The 613 Commandments

So last week in my Humanities course we were looking at the Sermon on the Mount and the parable of prodigal son in Luke, and I was providing the class with some historical context about the nature of what it meant to keep the covenant in the First Century CE.

"There were over 600 laws that you had to observe to be in right relationship to God," I told the class.  "And in Matthew 5-7, Jesus essentially redefines what it means to keep the covenant.   I mean  there were laws for everything: how to worship, how to eat, what to wear and not wear."

A hand goes up.  "Yes?"

"Why were there so many laws?"

And suddenly all I could think of was the first syllabus I drew up when I began teaching.  No late policy, nothing on attendance, length of papers, font size...  Now my syllabus has 613 little rules (okay, that may be hyperbole).  And nearly every one arose in response to an earlier lack of clarity about something or a former student who ingeniously ferreted out a loophole in a past syllabus.

And those are just my rules.  I haven't mentioned the required institutional syllabus statement, the mandatory class credit-hour statement, the assessment stuff, a plagiarism policy, FERPA...   My syllabus is beginning to rival the Deuteronomic Code.

So my student's question was on the money..  Why are there so many laws in education and not more gospel?


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