You may or may not remember the advertising mogul Ted Turner — or you might notice as you watch those great old movies on his TV channel and say, "Oh, that Ted Turner." Anyway, he made a speech one day where he is quoted, "The Ten Commandments are obsolete and I have written my own, which are up-to-date for the modern man." I don't know if he carved them on stone or posted them on one of his billboards, but the man has never lost his modesty.
Had Turner done just a tad of homework, he would have known that the Ten Commandments — the Decalogue — or Ten Words as known in churches as well as academic circles — is not as simple as it appears. By the time of Christ, there was a massive document called the Mishna, which tried to get to the root of all the possibilities on how the faithful Jew could obey these 10 laws. Most everyone wanted to be obedient and continue to be blessed by a God who demanded precise attention to his laws. Read Leviticus in your spare time and you'll see the difficulties. And, by the way, there was also a series of books called the Talmud, which explained the Mishna. Not only that, but some rabbis have said there were 612 or 621 additional laws in the Hebrew bible.
Many present-day scholars of the Bible — and I mean any reader of this authoritative text as well — believe that when Jesus referred to the law, as He did in Matthew 5:17-20, he was speaking of the Ten Commandments. I would proof-text my position by pointing to Matthew 22:34-40 when Jesus tells the young lawyer, "...love the Lord your God with all your heart and your neighbor as yourself." This is the Decalogue in its absolute essence. The first four commandments belong to God and the remaining six belong to human kind.
Our Lord did not mince words, so when He made such a statement, I believe every Christian should not only be aware of each and every commandment but attempt to follow them to the letter. I'll never forget my first day in a class at seminary when the professor said, "Take out a sheet of paper and show me what you know. Where do you find the first reference to the Decalogue? After that, write them in order. Then, boys and girls, give me the most complete answer that explains your understanding of each commandment. In fact, better take out a notebook to give me the answers. Good luck!"
We were tested after every class and the testing stopped when every student got a "Satisfactory." We just about wore out the copies of the Mishna and the Talmud that semester.
As a response to anyone who chooses to believe the Ten Commandments were reserved for a bunch of wandering uneducated primitive people, I would ask him or her to rethink that position. Why? If we study the Ten Commandments and truly apply them as Christ would have us do, there would be no necessity of writing a new set of rules. This was the basic complaint against the Scribes and the Pharisees.
God has given us all that we need. How can we add or change perfection?