Scripture Commentary for March 4th (Year B)

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Exodus 20: 1-17


Our reading consists of the first version of the Ten Commandments00repeated with minor changes in Deuteronomy 5: 6-12.  The first four commandments are religious, number 5 a family rule, and numbers 6-10 social rules.

The first commandment:  there hasn’t been much need of the first commandment in the West in the last five or six hundred years.

The second has given a lot of trouble.  On the authority of this commandment, Puritan types in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries pulled down and destroyed masses of religious paintings and sculpture, wiping our half of the art in Western Europe.

The third gives me trouble.  Since my days in the army (WWII), I have a deeply ingrained habit of swearing.

The fourth has been voted down in most, if not all states in the US, in their doing away with blue laws prohibiting business on Sunday.

As an old man, I am all in favor of number 5:  honor Mom and Dad.

Number 7, on adultery, is not so vital to society today as it once was in Europe and North America.  With the disappearance of primogeniture and the advent of widespread birth-control, Dry Samuel Johnson could not say today what he said in 1768:  “Consider, sir, of what importance is the chastity of women: upon that all the property of the world depends.”

No one raises objections to 6, 8-9 because once can hardly imagine a stable society without them.

Number 10 offers problems because it prohibits desires, not actions.  Today, we are not very sure we can command desires.



First Corinthians 1: 18-25


As Paul was well aware, to be nailed to the cross was a punishment reserved for the lowest criminals.  It involved not only a slow death in great pain, but the most revolting physical responses.  It was regarded as utterly shameful.  Some historians believe that the followers of Jesus were slow to organize themselves after his death because they were so embarrassed that their Lord should have died so.  Paul and other early leaders may have saved the Church by explaining how Jesus’s dying on the cross was the ultimate expression of those upside-down truths he had been teaching –the lowest are the highest, the poorest the most rich, the most foolish the most wise, the most despicable death the most glorious gift.


© Arthur H. Cash

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