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The date of the Law Code of Hammurabi and The Ten Commandments

The date of the Law Code of Hammurabi and The Ten Commandments

The importance of dating for archeology[1] cannot be underestimated.  However, dating does not give the definitive answer to human inquiry.  Take for example the Law Code of Hammurabi, (Hammurabi was a king who reigned in Babylonia between 1792 and 1750 B.C.).

The Ten Commandments, also known as The Decalogue, are traditionally estimated to have been given around 1446 B.C.  Others estimate a later date (i.e. 1290 B.C.).[2] Regardless of the acceptance of either date, the dating indicates that Ten Commandments came after the Law Code of Hammurabi.  This has led some to the conclusion that The Ten Commandments were borrowed from Hammurabi’s Law Code.

Nevertheless, dating only demonstrates timing, not necessarily influence.  It gives a chronology, but it does not lay the foundation.

Resemblances between the two do exist.  But a D. Thomas states that, “Despite many resemblances, there is no ground for assuming any direct borrowing by the Hebrew from the Babylon.  Even where the two sets of laws differ little in the letter, they differ much in the spirit…”[3]

Thomas’ assessment, I believe, is correct.  Similarity does not always imply dependence.  Especially is this so with the Commandments and Hammurabi’s Code.

The Old Testament Scriptures make known that God Himself gave the Commandments to His people through Moses (Exodus 20).  Any question or doubt of this assertion is a question or doubt of the Old Testament Scriptures.  And any question or doubt cast upon the Old Testament Scriptures (and/or upon the New) is a question or doubt cast upon its One Holy Author.[4]

Dating items of antiquity does not either prove or disprove the Bible to be God breathed and God give.  Neither does archeology.  What archeology can do is to estimate the dates of documents and artifacts, make assessments of the land and its people in comparison with those living at or around the same time, and draw theoretical conclusions where the evidence is lacking.

Dating, as in archeology, is a helpful tool concerning peoples and cultures of the past.  However, archeology has limitations, as does the Bible.  The Bible is not a science text book.  It is not a ‘how-to’ book to better oneself.  It is a book through which God reveals the Savior, Jesus Christ (John 20:31).

Archeology has its sphere, and it is helpful and useful as long as it remains there.  But where archeology and other disciplines cross their respective boundaries, mischief against God and His Word and His ways more clearly appear, as do those of any who wish to discredit the Scriptures, God, and Christ.

[1] ar·chae·ol·o·gy

/ˌɑrkiˈɒlədʒi/ –noun

1. the scientific study of historic or prehistoric peoples and their cultures by analysis of their artifacts, inscriptions, monuments, and other such remains, esp. those that have been excavated.

2. Rare . ancient history; the study of antiquity.(http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/archeology)

[2]Robert G. Hoerber (Ed.), Concordia Self-Study Bible, New International Version, (St. Louis: CPH), 83-84.

[3] D. Winton Thomas (ed.), Documents from Old Testament Times (New York: Harper Touchbooks, 1958), 28.

[4] “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God” (1 Timothy 3:16); “No prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, for prophecy never came

by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:20-21).

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