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The Real Ten Commandments: Solon vs. Moses
infidels.org ^ | Richard Carrier

Posted on 08/22/2003 10:59:42 PM PDT by Destro

The Real Ten Commandments

By Richard Carrier

I keep hearing this chant, variously phrased: "The Ten Commandments are the foundation of Western morality and the American Constitution and government." In saying this, people are essentially crediting Moses with the invention of ethics, democracy and civil rights, a claim that is of course absurd. But its absurdity is eclipsed by its injustice, for there is another lawmaker who is far more important to us, whose ideas and actions lie far more at the foundation of American government, and whose own Ten Commandments were distributed at large and influencing the greatest civilizations of the West--Greece and Rome--for well over half a millennia before the laws of Moses were anything near a universal social influence. In fact, by the time the Ten Commandments of Moses had any real chance of being the foundation of anything in Western society, democracy and civil rights had all but died out, never to rise again until the ideals of our true hero, the real man to whom we owe all reverence, were rediscovered and implemented in what we now call "modern democratic principles."

The man I am talking about is Solon the Athenian. Solon was born, we believe, around 638 B.C.E., and lived until approximately 558, but the date in his life of greatest importance to us is the year he was elected to create a constitution for Athens, 594 B.C.E. How important is this man? Let's examine what we owe to him, in comparison with the legendary author (or at last, in legend, the transmitter) of the Judeo-Christian Ten Commandments. Solon is the founder of Western democracy and the first man in history to articulate ideas of equal rights for all citizens, and though he did not go nearly as far in the latter as we have come today, Moses can claim no connection to either. Solon was the first man in Western history to publicly record a civil constitution in writing. No one in Hebrew history did anything of the kind, least of all Moses. Solon advocated not only the right but even the duty of every citizen to bear arms in the defense of the state--to him we owe the 2nd Amendment. Nothing about that is to be found in the Ten Commandments of Moses. Solon set up laws defending the principles and importance of private property, state encouragement of economic trades and crafts, and a strong middle class--the ideals which lie at the heart of American prosperity, yet which cannot be credited at all to Moses.

Solon is the first man in history to eliminate birth as a basis for government office, and to create democratic assemblies open to all male citizens, such that no law could be passed without the majority vote of all. The notion of letting women into full political rights would not arise in any culture until that of modern Europe, but democracy never gets a single word in the Bible. Solon invented the right of appeal and trial by jury, whereby an assembly of citizens chosen at random, without regard for office or wealth or birth, gave all legal verdicts. Moses can claim nothing as fundamental as these developments, which are absolutely essential to modern society. The concept of taking a government official to court for malfeasance we owe to Solon. We read nothing of the kind about Moses. The idea of allowing foreigners who have mastered a useful trade to immigrate and become citizens is also an original invention of Solon--indeed, the modern concept of citizenship itself is largely indebted to him. There is nothing like this in the Bible. And like our own George Washington, Solon declined the offer to become ruler in his country, giving it a Constitution instead--unlike Moses who gave laws yet continued to reign. And Solon's selfless creation of the Athenian constitution set the course which led to the rise of the first universal democracy in the United States, and it was to Solon's Athens, not the Bible, that our Founding Fathers looked for guidance in constructing a new State. Moses can claim no responsibility for this. If we had Solon and no Moses, we would very likely still be where we are today. But if we had Moses and no Solon, democracy might never have existed at all.

So much for being the impetus behind our Constitution. The Ten Commandments of Moses have no connection with that, while the Constitution of Solon has everything to do with it. But what about ethics? Let us examine the Ten Commandments offered by each of these men and compare their worth and significance to Western society. Of course, neither man's list was unique to him--Moses was merely borrowing ideas that had already been chiseled in stone centuries before by Hammurabi, King of Babylon (and unlike the supposed tablets of Moses, the Stone of Hammurabi still exists and is on display in the Louvre). Likewise, Solon's Ten Ethical Dicta were a reflection and refinement of wisdom that was already ancient in his day. And in both cases the association of these men with their moral precepts is as likely legend as fact, but the existence and reverence for their sayings in their respective cultures was still real--and we can ask three questions: Which list of Ten Commandments lies more at the heart of modern Western moral ideals? Which contains concepts that are more responsible for our current social success and humanity? And which is more profound and more fitting for a free society?

The Ten Commandments of Moses (Deuteronomy 5:6-21, Exodus 20:3-16) run as follows--and I am even going out of my way to leave out the bounteous and blatantly-religious language that actually surrounds them in the original text, as well as the tacit approval of slavery present in the fourth commandment, none of which is even remotely suitable for political endorsement by a free republic:

1. Have no other gods before me [the God of the Hebrews].
2. Make no images of anything in heaven, earth or the sea, and do not worship or labor for them.
3. Do not vainly use the name of your God [the God of the Hebrews].
4. Do no work on the seventh day of the week.
5. Honor your parents.
6. Do not kill.
7. Do not commit adultery.
8. Do not steal.
9. Do not give false testimony against another.
10. Do not desire another's wife or anything that belongs to another.

Now, we can see at once that our society is entirely opposed to the first four, and indeed the last of these ten. As a capitalist society, we scoff at the idea of closing our shops on a choice market day. And our very goal in life is to desire--desiring is what drives us toward success and prosperity. The phrase "seeking the American Dream," which lies at the heart of our social world, has at its heart the very idea of coveting the success of our peers, goading us to match it with our own industry, and we owe all our monumental national success to this. Finally, our ideals of religious liberty and free speech, essential to any truly civil society, compel us to abhor the first three commandments. Thus, already half of Moses' doctrines cannot be the foundation of our modern society--to the contrary, they are anathema to modern ideals.

Of the rest, it can be assured that shunning adultery has never contributed to the rise of civil rights and democratic principles (despite much trying, there is no Adultery Amendment). It is naturally regarded as immoral--but then it always has been, by all societies, before and since the time of Moses, for the simple reason that it, like lying, theft, and murder, does harm to others, and thus these commandments are as redundant as they are unprofound. They can be more usefully summed up with just three words: do no harm. These words comprise the first commandment of another Greek moralist whose contribution to society lies at the very heart of modern reality: the founder of scientific medicine, Hippocrates. (who was anti-abortion too)

Finally, we are left with only one commandment, to honor our parents. This of course has been a foundational principle of every society ever since such things as "societies" existed. Yet the greatest advances in civil rights and civic moral consciousness in human history occurred precisely as the result not of obeying, but of disobeying this very commandment: the social revolutions of the sixties, naturally abhorred by conservatives and yet spearheaded by rebellious teenagers and young adults, nevertheless secured the moral rights of women and minorities--something unprecedented in human history--and by opposing the Vietnam war, our children displayed for the first time a massive popular movement in defense of the very pacifism which Christians boast of having introduced into the world, yet are usually the last to actually stand up for. It can even be said that our entire moral ethos is one of thinking for ourselves, of rebellion and moral autonomy, of daring to stand up against even our elders when our conscience compels it. Thus, it would seem that even this commandment does not lie at the heart of our modern society--it is largely an anachronism, lacking the essential nuances that a more profound ethic promotes.

Let us now turn to the Ten Commandments of Solon (Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Eminent Philosophers, 1.60), which run as follows:


1. Trust good character more than promises.
2. Do not speak falsely.
3. Do good things.
4. Do not be hasty in making friends, but do not abandon them once made.
5. Learn to obey before you command.
6. When giving advice, do not recommend what is most pleasing, but what is most useful.
7. Make reason your supreme commander.
8. Do not associate with people who do bad things.
9. Honor the gods.
10. Have regard for your parents.

Unlike the Commandments of Moses, none of these is outdated or antithetical to modern moral or political thought. Every one could be taken up by anyone today, of any creed--except perhaps only one. And indeed, there is something much more profound in these commandments. They are far more useful as precepts for living one's life. Can society, can government, prevail and prosper if we fail to uphold the First Commandment of Moses? By our own written declaration of religious liberty for all, we have staked our entire national destiny on the belief that we not only can get by without it, but we ought to abolish it entirely. Yet what if we were to fail to uphold Solon's first commandment? The danger to society would be clear--indeed, doesn't this commandment speak to the heart of what makes or breaks a democratic society? Isn't it absolutely fundamental that we not trust the promises of politicians and flatterers, but elect our leaders and choose our friends instead by taking the trouble to evaluate the goodness of their character? This, then, can truly be said to be an ideal that is fundamental to modern moral and political thought.

Now, two of the commandments of Solon are almost identical to those advocated by Moses: do not speak falsely, and have regard for your parents. Of course, Solon does not restrict his first injunction to false accusations or testimony against others, as Moses does. Solon's commandment is more profound and thus more fundamental, and is properly qualified by the other commandments in just the way we believe is appropriate--for Solon's rules allow one to lie if doing so is a good deed (no such prescription to do good appears in the Ten Commandments of Moses). And whereas Moses calls us to honor our parents (in the Hebrew, from kabed, "to honor, to glorify"), Solon's choice of words is more appropriate--he only asks us to treat our parents in a respectful way (in the Greek, from aideomai, "to show a sense of regard for, to have compassion upon"), which we can do even if we disobey or oppose them, and even if we disapprove of their character and thus have no grounds to honor them.

In contrast with Moses, Solon wastes no words with legalisms--he sums up everything in three words: do good things. This is an essential moral principle, lacking from the commands of Moses, which allows one to qualify all the others. And instead of simply commanding us to follow rules, Solon's commandments involve significant social and political advice: temper our readiness to rebel and to do our own thing (which Solon does not prohibit) by learning first how to follow others; take care when making friends, and stick by them; always give good advice--don't just say what people want to hear; shun bad people. It can be said without doubt that this advice is exactly what we need in order to be successful and secure--as individuals, as communities, and even as a nation. The ideals represented by these commandments really do rest at the foundation of modern American morality and society, and would be far more useful for school children whose greatest dangers are peer influence, rashness and naivete.

There is but one that might give a secularist pause: Solon's commandment to honor the gods (in the Greek, timaô, "to honor, to revere, to pay due regard"). Yet when we compare it to the similar First Three Commandments of Moses, we see how much more Solon's single religious commandment can be made to suit our society and our civic ideals: it does not have to restrict religious freedom, for it does not demand that we believe in anyone's god or follow anyone's religious rules. It remains in the appropriate plural. Solon asks us to give the plethora of gods the regard that they are due, and we can say that some gods are not due much--such as the racist gods and gods of hellfire. In the end, it is good to be respectful of the gods of others, which we can do even if we are criticizing them, even if we disbelieve in them. This would remain true to our most prized American ethic of religious liberty and civility. Though it might better be rendered now, "Respect the religions of others," there is something fitting in admitting that there are many gods, the many that people invent and hope for.

It is clear then, that if anyone's commandments ought to be posted on school and courthouse walls, it should be Solon's. He has more right as the founder of our civic ideals, and as a more profound and almost modern moral thinker. His commandments are more befitting our civil society, more representative of what we really believe and what we cherish in our laws and economy. And indeed, in the end, they are essentially secular. Is it an accident that when Solon's ideals reigned, there grew democracies and civil rights, and ideals we now consider fundamental to modern Western society, yet when the ideals of Moses replaced them, we had a thousand years of oppression, darkness, and tyranny? Is it coincidence that when the ideals of Moses were replaced with those of Solon, when men decided to fight and die not for the Ten Commandments but for the resurrection of Athenian civil society, we ended up with the great Democratic Revolutions and the social and legal structures that we now take for granted as the height and glory of human achievement and moral goodness? I think we owe our thanks to Solon. Moses did nothing for us--his laws were neither original nor significant in comparison. When people cry for the hanging of the Ten Commandments of Moses on school and court walls, I am astonished. Solon's Ten Commandments have far more right to hang in those places than those of Moses. The Athenian's Commandments are far more noble and profound, and far more appropriate to a free society. Who would have guessed this of a pagan? Maybe everyone of sense.


TOPICS: Culture/Society; Editorial; Government; News/Current Events; Philosophy
KEYWORDS: ancienthistory; faithandphilosophy; godsgravesglyphs; moses; solon; tencommandments
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Posted for discussion now that so many have their blood boiling over the Alabama courthouse 10 commandments controversy.
1 posted on 08/22/2003 10:59:43 PM PDT by Destro
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To: Destro
It won't matter much longer.

Hebrews 8
10 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people:
11 And they shall not teach every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for all shall know me, from the least to the greatest.
12 For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more. 13 In that he saith, A new covenant, he hath made the first old. Now that which decayeth and waxeth old is ready to vanish away.

2 posted on 08/22/2003 11:07:57 PM PDT by Russell Scott (The whole creation groans in pain waiting for the manifestation of Christ's Kingdom)
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To: Destro
"Solon was born, we believe, around 638 B.C.E...."

The new, Godless Left refuses to use BC and AD for their dates. Instead, they use B.C.E (Before Current Era or Before Common Era) and C.E. or CE (Current Era or Common Era), rather than the religious abreviations of our legal calendar (BC and AD).

The appearance of such non-legal abbreviations betrays the bias of the author.

3 posted on 08/22/2003 11:10:52 PM PDT by Southack (Media bias means that Castro won't be punished for Cuban war crimes against Black Angolans in Africa)
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To: Southack
Now, we can see at once that our society is entirely opposed to the first four, and indeed the last of these ten. As a capitalist society, we scoff at the idea of closing our shops on a choice market day. And our very goal in life is to desire--desiring is what drives us toward success and prosperity. The phrase "seeking the American Dream," which lies at the heart of our social world, has at its heart the very idea of coveting the success of our peers, goading us to match it with our own industry, and we owe all our monumental national success to this.

Sounds right wing to me!!!!

4 posted on 08/22/2003 11:13:07 PM PDT by Destro (Know your enemy! Help fight Islamic terrorisim by visiting www.johnathangaltfilms.com)
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To: Destro
1. Trust good character more than promises.--Good advice, but subjective. Nothing to base a legal system on.

2. Do not speak falsely = Thou shalt not bear false witness.

3. Do good things.--Subjective. Nothing to base a legal system on. Better to note what is bad, so that the denser oones know what the boundaries are.

4. Do not be hasty in making friends, but do not abandon them once made.--Good advice, but subjective. Nothing to base a legal system on.

5. Learn to obey before you command.--Subjective. Nothing to base a legal system on.

6. When giving advice, do not recommend what is most pleasing, but what is most useful.--Subjective. Nothing to base a legal system on.

7. Make reason your supreme commander.--Subjective. Nothing to base a legal system on.

8. Do not associate with people who do bad things.--Subjective. Nothing to base a legal system on.

9. Honor the gods. = Thou shalt have no other gods before me and Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain...

10. Have regard for your parents = Honour thy father and thy mother...

The other Commandments given to Moses, including not killing, not stealing, not lying and not coveting are actual foundations for law.
5 posted on 08/22/2003 11:55:56 PM PDT by skr (The liberals are only interested in seeking Weapons for Bush Destruction)
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To: Russell Scott
It won't matter much longer.

"Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled. Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away. But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only. But as the days of Noe were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be." (Mat 24:34-37 KJV)

6 posted on 08/23/2003 12:10:48 AM PDT by risk
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To: skr; Destro
Yeah, rule #3 is written as badly as the 14th amendment. plenty chance for judicial abuse. :-)

Overall, it was an excellent article.

The author betrayed his secular tendencies and perhaps ignorance of Greek mythology with his 'honor the gods' comments. Greece was polytheistic - so of course, their own narrow cultural version of Moses #1 would be plural 'honor the gods'. yet the author bone-headedly takes it to be an opening for honoring different religions, some kind of writ of tolerance. Um, no, he confuses Joseph Campbell with the ancient Greeks. Do any serious non-primitive polytheists even exist today? Christianity and Buddhism killed that in the west and east repsectively... (And dont count Wiccans, they are a pseudo- new age 'religion' that constructed in recent decades with no real relation to primitive animists).

So I conclude, with the author, that Solon gives good advice overall, but his guidance on religion and the basis of any community laws both come up short.

Then much of it can be simplified to one rule as Jesus taught:

Love your neighbor as yourself.




7 posted on 08/23/2003 12:13:12 AM PDT by WOSG
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To: Destro
"Is it an accident that when Solon's ideals reigned, there grew democracies and civil rights, and ideals we now consider fundamental to modern Western society, yet when the ideals of Moses replaced them, we had a thousand years of oppression, darkness, and tyranny?"

That is a total and utter myth.

The 'glory of Athens' lasted only long enough for Athens to get consumed in a series of hellish wars. Wars in whcih towns were slaughtered, slaves taken, etc., then Sparta defeated Athens, then came Alexander the Great. Democracy and Athens barely lasted a century of glory.

The dark ages were not that 'dark'. It was the enlightening rather of the whole of Europe to Christianity. eg the heathen Vikings were Christianized in this period.

Everything that the Greeks like Solon gave us came through monastic Christian scribes who faithfully recorded them, considered them, and built upon them. Our modern age owes much, for example, to Thomas Aquinas, who used Aristotle and the rediscovery of his philosophy, to guide us futher on the past of just lives and just societies. from 1200 on, Europe grew to advance beyond the other civilizations.

In truth our heritage is *both* Greece and Rome - Christian Rome, derived from Christian and Jewish faith. Greek philosophy and Christian faith are the two causal ideals behind the rise of Western civilization.


8 posted on 08/23/2003 12:22:11 AM PDT by WOSG
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To: Southack
I use it too, because it also stands for "Before the Christian Era," which accurately describes the B.C./A.D. divide.
9 posted on 08/23/2003 12:29:50 AM PDT by TheAngryClam (TOM McCLINTOCK is my choice for governor. He should be yours too.)
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To: skr
But are they foundations of OUR law? Such laws are nearly universal among societies.
10 posted on 08/23/2003 12:30:39 AM PDT by TheAngryClam (TOM McCLINTOCK is my choice for governor. He should be yours too.)
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To: WOSG
Actually, the Greeks were fairly open to foreign cults, tending to take a syncrenistic view of foreign gods. For example, Amon, the great sun god of Egypt, became identified with Zeus. Amon had a great temple and oracle that the Greeks started going to, calling it the Oracle of Zeus-Hammon. Stories like that abound.

The Greeks themselves believed that some of their gods, notably Dionysus, were foreign gods that they had adopted rather recently.
11 posted on 08/23/2003 12:34:20 AM PDT by TheAngryClam (TOM McCLINTOCK is my choice for governor. He should be yours too.)
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To: TheAngryClam
The Code of Hammurabi predates the Ten Commandments and some are identical to them. Solon ? He and his " laws " come after Hammurabi as well.
12 posted on 08/23/2003 12:34:30 AM PDT by nopardons
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To: nopardons
Bingo.

Point is, the Ten Commandments aren't the basis for law in the United States.
13 posted on 08/23/2003 12:45:08 AM PDT by TheAngryClam (TOM McCLINTOCK is my choice for governor. He should be yours too.)
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To: nopardons
The Hamurabi laws sort of remind me of Sharia.

http://www.unesco.org/delegates/iraq/hamurabi.htm

Forgiveness wasn't high on the list.
14 posted on 08/23/2003 12:53:28 AM PDT by risk
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To: risk
So do some Levitican laws ... sound like Sharia. Guess WHERE the Muslims got some of their ideas from ? Give up ? The OLD TESTAMENT.

And, lest I forget to mention it, UR, where Hammurabi ruled ( and where we're now fighting/making over BTW )is where Avram ( Abraham ) was born.

15 posted on 08/23/2003 1:03:36 AM PDT by nopardons
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To: Destro
Bump later for rant.
16 posted on 08/23/2003 1:06:41 AM PDT by jwh_Denver (You should clean your monitor screen, I can hardly read it.)
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Comment #17 Removed by Moderator

To: Destro
Bookmark.
18 posted on 08/23/2003 1:33:15 AM PDT by Junior (Killed a six pack ... just to watch it die.)
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To: skr
5. Learn to obey before you command.--Subjective. Nothing to base a legal system on.

Judges would do well to observe this one. They go hog wild making up rules for the rest of us to follow but show little willingness to follow their rules, i.e., our Constitution, the law of the land.
19 posted on 08/23/2003 1:45:10 AM PDT by Jason_b
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To: Destro
I keep hearing this chant, variously phrased: "The Ten Commandments are the foundation of Western morality and the American Constitution and government." In saying this, people are essentially crediting Moses with the invention of ethics, democracy and civil rights, a claim that is of course absurd.

Didn't need to read any further. God created the ten commandments. That's what the chant is you keep hearing. Sheesh.

20 posted on 08/23/2003 2:06:24 AM PDT by Rightwing Conspiratr1
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To: Destro
The Moses this guy is talking about is nothing like the Moses I've read about.

Must be a different Moses, and a different set of commandments.

21 posted on 08/23/2003 2:27:30 AM PDT by Imal (The World According to Imal: http://imal.blogspot.com)
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To: TheAngryClam
BC and AD accurately describe the BC / AD divide!

Frankly, BCE annoys.
22 posted on 08/23/2003 2:29:39 AM PDT by WOSG
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To: skeetr
Moses' authorship is well known, go read: " 1st Infidels, Chapter 1 verse 5".

23 posted on 08/23/2003 2:35:12 AM PDT by WOSG
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To: Destro
The Athenian's Commandments are far more noble and profound, and far more appropriate to a free society. Who would have guessed this of a pagan? Maybe everyone of sense.

More precisely, everyone willing to embrace nihilism as their religion, as the author clearly does.

His ludicrous assumption that the moral foundation of western society is hedonism invalidates his entire thesis, and therefore his article. It also deftly eliminates any doubts that he is incapable of any form of objective, reasoned analysis of this topic.

24 posted on 08/23/2003 2:39:27 AM PDT by Imal (The World According to Imal: http://imal.blogspot.com)
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To: Destro
It could also be said that our laws are based on those of Hammurabi (reigned 1795-1750 BC).
His published Code of Law not only covered criminal but tort law as well. While our founders might not have directed accessed it, other societies in the long ago past did – and the tenets have been passed down.
25 posted on 08/23/2003 2:47:24 AM PDT by R. Scott
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To: Southack
The appearance of such non-legal abbreviations betrays the bias of the author.

Non-legal???

26 posted on 08/23/2003 2:49:27 AM PDT by R. Scott
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To: Destro
" Now, we can see at once that our society is entirely opposed to the first four, and indeed the last of these ten. "

On further reflection, he is utterly wrong on this point. I know he is trying to tear down the 10 Commandments to build up solon but he overreaches.

First, go with the real text, not his summary.

http://www.prayerlist.com/tencommandments.html

1 is about believing and obeying only the one ("true") God.
3 is having piety towards God, not shaking your fist at him. 2 is about not worshipping false idols and representations. 4 is to "keep the Sabbath holy" (he said "do no work on the seventh day", but that is not the text of Exodus).

A devout orthodox Christian and Orthodox Jew would really do all those things. This does not impose it in any way on rest of society, this is not a command to theocracy just a command to personal belief. So in saying that 'our society' rejects these he is rejecting Jewish and Christian faith as valid for our society. Clearly this is not true most as close to half of American obey #4 and show up at Church on Sunday and most Americans consider themselves believing Christian or Jewish.

As for #10 ('do not cover thy neighbors house, wife, property, servants, etc.'), he is sucked up into modernist thought that no thought is evil. In fact, #10 enjoins the 'mortal sin' of greed/avarice, wanting/desiring what does not belong to you. Again, different ethical view, but I dont think he would reject a rule that said "Dont be greedy for what is not yours". It seems clearer than solon's #8.




27 posted on 08/23/2003 2:53:28 AM PDT by WOSG
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To: nopardons
Bingo! Of course there is more, much much more, but the author of this piece just can't get past Athens. He writes as if man is the end all and be all of humanity. IE, "no controlling legal authority", now where have I heard that before?
28 posted on 08/23/2003 3:06:07 AM PDT by wita (truthspeaks@freerepublic.com)
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To: Destro
"Now, we can see at once that our society is entirely opposed to the first four, and indeed the last of these ten. As a capitalist society, we scoff at the idea of closing our shops on a choice market day. And our very goal in life is to desire--desiring is what drives us toward success and prosperity. The phrase "seeking the American Dream," which lies at the heart of our social world, has at its heart the very idea of coveting the success of our peers, goading us to match it with our own industry, and we owe all our monumental national success to this."

We didn't scoff at that idea until very recently and we were still a capitalist country. He is also warping coveting into a meaning that it doesn't have.

A few of his points have some merit but he is dliberating trying to bash the 10c's. No, they are not THE basis of our laws but they are A basis of them and one that more people knew about in the 1780's than Solon's or Hammurabi's. Simply because we are more aware today of the implications of Solon's laws doesn't mean that the people designing the constitution were at that time.
I have always looked at the 10c's in public buildings as a source of our laws and not a promotion of religion ever since I was young. I am sure most of us have.
Prior to the brouhaha of the last 30 years, who looked upon them as a religious symbol when viewed in a public context?

29 posted on 08/23/2003 3:31:15 AM PDT by Adder
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To: R. Scott
Albert the Great prefaced his first catalog of the Laws of England with the Ten Commandments.

He likely never even heard of Hammurabi. And there are dozens of such links in our history between civic law and Judaic laws.

Thus, the Ten Commandments are a far more appropriate historical reference point.

The first law in Western Christendom was the Justinian code. It was of course imbued with the Catholic faith of the Romans of 529 AD:
http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/basis/535institutes.html#I.%20Justice%20and%20Law
30 posted on 08/23/2003 3:33:51 AM PDT by WOSG
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To: Adder
you are correct on all points.
31 posted on 08/23/2003 3:35:21 AM PDT by WOSG
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To: skr
Thanks for posting those subjective laws. Solon forgot:

11. Always walk back to front

12. Do not stare into the sun

13. Be Excellent to one another!

The Bible is clear that God wrote His law into our hearts....so that we shall have no excuse. Everyone has an innate sense of right vs. wrong programed into their souls. But some have a "seared conscience"--and can not cope with the truth any longer. (If anyone needs evidence of this--have a conversation with a woman who has had multiple abortions explain her "choice.")

The 10 Commandments were a wonderful elaboration and clear set of guidelines written by God in His own handwriting (until Moses lost his temper with the original tablets). They are not "also rans" as this "BCE" atheist states.

32 posted on 08/23/2003 3:43:42 AM PDT by SkyPilot
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To: Destro
Lest we forget the Skipper as Polonius:

"Neither a borrower, nor a lender be
Do not forget, stay out of debt"

A Harold Hecuba Production

33 posted on 08/23/2003 5:03:11 AM PDT by P.O.E.
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To: skr
"Do good things." If we take that phrase alone, the Godlessness of it is enough to make you sick. How, without the standard that God sets, do you know what "good" is? A pedophile "feels good" when they molest children. A thief "feels good" when they get away with their crime. God sets an uncompromising standard for "good" and "truth" and that is how we know what is required of us as set forth in the Ten Commandments.
34 posted on 08/23/2003 7:28:25 AM PDT by elephantlips
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To: Destro
A lot of this is hype. Solon didn't invent democracy, which didn't develop at Athens until a couple of generations after his death.

We don't have adequate information about what Solon actually did to substantiate most of the assertions the author makes. We have some of Solon's poems, which are vague about what he actually did, and we have some of the laws he wrote for the Athenians, but the Athenians would sometimes refer to a much later law as a "law of Solon," so it's hard to know which ones are genuinely his. The main ancient sources for Solon's work are Aristotle (Constitution of Athens) and Plutarch (Life of Solon), both of whom were writing centuries after his death.

Even in Aristotle's time, 250 years later, poor citizens were still legally barred from holding certain offices (although it isn't certain the prohibition was always enforced).

35 posted on 08/23/2003 8:16:56 AM PDT by Verginius Rufus
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To: Alamo-Girl; longshadow; VadeRetro; balrog666; general_re; Piltdown_Woman; Aric2000; ...
Interesting article. Not the way I would have written it (nothing ever is), but nevertheless very thought-provoking.

There's also Rome's example: The Law of the Twelve Tables. This isn't what we'd adopt as a legal code today, but they carved it in stone and displayed it in public.

36 posted on 08/23/2003 8:32:23 AM PDT by PatrickHenry (Felix, qui potuit rerum cognoscere causas.)
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To: PatrickHenry
Thanks for the heads up! However, I put all articles from infidels.org in the same bucket as democratsunderground.com because of their "mission:"

Our adopted mission is to defend and promote Metaphysical Naturalism, a nontheistic worldview which holds that our natural world is all that there is, a closed system in no need of a supernatural explanation and sufficient unto itself. To that end we publish the very best secular books, essays, papers, articles and reviews. We also stand as a bulwark against the forces of superstition, especially the radical religious right, whose proponents would have us fear knowledge rather than embrace it.

If you follow the political activism pages on the website, you'll see that they are among the extreme left-wing activists.

Therefore, I decline to comment on the article.

37 posted on 08/23/2003 8:40:47 AM PDT by Alamo-Girl
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To: PatrickHenry
Interesting article. Not the way I would have written it (nothing ever is), but nevertheless very thought-provoking.

I am reduced to "ditto".

38 posted on 08/23/2003 8:41:08 AM PDT by balrog666 (Wisdom comes by disillusionment. -George Santanyana)
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To: Carry_Okie
Bump to self
39 posted on 08/23/2003 8:41:42 AM PDT by Carry_Okie (The environment is too complex and too important to be managed by politics.)
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To: TheAngryClam
But are they foundations of OUR law? Such laws are nearly universal among societies.

Well, not exactly. You see one of the interesting things about the Ten Commandments is that they were meant to be applied across the board to everyone. Take "thou shalt not steal." Most places did have this kind of law but it applied only to those inside the tribe.

But it is mentioned several places in the Torah that these laws were meant to apply to every one across the board and to rich and poor alike.

Now it was not always kept that way but still it represented a giant leap forward in the way we look at law and rights.

40 posted on 08/23/2003 8:44:55 AM PDT by Harmless Teddy Bear (You walk in middle of road and you get crushed by some airhead vegetarian valley girl driving SUV)
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To: WOSG
The author makes some good points, even though he does go a bit overboard. We owe a lot to the ancient Athenians, although their society was far from perfect (they practiced slavery and their government at worst was more mob rule than a constitutional republic).

I think it is false to say we have to choose between Solon and Moses. Modern Western civilization is (to greatly simplify things) mostly a mixture of Hebrew, Greek, and Roman ideas. All three cultures introduced something vital -- also something that the modern hedonists, subjectivists, and collectivists hate.

The Law of Moses introduced conscience. Concience is an inner-directed, thus individualist thing. When one goes against the dictates of conscience, one feels guilt. Most other cultures enforce morality through an other-directed sense of shame (one has broken a taboo, one has discraced one's family) rather than guilt. Both a guilt-based and a shame-based morality can be subjective, of course. I think a guilt-based morality is more sophisticated, and it is a foundation of individualism. It is not for nothing that the guilt-inducing Jewish mother is famous!

The Greeks brought us philosophy and the scientific method. They also introduced a crude idea of democarcy and a sense that no person should be above the law. One problem with the Greeks was that their concept of law was vague, and Athens was periodically subject to demagogues and tyrants.

The Romans introduced the rule of law and the first modern government.

I think some people are being too harsh on the author from infidels.org. He at least recognizes some of the pillars of our civilization. He at least respects Athens. The ideal of the left today is not ancient Athens -- no, the left's ideal is totalitarian, war-like Sparta. The left is all about opposition to guilt-inducing (thus conscience-forming) religion. The radical left hates Greek logic and reason. They hate the rule of law, although some admire the bureaucratic system of government the Romans invented (the far-far-left -- the anarcho-enviro-communists reject even this).

I think there is more to the attack on the Ten Commandments than mere secularism. The Law of Moses is an easy target because it is based in religion and the establishment clause can be abused to ban from public discourse all religiously-inspired ideas that the left opposes. If you look around at our education system and popular culture, you can see that the left is also waging war against Greek rationalsim and the Roman ideal of the rule of law rather than the rule by men.

I think some of the supporters of the Ten Commandments being posted in the Alabama courthouse go too far, also. I have heard some of them say that the First Amendment only means that the Federal government cannot establish a state church, but that any state can establish an official church. This places us in the same mess that the Founding Fathers were trying to avoid.

Most of the Colonies had an official church, and people who were not members of the official church were persecuted and had to flee to another state. People thought that William Penn was an atheist because he envisioned a colony that did not have a state-sponsored church. The Founders built on Penn's idea of no state-sponsored religion. Why would there be an Establishment Clause if the Founders wanted each state to have its own official religion?

We are being given false alternatives if the only choice is between an amoral, Spartan-like totalitarianism the far left wants and a New England-style theocracy that some religious conservatives want. I support the placing of the Ten Commandments in the courthouse because the left is against it, it is part of our civilization, and because the left wants to censor all conscience-inducing ideas. However, the theocrats' idea that no religion is valid unless it is state-sanctioned is frightening, and in a way, idolatrous and irreligious. It is ironic that some atheists and some (I said some) religious conservatives have this in common -- they have made the state their god.

41 posted on 08/23/2003 8:53:00 AM PDT by Wilhelm Tell (Lurking since 1997!)
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To: Destro
This is an essential moral principle, lacking from the commands of Moses,...

True. Imho, that's why God sent Jesus. To clarify things. Because we are an obstinate people. < /sermon>

5.56mm

42 posted on 08/23/2003 8:53:48 AM PDT by M Kehoe
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To: Alamo-Girl
I put all articles from infidels.org in the same bucket as democratsunderground.com because of their "mission:"

I didn't notice the source, and I wasn't aware of their mission. I thought it was interesting history, even though I felt the author stretched a bit to reach his conclusions.

43 posted on 08/23/2003 8:57:55 AM PDT by PatrickHenry (Felix, qui potuit rerum cognoscere causas.)
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To: Destro
The actual ten rules of conduct laid down by Solon are reasonable, and indeed in some respects overlap the Ten Commandments. But your essayist's opening comment relates neither to Solon, America or the Ten Commandments. Consider:

I keep hearing this chant, variously phrased: "The Ten Commandments are the foundation of Western morality and the American Constitution and government." In saying this, people are essentially crediting Moses with the invention of ethics, democracy and civil rights, a claim that is of course absurd.

While certainly embracing ethical concepts, neither Western morality nor the American Constitutional system are founded on "democracy and civil rights." As Madison explained in Federalist Paper #10, preventing Democracy was one of the motivations for the Federal Union. The Founders gave us a Constitutional Republic, not a Democracy--the rule of Law, not a counting of noses.

"Civil rights," on the other hand, are rights created by the Civil Authority, i.e. legislated "rights." American liberty was premised, from the first, on a Creational--not a secular, not a civil authority--basis. What are today labelled "civil rights," are a Socialistic departure from the basic premises of the traditional American free society. Claiming antiquity for the package that Lyndon Johnson rammed through a docile Congress in 1964 & 1965, is absurd.

The Ten Commandments are more directed towards the foundations of law and an ongoing Social order. In this they reflect the same concept of a Divine Foundation, as that set forth in our Declaration of Independence. The rules of Solon appear to relate more--where there is a divergence--to the problems of immediate civility. There is no conflict between the rules quoted from Solon, merely a somewhat different immediate focus; so I am not attacking the latter, merely the preconceptions of the essayist, which are 180 degrees divergent from the historic truth.

William Flax Return Of The Gods Web Site

44 posted on 08/23/2003 9:10:33 AM PDT by Ohioan
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Bttt for later read.
45 posted on 08/23/2003 9:10:59 AM PDT by RadioAstronomer
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To: M Kehoe
Imho, that's why God sent Jesus. To clarify things.

You'd think an inerrant God would have got it right the first time.

46 posted on 08/23/2003 9:19:33 AM PDT by jlogajan
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To: Wilhelm Tell
For comments like yours I post such articles. It gets the thought juices flowing.
47 posted on 08/23/2003 9:26:15 AM PDT by Destro (Know your enemy! Help fight Islamic terrorisim by visiting www.johnathangaltfilms.com)
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Comment #48 Removed by Moderator

To: Southack
Not just the Godless Left. Devout Jews also use the BCE denomination, no matter their religious persuasion. I am glad this was referenced. I prefer the code of Julian, but this goes back about 1100 years before him.

The code of Julian was written for the Roman Provences. It was, to my belief, the first legal code which broke the law into organized segments (Titles) and is such the foundation of our common law, based as it is on English common law.
49 posted on 08/23/2003 9:45:01 AM PDT by donmeaker (Bigamy is one wife too many. So is monogamy.)
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To: donmeaker; Lazamataz
"Not just the Godless Left. Devout Jews also use the BCE denomination..."

I doubt it. Orthodox Jews use the Jewish calendar with Jewish years.

On the other hand, there are no doubt many liberal Jews who will gladly sign on to BCE and CE designations.

50 posted on 08/23/2003 9:51:37 AM PDT by Southack (Media bias means that Castro won't be punished for Cuban war crimes against Black Angolans in Africa)
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