Today, I am starting a series on rules and prohibitions in the Bible. It seemed like a good idea last night when I was too busy thinking to sleep. We'll start with the Ten Commandments. Can you name them? Take a minute and jot them down.

Done? I had a general idea, and I knew that most started with "Thou shalt not", but I went to Wikipedia for the definitive list. There aren't necessarily ten commandments. Depending on where you look, Exodus or Deuteronomy, and the tradition or religion you follow, there can be 14 or 15 commandments. Who knew?

Exodus 20 King James Version 

20 And God spake all these words, saying,

2 I am the Lord thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.

3 Thou shalt have no other gods before me.

4 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.

5 Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me;

6 And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.

7 Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain; for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.

8 Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.

9 Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work:

10 But the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates:

11 For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.

12 Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which theLord thy God giveth thee.

13 Thou shalt not kill.

14 Thou shalt not commit adultery.

15 Thou shalt not steal.

16 Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour.

17 Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour's.

18 And all the people saw the thunderings, and the lightnings, and the noise of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking: and when the people saw it, they removed, and stood afar off.

19 And they said unto Moses, Speak thou with us, and we will hear: but let not God speak with us, lest we die.

20 And Moses said unto the people, Fear not: for God is come to prove you, and that his fear may be before your faces, that ye sin not.

21 And the people stood afar off, and Moses drew near unto the thick darkness where God was.

22 And the Lord said unto Moses, Thus thou shalt say unto the children of Israel, Ye have seen that I have talked with you from heaven.

23 Ye shall not make with me gods of silver, neither shall ye make unto you gods of gold.

24 An altar of earth thou shalt make unto me, and shalt sacrifice thereon thy burnt offerings, and thy peace offerings, thy sheep, and thine oxen: in all places where I record my name I will come unto thee, and I will bless thee.

25 And if thou wilt make me an altar of stone, thou shalt not build it of hewn stone: for if thou lift up thy tool upon it, thou hast polluted it.

26 Neither shalt thou go up by steps unto mine altar, that thy nakedness be not discovered thereon.

These were the commandments that Jesus repeated:

"And, behold, one came and said unto him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life? And he said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments. He saith unto him, Which? Jesus said, Thou shalt do no murder, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Honour thy father and thy mother: and, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself."  — Matthew 19:16-19

This seems like good advice. All the Abrahamic religions include a version of the Ten Commandments, but you can get the impression that certain Christians feel like they own the Ten Commandments.  According to Wikipedia, "Many Christian conservatives have taken the banning of officially sanctioned prayer from public schools by the U.S. Supreme Court as a threat to the expression of religion in public life. In response, they have successfully lobbied many state and local governments to display the ten commandments in public buildings."

As my husband and I were traveling the country last year, we saw many farms, homes, and businesses with Ten Commandment billboards in front of them. In fact, you can buy a "faux stone tablet " for as little as $89.95 to display in your front yard. What gets the most notice are the government buildings. A few weeks ago, a man rammed a sculpture in front of a public building, but more successfully, the courts have often ruled against displays of the Ten Commandments on government property.

The subject of the Ten Commandments could take up a whole book and sometimes does. Here are two from Plymouth Library as well as two movies. Delve in to the topic!

The Genesis of justice : ten stories of biblical injustice that led to the Ten Commandments and modern law /Dershowitz, Alan M.  222 DER

The Ten commandments /Miller, Patrick D.  222.16077 MIL

Moses and the Ten Commandments   DVD 222.16 MOS

The mysteries of the Bible collection   DVD 220.6 MYS

The picture accompanying this article is of the Ten Commandments display at the Texas State Capitol in Austin. It came from Wikipedia, not my camera.