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"Do not defraud": why did Jesus add to the Ten Commandments?

Discussion in 'Theological Concepts' started by Vouthon, Dec 1, 2019.

  1. Vouthon

    Vouthon Dominus Deus tuus ignis consumens est
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    "You know the commandments: ‘You shall not murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; You shall not defraud; Honor your father and mother." (Mark 10:19)

    Scholars have long puzzled over the reasons for Jesus's adumbrated list of the ten commandments necessary for "eternal life / salvation / entering the kingdom" (he only cites the 'ethical' / 'behaviour'-focused ones and omits the cultic / religious ones, such as the command not to worship any other gods but Yahweh; make a graven image; take God's name in vain or keep the Sabbath. None of them appear!).

    But even more striking than what he omits from the Decalogue is what he adds to it: an entire, new commandment against economically taking advantage of others ("defrauding") that cannot be found in the Torah's list of Ten Words. In his study The Damned Rich (Mark 10:17–31), Professor James G. Crossley writes:


    Mark 10:17–31 is an important passage which stresses the importance of the commandments and their relationship to a concern for social justice [...] What is particularly noticeable is the prohibition of defrauding (me¯ apostere¯ se¯ s) among the commandments (10:19). This is famously not in the Decalogue and replaces do not covet (Exod 20:17/Deut 5:21).

    The verb apostereo¯ occurs in the LXX for ‘šq in the context of not depriving workers of their wages in a passage which echoes the Decalogue, Malachi 3.5 (‘those who oppress [MT: wb‘šqy/LXX: tous aposterountas] the hired workers in their wages’), and in Deuteronomy 24:14–15 (‘you shall not withhold [MT: l’ t‘šq/LXX ‘A’: ouk apostere¯ seis] the wages of the poor and needy labourers . . .’).

    The change made to the Decalogue in Mark 10:19 is important for understanding the passage as a whole: it must, after all, have been added for a reason. Given the background just outlined, even if we cannot be precise, the reason is no doubt that the rich man had not even done what many rich people were deemed all too able to do: oppress and/or take advantage of and/or deny wages.

    Given that this rich man had observed the commandments surely he was being rewarded through his ‘many (landed) possessions’ (kte¯ mata polla – 10:22). But this view of reward is rejected by Jesus. Jesus tells the rich man to sell his properties and give all to the poor. The rich man cannot do this of course (10:22). And so we get a powerful rejection of wealth (ta chre¯ mata) as reward in Mark 10:23–25, a reversal of fortunes which causes amazement among the disciples (Mark 10:26): who then can be saved? [...]

    But precisely why is the rich man to be excluded from the kingdom of God, even if he has observed those commandments, including the additional commandment, do not defraud?


    Now, its perfectly true that Jews understand the Ten Words as a kind of summation of the entirety of the 613 mitsvot or laws of the Torah but I still doubt that they'd been keen on someone addlibing an entire 'command' that wasn't in the original text of the Decalogue. Yet, as well as excluding the cultic commandments, this is exactly what Jesus does.

    Here are the views of two scholars on it, Professors Justin Meggit and James G. Crossley (in a different article):


    "...There is a pervasive theme of hostility to wealth in the Jesus tradition (see, for example, Matthew 6.24, Luke 16.13; Luke 12.13-21; Matthew 6.29, Luke 12.27; Matthew 19.24, Mark 10.25, Luke 18.25; Matthew 24.17, Mark 13.15; Luke 17.31; cf. Luke 16:14-15).

    Real treasure is said to be located in heaven (Matthew 6.20; Luke 12.33; Matthew 19.21, Mark 10.21, Luke 18.22; Matthew 6.2, Luke 16.13; Luke 12.13-14, cf. Thomas 72). The recurrent attacks on the rich show that this hostility to wealth is not motivated by asceticism but on an assumed relationship between poverty and wealth (see Luke 19.1-9; Matthew 19.21, Mark 10.21, Luke 18.22).

    An indication of such thinking might be visible in Mark 10.19 where the command not to defraud is added to a series of commandments otherwise taken from the Ten Commandments cf. Luke 19.8; James 5.4; Deuteronomy 5.6-11, Exodus 20.1-17
    ."

    (Meggitt, J. Anachronism, anarchism and the historical Jesus, p.20)



    "We have other types of ‘radical’ statements of dramatic role reversal related to eschatology in the Gospel tradition, including economic reversal (e.g. Luke 6.20; but cf. Matt. 5.3). One of the most explicit passages in this respect, and with direct reference to the kingdom of God, is Mark 10.17–31, a passage I have discussed in more detail elsewhere.12

    Here, the rich man has observed those commandments listed (Mark 10.17–22) but is told to give to the poor the proceeds from selling his possessions or properties and follow Jesus. The addition to the commandments (10.19) is a prohibition of defrauding (μὴ ἀποστερήσης‎), a phrase not in the Decalogue (cf. Exod. 20.17/Deut. 5.21).

    Other uses of the phrase would further suggest that this involves withholding workers’ wages or engaging with economic exploitation (e.g. Deut. 24.14–15; Mal. 3.5; Sir. 4.1; 1QapGen 20.11; Tg. Onq. Lev. 5.21; Tg. Ps.-J. Lev. 5.23; Tg. Neof. and Ps-J. Deut. 24.14; Tg. Mal. 3.5; Lev. R. 12.1; Pesh. Mk 10.19; Pesh. Deut. 24.14–15; Pesh. Mal. 3.5). No doubt this additional commandment is given to suit the specific case of the rich man who might be expected to exploit poorer people
    "

    (Crossley, J.G. Jesus and the Chaos of History: Redirecting the Life of the Historical Jesus p.68)

    So why do you think that (a) Jesus confined his recital of the Ten Commandments only to the ethical ones? (b) he added a commandment against economic "defrauding" that is not in the original Decalogue and (c) given that the Rich Man had apparently even adhered to this additional stipulation set uniquely by Jesus, that not even part of the original commandments, and still fell short, how should we interpret Jesus's overall meaning here about wealth and eternal life? As Crossley notes, it appears to be the case that:


    "...the eye of the needle saying (Mark 10:25) should be taken as strongly as possible: it is impossible for the rich to enter the kingdom. It is hardly surprising that such a passage has proven to be one of the more difficult for the more comfortable Christian to swallow [...] the passage has the rich man as someone who observed all the listed commandments at least and so it is clearly the case that his disproportionate riches are the problem.

    If he renounces wealth, gives the money to the poor and follows Jesus he will have considerably more chance of entering the kingdom. This much is absolutely explicit.
    Thus the point of the camel and the needle, as in the passage as a whole, must be to show that it is impossible for the rich to enter the kingdom. The obvious must not be avoided: in a world of extreme social and economic inequality Jesus damned the rich.


    Major issues which come out of Mark 10:17–31 are the virtual equation of wealth/land owning with economic oppression, the reversal of rich and poor in the life to come, the extension of reward theology to include the life to come, and the interpretation of the Torah from the perspective of the economically poor."​
     
    #1 Vouthon, Dec 1, 2019
    Last edited: Dec 1, 2019
  2. BSM1

    BSM1 What? Me worry?

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    He foresaw the advent of "Prosperity Preachers", I betcha..
     
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  3. dybmh

    dybmh Terminal Optimist
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    I don't know the quote from the OP... or really anything about Christianity or Catholicism...

    But if he said: "You know the commandments:"

    And if He was Jewish speaking to a Jewish Audience... then he had a lot more than 10 commandments to chose from. Do not defraud, seems perfectly valid to me.
    I've never heard that before, but it may be true. It's a variant of the answer I gave above, kind of... :)
     
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  4. 9-10ths_Penguin

    9-10ths_Penguin 1/10 Subway Stalinist
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    Why not what what appears to be the simplest explanation: that the author of Mark didn't know Hebrew or Judaism well enough to realize that they were changing the meaning?
     
  5. Deeje

    Deeje Avid Bible Student
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    In context, Jesus was responding to a question from a rich young ruler. Many in Israel were gaining their wealth by defrauding others. (Leviticus 6:1-7) This was also part of the law. Citing other important things from the 10 Commandments did not confine Jesus' response when the Torah contained many other laws.....much ado about nothing IMO.
     
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  6. leov

    leov Well-Known Member

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    Matt. 5:20, emphasis on having better consciousness than required by law. Listed commandment directly reflects one 's attitude toward others. while, for example , keep Sabbath requires paying respect to God as authority behind the commandment , otherwise people would just ignore the commandments.
     
  7. Brickjectivity

    Brickjectivity ✔ a-OK RF member .99/lb
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    'False testimony' might be what he refers to which is in the commands listed in Exodus 20. Perhaps he is pointing out dishonest dealings, dishonest scales and other forms of false witness?

    I think he's talking about accepting the Romans. Poverty is not a curse according to Jesus. Its not evidence that Israel is being punished. No, but the kingdom of heaven has arrived. That's what he says is really happening.

    Your comment about defrauding reminds me of a gospel passage in which a Roman soldier is asking Jesus "What should we do?," and Jesus says to the soldier "Don't exact more taxes than you are supposed to" instead of saying "Leave the military you filthy Roman" or "leave this holy land you impure spirit." (Luke 3:14) You see there the emphasis again is on both not defrauding and also on accepting others. The Romans are here to stay if its up to Jesus, and give to Caesar what is demanded and to God what is God's. Jesus is recommending Isaac's approach. Keep digging wells and be a wanderer even in your own land.

    In post-Maccabee-an times there are probably some dreadful questions in the air. The Romans are making life hard, and people are suffering. The people read about the blessings and curses, and so they are wondering why they are not being blessed. What have they done wrong that they are plagued with these Romans? They're like Philistines or Assyrians or Egyptians or Babylonians. Its invasion all over again. This opens a painful form of introspection. Christianity appears partly because of this dialogue or is influenced by it. Things Jesus says appear to address it.

    Many people consider the gospel Mark to be political in nature. In particular the scene with Jesus casting demons into pigs has got similarities with the conversations today about whether Reform is legitimate Judaism. In the time of Mark its all very political, because the people are torn between assimilation and absolute purification and separation from Roman society. How should they proceed? They wonder. Now here's what happens in Mark:
    The man possessed by Legion cuts himself and cries out day and night, and when the demon(s) goes into the pigs they throw themselves off of a cliff. 'Legion' is also the name of a Roman unit of soldiers. Legion begs Jesus not to drive them out of the area, and he doesn't. He doesn't see any need to. The demons are called an impure spirit by Mark. Just as Jesus touches lepers and remains clean, he also sees no need to drive impure spirits from the land yet it remains pure. ​
     
  8. Mark La Buda

    Mark La Buda Member

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    When Jesus was asked what is the greatest commandment, note what he said at Matthew 22:37-40. Doing these two encompasses the entire "Ten Commandments."
     
  9. BSM1

    BSM1 What? Me worry?

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    And it takes the confusion out of living 2000 years later...
     
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