My musings on Biblical Studies, Biblical Hebrew, Dead Sea Scrolls, Septuagint, Popular Culture, Religion, Software, and pretty much anything else that interests me!

Old Testament on Film

  • Searches

Archive for the 'Ten Commandments' Category

Ten Commandments meets Sparta!?

17th October 2009

Moses-Sparta20th Century Fox has announced that they will be remaking The Ten Commandments in the style of “300“! I am not sure of what to make of this. “300″ was a visually stunning — if not ultra violent — film, but I can’t imagine what they would do to the story of the Exodus from Egypt to make it work.  Here is a snippet from the announcement in Variety:

For his first significant film project acquisition, Peter Chernin is taking on a project of Biblical proportions.

20th Century Fox has made a preemptive acquisition of a pitch to tell the story of Moses in “300″ style. The tale will start with his near death as an infant to his adoption into the Egyptian royal family, his defiance of the Pharoah and deliverance of the Hebrews from enslavement.

Chernin will produce with Dylan Clark, who recently moved over from Universal to become president of Chernin’s Fox-based film company.

The script will be written by Adam Cooper and Bill Collage, who make this their followup to a high-level deal they made to reinvent Herman Melville”s “Moby Dick,” with a graphic novel feel, for director Timur Bekmambetov and producer Scott Stuber at Universal. That script is in, the extensive pre-visualization work is done. It could be Bekmambetov’s next film, if “Wanted 2″ doesn’t come together first.

The Moses story will be told using the same green screen strategy as “300,” so it will feel more like that pic or “Braveheart” than “The Ten Commandments,” the 1956 Cecil B. DeMille film.

The popular mythical and magical elements inherent in the Book of Exodus will be there–including the plagues visited upon Egypt and the parting of the Red Sea–but the Cooper & Collage version will also include new elements of Moses’ life that the writers culled from Rabbinical Midrash and other historical sources.

I can just imagine it… Moses shouting out, “THIS is YAHWEH!” or perhaps “THIS is COMMANDMENT!”

Posted in Bible & Film, Film, Popular Culture, Ten Commandments | 1 Comment »

Which Ten Commandments?

4th July 2005

The Ten Commandments have been in the news quite a bit since the recent ruling of the Supreme Court of the United States. It has been noted by a number of news agencies — and the Supreme Court decision itself — that the Ten Commandments are actually listed in two places in the Hebrew Bible (Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5) with a number of variations, and — more significantly — that there are actually different enumerations of the Ten Commandments depending on which religious tradition you turn to (see, for instance, the article “Which faith’s Ten Commandments is court talking about, and does it matter?” or “The Commandment Mystery“). So while there are always Ten Commandments, you need to know what tradition someone is following if they confess to breaking number five as it may make the difference between whether of not you need to phone the police!

Part of the problem is that the Commandments are not numbered in the biblical text. The title “Ten Commandments” is derived by the reference to ‏עֲשֶׂ֖רֶת הַדְּבָרִֽים “ten words” in Exod 34:28 (see also Deut 4:13; 10:4). Thus, there have developed different ways of dividing the Commandments into ten. It is typically noted that there are three different enumerations of the Ten Commandments: (1) Modern Jewish, (2) Roman Catholic/Lutheran, and (3) Reformed and Evangelical Protestant/Eastern Orthodox.

Tradition 1
(Modern Jewish)
Tradition 2
(Roman Catholic, Lutheran)
Tradition 3
(Reform and Evangelical Protestant, Eastern Orthodox)
1 “I am the Lord…” “No other gods… idols” “No other Gods”
2 “No other gods… idols” “No wrongful use of the name” “Shall not make idols”
3 “No wrongful use of the name” “Observe Sabbath day” “No wrongful use of the name”
4 “Observe Sabbath day” “Honour father and mother” “Observe Sabbath day”
5 “Honour father and mother” “You shall not murder” “Honour father and mother”
6 “You shall not murder” “Nor shall you commit adultery” “You shall not murder”
7 “Nor shall you commit adultery” “Nor shall you steal” “Nor shall you commit adultery”
8 “Nor shall you steal” “Nor shall you bear false witness” “Nor shall you steal”
9 “Nor shall you bear false witness” “Nor shall you covet wife” “Nor shall you bear false witness”
10 “Nor shall you covet” “Nor shall you covet house” “Nor shall you covet”

What is typically not noted by these news stories is that these different enumerations all have their basis in Jewish tradition. In fact, all three divisions are displayed simultaneously by the cantillation of the Hebrew Masoretic text (see, for example, Exod 20:2 and Deut 5:6 in BHS where ‏‏ עֲבָדִֽ֑ים has both an atnach and a silluq).

  • Tradition 1. The first enumeration often noted is the contemporary Jewish division, which has the first verse “I am the Lord your God” as the first commandment, while the commands to “have no other gods” and “no idols” are combined to make the second commandment. This division is supported by the “upper accentuation” tradition, which treats each commandment as a complete verse. This division creates a nice pattern with five positive and five negative commandments.
  • Tradition 2. The second way of dividing the commandments is followed by the Roman Catholic and some Anglican and Lutheran churches. In this enumeration the commandments “have no other gods” and “no idols” form the first commandment, while the last two commandments are “do not covet wife” and “do not covet house, etc.” St. Augustine is often credited with this tradition (see his Quæstionum in Heptateuchum libri VII, Book II, Question lxxi), though it is supported by the Masoretic division of the pericope into open (ס) and closed (פ) paragraphs. The first sub-section occurs at Exod 20: 6 and Deut 5:10, encompassing the first two commandments, while the two laws concerning coveting are divided at Deut 5:21.
  • Tradition 3. The third and final tradition of dividing the commandments follows the “lower accentuation” of the text which divides the text into equal length verses. This tradition is arguably the oldest, being followed by Philo in his De Decalogo and Josephus, as well as the church fathers. Today it is followed by the Reformed Christian, Evangelical, and Greek Orthodox churches.

So while the different enumerations not only reflect differences among religious groups today, they also all go back to varying Jewish traditions in antiquity. So the question, “Which Ten Commandments?” is not as easy to answer as you may first think! No matter what enumeration you follow, the bigger issue revolves around whether or not it is desireable or even possible to observe them! But that issue requires another blog entry….

Note: The issue of the division of the Ten Commandments is far more complex than I was able to represent here. For more information, see the following excellent collection of essays: The Ten Commandments in History and Tradition (Ben-Zion Segal, ed.; Jerusalem: Magnes Press, 1990).

Posted in Deuteronomy, Exodus, News, Ten Commandments | 1 Comment »