It could perhaps be argued that 'thou shalt not' is one of the most revolutionary ideas in civilization. If you think about Moses and the Ten Commandments--the prohibition about worshipping false gods, making graven images, worshipping any god but God, and the subsequent thou shalt nots of life--it runs counter to the conventional wisdom of the time, which produced an environment where every conceivable god was included--think of Paul in Athens for instance, where, in a city devoted to philosophy and discourse, there are statues, idols and altars to every conceivable god, including one to the 'unknown god'--the just-in-case altar if you will. But Judaism and subsequently Christianity functions on a reversal-the idea of religious falsehood. Rather than covering all the possibilities, avoiding the wrong options becomes paramount. This is the mechanism that begins the shift from monolatry to monotheism.
This idea runs through Judeo-Christianity's long relationship with society and culture, and threads through its own internal discourses and strife--"Lord of all power and might, the author and giver of all good things, increase in us true religion" (a prayer not about the relation between christianity and other religions, but between true and false christianity-prompted by the schism of the Reformation). The focus on falsehood is the backbone of Christianity-focusing on the truth; identifying false prophets, on and on, a religion built upon exposing falsehoods anywhere and everywhere. And with this perspective comes a particular shadow or fear. In a world inhabited by a pantheon of deities the fear is missing or forgetting one and incurring its wrath-the reverse is idolatry and its partner heresy.
But of course, there is Jesus, who seems to reverse the reversal--'a new commandment' not a prohibition, not a 'thou shalt not' but an invitation, an imperative. Perhaps, even Paul, whose discourse in Athens has been used to underscore the religious falsehood equation, took a different approach--there was commendation and expansion, rather than damning accusation. Now I don't want to set up a false disconnect, its very east to present Jesus as a negator of all that came before, which happens a lot, and I don't think that, but it does seem that in his words and practices he offers a different interpretation of this thread.
I wonder if it might be linked to the different world Jesus found himself in--not the world of the Egyptians etc. whose views seemed to influence and shape the Hebrew counterview, but also the Hellenistic/Roman world, so there are cumulative influences--if as Feuerbach asserted, religion is social production (not talking about whether or not god exists, but simply that we incorporate god into our cultural sense of things and vice versa), then it would make sense that views about the nature of things would shift and transition. Which of course brings us to today--the exchange of priorities in religion from maybe things like sin, salvation and service to personhood, individuality and connecting or belonging, the shift from monarchy/hierarchy/feudalism models of power to democracy--brings god out of the sky on any number of levels and invites new understandings about how we do and dont relate to the sacred. And, I think, after centuries of prioritising religious falsehood as a principle lens through which we might consider the god/goods equation, we find ourselves in a less-convinced monotheistic grid, perhaps more monolatry--god among gods, living with new relations between the various views.
All of this of course, presents problems on so many levels with the "thou shalt not" approach to life-we live in an era of permissibility rather than prohibition--a "why-not?" rather than a "why shouldn't" era--this is a monumental change and it presents huge challenges for how we take Christianity forward. Or at least it seems to right now, but I am writing this in the midst of a 'flu-fog' and a level of professional frustration and anxiety that is very high, theologically and ecclesiologically I find myself on the edge of something...what I don't know, but i should stop because I think I have more thinking to do. I'll post this anyway, but feel free to ignore:)