The introduction for Catholics, Lutherans, and other Protestant listings (but the first word for Judaism) deals with God’s gracious establishment of the relationship with Israel.
For the vital importance of this first word of the Decalogue, see the general introduction to the Decalogue, above. Here, the various functions of this verse within the Decalogue, a longstanding matter of debate, will be discussed:
- Introduction to the Decalogue. Those who favor this approach often point to texts like Genesis 15:7 where an An oracle is a divine utterance of guidance, promise, or judgment delivered to humans through an intermediary (who is often also called an oracle). In the Bible oracles are given by Balaam (in the book of Numbers) and by David (in 2 Samuel). A number... of God is introduced in similar terminology (see also Leviticus 18:1-2; or, as a conclusion, Numbers 15:41). This approach suggests that God’s authority lies behind the oracle.
- Part of the first commandment. Those who favor this approach often point to similar texts where God identifies the divine self before forbidding the worship of other gods (Judges 6:8-10; A psalm is a song of praise. In the Old Testament 150 psalms comprise the psalter, although some of the psalms are laments and thanksgivings. In the New Testament early Christians gathered to sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs. 81:8-10). This approach suggests that this verse provides a warrant or motive for adherence to the first commandment, and possibly the rest.
- The first commandment itself. Only Judaism has seen verse 6 as the first commandment, and some recent Jewish interpreters have tended to reject this approach. Their reasons are: (1) you cannot command “belief,” and (2) there are no imperatives (command forms) in verse 6, thereby eliminating verse 6 as a commandment by definition.
- Most interpreters agree that a combination of the first two approaches is preferable. As we saw in the general discussion of the Decalogue above, however, there are, technically speaking, no imperatives in the Decalogue as a whole, so that it may be best to see them as statements about our relationship with God rather than as commands.