Scriptural Inspiration And The Authorial “Original” Amid Textual Complexity: The Sequences Of The Murder–Adultery–Steal Commands As A Case Study -- By: Gregory R. Lanier

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 61:1 (Mar 2018)
Article: Scriptural Inspiration And The Authorial “Original” Amid Textual Complexity: The Sequences Of The Murder–Adultery–Steal Commands As A Case Study
Author: Gregory R. Lanier


Scriptural Inspiration And The Authorial “Original” Amid Textual Complexity:
The Sequences Of The Murder–Adultery–Steal Commands As A Case Study

Gregory R. Lanier*

* Gregory R. Lanier is Assistant Professor of New Testament and Dean of Students at Reformed Theological Seminary (Orlando), 1231 Reformation Dr, Oviedo, FL 32765. He may be contacted at glanier@rts.edu.

Abstract: This article examines the diversity found in the sequence of a portion the Decalogue (murder, adultery, steal) and uses it to articulate and reflect upon some challenging issues with which evangelical inerrantists should grapple. It is a fitting case study, given the Decalogue’s central importance and intrinsically memorizable form. The article begins by providing a fresh and comprehensive inventory of all relevant evidence for the OT forms, quotations/allusions in the NT, and additional early Jewish and Christian references. It then discusses the broader implications raised by this tangible example, specifically in terms of what it means to discuss the “autograph” or “original” of an OT writing, what form is received as “original” by NT authors, what variants contribute to our understanding of scriptural authority, and what possible improvements can be made in articulating a well-orbed “high” doctrine of Scripture.

Key words: inerrancy, textual criticism, autographs, Decalogue, Ten Commandments, Septuagint, versions, textual transmission, Gospels, Paul

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Liberty, the Pursuit of Happiness, and Life.”

Notice anything odd? For any American grade-school student with even a rudimentary knowledge of the Declaration of Independence, the sequencing within the final clause is quite obviously incorrect. “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness” is the “correct” order, as rendered not only in the autographical Declaration but in numerous reproductions found in books, commercials, movies, and so forth ever since. Indeed, it would be rather unusual for someone to get the sequence of this list wrong for something so well known, easily memorized, and important to our national history. One might expect something similar to prevail for the sequence of the Ten Commandments, the charter document of the people of God. But what do we actually find?

The variations seen in the numbering of the Ten Commandments are well known, particularly in terms of commandments 1–2 and 9–10.1 Perhaps less well

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