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The Living Commandments by John Shelby Spong


John Shelby Spong was Episcopal Bishop of Newark, New Jersey. Among his bestselling books are Rescuing the Bible from Fundamentalism, Resurrection: Myth or Reality?, and Why Christianity Must Change or Die: A Bishop Speaks to Believers in Exile. He retired in early 2,000 to become a lecturer at Harvard University. This book was published by Seabury Press, New York, in 1977.


Chapter 1: A Personal Prologue

Chapter 2: The Covenant and the Context—A Call in Awe and Wonder
The glory and the holiness of the God of Mount Sinai calls forth in the Covenant people awe, wonder, and fear, which is expressed, finally, in their obedience to those principles through which God’s presence is seen in human life.

Chapter 3: The Commandments—Some General Observations
The history, background, and setting of the Ten Commandments

Chapter 4: I Am Yahweh
The first commandment is nothing less than a command to acknowledge the reality of God’s total claim upon their lives.

Chapter 5: No Other Gods
The implications of holding that God is One. The nature of Idolatry.

Chapter 6: God's Holy Name
A name for the Hebrews was a powerful symbol. When you called someone’s name, you were claiming either superiority or equality. Therefore, God's name was "holy" -- set apart from all other names.

Chapter 7: The Sabbath -- The Meaning of Time
Sabbath in its ultimate sense is not so much a day as an attitude.

Chapter 8: The Meaning of Parenthood
The fifth Commandment enjoins us to live as recipients of both the love of a mother and the love of a father.

Chapter 9: The Sacredness of Life
"You shall not kill" is not as simple as it sounds. It finally fades into a positive command. You shall give life even at the cost of your own—for this is the highest form of humanity.

Chapter 10: Bodies and Relationships
After examining the historical setting for the Commandment that prohibits adultery, including the conditions and exceptions in force among the early Hebrews, the author suggests sexual morality guidelines for Christians today.

Chapter 11: Stealing in Microcosm and Macrocosm
Microethics are the personal acts of an individual, his or her personal gifts of charity and personal works of love. Macroethics are the corporate acts of the whole culture, which should be designed to build a just society. Both are important.

Chapter 12: The Human Tongue—A Call to Responsibility
"You shall not bear false witness" is a call to a life that is open, free, vulnerable, and risky, but that is where life is lived, and that is where its meaning is found.

Chapter 13: Coveting—The All-Embracing Word
"You shall not covet" is the behavioral application of "You shall have no other gods but me." The author suggests several implications in seeking a just and humane society.

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