Show Full Transcript
The Decalogue is something radically new in cultural history on its own terms. We have abundant evidence from the ancient Near East, both of what scholars call theophany, of God’s appearing in nature, and of there being associated transformations of nature, like storms, volcanoes, earthquakes, that kind of thing, which is underlying our account in the Decalogue with the mountain quaking and lightning and smoke.
What we don’t have any place else in the ancient Near East, is a theophany that has moral content which is the whole point of the Decalogue. Nor do we ever have a legal collection attributed to God as his personal will and as the essential structure of a nation being brought into relationship with God in what chapter 19 calls a covenant.
So for the first time here in the Decalogue, we have a concept of divine revelation, where a god reveals himself to an entire nation expressing his will which transforms a misdemeanor, a crime, an ethical wrongdoing from the status of being merely an offense against an individual in a private area or civil wrong doing. It escalates the stakes by transforming a wrongdoing to a neighbor as also an offense against God. It transforms a crime into a sin.