During a U.S.
House of Representatives session in 1999, members of Congress were arguing the
merits of allowing schools to post a copy of the Ten Commandments in public
school classrooms. During the argument, one Representative demanded to know
"whose Ten Commandments" would be posted: the Catholic, Protestant, or Jewish?
While all three agree on the Scriptures involved, there are minor differences in
grouping. This page does not take a position on whether the commandments should
be posted or judge who is following them. They are merely posted with a few
thoughts on each.
Commandments (also called the Decalogue) were given to Moses, the great leader
of the Hebrews, over 3,000 years ago after the Hebrews were delivered from
slavery in Egypt. While the Law of Moses is made up of over 600 rules, the Ten
Commandments were a succinct list of rules from which the others were developed.
They are recorded in two chapters of the Hebrew Scriptures (specifically the
Exodus 20 and
When Jesus was
asked, "What must I do to inherit eternal life?", he replied: "You know the
Commandments, keep these and you will live." For now, just notice that Jesus
attests to the importance of the Ten Commandments. This is why Christians still
numbering: there are at least two sets of numbering used, and
both are very old, at least 1,600 years. Most Protestants use the numbering
adopted by Josephus and Origen, but Catholics and Lutherans use the numbering of
St. Augustine, who took it from a Hebrew list in the fifth century. The
numbering is not in the Bible.
tradition (according to Scripture) viewed the Law as a gift from God, not an
option or curse. Christian tradition views sin as enslavement rather than
something fun we are denied. To accept salvation is to be freed from slavery to
sin and raised to a new life. In the table below, you can see the commandments
and how they free us from sin and free us for a new life.
I am the
LORD your God, you shall have no other gods before me.
(Trust in God)
faith in God, freedom from lesser gods: wealth, sex, power, popularity.
shall not take the Name of the LORD your God in vain.
for God and the things of God: prayer, worship, religion.
holy the Sabbath day.
the Sabbath rest, but setting aside time for prayer, good recreation,
your father and your mother.
care and respect for all family members, elders and younger siblings,
too. Respect for elders in general.
shall not kill.
to all, speaking respectfully to all, seeking the best for all.
Respecting others' freedom while still defending all human life.
shall not commit adultery.
actions beyond just abstaining from sexual contact outside of marriage.
Respect for sex and marriage.
shall not steal.
for the rights of others, especially when they get in the way of what we
desire. A commitment to fairness and a willingness to suffer loss rather
than depriving another.
shall not bear false witness.
dedication to what is real and true, even if that reality is against our
shall not covet your neighbor's wife.
desire to want only what God wills. A single-hearted devotion to God's
shall not covet your neighbor's goods.
cooperation in God's own generosity that sees all goods as belonging to
God and freely given for the good of all.