The Ten Commandments

10commandments_2425344b

What most don’t know about the Ten Commandments is that there are three different ways of numbering them.  In my opinion only one of these is technically correct if you’re going off the Exodus 20 Narrative.  I will list each and explain along with my own understanding Biblically.

Jewish/Talmudic Tradition

You can find a listing of the Jewish Ten Commandments at the source I am pulling from HERE.  This numbering system was developed in the third century by the Jews.

I

I am the Lord thy god, who brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. Exo 20:2

II

Thou shalt have no other gods before Me. Exo 20:3-6

III

Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain. Exo 20:7

IV

Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy. Exo 20:8-11

V

Honor thy father and thy mother. Exo 20:12

VI

Thou shalt not murder. Exo 20:13
VII Thou shalt not commit adultery.

Exo 20:14

VIII Thou shalt not steal.

Exo 20:15

IX Thou shalt not bear false witness against they neighbor.

Exo 20:16

X Thou shalt not covet anything that belongs to thy neighbor.

Exo 20:17

The commandment that should stand out to you above would be the first.  Christians generally don’t consider this to be a commandment.  First and foremost because it is not telling you to do or not do something.  Second because it only applies to Jewish people.

One should keep in mind that the above is the modern Jewish tradition.  Back in Joesphus day the Ten Commandments were counted like protestants and the Greek Orthodox do today.  You can find a source on that HERE and HERE.

Christian – Augustine

I

Thou shalt have no other gods before Me. Exo 20:3-6

II

Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain. Exo 20:7

III

Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy. Exo 20:8-11

IV

Honor thy father and thy mother. Exo 20:12

V

Thou shalt not murder. Exo 20:13

VI

Thou shalt not commit adultery. Exo 20:14
VII Thou shalt not steal.

Exo 20:15

VIII Thou shalt not bear false witness against they neighbor.

Exo 20:16

IX Thou shalt not covet thy neighbors house.

Exo 20:17

X Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife, nor his man-servant, nor his maid-servant, nor his cattle, nor anything that is his.

Exo 20:17

This is the Augustinian Christian numbering of the Ten Commandments. It was developed a century after the Talmudic version.  It is what is taught in Western traditions such as Lutheranism, and Roman Catholicism.  You can find a listing in the small catechism which is the source I am quoting HERE.

Notice that the first in the Talmudic tradition isn’t there which moves the list up.  To keep the number of “10” the last commandment has been split in two.  I would guess that the reasoning is to separate coveting lifeless possessions vs. coveting family and or livestock.

I don’t personally think that the distinction holds though as it is not the object of coveting that is being taught but the act or desire of coveting itself.  It seems telling that even Martin Luther combines the two in the Large Catechism.

Christian – Philonic

This is likely the most prevalent numbering of the ten commandments in the United States.  It is certainly the oldest.  As stated above it is the numbering that the first century Jews utilized as per records dating to that era.  You can find the sources I am pulling from HERE and HERE.

I You shall have no other gods before me. Exo 20:3-6
II You shall not make for yourself an idol. Exo 20:3-6
III You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God. Exo 20:7
IV Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Exo 20:8-11
V Honor your father and your mother. Exo 20:12
VI You shall not murder. Exo 20:13
VII You shall not commit adultery. Exo 20:14
VIII You shall not steal. Exo 20:15
IX You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor. Exo 20:16
X You shall not covet. Exo 20:17

Above you will see that this numbering makes more sense with regards to the last commandment.  Like the Augustine version it also doesn’t have the first commandment found in the Talmudic version.  Here the commandment on worship and idolatry is listed as two different commandments.

Though there are three “thou shalts” in this commandment they all center around the same thing, which is worship.

Thou shalt have no other gods before me.;

Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth:;

Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me;” Exo 20:3-5 KJV

Which numbering is Correct?

Which numbering is the correct one?  I would argue that if we are basing the assessment solely off Exodus 20 it would be the Philonic version.  This is because the Ten Commandments are referred to as being “ten” in several places in scripture, and it is logical to presume that since this is the oldest tradition we know of it is the one being referred to.

 

“And he declared unto you his covenant, which he commanded you to perform, even ten commandments; and he wrote them upon two tables of stone.” Deu 4:13 KJV

Allow me to point out the obvious here, when you see “Ten Commandments” and “tables of stone” mentioned in scripture the logical referent is the older numbering that would have been in use at the time.

“9 There was nothing in the ark save the two tables of stone, which Moses put there at Horeb, when the Lord made a covenant with the children of Israel, when they came out of the land of Egypt. 21 And I have set there a place for the ark, wherein is the covenant of the Lord, which he made with our fathers, when he brought them out of the land of Egypt.; ” 1Ki 8:9, 21 KJV

Notice above that this same counting of the ten commandments is defined as being part of the Old Covenant.

“1 Then verily the first covenant had also ordinances of divine service, and a worldly sanctuary….; 4 Which had the golden censer, and the ark of the covenant overlaid round about with gold, wherein was the golden pot that had manna, and Aaron’s rod that budded, and the tables of the covenantHeb 9:1,4 KJV

Notice above that this inclusion of the Ten Commandments, logically with the Philonic numbering, is also identified as part of the Old Covenant.

“7 For if that first covenant had been faultless, then should no place have been sought for the second…. 13 In that he saith, A new covenant, he hath made the first old [obsolete]. Now that which decayeth and waxeth old is ready to vanish away.; ” Heb 8:7, 13 KJV

Newer versions use the word obsolete, I have added that in brackets above as I think it drives the point home.  Since the Ten Commandments were clearly part of the Old Covenant, which is now obsolete, it follows that Exodus 20 is not where a Christian should go to list or even number the Ten Commandments.  It is certainly the most convenient, but not necessarily the most theologically accurate method.

Even though it is a pain I think we should make it clear that the place we go to catechize the Ten Commandments should be the New Testament.  If you want a full list of verses and a walk-through of Biblical reasoning on this please click HERE.

New Covenant – Ten Commandments

Notice that 1 of the 10 commandments is not prescriptively taught in the New Covenant after the cross at all.

I

You shall have no other gods before me. Act 14:151Co 8:5, 6

II

You shall not make for yourself an idol. 1Co 10:7, 141Jn 5:21   

III

You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God. Col 3:8

IV

Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy. NONE

V

Honor your father and your mother. Eph 6:12Col 3:20

VI

You shall not murder. Rom 13:9 ,  1Pe 4:15  
VII Thou shalt not commit adultery.

Rom 7:21Co 6:9  

VIII Thou shalt not steal.

Rom 13:9,  Eph 4:28

IX Thou shalt not bear false witness against they neighbor.

Eph 4:25Col 3:9

X Thou shalt not covet anything that belongs to thy neighbor.

Rom 13:9Heb 13:5

 Above I have listed the Ten Commandments according to the Philonic method with the corresponding new testament passages.  Take a look, you will see that each new testament passage either prescriptively issues the commandment or demonstrates gentile observance after the cross.

The fourth commandment is never commanded for gentiles and verses such as (Col 2:16-17) outright cancel it out.  I would argue that the Sabbath is now received in Gospel fulfillment along with all of the other Ceremonial Laws.

Really! Only 9 Commandments?!? 

Yeah that’s a sound Biblical conclusion to come to and if you want to sing that song I won’t say anything against you.  A more important thing to understand is that our prescriptive commands in the New Covenant are found in the Law of Christ that Paul speaks of in (1Cor 9:20-23).

Here is the punchline, they are not numbered in any kind of order in the New Testament.  You can arrange them however you like.  You can even divide them up so that they make ten if you want.  You can also teach the Sabbath command in a first table sense so that it comes out to 10 if you really like that number.  This is pretty much what Luther did in the Large and Small Catechisms.  Read them carefully, he is teaching them from a New Covenant perspective not an Old Covenant one.

Take a close look at his teaching on the Sabbath command in particular.  To summarize, Luther ties it to the first commandment to worship God.  He is clear that the holiness of the day is simply because that is the day the Church has set aside to preach the Word.  Which is a holy thing indeed and should not be despised.

The day is chosen in Christian freedom, something that is okay to establish tradition in.  Luther is very balanced and Biblical in his analysis and teaching.  Sadly many of the other reformers were not so clear and this has lead to a great deal of confusion.  I would argue that one of the many reasons that cults have been so able to flourish is due to the failure of so many reformers to rightly divide the word on the Commandments.  This is one of the many reasons that I have chosen to study under Luther.

Conclusion

I would argue that how one numbers the Ten Commandments is a matter of tradition.  There is no theologically correct or incorrect answer with regards to numbering if approached from a New Covenant perspective as they are not presented in any particular order by the Apostles.

Which numbering to I prefer?  Luther used the Augustine tradition and taught it from a New Covenant perspective.  So because of that, and the fact that I have the freedom to pick then I am gonna go with the way he taught it.  That said, it isn’t something I would argue over either.  If you prefer the Philonic method due to is age rock on.  As Augustine says:

“In Essentials Unity, In Non-Essentials Liberty, In All Things Charity” – St. Augustine

 

Advertisements

About ACTheologian

I am a layman who blogs my Biblical studies. Enjoy, please read with an open Bible and do double check with your pastor.
This entry was posted in Armchair Lounge, Christianity 101 and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to The Ten Commandments

  1. Jason Skudlarek says:

    Hi,
    Been reading your blog for a few weeks now. Really enjoy the sound Lutheran doctrine.

    Regarding the numbering of the 10 Commandments, it always bothered me (as a Lutheran) that Luther upheld Augustine’s numbering convention, as non-Lutherans (“American evangelicals”) tend to use it as a means of proving Luther didn’t go far enough in removing the vestiges of Rome during the Reformation, and that he espoused the use of images in worship (by omitting Commandment 1b). Of course, as Lutherans, we know Luther railed against the use of relics and such, but the fact that the Small Catechism is silent on this issue is damaging. The modern American evangelical will then use this issue to springboard and attack infant baptism and real presence/sacramental union, etc., saying Luther was clinging to Rome in these doctrines as well.

    However, it turns out that Augustine (and Luther) were closest to the true numbering schema.

    I’ll link this video describing the Dead Sea Scrolls and a later document called “Oriental 4445” if you want further insight:

    http://martin.cuw.edu/Panopto/Pages/Viewer.aspx?id=8a56a8eb-d309-43d3-87bd-3dbdbc248741

    In particular, check out about 16:23 into the video, which shows the oldest known Hebraic Old Testament manuscript (Oriental 4445, 850-950 AD) and how the commandments were divided. Augustine used the same convention, and Luther took his convention.

    If nothing else, this provides concrete evidence that neither Augustine nor Luther were trying to “omit” 1b, but rather that 1b falls under the purview of 1.

    Thanks,
    Jason

    Liked by 1 person

    • Armchair Theologian says:

      Hey thanks! I hope you don’t mind if I add the video to the blog post for others. That is really enlightening!

      Personally I think alot of well meaning protestants take the graven images out of context. In doing so they have placed an over emphasis on the old covenant ten commandments which has helped in the formation of cults that outright deny the new covenant almost if not altogether.

      If some of these Baptists would at least stop calling Sunday the “Sabbath” that would be really sweet.

      Like

  2. James V. says:

    Love this! Would you consider doing an article in response to those who say that the symbolism in the Lutheran church are graven images? Like the Crucifix.

    Liked by 1 person

    • ACTheologian says:

      Yes that’s a great idea thanks! I will have to read up on it though.

      The main thing is their primary source is the Westminster Confession not the Bible. So it’s easy to refute if you reject the Westminster Confession.

      Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s