A Southern Baptist minister of a large church came under fire because in his Christmas message he suggested that the Ten Commandments were ‘sayings’ or ‘promises’, rather than mandates. Initially he responded to the backlash by defiantly saying, “If those who are angry at what I said about The 10 Commandments were actually following all 10, the world would be such a better place!”
But then he backed down and apologized, saying that he had misunderstood some teachings he had heard about the Hebrew word for commandments.
After a backlash on social media and among bloggers, on Jan. 9 Noble wrote in his own blog that he had misunderstood what a teacher in Israel had told him: Hebrew does have a word for “commandment.” He apologized for his error.
“Regardless of what Bible scholars and Hebrew-speaking Christians in Israel believe the list of God’s 10 points in Exodus should be called — I have heard conflicting positions — the points themselves are clearly written as imperatives,” Noble wrote.
“In no way was I deliberately trying to mislead or deceive anyone. I simply recalled a conversation I had, … looked back at my notes and taught the message,” he wrote. “I now realize I should have put way more time into doing research.”
The things Christians get upset over …
Albert Mohler, head of the conservative evangelical Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, is distressed about the state of biblical illiteracy and that although so many in America pay obeisance to the Ten Commandments, 60% of them cannot name even half of them.
Mohler goes on to give some other fun facts about American Christians: 12% of adults think that Joan of Arc was Noah’s wife, 50% of high school seniors think that Sodom and Gomorrah were husband and wife, and a significant number of people think that the Sermon on the Mount was delivered by Billy Graham. More than half of all adults cannot even answer an easy question like naming the authors of the four Gospels (who are of course John, Paul, George, and Ringo) nor can they name more than two or three disciples (they must be forgetting George, the quiet one).
This ignorance of the commandments is not really surprising since only four of the ten commandments are concrete prohibitions (against lying, stealing, killing, and adultery) of which only two are actual crimes. I suspect that these are the ones that are commonly remembered. The other six consist of appeals that are so vague that it is not at all clear what the believer is expected to do with them, so that the pastor’s initial idea that they should all be treated like sayings is likely not that far off from how people actually view them.