The Ten Commandments are sacred to many, annoying to others, irrelevant to those who prefer a different source for their morality or who have no such source. One problem with taking any of them out of context is that the meaning can become lost.
Case in point: that pesky “graven image” commandment. Specifically, Exodus 20:4 (using the King James Version, ’cause we’ve all heard of that evil “graven image”):
“Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.”
Now, for those who think that every single word of the Bible is God’s unalterable and unanswerable law, no interpretation, thank you. That would surely mean that even a photo of your aunt Mildred is evil. Dogs playing poker rendered in black velvet? Fuggedaboudit. Elvis might be ok…
Just kidding about the King. The problem, as with much of Scripture, is that it usually isn’t sufficient to just look at the literal meaning of a single verse. It is pretty clear that God had no intention of not letting us paint, sculpt, or, for that matter, take photos of dear Auntie. This is clarified in the very next verse of Exodus 20, verse 5: “Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them…”
“Them” being those graven images. The injunction is against the worship of idols, of any thing that is less than God. Not against works of art. In a sense, we humans are caretakers of God’s creation, and as part of that stewardship, it is hardly surprising that we attempt to imitate God by creating things of beauty.
So, to those who use the commandments as a bludgeon against the less pure, and to those who use them as a “gotcha” to show how confused believers are, perhaps you might read the context before firing both barrels.
| technorati tag | Christianity|