Saturday, September 04, 2004

Did the Catholic Church Change the Ten Commandments to Bolster its Alleged Gross Idolatry?

Eric Landstrom, an evangelical (Arminian) Protestant, with whom I have had some contact, made the following atrocious argument, grounded in ignorance and an unChristian willingness to quickly make a harsh judgment, without doing the proper research, commensurate with the astounding charge. He knows better. He is theologically-educated, and a sharp guy. There is no excuse for this. But this is what irrational prejudice against Catholicism produces, even in otherwise fairly-reasonable folks. It's a classic case.

I have informed Eric of this rebuttal. Here is his article, "Catholic Religion Purposely takes outone of God's Ten Commandments," cited in its entirety -- a few typos have been corrected -- (his words will be in blue). My refutation follows.

[subtitle]: They shall go to confusion together that are makers of idols. Isaiah 45:16
Catholics love images

We all know Catholics bow down in front of statues and pray. We know how they love to adore the host which is a piece of bread. We know that they like to light candles and pray to the dead like it does some good. We also know that they love relics like a dead monk's head. We also know that they love their other "sacred" images like pictures of a madonna and naked baby Jesus. Finally we know that they think that there is some benefit of having a Jesus hanging on the cross in their homes so they can visualize the object of their worship. Maybe they even think the crucifix is a good luck charm. They will vehemently tell you they don't worship the images but I've seen pictures of the pope bowing down to Mary.

The Bible says don't even make images

What doth the Bible say about worshipping images? It says much my friends but today we are looking specifically at the Ten Commandments found in Exodus chapter 20. Most of us know that the Ten Commandments prohibit even making images. This poses a problem for the Catholic religion. How does it get around this?

[This discussion on images and the communion of saints and proper worship is quite involved. I have dealt with it in several places. See many papers on the following two pages:

Communion of Saints
The Eucharist and the Sacrifice of the Mass
Dialogue With Tim Gallant on Whether the Mass is Similar to Jeroboam's Idolatry
Exposition on the Veneration of Images, Iconoclasm, and Idolatry

Presently, I am concerned solely with the false charge that there is some nefarious, "wicked" conspiracy in the Catholic Church to deliberately and "deceitful{ly}" change the Commandments, so as to keep its duped, pitiable followers in lamentable "spiritual darkness" and "ignorance of the truth" -- see Eric's melodramatic but quixotic language below]

Even their own Bibles have something that approximates the commandment to not make images, but since the leadership tells their parishioners otherwise, the people are kept in ignorance of the truth. Therefore, they are kept in spiritual darkness and do not understand the Bible. The Catholic cadre is not entirely at fault because most Catholics fail to actually read their Bibles, instead believing it sufficient to listen to others and believe what they say the Bible says. And so, to continue to venerate idols, the wicked deceitfully have changed the ten commandments and put them in a book somewhere and post them on a wall and tell the people to memorize them. Of course the people trust their priests And true to the status quo, none of the people question their educated men of God.

How can they delete a commandment and still have ten?

Some man might ask me, "If the Catholic religion deletes a commandment how do they still come up with ten commandments?
Let's compare the Catholic ten commandments to the real ten commandments from the good ol' King James Bible, that pillar of doctrinal truth (God loves the truth, you know). I'll let you take a look first (see if you can figure it out) and then explain...
The Catholic Deception* ["CD"] / The King James Bible ["KJV"]
First Commandment [CD]
I, the LORD, am your God...You shall not have other gods besides me.
First Commandment [KJV]
I am the LORD thy God...Thou shalt have no other gods before me.
Second Commandment [CD]
You shall not take the name of the LORD, your God, in vain.
Second Commandment [KJV]
Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them.
Third Commandment [CD]
Remember to keep holy the sabbath day.
Third Commandment [KJV]
Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain.
Fourth Commandment [CD]
Honor your father and your mother.
Fourth Commandment [KJV]
Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.
Fifth Commandment [CD]
You shall not kill.
Fifth Commandment [KJV]
Honor thy father and thy mother.
Sixth Commandment [CD]
You shall not commit adultery.
Sixth Commandment [KJV]
Thou shalt not kill.
Seventh Commandment [CD]
You shall not steal.
Seventh Commandment [KJV]
Thou shalt not commit adultery.
Eighth Commandment [CD]
You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
Eighth Commandment [KJV]
Thou shalt not steal.
Ninth Commandment [CD]
You shall not covet your neighbor's wife.
Ninth Commandment [KJV]
Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour.
Tenth Commandment [CD]
You shall not covet your neighbor's house.
Tenth Commandment [KJV]
Thou shalt not covet.
Did you see it?

The Catholic religion deletes the second commandment and makes the 10th commandment into two. If you follow them all the way down from the second commandment you'll see the Catholic religion is always one ahead of the King James. Finally at the tenth commandment they break it into two and make it the 9th and 10th commandments. What deception! What deceit! What guile! I tell no lies here--just get out the Bible and compare. They even corrupt their own Bible by deleting the 2nd commandment!

You see the reason the Catholic religion killed people with Bibles is 'cause [sic] their deception is just too easy to see in light of God's word. Just a little more mumbo-jumbo gumbo for your consideration...
*taken verbatim from, "Growing in Christian Morality" by Julia Ahlers, Barbara Allaire, and Carl Koch, page 40. It has both nihil obstat and imprimatur which are official declarations that a book or pamphlet is free of Catholic doctrinal error. The authors have used the NRSV--and they've even corrupted the corrupted!

What's worse is that the authors of this book know these commandments are deceitful. Look at what they say:

...These are the Ten Commandments, from Exodus, chapter 20, in the traditional way they are enumerated by Catholics:

Okay! The challenge is now made! The gauntlet has been thrown down! Shall all of us poor papists now run away, cowering, in the face of this overwhelming evidence that we are all dupes of a vast conspiracy to subvert the Ten Commandments? Hardly. I suggest that, next time Eric wants to make a "slam dunk" against the Church, that he do a bit of rudimentary study and "homework" first. I found the following information by simple recourse of a fifteen-minute perusal of my own library. I believe that Eric (again, a theologically-educated man) could have easily discovered the same, with a minimum of effort.
First of all, let's get one thing straight right out of the "starting-gate": the Bible itself does not lay out with precision, the numbering of the Commandments. In fact, it does not do so at all. The set is indeed referred to as "ten" (Ex 34:28, Deut 4:13, 10:4), but the exact numbering is not given in the two slightly different versions of it recorded in the Bible (Ex 20:2-17 and Deut 5:6-21; see also an expanded elaboration of the principles in Ex 34:11-28). This is as true of the King James Version as of any other. Therefore, no one has any license to be dogmatic about the exact numbering and division, based on the Bible alone -- let alone to make a charge of dishonesty and "removal."
This being the case, Christian groups have differed through the centuries, as to numbering. This is no "Catholic conspiracy." Thus, The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church (2nd ed., edited by F.L. Cross and E.A. Livingstone, Oxford University Press, 1983, "Commandments, The Ten," 318-319), notes:

. . . in the prohibition of covetousness, Ex. classes a man's wife with his other domestic property, whereas Deut. treats her separately.

. . . There is a difference in the enumeration in the different Churches. In the C of E [Church of England] as well as in the Greek and the Reformed (Calvinist and Zwinglian) Churches the prohibitions relating to false worship are reckoned as two, whereas the RC Church and the Lutherans count them as one. Thus the enumeration of the subsequent Commandments differs, e.g., the fourth (Anglican, etc.) Commandment on the sanctification of the Sabbath is reckoned as the third by those following the RC method. The number ten is made up by splitting up the last Commandment forbidding covetousness into two.

So immediately we find that Martin Luther, the founder of Protestantism, and the Lutherans (no Catholics, they) are in on the "Romish" conspiracy to subvert the Ten Commandments. That makes Eric's elegant conspiratorialism not quite as simple and straightforward as he makes out. Perhaps he forgot to include Martin Luther in his condemnations. We can forgive this small oversight, as long as he is willing to make a note of it in future versions of his article. We all make mistakes, after all.
The Eerdmans Bible Dictionary (edited by Allen C. Myers, Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Pub. Co., 1987) -- also no organ of the Catholic Church, in its article on the Commandments (p. 993), concurs:

At what points the Decalog is to be divided into precisely ten commandments has long been a matter of disagreement (e.g., some traditions regard v. 2 as the first commandment, combining vv. 3 and 4-6; others take vv. 3-6 as the first and divide v. 17 into two commandments). Debate also focuses on just where to divide the commandments into "two tables" (cf. 32:15; 34:4,28; Deut 4:13) . . .

The Protestant New International Dictionary of the Christian Church (edited by J.D. Douglas, Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, rev. ed., 1978, 243) sheds further light on the differences in enumeration:

The Talmudic tradition held that the commandments against idolatry and the forbidding of images formed one long, indivisible unit. Augustine, who was followed by the Roman and Lutheran traditions, accepted this suggestion and found two commandments under the rubric "thou shalt not covet." A further tradition, following the lead of Origen, separated the commandment against images from that against idolatry; this is the view of Calvin and the Reformed tradition.
(cf. #2066 in Catechism of the Catholic Church)

Ah; how the plot thickens now! Or, rather, how many unanswered questions arise! The great St. Augustine: practically the patron saint of all Protestants, now has espoused (and it looks like he actually originated) the great plot to change the Commandments, so as to allow idolatry to flourish in Catholic ranks. Eric's choices here reduce to only a very few:

1. Boot St. Augustine out of the pantheon of Protestant heroes, due to his joining in the "wicked" conspiracy (or at the very least, include him, when making the condemnation).
2. Admit that he started this, but that the theory itself is bogus, and drop the charge altogether.
3. Claim that he was hypnotized by evil "Romish" priests and wrote what he did under compulsion; it wasn't his true view on the subject.

Of course, the same would apply to Martin Luther and Lutherans to this day, which creates even more obviously thorny problems for a Protestant making this (ridiculous) charge. Another absurdity of his analysis derives from the fact that the Orthodox follow the non-Lutheran Protestant enumeration, yet they fully accept veneration of images, just as Catholics do. So they apparently missed the "trick" that the Catholics devised, to hide their devious practices. Luther was against such veneration (in the main), yet followed the Catholic tradition on this score. Go figure.
Thus in his famous Large Catechism (my version is from Minneapolis: Augsburg Publishing House, 1935), Luther's numbering (like Augustine's before him) is precisely that of the Catholic Church (what Eric calls "The Catholic Deception" above). The relevant section can be found on pages 44-112). The Small Catechism is the same. Both are normative for Lutherans; they are included in the confessional Book of Concord (1580). The First Commandment is written in these works as: "Thou shalt have no other gods before me." The Second Commandment is listed as: "Thous shalt not take the name of Jehovah thy God in vain; for Jehovah will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain" (pp. 44, 53 of Luther's Large Catechism). Remember, Eric described this numbering as:

What deception! What deceit! What guile! . . . mumbo-jumbo gumbo . . .

Let Eric have his opinion, but let him also include St. Augustine and Martin Luther as recipients of his ire, since the former started this practice, and the latter did not change it. Anti-Catholicism always involves this sort of outrageous double standards and hiding of the full truth of the matter. But I do not charge Eric with "conspiracy"; only with ignorance and prejudice.
Finally, Eric claims that Catholics "deleted" the Commandment about "graven images" and "idols." But this is understood (by Augustine, Luther, and Catholics) as included within the first commandment. It is not excluded at all. There is merely a "shorthand" to remember the first commandment, in the shorter version, just as "Thou shalt not covet" in the non-Lutheran Protestant versions is shorthand for the longer, more explicit biblical version.
There is no subterfuge here at all. Why don't we go back to the 16th-century Catechism of the Council of Trent to prove this (my version is translated by John A. McHugh and Charles J. Callan, published in New York by Joseph F. Wagner; second revised edition, 1923). Part III, the section on "The Decalogue," runs from pages 357-477. On page 366 "The First Commandment" is written out in a very long form (even longer than Eric's claim for the KJV): it covers the entirety of Exodus 20:2-6. This is quite strange if the Council of Trent was in on this conspiracy to keep the Catholic unwashed, ignorant masses ignorant of the basic theology of monotheism and prohibition of idolatry. Didn't they know that the Catholic Church was supposed to "kill people with Bibles"? This great Catechism explains the rationale for the numbering of the Catholic First Commandment:

Some, supposing these words which come next in order to constitute a distinct precept, reduce the ninth and tenth Commandments to one. St. Augustine, on the contrary, considering the last two to be distinct Commandments, makes the words just quoted [Ex 20:4-5a, or the non-Lutheran Protestant 2nd Commandment] a part of the First Commandment [Super Exod. quaest. 71, and in Ps. xxxii, serm. ii]. His division is much approved in the Church, and hence we willingly adopt it. Furthermore, a very good reason for this arrangement at once suggests itself. It was fitting that to the first Commandment should be added the rewards or punishments entailed by each one of the Commandments.
(p. 373)

Augustine's (and the Catholic) outlook is not quite the reason that Eric would have us believe (deceit, deception, etc.) . . .
Likewise, the recent Catechism of the Catholic Church, in listing the First Commandment (#2083; cf. #2128-2132) incorporates Exodus 20:2-5a (including the "graven image" material"). So we see that the writers of this hugely influential work are in the dark as to the conspiracy supposedly at play here to suppress one of the Commandments.
We can even go back to St. Thomas Aquinas, in the 13th century. His catechism has the long version of the First Commandment [see link to the left and further elaboration by St. Thomas].
Here is an objective look at the differences, without the silly polemics and charges of dishonesty.
The entire theory is ludicrous. This is some of the most ridiculous "reasoning" I've ever seen, even by rock-bottom anti-Catholic standards of "scholarship" and fairness. Perhaps the whole thing is a put-on, though. Maybe I missed the joke . . . If Eric was showing the absurdity of the theory by merely presenting it, he has my apologies, and I will promptly re-write this paper to reflect that reality, immediately upon being informed of it.

1 comment:

Dean said...

You seem to try to divert people away by explaining other heathens.

you say "it is understood" that the second commandment be included as a shorthand to the first.


If that IS the case, then you will still have to admit that the roman catholic church ignores and constructively encourages the complete opposite of the making of images and bowing down to them?

It is with Christian love that i plead with you to open your eyes to the word of god, and not the word of that antichrist, the pope, who is responsible for the shedding of millions of innocent peoples' blood, who makes himself equal to God, and who actively hid the FACTS that HIS priests were raping little children for 40 years.