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Reflections on Ethics 66
How Many 10 Commandments?
From the Preface to "The 10 Commandments"

by: Joseph Lewis

"Some of the old laws of Israel are clearly savage taboos of a familiar type thinly disguised as commands of the deity."
Sir James G. Frazer.

Editor's note: The previous Reflection on Ethics was an extract from Joseph Lewis's analysis of the 10th Commandment in his book, The 10 Commandments. Over the next few weeks, I will publish extracts from his review of the other nine. This article is from the Preface to the book.

To open a discussion on this article, please use the contact page to provide your comments.

In an editorial in the White Plains (N. Y.) Reporter, this statement is made:

"No man in more than two thousand years has been able to improve upon the Ten Commandments as the rule of life. To no other origin than to Divine Revelation can they be ascribed. Man constantly improves upon his own handiwork. There never will be a need for an Eleventh Commandment. The Ten contain all there is to guide human conduct in the proper channels." [1]

This is only another instance of how an apparently educated man can make statements without the slightest foundation in fact when he accepts religious doctrines on faith. If his conclusions were true, how would this learned gentleman account for the ever-increasing number of "Ten Commandments" that are continually being promulgated by business men, educators, social workers, editors, judges, wives, husbands, sweethearts, lawyers, doctors and even ministers? They are proof of the inadequacy of the Ten Commandments to meet all problems of life. The following are examples of what constantly appears in the public press: "The Ten Commandments of Natural Education," issued by the Parents' Association; "The Ten Commandments of Love," by Helen Rowland, noted newspaper writer; "The Ten Commandments on How to Be Happy and Married," by Miss Dorothy LaVerne Backer, of East Orange, New Jersey, on the announcement of her engagement.

Even Judge Sabath, of the Chicago Superior Court, who at the time of his statement had handled more than 24,000 divorce cases, issued a set of Ten Commandments for happy marriages. Judge Joseph Burke, of the Court of Domestic Relations of Chicago, Illinois, who handles more than 35,000 marital complaints each year, issued a list of Ten Commandments for both husbands and wives. Certainly the experience of these two judges must indicate that the Ten Commandments of Moses were not sufficient to accomplish the desired result in the marital state, and an Eleventh Commandment on this particular phase of life would certainly not be superfluous.

Mussolini issued Ten Commandments for his Fascist supporters.

The Nazis prepared "Ten Commandments for the German Soldier."

Joseph Stalin issued Ten Commandments for the Bolsheviks.

Llewellyn Legge, Chief Game Protector of the New York State Conservation Department, issued what he terms "The Ten Commandments for the guidance of those who go into the woods to hunt."

Norman Daly, a magazine writer, issued a set of Ten Commandments for girls engaged to be married.

Miss Minnie Obermeier, Assistant Superintendent of Schools, New York City , gave a new set of "Ten Commandments for Mothers." 

Mrs. Herbert Lehman, wife of the former Governor of the State of New York , issued the "Ten Commandments of Democracy."

The Rev. Christian F. Reisner issued a special set of "Ten Commandments for Successful Wives."

Lieutenant E. F. John, U.S.M.C., issued a set of "Ten Commandments for the Police."

"I. P.," a cook, issued through Gretta Palmer a set of "Ten Commandments to the Housewife Who Has Servants."

The National Better Business Bureau issued a set of "Ten Commandments Designed to Hold Customer Good Will."

The Rev. William L. Stidger, of the Linwood Methodist Church, Kansas City, Missouri , issued a new Decalogue for Modern Youth.

Dr. Shirley W. Wynne, when Health Commissioner of New York City , issued a set of "Ten Commandments for Wintertime Health."

Hollywood , the great moving-picture colony, not to be outdone, also issued a Decalogue.

Otto H. Kahn, the banker, gave the students of Princeton University a set of Ten Commandments to guide them in their banking careers.

The Federal Bureau of Education at Washington issued "Ten Commandments for the American School Teacher."

Rabbi Jerome M. Lawn, of Beth Israel Temple , New York City, offered a set of Ten Commandments for a successful marriage.

The American Medical Association advised the physicians of the country to "Give your patients the Ten Commandments of Good Posture."

The men of the White Methodist Church of Chicopee, Massachusetts, issued Ten Commandments for their wives. And the following week the wives of that church issued a similar Decalogue for their husbands.

The Department of Health, of Clarke County , Georgia , issued "Ten Commandments of Health."

Rabbi Israel Goldstein, of the Congregation B'nai Jeshurun, New York City , in his Rosh Ha-Shanah sermon, issued Ten Commandments for "The American Jew," which would certainly indicate an inadequacy in the original Decalogue. He also issued a new "1942 edition" of the Ten Commandments.

The Northern Illinois Methodist Clergyman issued a Decalogue for the Methodist Episcopal ministers, one commandment of which prohibited stealing sermons from colleagues.

Mr. Kenneth Wishart, of Aberdeen , Mississippi , formulated a set of Ten Commandments concerning the cow.

The Federal Council of Churches of Christ in America issued a set of "Ten Commandments for Social Justice."

Preaching in the Episcopal Church of the Heavenly Rest, New York City , the Rev. Dr. Henry Darlington suggested "Ten Commandments for the New Year."

Frau Ida Bock, an Austrian writer, alarmed at the constantly increasing number of divorces in her country, issued "Ten Commandments for Husbands."

The Rev. David Rhys Williams, seeking to interpret the advance of the day, issued what he called the "Decalogue of Science."

Then there are the famous "Sailors' Ten Commandments."

Albert Payson Terhune, the celebrated writer and lover of dogs, issued on behalf of the canine family a set of "Ten Commandments for My Master."

Miss Anna Green, bitter, disillusioned, disconsolate, issued Ten Commandments for other young girls so they would avoid the mistakes that she had made in the realm of love.

Last but not least, an editorial in the White Plains (N. Y.) Reporter, but three months later, almost to the day, since the appearance of the editorial previously mentioned, states:

"Were Moses to come down from the Mount today with the Commandments beneath his arm, in all likelihood there would be another tablet, and on it would be inscribed: 'Thou Shalt Be Tolerant!'"

justifying, though a contradiction, the statement that "there never will be a need for an Eleventh Commandment." 


  1. White Plains (N. Y.) Reporter, Sept. 19, 1929.