Thursday, May 31, 2007

No representation without taxation

As we speak, desperate attempts are being made by our fundy friends to show that New Zealand really, really is a Christian Nation. Following Bishop Brian's attempt to storm the interfaith dialogue thingy at Waitangi, and his rather obvious failure to understand the meaning of the word "Established," New Zealand Conservative has posted the Ten Commandments. Apparently, these are the basis of our laws. Well no, not quite, as Thomas Jefferson showed way back when.

In any case, this is a bowdlerised version of the Commandments. Take, for example, the Second; here it is rendered as "You shall not make for yourself any idol, nor bow down to it or worship it." In the full majesty of the Authorised Version, which is much better written, as well as more Authoritative, the Second Commandment commands:
4 Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: 5 Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; 6 And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.
See, it's not just about idols, New Zealand or otherwise. The Almighty in fact bans Art, at least anything short of Abstract Expressionism. So you can smash down all your stained-glass windows, because He is going to get your kids.

Here's Ray:


fraser said...

re: new zealand conservative.

well i got a train
only got one track
goes round and round and round
everybody stand back

i truly dont get these people.
laugh, cry, scratch my head? im at a loss what to make of it

Lyndon said...

Personally I choose to imagine and implied 'and' between clause 4 and 5 - which just leaves us with the idolatory. Stone me if you will.

Actually I'm taken by the headline: "If not Christian, then What?"

If you consider the similarity between the commandment and any system of laws a society might come up with at random, and imagine the stats, it starts to look like evidence our laws didn't derive from them.

I.M Fletcher said...

The almighty, in fact, does not ban art. I am Catholic, and if you visit a Catholic church, you will find statues of Mary, Jesus (on the cross) and perhaps a statue of the Saint that the church is named after. As well as this there will be the Stations of the Cross, showing the crucifixion of Christ (perhaps like panels in a comic book? This was for people who didn't read - to show them Christ's Passion).

In any case, Catholics do not worship statues. Some other faiths accuse us of such but this is not the case. They are there to remind you of to whom you are praying and a reminder of the people the statues represent - eg, you have photographs in your house but you do not worship them - they are there to remind you of loved ones. In those days they didn't have photographs, they had statues (see Russell Crowe in Gladiator gladly receiving little statuettes of his wife and child while he is in prison).

Where was I...oh, yes...God does not forbid art, he just doesn't want 'art' to be worshiped. In fact, in Exodus God commanded that the Ark of the Covenant be made with carved angels on top of it -


"Make an atonement cover of pure gold—two and a half cubits long and a cubit and a half wide. And make two cherubim out of hammered gold at the ends of the cover. Make one cherub on one end and the second cherub on the other; make the cherubim of one piece with the cover, at the two ends. The cherubim are to have their wings spread upward, overshadowing the cover with them. The cherubim are to face each other, looking toward the cover.


In those days, many cultures did make idols and worshiped them.

Matthew Flannagan said...


Suppose you came across a policy statement for a local school which stated that teachers shall not use a cane, but all forms of corporal punishment are prohibited. Would you interpret this to mean that teachers could not use a cane basket, or a cane to hobble around on?

The English word cane after all literally refers to a type of wood. It can be used to make baskets, or walking sticks, etc

This would be silly, yes the word literally refers to a type of wood, but it also as a well attested use where it refers to an implement of corporal punishment, and the context of the statement, being annexed to a prohibition of corporal punishment, gives us good grounds for interpreting it in this more restricted way.

Similarly with the Hebrew word “tselem” the word literally means “carved image” however it has a well attested use where it refers to a idols, i.e objects of religious veneration and worship. Moreover in the Decalogue (the Ten Commandments) the context occurs in is a prohibition of idolatry, the text immediately goes on to talk about serving and bowing down to these images. It then proceeds give reasons for the prohibition that apply only to idolatrous use of such images. This is why more contemporary translate the word as idol.

Its bad exegetical practice to interpret a word in terms of its literal meaning without taking into account, things such as context, well attested meanings other than the literal etc.