The Ten Commandments

Harper’s Magazine, January 1995, p. 17.

[From Black Bible Chronicles, a new version of the Bible published by African American Family Press, in New York City. In a foreword to the book, Andrew Young, the former mayor of Atlanta, writes that in order to be ‘truly relevant’ to young people, the Bible ‘must be in a language familiar to their culture.’ The selection below is from the book of Exodus.]

  1. I am the Almighty, your God, who brought you outta Egypt when things were tough. Don’t put anyone else before Me.
  2. Don’t make any carved objects or things that look like what is in heaven or below. And don’t bow down to these things like they are anything heavy. Not ever!
  3. You shouldn’t dis the Almighty’s name, using it in cuss words or rapping with one another. It ain’t cool, and payback’s a monster.
  4. After you’ve worked six days, give the seventh to the Almighty. (The Almightly made the heavens and earth in six days. He rested on the seventh day and blessed it as right on.)
  5. You shouldn’t be takin’ nothin’ from your homeboys.
  6. Give honor to your mom and dad, and you’ll live a long time.
  7. Don’t waste nobody.
  8. Don’t mess around with someone else’s ol’ man or ol’ lady.
  9. Don’t go ’round telling lies on your homebuddies.
  10. Don’t want what you can’t have or what your homebuddy has. It ain’t cool.