Christopher Hitchens published his analysis of the Old Testament’s “ten commandments” several months ago. If you haven’t read his piece, do so after you’ve read and commented on this post. Hitchens’ task may have been tricker than one might have expected. After all, the Old Testament lists two separate sets of commandments.
One set comes from the book of Exodus:
Another, slightly different, set is found in the book of Deuteronomy:
As if the Jews hadn’t made Hitchens’ task hard enough, Christians had to add to the confusion, as various segments of Christendom grouped the commandments differently than the Jews and each other:
One wouldn’t think it should have been so difficult to come up with one uniform Top Ten List of Jehovah’s Commands, but it obviously was.
Hitchens isn’t the first freethinker to critique the biblical commandments. Watson Heston, a nineteenth century American freethinker, offered his amusing interpretation of Jehovah’s (in)famous rules at the end of the 19th century:
Heston’s ten commandments were published in a set of cartoons and commentaries in which he critiqued the Christianity that pervaded American society at the turn of the twentieth century.
Bertrand Russell went a step beyond Hitch and Heston; he replaced the biblical commandments with ten of his own:
Since Russell’s commandments are more suitable for contemporary society than the biblical commandments, I’m fantasizing that, the next time a fundogelical proposes posting the biblical commandments in a school, courthouse, etc., a freethinker will counter it with a proposal to post Russell’s commandments. Then again, if laws must be displayed in American public space, I’d rather post the Constitution there, not commandments.
– the chaplain