Dr. Goodword’s Language Blog

The Most Important Period in History

Much is written about important words and phrases that have shaped the course of human history. So far as I know, the issue of important punctuation marks has been largely ignored.

To me, the most important punctuation mark lies at the end of the Sixth Commandment in the Old Testament: “Thou shalt not kill.” This Commandment seems a very sweeping one: Thou shalt not kill—period. What was God (or Moses) thinking about? Any human will tell you that it should have read: “Thou shalt not kill except in case of war” or at least “Thou shalt not kill except in self defense.” Thou shalt not kill—period? Certainly, killing must be OK if you are or represent a state rather than an individual. Was God careless? Stupid? Or is this all a misunderstanding resulting from a bad translation?

Libraries have been written on the implication of this period and what appears before it, especially the various and potential senses of the Hebrew word for “kill”. Below are a few well-written articles available on the Web that provide researched starting points for anyone wishing to pursue the issue. My point—for those who may have doubts—is simply how profoundly important punctuation may be.


Siegel, Elizer “Thou Shalt not Murder”. Jewish Free Press October 19, 2000, p. 8. .

Ellor, James E. “Thou Shalt Not Kill”. Encyclopedia of Death and Dying, Undated.

Deem, Richard “Thou Shalt Not Kill: Does God Violate His Own Commandment?” Last modified November 29, 2007.

One Response to “The Most Important Period in History”

  1. Stargzer Says:

    Another piece of punctuation that has sparked volumes upon volumes of commentary and argument is the simple comma, specifically, the third comma in the Second Amendment to the U. S. Constitution as passed by the House and Senate. Wikipedia has an article on the Second Amendment ( ). It appears that the copy passed by the House and Senate had two more commas than the original copy and the copies send to the States. What would the original drafters have given for a simple word processor with cut-and-paste?

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