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Hang Six

| 21.8.03
'Hang Six', by Gregg Easterbrook

Gregg Easterbrook's goal in this short article is to suggest a way out of the cultural and political impasse posed by those conservatives who favor monuments to the Ten Commandments in public buildings by appealing to six moral and ethical precepts upon which there is cross-cultural agreement --contained within the commandments.

What really grabbed me about this article though, is Easterbrooks' assertion that Jesus radically revised the Ten Commandments, trimming them down to six. I know that Jesus summarized the Hebrew law in the saying, "you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength. . . you shall [also] love your neighbor as yourself." (Mark 12.29-31 NRSV)

Easterbrook asserts something novel, however, stating that Jesus gutted the Ten Commandments, reinforcing only the ones that pertain to universal, cross-cultural ethical and moral norms. His main evidence is the story of the young man who asks Jesus what he must do to inherit eternal life from Matthew 19:16-19. (parallel list also found in Mark 10:17-23) Jesus' answers here list only six precepts --"the ones concerning morality, love, and good character."

Part of Easterbrook's argument is from silence. He says that you must hear what Jesus does not say as much as what he does say. However, I do believe the Gospel author is intentional in his choice of words, and I must confront the fact that the passage appears in the same form in both Mark (the earliest Gospel) and Matthew --implying that it is something early and important in the emerging Jesus tradition.

I wouldn't mind seeing some footnotes, or at least some indication that Easterbrook is relating a theological take on the passage that doesn't just originate with him, so that an interested reader can do some additional research into what was for me a very thought-provoking idea. His conspiracy theory take on why denominations don't like to emphasize what for Easterbrook are Jesus' "anti-religious sayings" doesn't inspire confidence either.

Still, I find the idea intriguing.

PUBLISHER: Beliefnet, 2003
(source: http://www.beliefnet.com/story/117/story_11719.html)

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