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Different Versions of the Ten Commandments

Catholic Ten Commandments

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The use of the term “Catholic” Ten Commandments is meant loosely because both Catholics and Lutherans follow this particular listing which is based upon the version found in Deuteronomy. This text was likely written in the seventh century BCE, around 300 years later than the Exodus text which forms the basis for the “Protestant” version of the Ten Commandments. Some scholars believe, however, that this formulation could date back to an earlier version than the one in Exodus.

Here is how the original verses read:

I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery; you shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, punishing children for the iniquity of parents, to the third and fourth generation of those who reject me, but showing steadfast love to the thousandth generation of those who love me and keep my commandments. You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not acquit anyone who misuses his name.

Observe the sabbath day and keep it holy, as the Lord your God commanded you. Six days you shall labor and do all your work. But the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God; you shall not do any work –you, or your son or your daughter, or your male or female slave, or your ox or your donkey, or any of your livestock, or the resident alien in your towns, so that your male and female slave may rest as well as you. Remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God brought you out from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm; therefore the Lord your God commanded you to keep the sabbath day.

Honor your father and your mother, as the Lord your God commanded you, so that your days may be long and that it may go well with you in the land that the Lord your God is giving you. You shall not murder. Neither shall you commit adultery. Neither shall you steal. Neither shall you bear false witness against your neighbor. Neither shall you covet your neighbor’s wife. Neither shall you desire your neighbor’s house, or field, or male or female slave, or ox, or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor. (Deuteronomy 5:6-17)

 

Of course, when Catholics post the Ten Commandments in their home or church, they don’t typically write all of that out. It isn’t even clear in these verses which commandment is which. Thus, a shortened and concise version has been created to make posting, reading, and memorization easier.

 

Abbreviated Catholic Ten Commandments:

  1. I, the Lord, am your God. You shall not have other gods besides me.
  2. You shall not take the name of the Lord God in vain
  3. Remember to keep holy the Lord's Day
  4. Honor your father and your mother
  5. You shall not kill
  6. You shall not commit adultery
  7. You shall not steal
  8. You shall not bear false witness
  9. You shall not covet your neighbor's wife
  10. You shall not covet your neighbor's goods

Whenever someone tries to have the Ten Commandments posted by the government on public property, it is almost inevitable that this Catholic version is not used. Instead, people chose the Protestant listing. The reason is likely the long-standing Protestant dominance in American public and civic life.

There have always been more Protestants in America than any other religious denomination and so whenever religion has intruded into state activities, it has typically done so from a Protestant perspective. When students were expected to read the Bible in public schools, for example, they were forced to read the King James translation favored by Protestants; the Catholic Douay translation was forbidden.

« Ten Commandments: Protestant Version | Ten Commandments: Catholic vs. Protestant Commandments »

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