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The 10 Commandments as a Basis for Morality?

7. Thou shalt not commit adultery.

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You have to wonder about putting up a list in a classroom that tells children to honour their parents, and then a few lines below, reminds many of those from broken homes and single-parent families that their parents are sinners.

But what does this commandment mean? If we look at the world when this was first written, men were able to have several wives, along with concubines, handmaidens and slaves, all of whom they were allowed to have sex with. Admittedly, there were a lot of women in the world who you weren't allowed to dally with, but the rule was not unduly restrictive. In a biblical sense, no matter what Mr. Clinton did with the intern, he did not commit adultery, as she was part of his staff or his handmaiden. And if he had recognized this, he would not have had to quibble over the meaning of "is."

On the other hand, it was very different for women. Not only were they restricted to one man, of whom regardless of their status they were essentially property, but other rules relating to "cleanliness" ruled out any activity for nearly half of the month.

So this commandment is more about the property rights of men at that time than about sexual behavior.

But what does it mean today? An interesting question perhaps, but where in the bible did God change the meaning of this law? If you want to regard this as God's law, then its meaning cannot have changed.

But if we do accept the argument the meaning of adultery has changed from property rights to sexual morality, where is the immorality of adultery? If two people have sworn to be faithful to each other, then the immorality is in the breach of faith. But if two people have mutually agreed to have an "open marriage" then there is no breach of faith, and no immorality. (For brevity, I am not going to address all the other variations of people living together in today's world, other than to state the issue of immorality depends on breach of faith rather than adultery.)

Adultery in the modern sense is not immoral in and of itself. It is the breach of faith that is wrong.

This commandment certainly reflects on moral issues. However, there are very few people today who would accept the biblical intent, and if they reject that intent they are rejecting the commandment. In modern terms for moral value, this commandment should read "Thou shalt not break faith with thy spouse." Then we would have some reasonable and meaningful moral guidance.

Moral value of the seventh commandment: 3 / 10


8th Commandment

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