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Discussion 4 to the 6th Commandment
Replying again to Scott Klajic

by John Tyrrell

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Scott:

You might use "scholarly" as a subjective term, but I use it much more objectively. It is possible to be scholarly and still have an opposing view. That is the essence of scholarship and advances in knowledge..

Neither "kill" nor "murder" is a full and complete translation of the original Hebrew as I pointed out. This leaves a number of possibilities for translation - none of which is ever going to be perfect. Translation is an art, and it demands the making of choices - and those choices might involve pedantic accuracy, poetic accuracy, contextual accuracy, changing the cultural context of the author to the expected cultural context of the reader, current political correctness, promotion of a particular view etc. (Read Douglas R. Hofstadter's excellent [and accessible to the reasonably intelligent reader] "Le Ton beau de Marot" to see just how much of a range is permissible or expected to achieve good and meaningful translation.)

Given the range of meaning contained in the original Hebrew, my view is that if a single word is chosen to represent a reasonably accurate translation, the broader "kill" better represents the meaning than the narrow "murder." Better would be several or many words, but the "poetry," such as it is in this section of the Bible, would be lost.

But regardless of "murder" or "kill," I would not change my scoring of this commandment.

Remember - I am addressing the suitability of the 10 Commandments for posting in schools. Whatever the wording, a piece of paper on the wall will not change the conditions that cause children to kill / murder / slaughter each other.

Perhaps, the proponents of the KJV do drive you crazy. But they are the prime advocates to plant specifically the KJV version of the 10 Commandments in schools (my motivation for grading the commandments.)

But it raises an important issue - selecting any particular version or translation of the 10 Commandments favours one particular version of religion over others.

In the end, morality is independent of religion, independent of deity, independent of holy book. It cannot be any other way, unless you are one of those who happens to think that beliefs other than yours make one automatically a condemned sinner - and that view makes morality a meaningless concept.

Searching particular ancient texts, wasting time interpreting them, bending them, twisting them to somehow provide moral guidance for today's world, is not the answer. While we can learn from examining the entire range of 10,000 years[1] of human civilization, we should not unduly narrow our focus.

Footnote:

  1. depending on how you define civilization.

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