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Ten Commandments

by Micha F. Lindemans
The ten rules for daily life given by God to Moses on Mount Sinai. They were, according to Exodus, inscribed on two stone tablets by God himself. Moses later destroyed the tablets in anger over his peoples abandonment of their faith. God then commanded him to hew and inscribe new tablets, and those were deposited in the Ark of the Covenant.

There are two versions of the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:1-17 and Deuteronomy 5:6-21) but the substance is the same in both of them. Most Protestant and Orthodox Christians divide and enumerate them as follows:

  1. prohibition of having any other gods before God;
  2. prohibition of idolatry;
  3. prohibition of the use of the name of God for vain purposes;
  4. observance of the Sabbath;
  5. honoring of one's father and mother;
  6. prohibition of murder;
  7. prohibition of adultery;
  8. prohibition of stealing;
  9. prohibition of giving false testimony;
  10. prohibition of coveting the property or wife of one's neighbor.

Roman Catholics and Lutherans follow the division used by the 4th-century theologian St Augustine of Hippo. The prologue and first two prohibitions are combined and the last is divided into two that prohibit, individually, the coveting of a neighbor's wife and of his property. Thus, the enumeration of the other commandments differs by one. In Jewish tradition, the prologue is considered the first commandment, the first two prohibitions are combined as the second commandment, and the rest follow the same order as the Protestant and Orthodox traditions.


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