Journal of Christian Studies volume II, issue 1 will be shipping to subscribers soon! The theme of the issue is The Ten Commandments. Below is the editor's note and a list of contributors. If you haven't subscribed to JCS yet, be sure to do so today to ensure you receive your copy!
The Ten Commandments may be among the few remaining biblical teachings still somewhat recognizable in a post-Christian society. To this day, in many churches, they are the subject of catechetical instruction. They gave their name to one of the iconic films of the twentieth century. And in North American culture wars, they have been the occasion for debates about the role of the Bible in governmental process and public discourse.
More important for our purposes, the Ten Commandments have, for millennia, held a central place in Jewish and Christian teaching as the fundamental expression of biblical ethics. The Ten Words are the first words that the Lord delivered to Moses on the mountain, inscribed by the finger of God himself. These commandments seem to be a summation of the entire law revealed to God’s people. They appear in both Exodus and Deuteronomy, and many of them are repeated verbatim by Jesus and Paul. For these reasons, in this issue of the Journal of Christian Studies, we examine the Decalogue in its context and as a normative guide in Christian living.
The biblical name Decalogue is based on the fact that in Exodus and in Deuteronomy, the writers refer back to these “Ten Words,” that is, in Greek, Decalogue (δέκα λόγοι, deka logoi; Exod 34:28; cf. Deut 4:13; 10:4 LXX). The initial challenge is that, although the text says there are ten words or commandments, they are not enumerated in their actual presentation. Depending on which of at least three different numbering systems one chooses, one could come up with thirteen words. But, since the text says there are ten, and “Triskaidecalogue” just doesn’t sound right anyway, then we will assume ten, and, in this issue, we will default to the numbering typical among Reformed and evangelical Protestants.
Unlike casuistic laws, the Ten Commandments are stated plainly, laws that must be obeyed. Other absolute laws existed in various ancient cultures (for example, the Code of Hammurabi). But the Decalogue’s prologue, which Jews consider to be the first word, sets the tone: “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery” (Exod 20:2). The emphasis is on this God’s prior relationship with his people. This God is not an unknown entity acting as a tyrant. He redeemed his people and gives them Torah, or instruction, for their flourishing. This ragtag group of freed slaves would not survive long without these principles. And the appropriate response to God’s action is obedience prompted by a reciprocating love.
As grateful recipients of these words and of the long traditions of contemplating them, we inquire about our responsibility to them and how best to appropriate them in our day. What does the Decalogue (or one or another of its two tables, or any individual commandment) mean in its original historical, cultural, literary, and canonical contexts? What are the theological and practical implications of the first table—what does it tell us about God’s character and our response to him? What are the anthropological implications of the second table—what does it tell us about human nature and our telos in relation to God and to one another? What is the significance of specific commandments? How does the Decalogue function in Deuteronomy or in the rest of the Old Testament? How was it received and interpreted in the New Testament and in the history of Christian exegesis? How should we apply the Decalogue?
This journal issue cannot answer all the above questions, but we hope these articles stimulate thought, dialogue, and action along these lines and toward more faithful love for God and love for neighbor.
Keith D. Stanglin
Jordan J. Ballor (Center for Religion, Culture & Democracy), "Reconciling Virtues and the Decalogue: Zacharias Ursinus (1534–1583) on the Ethical Teachings of the Heidelberg Catechism."
Harold Shank (Global Christian Studies and Network 127), "The Decalogue and Justice for Children: the Value and the Vulnerability of Children."
R. Mark Shipp (Independent Scholar), "The Sixth Commandment: To Kill or Not to Kill."
Keith D. Stanglin (Center for Christian Studies), "The Ten Commandments for New Testament Christians."
Kevin J. Youngblood (Harding University), "Who Is My Neighbor? Parallelism and Identification of Neighbors in Deuteronomy’s Decalogue."