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The Ten Commandments: A Short History of an Ancient Text Hardcover – March 24, 2014


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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Biblical scholar Coogan seeks to disarm disputes over displaying the Ten Commandments on public property by demonstrating that the document in question is not now nor ever has been graven in stone. There are three versions in the Torah and while two (Ex 19, Dt 5) are quite—but not perfectly—alike, the third (Ex 34) is very different and often called the Ritual Decalogue because it focuses on Jewish temple practices. Moreover, none of the three is pristine because, Coogan argues, there was an older original form that they all approximate. Also, over the ages, particular commandments’ meanings and legal statuses have been subtly or greatly modified by some weighty authorities, indeed, including Jesus. By now, and contrary to what an American Catholic cardinal pronounced, Coogan says, they’re very much “up for grabs” by anyone wrapping himself in the banner of virtue. Coogan concludes this engrossing and enlightening guide to one of world’s great legal codes by discussing how properly to honor the Ten Commandments in the U.S. --Ray Olson

Review

“Devastating. . . . [Coogan] knows the Bible inside out.”—Globe and Mail on God and Sex: What the Bible Really Says, also by Michael Coogan
 
(Globe and Mail)

"Readers… can trust Coogan, a biblical scholar of the highest order.”—Publishers Weekly on God and Sex: What the Bible Really Says
(Publishers Weekly)

“Coogan is interested in the commandments not only as an ancient text but as a living, social one, and enjoys grappling with the issues that surround them today as much as he does providing historical background. Legislators, particularly, should read this book, before they try to mount tablets on the courthouse steps.”—Nicholas Mancuso, The Daily Beast (Nicholas Mancuso The Daily Beast)

“[An] engrossing and enlightening guide.”—Ray Olson, Booklist
(Ray Olson Booklist)
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press; annotated edition edition (April 15, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300178719
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300178715
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 5.8 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #427,609 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Michael Coogan is Lecturer in Hebrew Bible/Old Testament at Harvard Divinity School and Director of Publications for the Harvard Semitic Museum. He has also taught at Stonehill College, Boston College, Wellesley College, Fordham University, and the University of Waterloo (Ontario), and has participated in and directed archaeological excavations in Israel, Jordan, Cyprus, and Egypt. He is the author of Old Testament text books and The Old Testament VSI.

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Mary Wendell on May 9, 2014
Format: Hardcover
If you're going to read a book about the Ten Commandments, you want it to be written by a Bible scholar of the highest order like Michael Coogan. In this book he not only discusses the history of the commandments, but the modern application as well by answering questions regarding their relevance, the different versions and interpretations, and their social significance.

The Ten Commandments: A Short History of an Ancient Text is written in a style that is both engaging and easy to understand even if you're not a Bible scholar yourself. Coogan begins his exploration with an anecdote about the 1956 film The Ten Commandments and the lawsuits that ensued as a result of promotional tablet monuments installed on government property. (In the end these displays were deemed legal because they were found to be more historical than religious in nature.) By describing this interesting event, the author succeeds in both drawing readers in and opening up a whole host of questions and discussion topics. Those looking for advanced details on Abraham should follow this text with Abraham in History and Tradition.

Books on Biblical studies can often be dry and technical, but this one hits the mark by mixing up historical analysis with questions that we, today, might be curious about. Like why are there only ten commandments? Which commandments are outdated? Should the commandments still be held in such high regard? Did the people who lived when they were recorded, follow them closely?

Great book for scholars *and average readers!
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By engel on September 17, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Superb, fascinating text analysis of the versions of the Ten Commandments that appear in the Torah. Differentiates between the religious messages and those that pertain to living in human society. Excellent scholarship.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Gaon Books on June 15, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Ten Commandments is an interesting commentary on the central legal code that helped form the Western values of morality and rectitude.
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