I am ADONAI your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the abode of slavery. Exodus 20:2
These are the words the ten commandments are introduced with. And this is quite important, more important than you think.
Why is this?
Jut give me some time to explain.
First, let me tell you that I am neither an expert of biblical Hebrew nor of Koine Greek. But I have double checked the things I am about to say with people who are.
The ten commandments are translated with a recurring formula: “Thou shalt not”. It has become so familiar to us – even the King James sound of it. There are variants, of course, like the Complete Jewish Bible with its “you are not to have”.
The underlying vermiform can verily be translated that way. But there is another possibility: “you will not”.
Why the Choice
When the bible was translated into English – and German, for that matter, as what I am saying here holds for both languages – humanity lived in a certain state of developmental psychology. A state called blue.
In Spiral Dynamics, blue represents the era of structure and order. Before that was the age of the adventurer, the big leader, the tyrants. In order to tame the tyrant and manage the masses, laws were introduced.
This has been true from Hammurabi to the law in Israel, from Rome to the England of King James – and the Germany of Luther and Switzerland of Zwingli.
Thus, when given the choice to either translate “you shall not murder” or “you will not murder”, it was an easy choice.
Add to this that medieval literature and cultural did not believe in personal development, something that was only to develop from the thinking of both Lutheran theology and humanism.
And thirdly, the church was built with a structure that was more of Plato than Paul, and again it was only the outflow of the Reformation that was to bring some change to that: priesthood new, and the laity were to be told.
Thus “you shall not steal.”
But the world has progressed. New worldviews, horizons of understanding, and problem solving strategies have arisen. Orange, the age of science, the individual, research and strive, and green, the age of human rights, equality, political correctness and tolerance have come upon us, and even yellow is rising, the age of integration and systemic thinking.
Maybe now, alternatives are possible?
But when we look at the texts in the new testament that pick up the ten commandments, we find Jesus speaking with the young rich ruler in Matthew 19, beginning verse 16. If we now look at the Greek verb forms, we find an astonishing fact.
Those verb forms are not ambiguous any longer. They are purely futuristic. “You will not commit adultery.”
Jesus disambiguated the translation for us. Yet, the culture at the time of translation was not such to fathom this. There was no concept for this, and therefore, the translation chosen in the old testament was carried over.
What now if we apply this new way of translation to our understanding of the ten commandment? Suddenly, the verse quoted in the beginning becomes crucial:
Look, I am the God that brought you out of Egypt, and therefore you will not have other gods beside me.
Because I freed you (and as long as you do not forget this and value it), you are set on a trajectory that will bring you to your destiny of a godly lifestyle. Just keep at it.
Maybe, this is what Jeremiah was speaking about when he said: I will make a better covenant with you, one with the law not written on tablets of stone, but onto your hearts?
Since even the time of Jeremiah was a blue era. Israel had understood the commandments as “you shall not”. This is how the pharisees were possible in the first place.
In Matthew 28:18ff we find the great commission. Here a traditional rendering:
And Jesus came to them and said, All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth. Go then, and make disciples of all the nations, baptise them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teach them to keep all the rules which I have given you: and see, I am ever with you, even to the end of the world. Matt 28:18-20
Looking deeper into the Greek, this is not what it says, at least not in the verses 19 and 20. A better translation would be:
Go then, making disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to keep all the rules which I have given you.
The difference: there is only one imperative. We only have to go.
The best translation would be:
Go, and the rest will happen automatically and naturally: you will make disciples, baptise them, and teach them everything I taught you. Because I have all authority.
It all is a journey. Given some basic parameters – remember who I am, and obey my leading – destiny will be walked out, no matter what.
One could phrase it like that: if you always keep close to God that has done so much for you, and listen to him every step of the way, you will reach your destiny.
True, but this can be understood in a way that is too simple.
God wants to strategize and plan with us. We wants us to paint the future on the basis of our hearts desires as creative beings, driven by a renewed nature and change thinking pattern.
Therefore, all this does not mean to stop build the future. Yet it does mean that
- if we are this new creation – which we are, because we accepted Jesus into our lives
- and we change our thinking as Romans 12:2 tells us
- and we never forget what God and Jesus did for us with a thankful heart
we will paint a different future according to God’s heart and thus reach our destiny.
Reach our destiny without the external pressure of “you shall not”.
What a relief!
What do you think?