Thou shalt not take the Lord's name in vain

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Ten Commandments
Protestant numbering
1st 6th
2nd 7th
3rd 8th
4th 9th
5th 10th
Catholic numbering
1st a b 6th
2nd 7th
3rd 8th
4th 9th
5th 10th

Thou shalt not take the Lord's name in vain is the 3rd of the Ten Commandments in the Protestant tradition. It is considered the 2nd commandment according to Catholic numbering.

Exodus 20:7 Bible-icon.png:

7 Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain; for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.

Deuteronomy 5:11 Bible-icon.png:

11 Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain: for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.

Contents

Analysis

Misuse

The commandment is generally understood to prohibit misused of the name of God. This includes trivialising the name, profanity or blasphemy. [1]

Oaths

Some theologians interpret this to mean vain oaths (i.e. oaths or promises that are later broken) are forbidden.

"So the verse could be translated in at least two different ways: (1) Thou shalt not swear (utter) the name of God to a lie, or (2) Thou shalt not swear (utter) the name of God falsely. The basic meaning is the same: we should refrain from appealing to the name of God to confirm or bear witness to a falsehood. [2]"

Jews treat the commandment as a prohibition against swearing falsely in the name of God by either:

  1. Saying something is true when it is known to be false.
  2. Saying something is false when it is known to be true.
  3. Saying something is true when it doesn't matter (trivial).
  4. Promising to do the impossible.

The commandment could easily have served as a basis for making contracts, which due to the penalties and beliefs involved, would be more likely to be kept than a person's word alone. One could lend seed with payment of part of the harvest later and properly expect payment because they "swore to God". This utility would be perfect for early cultures, however, today it's mostly moot.

If the commandment refers to oaths, Jesus seemingly made the commandment redundant by forbidden oaths completely:

"But I tell you, do not swear an oath at all: either by heaven, for it is God’s throne; or by the earth, for it is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King."

Matthew 5:34-35 Bible-icon.png

Counter Apologetics

  • "There is no God. It doesn't matter how you use it, you're using it in vain."
  • "Define 'vain'."
  • Contrary to the human right of freedom of speech.

In United States law

  • The 3rd commandment is not a part of U.S. law or custom. Speech of most kinds is specifically protected by the U.S. Bill of Rights. There are some minor laws against disturbing the peace with things like loud swearing, however the realm of what you CAN say in a civil manner is completely open providing the speech is not directly harmful to another citizen. If this commandment was a law, it would be like prohibiting criticism of the president or other public officials. It is undemocratic and contrary to free speech.

References

  1. [1]
  2. [2]
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