected is not one's own rights, but the rights of the other person, to preserve the integrity of the community of God. In the 10 commandments we find that people have a right to respect, to life, to sexual purity, to property, to honesty and truthful testimony in court, to a secure marriage, and to enjoy property without fear of a neighbor taking it away. In that sense they comprise some of the principles of law upon which our legal system is built.

The 10 commandments focus on what gives the people of Israel their identity as the people of God, explaining how their community to is to be shaped so God is honored as holy and so that they treated each other like covenant kinsman. It was to shape the hearts of people, not the the structures of society. It's not to give a universal moral or ethical system, but how the Israelites could live in the presence of God.

Now, because the 10 commandments treat people with so much respect, encourage honorable living considerate of the freedoms and rights of others, it's very plausible that the Founding Fathers gave regard to those principles as they shaped the American Constitution and its legal system.
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Re: The US Legal system and the 10 commandments

Postby Kingston » Thu Apr 12, 2018 9:55 pm

> They're so general that they're really not enforceable through any judicial system. They're really more like a Bill of Rights. What is being protected is not one's own rights, but the rights of the other person, to preserve the integrity of the community of God.

Nope.

The Torah literally sets out the judicial system which they fit into.

A Bill of Rights would have been a foreign concept to anyone even at common law until at least Magna Carta. The Bill of Rights Act 1689 is about partly limiting the Crown.
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Re: The US Legal system and the 10 commandments

Postby jimwalton » Thu Apr 12, 2018 9:55 pm

Of course the Bill of Rights would have been a foreign concept. You missed my whole point, as well as the point of the Torah. The Torah is designed to prevent a repeat of the Fall of Adam and Eve and the subsequent loss of the presence of God. The Law is not to Israel a law of morals on the grounds of human duty, but a means to fulfill the covenant and maintain the relationship of God via his presence. It's about how to be right with God, not how to live morally.

The Torah contains both ritual and societal responsibilities, all designed to define cosmic order and give shape to holiness. It was God's directions to His people about how to maintain access to His presence and preserve His favor so that God's identity would be well reflected by the people, to shape them into a society that would reflect God's character and values in the midst of other nations. The Torah is not a legal system, but the foundation for God's presence, giving the Israelites guidelines for how to live in the presence of a holy God.

The ancient The ancient law codes are generally not legislation, they are instead circumscribing the nature of cosmic order, particularly with regard to justice in society. These legal lists are not provided so that people will conform their behavior to them, but so that scholars, elders, judges, and magistrates might become informed in the wisdom/knowledge they are called to exercise by virtue of their positions. It was a way of life, not a list of rules. When justice is maintained in society, the resulting order brings legitimation to the kinds and order in the cosmos (including society as well as nature), which the gods desire. The result of all this is that society will conform to the decrees of the gods that are used to maintain order. This creates an ordered society that conforms to their perceptions of morality. The texts do not construct morality, however, they operate according to the moral sense the society already has.
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Re: The US Legal system and the 10 commandments

Postby Kinqston » Thu Apr 12, 2018 10:30 pm

> The Torah is not a legal system

It literally sets out how to appoint judges, kings, what kind of penalties and regulations are to be lived under.

> These legal lists are not provided so that people will conform their behavior to them,

Paul literally uses the words "schoolmaster" and "justification" which means a lining up.

Law generally has at its heart, the regulation, protection and standardisation of society to produce order.
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Re: The US Legal system and the 10 commandments

Postby jimwalton » Thu Apr 12, 2018 10:36 pm

Torah doesn't mean "law" in the sense of legislation, but rather "guidance." The Torah guides Israel by setting the laws and commandments within the framework of a story. As they read the stories, they learn about the God behind the stories. Its guidelines shape them into a society (judges, kings, penalties, regulations) that will reflect God's character and values. It was a way to have personal integrity, economic and social justice, and compassion for the others in the community. The most significant function of the Torah was not as a judicial tool for society, but as a revelation of the character of God.

With the Law, God wanted to tell His people that they should have certain attitudes. He did that by commanding actions (penalties and regulations) with the idea that they would see the attitudes behind them.

> Paul literally uses the words "schoolmaster" and "justification" which means a lining up.

Yes, he does. (Well, I don't know about justification. In Romans and Galatians he says we're *not* justified by law. Maybe you'll have to give me a text if I'm not thinking where you are thinking.) In Gal. 3.24-25 he speaks of the law as a schoolmaster, or tutor—as you mentioned. The word is παιδαγωγὸς, "overseer; guardian." We get our English word "pedagogy" from it. The Law kept watch over us.

> Law generally has at its heart, the regulation, protection and standardisation of society to produce order.

I'm a musician. I learn notes, theory, patterns, the rules of music, how to read, and technique. But when it comes right down to it, my lessons are so that I can PLAY. The exercises, rules, and theory take a very distant back seat when I am making MUSIC. They're always there, but it's not about the technicalities, it's about the art.
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Re: The US Legal system and the 10 commandments

Postby Kinqston » Sun Apr 15, 2018 12:08 pm

> Torah doesn't mean "law" in the sense of legislation, but rather "guidance." The Torah guides Israel by setting the laws and commandments within the framework of a story. As they read the stories, they learn about the God behind the stories.

Sure, but legislation refers to the actual law enacted by a legislative body. In this case you have the law handed down by God and they there is a covenantal agreement with regards that same actual law.

Yes, The Torah guides Israel by setting the laws and commandments within the framework of a story but it still sets the laws and commandments; which make up the beginnings of the legislative framework of the nation.

> The exercises, rules, and theory take a very distant back seat when I am making MUSIC.

Only because they're so ingrained that you don't need to think about the rules.

You're still dealing with the basic fundamental rules of music (and maths) without even thinking about it.

The laws of modality, tonality, polyphony, how you put together chords, even how you generate keys, still adhere to those fundamental rules of music, no matter how you feel about it.
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Re: The US Legal system and the 10 commandments

Postby jimwalton » Sun Apr 15, 2018 12:12 pm

> Sure, but legislation refers to the actual law enacted by a legislative body.

You seem to be assuming that the Torah was meant to be legislation, but what I'm telling you is that it was not. It was meant to be an expression of covenant to preserve the presence of God, not legislation to be regarded as a legal system.

> Music: Only because they're so ingrained that you don't need to think about the rules.

That's exactly right, because the point is never "the rules" but rather the music. The substrate of theory is always undergirding the product, but the purpose and goal is always art, not legislation. The Torah guides not by legislation but by conformity to the presence of God. It shapes them into a society not defined by the list of rules but rather by God's characters and values. As I wrote, "The most significant function of the Torah was not as a judicial tool for society, but as a revelation of the character of God."
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Re: The US Legal system and the 10 commandments

Postby Kingston » Tue Apr 17, 2018 4:27 pm

> As I wrote, "The most significant function of the Torah was not as a judicial tool for society, but as a revelation of the character of God."

And what IS the Torah?
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Re: The US Legal system and the 10 commandments

Postby jimwalton » Tue Apr 17, 2018 4:29 pm

As I wrote, "[The Torah] was God's directions to His people about how to maintain access to His presence and preserve His favor so that God's identity would be well reflected by the people, to shape them into a society that would reflect God's character and values in the midst of other nations. The Torah is ... the foundation for God's presence, giving the Israelites guidelines for how to live in the presence of a holy God."
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