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The Ten Commandments, or Decalogue, are a list of religious and moral imperatives that according to religious tradition, were written by God and given to Moses on the mountain referred to as "Mount Sinai" (Exodus 19:23) or "Mount Horeb" (Deuteronomy 5:2) in the form of two stone tablets. They feature prominently in Judaism and Christianity. In Biblical Hebrew language, the commandments are termed עשרת הדברים (translit. Aseret ha-Dvarîm) and in Rabbinical Hebrew עשרת הדברות (translit. Aseret ha-Dibrot), both translatable as "the ten statements." The name "Decalogue" is derived from the Greek name δεκάλογος or "dekalogos" ("ten statements") found in the Septuagint (Exodus 34:28, Deuteronomy 10:4), which is the Greek translation of the Hebrew name.
The phrase "Ten Commandments" generally refers to the very similar passages in Exodus 20:2–17 and Deuteronomy 5:6–21. Some distinguish between this "Ethical Decalogue" and a series of ten commandments in Exodus 34 that are labelled the "Ritual Decalogue."
The commandments passage in Exodus contains more than ten imperative statements, totalling fourteen or fifteen in all. However, the Bible itself assigns the count of "ten" to the list, using the Hebrew phrase ʻaseret had'varim. Various religions divide these statements among the Commandments in different ways, and may also translate the Commandments differently.
Text of the Ten Commandments
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The lists which are commonly known as the Ten Commandments are given in passages in two books of the Bible: Exodus 20:2–17 and Deuteronomy 5:6–21. These passages are provided in English below, using the New Revised Standard Version translation and formatting. Various religions and denominations group the commandments differently; see the Division of the commandments section for a detailed accounting.
|Exodus 20:2–17||Deuteronomy 5:6–21|
|2 I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery;
3 Do not have any other gods before Me.
4 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.
5 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 the fourth generation of those who reject me,
6 but showing steadfast love to the thousandth generation of those who love me and keep my commandments.
7 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.
8 Remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy.
9 For six days you shall labour and do all your work.
10 But the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God; you shall not do any work—you, your son or your daughter, your male or female slave, your livestock, or the alien resident in your towns.
11 For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but rested the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and consecrated it.
12 Honor your father and your mother, so that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.
13 You shall not murder.
14 You shall not commit adultery.
15 You shall not steal.
16 You shall not bear false witness against your neighbour.
17 You shall not covet your neighbour’s house; you shall not covet your neighbour’s wife, or male or female slave, or ox, or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbour.
|6 I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery;
7 you shall have no other gods before me.
8 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.
9 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,
10 but showing steadfast love to the thousandth generation of those who love me and keep my commandments.
11 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.
12 Observe the sabbath day and keep it holy, as the Lord your God commanded you.
13 For six days you shall labour and do all your work.
14 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.
15 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.
16 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.
17 You shall not murder.
18 Neither shall you commit adultery.
19 Neither shall you steal.
20 Neither shall you bear false witness against your neighbour.
21 Neither shall you covet your neighbour’s wife. Neither shall you desire your neighbour’s house, or field, or male or female slave, or ox, or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbour.
Division of the Commandments
The commandments passage in Exodus contains more than ten imperative statements, totalling 14 or 15 in all. While the Bible itself assigns the count of "10", using the Hebrew phrase ʻaseret had'varim—translated as the 10 words, statements or things, this phrase does not appear in the passages usually presented as being "the Ten Commandments". Various religions divide the commandments differently. The table below highlights those differences.
|Commandment||Jewish||Orthodox||Roman Catholic*, Lutheran**||Anglican, Reformed, and other Christian|
|I am the Lord your God||1||1||1||preface|
|You shall have no other gods before me||2||1|
|You shall not make for yourself an idol||2||2|
|You shall not make wrongful use of the name of your God||3||3||2||3|
|Remember the Sabbath and keep it holy||4||4||3||4|
|Honor your Father and Mother||5||5||4||5|
|You shall not murder*||6||6||5||6|
|You shall not commit adultery||7||7||6||7|
|You shall not steal||8||8||7||8|
|You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor||9||9||8||9|
|You shall not covet your neighbor's house||10||10||9||10|
|You shall not covet your neighbor's wife||10|
|*||The Roman Catholic Church uses the translation 'kill' (less specific) instead of 'murder'.|
|**||Some Lutheran churches use a slightly different division of the Ninth and Tenth Commandments (9. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's house; 10. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his workers, or his cattle, or anything that is your neighbor’s).|
According to Biblical text, the commandments represent the utterances of God on Mount Sinai. There are biblical passages that also refer to ten commandments being written by God on stone, and it is widely though not universally held that these were the Ten Commandments as detailed (see also: "Ritual Decalogue" for an alternative view). The commandments were inscribed on what is called "tablets of stone", also referred to as "tablets of testimony" or "tablets of the Covenant", that God gave to Moses. Moses then gave them to the people of Israel in the third month after their Exodus from Egypt. Israel's receipt of the commandments occurred on the third day of preparations at the foot of the mount.
The arrangement of the commandments on the two tablets is interpreted in different ways. Rabbi Hanina ben Gamaliel says that each tablet contained five commandments, "but the Sages say ten on one tablet and ten on the other". Because the commandments establish a covenant, it is likely that they were duplicated on both tablets. This can be compared to diplomatic treaties of Ancient Egypt, in which a copy was made for each party.
According to the Talmud, the Biblical verse "the tablets were written on both their sides", implies that the carving went through the full thickness of the tablets. The stones in the center part of some letters were not connected to the rest of the tablet, but they did not fall out. Moreover, the writing was also legible from both sides; it was not a mirror image of the text on the other side. The Talmud regards both phenomena as miraculous.
After receiving the commandments and returning to Mount Sinai, Moses saw that the Israelites had "defiled themselves", and that his brother, Aaron, had made a Golden Calf and an altar in front of it. Moses, in terrible anger, broke the tablets. God later offered Moses to carve two other tablets, to replace the ones he smashed. God himself appears as the writer. This second set, brought down from Mount Sinai by Moses, was placed in the Ark of the Covenant, hence designated as the "Ark of the Testimony."
The Bible also makes other references to the commandments. References to them and the consequences for not following them are found throughout the book of Deuteronomy. Jesus refers to the commandments in several verses, and condenses them into two general commands:
"You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind." This is the great general commandment that Jesus took from the book of Deuteronomy (6: 5). And a second is like unto it: "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.
Significance of the Decalogue
The Torah includes hundreds of commandments (generally enumerated in Rabbinic Judaism as 613 mitzvot), including the ten from the Decalogue. When compared to the whole canon of Jewish law, the Ten Commandments are not given any greater significance in observance or special status. In fact, when undue emphasis was being placed on them, their daily communal recitation was discontinued. Jewish tradition does, however, recognize them as the ideological basis for the rest of the commandments; a number of works (starting with Rabbi Saadia Gaon) have made groupings of the commandments according to their links with the Ten Commandments.
The traditional Rabbinical Jewish belief is that the observance of these commandments and the other mitzvot are required solely of the Jewish people, and that the laws incumbent on humanity in general are outlined in the seven Noahide Laws (several of which overlap with the Ten Commandments). In the era of the Sanhedrin, transgressing any one of six of the Ten Commandments theoretically carried the death penalty, though this was rarely enforced due to a large number of stringent evidentiary requirements imposed by the oral law.
Traditional division and interpretation
According to the Medieval Sefer ha-Chinuch, the first four statements concern the relationship between God and humans, while the next six statements concern the relationships between people. Rabbinic literature holds that the Ten Statements in fact contain 14 or 15 distinct instructions.
- "I am the LORD your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt,
from the house of slavery. You shall have no other gods before Me..."
- This commandment is to believe in the existence of God and His influence on events in the world, and that the goal of the redemption from Egypt was to become His servants (Rashi). It prohibits belief in or worship of any additional deities.
- "Do not make an image or any likeness of what is in the heavens above..."
- This prohibits the construction or fashioning of "idols" in the likeness of created things (beasts, fish, birds, people) and worshipping them.
- "Do not swear falsely by the name of the LORD..."
- This commandment is to never take the name of God in a vain, pointless or insincere oath.
- "Remember [zachor] the Sabbath day and keep it holy" (the version in Deuteronomy reads shamor, "observe")
- The seventh day of the week is termed Shabbat and is holy, just as God ceased creative activity during Creation. The aspect of zachor is performed by declaring the greatness of the day (kiddush), by having three festive meals, and by engaging in Torah study and pleasurable activities. The aspect of shamor is performed by abstaining from productive activity (39 melachot) on the Shabbat.
- "Honor your father and your mother..."
- The obligation to honor one's parents is an obligation that one owes to God and fulfills this obligation through one's actions towards one's parents.
- "Do not murder"
- Murdering a human being is a capital sin.
- "Do not commit adultery."
- Adultery is defined as sexual intercourse between a man and a married woman who is not his wife.
- "Do not steal."
- This is not understood as stealing in the conventional sense, since theft of property is forbidden elsewhere and is not a capital offense. In this context it is to be taken as "do not kidnap."
- "Do not bear false witness against your neighbor"
- One must not bear false witness in a court of law or other proceeding.
- "Do not covet your neighbor's wife"
- One is forbidden to desire and plan how one may obtain that which God has given to another. Maimonides makes a distinction in codifying the laws between the instruction given here in Exodus (You shall not covet) and that given in Deuteronomy (You shall not desire), according to which one does not violate the Exodus commandment unless there is a physical action associated with the desire, even if this is legally purchasing an envied object.
The Samaritan Pentateuch varies in the ten commandments passages, both in that their Deuteronomical version of the passage is much closer to that in Exodus, and in the addition of a commandment on the sanctity of Mount Gerizim.
The text of the commandment follows:
- And it shall come to pass when the Lord thy God will bring thee into the land of the Canaanites whither thou goest to take possession of it, thou shalt erect unto thee large stones, and thou shalt cover them with lime, and thou shalt write upon the stones all the words of this Law, and it shall come to pass when ye cross the Jordan, ye shall erect these stones which I command thee upon Mount Gerizim, and thou shalt build there an altar unto the Lord thy God, an altar of stones, and thou shalt not lift upon them iron, of perfect stones shalt thou build thine altar, and thou shalt bring upon it burnt offerings to the Lord thy God, and thou shalt sacrifice peace offerings, and thou shalt eat there and rejoice before the Lord thy God. That mountain is on the other side of the Jordan at the end of the road towards the going down of the sun in the land of the Canaanites who dwell in the Arabah facing Gilgal close by Elon Moreh facing Shechem.
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Roman Catholic and Lutheran Christianity
The Lutheran and Roman Catholic division of the commandments both follow the one established by St. Augustine, following the then current synagogue scribal division. The first three commandments govern the relationship between God and humans, the fourth through eighth govern public relationships between people, and the last two govern private thoughts. For additional information on the Catholic understanding of the Ten Commandments, see the Catechism of the Catholic Church (1994), sections 2052–2557. References to the Catechism are provided below for each commandment as well as the interpretation used by Lutherans and Catholics. The following text is from Deuteronomy 5:6–5:21 NRSV
- "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."
- This commandment prohibits not just swearing but the misappropriation of religious language in order to commit a crime, participating in occult practices, and blaspheming against places or people that are holy to God. (See Catechism 2142–2167.)
- "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."
- This commandment emphasizes the family as part of God's design, as well as an extended metaphor that God uses for his relationship with his creation. (See Catechism 2197–2257.)
- "(Roman Catholic) You shall not kill / (Lutheran) You shall not murder"
- The right of states to execute criminals is not absolutely forbidden by this commandment. However, other methods of protecting society (incarceration, rehabilitation) are increasingly available and more in keeping with other Christian moral teaching. Catholics (along with many Protestants) also consider abortion sinful and a violation of this commandment. War, if rigorous conditions of moral legitimacy are met (that is, the "use of arms must not produce evils and disorders graver than the evil to be eliminated"), is not a violation because "governments cannot be denied the right of lawful self-defense, once all peace efforts have failed." (See Catechism 2258–2330.)
- "Neither shall you commit adultery."
- Adultery is the breaking of the holy bond between husband and wife, and is thus a sacrilege. This commandment includes not just the act of adultery, but lust as well. (See Catechism 2331–2400.)
- "Neither shall you steal."
- (See Catechism 2401–2463.)
- "Neither shall you bear false witness against your neighbor."
- This commandment forbids misrepresenting the truth in relations with others. This also forbids lying. (See Catechism 2464–2513.)
- "Neither shall you covet your neighbor's wife."
- (See Catechism 2514–2533.)
- "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
- (See Catechism 2534–2557.)
The Commandments are seen as general "subject headings" for moral theology, in addition to being specific commandments in themselves. Thus, the commandment to honor father and mother is seen as a heading for a general rule to respect legitimate authority, including the authority of the state. The commandment not to commit adultery is traditionally taken to be a heading for a general rule to be sexually pure, the specific content of the purity depending, of course, on whether one is married or not. In this way, the Ten Commandments can be seen as dividing up all of morality.
There are many different denominations of Protestantism, and it is impossible to generalize in a way that covers them all. However, this diversity arose historically from fewer sources, the various teachings of which can be summarized, in general terms.
Lutherans, Reformed and Anglicans, and Anabaptists all taught, and their descendants still predominantly teach, that the Ten Commandments have both an explicitly negative content, and an implied positive content. Besides those things that ought not to be done, there are things which ought not to be left undone. So that, besides not transgressing the prohibitions, a faithful abiding by the commands of God includes keeping the obligations of love. The ethic contained in the Ten Commandments and indeed in all of Scripture is, "Love the Lord your God with all of your heart, and mind, and soul, and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself", and, "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you."
Lutherans theorize that there is an antithesis between these two sides of the Word of God, the positive and the negative. Love and gratitude is a guide to those under the Gospel, and the prohibitions are for unbelievers and profane people. This antithesis between Law and Gospel runs through every ethical command, according to Lutheran understanding.
Reformed and Anglicans have taught the abiding validity of the commandments, and call it a summation of the "moral law", binding on all people. However, they emphasize the union of the believer with Christ - so that the will and power to perform the commandments does not arise from the commandment itself, but from the gift of the Holy Spirit. Apart from this grace, the commandment is only productive of condemnation, according to this family of doctrine.
Modern Evangelicalism, under the influence of dispensationalism, commonly denies that the commandments have any abiding validity as a requirement binding upon Christians; however, they contain principles which are beneficial to the believer. Dispensationalism is particularly emphatic about the dangers of legalism, and thus, in a distinctive way de-emphasizes the teaching of the law (see also antinomianism). Somewhat analogously, Pentecostalism and the Charismatic movement typically emphasizes the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and the freedom of the Christian from outward commandments, sometimes in antithesis to the letter of the Law. Quakers and Pietists have historically set themselves against the Law as a form of commandment binding on Christians, and have emphasized the inner guidance and liberty of the believer, so that the law is fulfilled not merely by avoiding what the Law prohibits, but by carrying out what the Spirit of God urges upon their conscience.
Typical Protestant view
For those Christians who believe that the Ten Commandments continue to be binding for Christians (see also Old Testament—Christian view of the Law and Cafeteria Christianity), their negative and positive content can be summarized as follows.
- Preface: vs 1–2
Implies the obligation to keep all of the commandments of God, in gratitude because of the abundance of his mercy.
Forbids ingratitude to God and denial that he is our God.
- vs 3
Enjoins that God must be known and acknowledged to be the only true God, and our God; and, to worship him and to make him known as he has been made known to us.
Forbids not worshiping and glorifying the true God as God, and as our God; and forbids giving worship and glory to any other, which is due to him alone.
- vs 4–6
Requires receiving, observing, and keeping pure and entire, all such religious worship and ordinances as God has appointed; and zeal in resisting those who would corrupt worship; because of God's ownership of us, and interest in our salvation.
Prohibits the worshiping of God by images, or by confusion of any creature with God, or any other way not appointed in his Word.
- vs 7
Enjoins a holy and a reverent use of God’s names, titles, attributes, ordinances, Word, and works.
Forbids all abuse of anything by which God makes Himself known. Some Protestants, especially in the tradition of pacifism, read this Commandment as forbidding any and all oaths, including judicial oaths and oaths of allegiance to a government, noting that human weakness cannot foretell whether such oaths will in fact be vain.
- vs 8–11
Requires setting apart to God such set times as are appointed in his Word. Many Protestants are increasingly concerned that the values of the marketplace do not dominate entirely, and deprive people of leisure and energy needed for worship, for the creation of civilized culture. The setting of time apart from and free from the demands of commerce is one of the foundations of a decent human society. See Sabbath.
Forbids the omission, or careless performance, of the religious duties, using the day for idleness, or for doing that which is in itself sinful; and prohibits requiring of others any such omission, or transgression, on the designated day.
- vs 12
The only commandment with explicitly positive content, rather than a prohibition; it connects all of the temporal blessings of God, with reverence for and obedience to authority, and especially for father and mother.
Forbids doing anything against, or failing to give, the honor and duty which belongs to anyone, whether because they possess authority or because they are subject to authority.
- vs 13
Requires all lawful endeavors to preserve our own life, and the life of others.
Forbids taking away of our own life, or the life of our neighbor, unjustly (Just taking of life includes self-defense and times of War.); and, anything that tends toward depriving life.
- vs 14
Enjoins protection of our own and our neighbor’s chastity, in heart, speech, and behavior.
Forbids all unchaste thoughts, words, and actions.
- vs 15
Requires a defense of all lawful things that further the wealth and outward estate of ourselves and others.
Prohibits whatever deprives our neighbor, or ourselves, of lawfully gained wealth or outward estate.
- vs 16
Requires the maintaining and promoting of truth between people, and of our neighbor’s good name and our own, especially in witness-bearing.
Forbids whatsoever is prejudicial to truth, or injurious to our own, or our neighbor’s, good name.
- vs 17
Enjoins contentment with our own condition, and a charitable attitude toward our neighbor and all that is his, being thankful for his sake that he has whatever is beneficial to him, as we are for those things that benefit us.
Forbids discontent or envy, prohibits any grief over the betterment of our neighbor's estate, and all inordinate desires to obtain for ourselves, or scheming to wrest for our benefit, anything that is his.
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Judaism · Sikhism
In Islam Moses (Musa) is venerated as one of the greatest prophets of God. However, Islam also teaches that the texts of the Torah and the Gospels have been corrupted from their divine originals over the years, due to carelessness and self-interest. Despite this purported corruption, messages from the Torah and the Gospels still coincide closely with certain verses in the Qur'an. This is by-and-large the case with the Ten Commandments. Consequently, despite the Ten Commandments not being explicitly mentioned in the Qur'an they are substantially similar to the following verses in the Qur'an (using Jewish numbering of the Commandments):
- "There is no other god beside God." (Qur'an 47:19)
- "My Lord, make this a peaceful land, and protect me and my children from worshiping idols." (Qur'an 14:35)
- "Do not subject God's name to your casual swearing, that you may appear righteous, pious, or to attain credibility among the people." (Qur'an 2:224)
- "O you who believe, when the Congregational Prayer (Salat
Al-Jumu`ah) is announced on Friday, you shall hasten to the
commemoration of GOD, and drop all business." (Qur'an 62:9)
The Sabbath was relinquished with the revelation of the Quran. Muslims are told in the Quran that the Sabbath was only decreed for the Jews. (Qur'an 16:124) God, however, ordered Muslims to make every effort and drop all businesses to attend the congregational (Friday) prayer. The Submitters may tend to their business during the rest of the day.
- "....and your parents shall be honoured. As long as one or both of them live, you shall never (even) say to them, "Uff" (the slightest gesture of annoyance), nor shall you shout at them; you shall treat them amicably." (Qur'an 17:23)
- "....anyone who murders any person who had not committed murder or horrendous crimes, it shall be as if he murdered all the people." (Qur'an 5:32)
- "You shall not commit adultery; it is a gross sin, and an evil behaviour." (Qur'an 17:32)
- "The thief, male or female, you shall mark their hands as a punishment for their crime, and to serve as an example from God. God is Almighty, Most Wise." (Qur'an 5:38)
- "Do not withhold any testimony by concealing what you had witnessed. Anyone who withholds a testimony is sinful at heart." (Qur'an 2:283)
- "And do not covet what we bestowed upon any other people. Such are temporary ornaments of this life, whereby we put them to the test. What your Lord provides for you is far better, and everlasting." (Qur'an 20:131)
It can also be noted that in the 17th chapter, "Al-Israa" ("The Night Journey"), verses [Qur'an 17:22], the Qur'an provides a set of moral stipulations which are "among the (precepts of) wisdom, which thy Lord has revealed to thee" that can be reasonably categorised as ten in number. According to S. A. Nigosian, Professor of religious studies at the University of Toronto, these resemble the Ten Commandments in the Bible and "represents the fullest statement of the code of behavior every Muslim must follow".  It should be noted however, that these verses are not regarded by Islamic scholars as being somehow set apart from any other moral stipulations in the Qur'an, nor are they regarded as a substitute, replacement or abrogation of some other set of commandments as found in the previous revelations.
- Worship only God: Take not with Allah another object of worship; or thou (O man!) wilt sit in disgrace and destitution. (17:22)
- Be kind, honourable and humble to one's parents: Thy Lord hath decreed that ye worship none but Him, and that ye be kind to parents. Whether one or both of them attain old age in thy life, say not to them a word of contempt, nor repel them, but address them in terms of honour. (17:23) And, out of kindness, lower to them the wing of humility, and say: "My Lord! bestow on them thy Mercy even as they cherished me in childhood." (17:24)
- Be neither miserly nor wasteful in one's expenditure: And render to the kindred their due rights, as (also) to those in want, and to the wayfarer: But squander not (your wealth) in the manner of a spendthrift. (17:26) Verily spendthrifts are brothers of the Evil Ones; and the Evil One is to his Lord (himself) ungrateful. (17:27) And even if thou hast to turn away from them in pursuit of the Mercy from thy Lord which thou dost expect, yet speak to them a word of easy kindness. (17:28) Make not thy hand tied (like a niggard's) to thy neck, nor stretch it forth to its utmost reach, so that thou become blameworthy and destitute. (17:29)
- Do not engage in 'mercy killings' for fear of starvation: Kill not your children for fear of want: We shall provide sustenance for them as well as for you. Verily the killing of them is a great sin. (17:31)
- Do not commit adultery: Nor come nigh to adultery: for it is a shameful (deed) and an evil, opening the road (to other evils). (17:32)
- Do not kill unjustly: Nor take life - which Allah has made sacred - except for just cause. And if anyone is slain wrongfully, we have given his heir authority (to demand qisas or to forgive): but let him not exceed bounds in the matter of taking life; for he is helped (by the Law). (17:33)
- Care for orphaned children: Come not nigh to the orphan's property except to improve it, until he attains the age of full strength...(17:34)
- Keep one's promises: ...fulfil (every) engagement [i.e. promise/covenant], for (every) engagement will be enquired into (on the Day of Reckoning). (17:34)
- Be honest and fair in one's interactions: Give full measure when ye measure, and weigh with a balance that is straight: that is the most fitting and the most advantageous in the final determination. (17:35)
- Do not be arrogant in one's claims or beliefs: And pursue not that of which thou hast no knowledge; for every act of hearing, or of seeing or of (feeling in) the heart will be enquired into (on the Day of Reckoning). (17:36) Nor walk on the earth with insolence: for thou canst not rend the earth asunder, nor reach the mountains in height. (17:37)
Analogues in other religions and traditions
While other faiths do not generally recognize the Ten Commandments in their unity, many of them (Buddhism, Hinduism, Jainism, etc.) have comparable laws or principles . In atheist Soviet Union the Moral Code of the Builder of Communism had many notions much resembling the Ten Commandments.
Most Christians believe that Sunday is a special day of worship and rest, every week commemorating the Resurrection of Jesus on the first day of the week on the Jewish calendar. Most Christian traditions teach that there is an analogy between the obligation of the Christian day of worship and the Sabbath-day ordinance, but that they are not literally identical—for a believer in Christ the Sabbath ordinance has not so much been removed as superseded, because God's very work of creation has been superseded by a "new creation" (2 Corinthians 5:17), according to this Christian view. For this reason, most teach that the obligation to keep the Sabbath is not the same for Christians as in Judaism, and for support they point to examples in the New Testament, and other writings surviving from the first few centuries. Some conservative Christians, most of them within the Reformed tradition, are "Sabbatarians," believing the first day of the week or Lord's Day to be the new covenant Sabbath (the 4th commandment never having been revoked and Sabbath-keeping being in any case a creation ordinance).
Still others believe that the Sabbath remains as a day of rest on the Saturday, reserving Sunday as a day of worship. In reference to Acts 20:7, the disciples came together on the first day of the week (Sunday) to break bread and to hear the preaching of the apostle Paul. This is not the first occurrence of Christians assembling on a Sunday; Jesus appeared to the Christians on the "first day of the week" while they were in hiding. One can maintain this argument in that Jesus himself maintained the Sabbath, although not within the restrictions that were mandated by Jewish traditions; the Pharisees often tried Jesus by asking him if certain tasks were acceptable according to the Law (see: Luke 14:5). This would seem to indicate that while the Sabbath was still of importance to the Jews, Sunday was a separate day for worship and teaching from Scriptures.
The Seventh-day Adventists, Seventh-Day Baptists, True Jesus Church, United Church of God, Living Church of God and some other churches disagree with some of these views. They argue that the custom of meeting for worship on Sunday originated in paganism, specifically Sol Invictus and Mithraism (in which sun-god worship took place on Sunday) and constitutes an explicit rejection of the commandment to keep the seventh day holy. Instead, they keep Saturday as the Sabbath as a memorial to God's work of creation (Genesis 2:1–3, Exodus 20:8–11, Exodus 16:23,29–30) believing that none of the ten commandments can ever be destroyed (Matthew 5:17–19, Exodus 31:16). Seventh-day sabbatarians claim that the seventh day Sabbath was kept by the majority of Christian groups until the 2nd and 3rd century, by most until the 4th and 5th century, and a few thereafter, but because of opposition to Judaism after the Jewish-Roman wars, the original custom was gradually replaced by Sunday as the day of worship. The history of these changes is certainly not altogether lost regardless of any belief in a suppression of the facts by a conspiracy of the pagans of the Roman Empire and the clergy of the Catholic Church. See Great Apostasy.
Jews had come to be loathed in the Roman Empire after the Jewish-Roman wars, and this led to the criminalization of the Jewish Sabbath. Hatred of Jews is apparent in the Council of Laodicea (4th Century AD) where Canon 37–38 states: "It is not lawful to receive portions sent from the feasts of Jews or heretics, nor to feast together with them." and "It is not lawful to receive unleavened bread from the Jews, nor to be partakers of their impiety."  In keeping with this rejection of the Jews, this Roman council also criminalized the Jewish Sabbath as can be seen in Canon 29 of the Council Laodicea: "Christians must not judaize by resting on the Sabbath, but must work on that day, rather honoring the Lord's Day; and, if they can, resting then as Christians. But if any shall be found to be judaizers, let them be anathema (excommunicated) from Christ."
Killing or murder
Various translations exist of the sixth commandment; the Hebrew words לא תרצח are variously translated as "thou shalt not kill" or "thou shalt not murder". Older Protestant translations of the Bible, those based on the Vulgate and Roman Catholic translations usually render it "Thou shalt not kill", whereas Jewish and newer Protestant versions tend to use "You shall not murder". There is controversy as to which translation is more faithful, and both forms are quoted in support of ethical standpoints.
The Vulgate (Latin) translation has Non occides, i.e. "Thou shalt not kill". English translations using "kill" include the King James (Authorised) (1611) [although note Matthew 19:18 "do no murder", following the Vulgate non homicidium facies], the American Standard (1901) and Revised Standard (American Protestant, 1952) Versions. Almost all Roman Catholic translations, including the Douay-Rheims Bible (1609/1752), the New American Bible (1970), the New Jerusalem Bible (1985) and the Christian Community Bible (1986), have "kill". Martin Luther (German, 1534) also uses töten (kill).
Protestant translations using "murder" include the New International Version (American, 1978), New American Standard Bible (American, 1971), New English Bible (British Protestant, 1970), and the New King James (American, 1982), New Revised Standard (American, 1989) and English Standard (American Protestant, 2001) Versions. Jewish translations almost all use "murder", including the Jewish Publication Society of America Version (1917), the Judaica Press tanach (1963) and the Living Torah (1981). A Jewish exception is the Artscroll or Stone Edition tanach (1996).
The many examples in the Old Testament of killing sanctioned by God, are quoted in defense of the view that "murder" is more accurate. Furthermore, the Hebrew word for "kill" is "הרג" - "harog", while the Hebrew word for "murder" is "רצח" - "retzach", which is found in the Ten Commandments "לא תרצח" - "lo tirtzach".
You shall not steal
Significant voices of academic theologians (such as German Old Testament scholar A. Alt: Das Verbot des Diebstahls im Dekalog (1953)) suggest that commandment "you shall not steal" was originally intended against stealing people—against abductions and slavery, in agreement with the Jewish interpretation of the statement as "you shall not kidnap" (e.g. as stated by Rashi).
Christianity holds that the essential element of the commandment not to make "any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above" is "and bow down and worship it". Another understanding on this comes from Roman Catholicism, they hold that one may build and use "likenesses", as long as the object is not worshipped. As a result, many Roman Catholic Churches and services feature images, some feature statues, and in some Orthodox services, icons are venerated. For most Roman Catholics, this practice is understood as fulfilling the observance of this commandment, as they understand these images are not being worshipped.
Eastern Orthodoxy teaches that the incarnation of invisible God as a visible human, Jesus, makes it permissible and necessary to venerate icons.
For Jews and Muslims veneration violates this commandment. Jews and Muslims read this commandment as prohibiting the use of idols and images in any way.
Some Protestants will picture Jesus in his human form, while refusing to make any image of God or Jesus in Heaven.
Very few Christians oppose the making of any images at all, but some groups have been critical of the use others make of images in worship. (See iconoclasm.) In particular, the Orthodox have criticized the Roman Catholic use of decorative statues, Roman Catholics have criticized the Orthodox veneration of icons, and some Protestant groups have criticized the use of stained-glass windows by many other denominations. Jehovah's Witnesses criticize the use of all of the above, as well as the use of the cross. Amish people forbid any sort of graven image, such as photos.
Public monuments in the United States
There is an ongoing dispute in the United States concerning the posting of the Ten Commandments on public property. Certain conservative religious groups have taken the banning of officially-sanctioned prayer from public schools by the U.S. Supreme Court as a threat to the expression of religion in public life. In response, they have successfully lobbied many state and local governments to display the Ten Commandments in public buildings. Posting the Decalogue on a public building can take a sectarian stance, if numbered. Protestants and Orthodox, Roman Catholics, and Jews number the commandments differently. However, this problem can be circumnavigated by simply not numbering the commandments, as was done at the Texas capitol (shown here). Hundreds of these monuments—including some of those causing dispute—were originally placed by director Cecil B. DeMille as a publicity stunt to promote his 1956 film The Ten Commandments.
Others oppose the posting of the Ten Commandments on public property, arguing that it violates the establishment clause of the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States.
In contrast, groups supporting the public display of the Ten Commandments claim that the commandments are not necessarily religious but represent the moral and legal foundation of society, and are appropriate to be displayed as a historical source of present day legal codes. Also, some argue that prohibiting the public practice of religion is a violation of the first amendment's guarantee of freedom of religion.
Those in the opposition counter that several of the commandments are explicitly religious and that statements of monotheism like "Thou shalt have no other gods before me" are unacceptable to many religious viewpoints, such as atheists or followers of polytheistic religions. Putting aside the constitutional issue of whether the constitution prohibits the posting of the commandments, there is clearly a legitimate political and civil rights issue regarding whether the posting of what could be construed as religious doctrine alienated religious minorities and created the appearance of impropriety by making it appear that a state church had been established, creating the impression that the very intent of the establishment clause was being undermined. Even without establishing that a literal violation of the First Amendment had occurred, the appearance that it had been violated to people who do not accept the commandments, or religion itself, could be just as damaging and marginalizing.
In addition, it has been argued if the Commandments are posted, it would require that members of other religions be allowed to post the particular tenets of their religions as well. For example, an organization by the name of Summum has won court cases against municipalities in Utah for refusing to allow the group to erect a monument of Summum aphorisms next to the Ten Commandments. The cases were won on the grounds that Summum's right to freedom of speech was denied and the governments had engaged in discrimination. Instead of allowing Summum to erect its monument, the local governments chose to remove their Ten Commandments.
This incident shows another practical reason why not posting religious doctrine on government property is expedient; it is unlikely that a believer in the commandments would appreciate having a shrine to another religion placed next to them, and taken to its logical outcome (as shown by the Summum incident), it is clear that permitting religious speech through the mouthpiece of the state is impractical, given the reality of the diversity of religious belief and non-belief in the United States. Rather than enforcing any religious belief, or irreligion, some tend to merely feel that the state ought to be neutral on the subject of religion, and allow people to find their own faith, rather than have the state appear to endorse any particular beliefs. However, dispute continues over whether atheism is really a neutral alternative due to the fact that some feel it too falls under the dictionary definition of a religion.
Some religious Jews oppose the posting of the Ten Commandments in public schools, as they feel it is wrong for public schools to teach their children Judaism. The argument is that if a Jewish parent wishes to teach their child to be a Jew (as most do), then this education should come from practicing Jews, and not from non-Jews. This position is based on the demographic fact that the vast majority of public school teachers in the United States are not Jews; the same is true for the students. This same reasoning and position is also held by many believers in other religions. Many Christians have some concerns about this as well; for example, can Catholic parents count on Protestant or Orthodox Christian teachers to tell their children their particular understanding of the commandments? Differences in the interpretation and translation of these commandments, as noted above, can sometimes be significant.
Organizations such as the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) have launched lawsuits challenging the posting of the Ten Commandments in public buildings. Opponents of these displays include a number of religious groups, including some Christian denominations, both because they don't want government to be issuing religious doctrine, and because they feel strongly that the commandments are inherently religious. Many commentators see this issue as part of a wider kulturkampf (culture struggle) between liberal and conservative elements in American society. In response to the perceived attacks on traditional society, other legal organizations, such as the Liberty Counsel, have risen to advocate the conservative interpretation.
The Ritual Decalogue
The term "Ten Commandments" without a modifier generally applies to the lists mentioned in Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5. However, there is a continuous narrative starting in Exodus 31:18 (where the stones are created), Exodus 32:19 (where the tablets are broken) and Exodus 34, which lists a very different set of commandments, sometimes referred to as the "Ritual Decalogue". Later sources, starting with Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and later the proponents of the documentary hypothesis, note that Exodus 34:28 seems to refer to these Ten Commandments rather than the traditional ones. These commentators have theorized that the commandments in Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5 represent a later set of Ten Commandments, and that the ten listed in Exodus 34 were the original Ten Commandments, now known as the Ritual Decalogue (as opposed to the better-known "Ethical Decalogue"). The differences between the two Decalogues highlight the development of sacred texts over vast amounts of time and from differing narrative traditions by incorporating two differing sets of Ten Commandments.
The phrase "Ten Commandments" is highly familiar in Western culture and is often extended to any immutable code of conduct.
Two famous films of this name were directed by Cecil B. DeMille, a silent movie released 1923, and another in 1956, starring Charlton Heston as Moses. The Decalogue is also a series of ten one-hour films written and directed by the famed Polish film maker Krzysztof Kieślowski in 1988 for Polish television, each based on one of the Ten Commandments.
Mel Brooks' film History of the World, Part I contains a segment where Moses originally receives fifteen commandments from God on three stone tablets, but he accidentally drops one and goes on to proclaim there are ten commandments.
- Seven Laws of Noah
- Five Pillars of Islam
- Nash Papyrus—Hebrew manuscript fragment from 150–100 BCE found in Egypt, containing a version of the Ten Commandments and the beginning of the Shema.
- The Ten Commandments (1923 film)
- The Ten Commandments (1956 film)
- The Ten Plagues of Egypt
- Mendenhall, George E. (2001). Ancient Israel's Faith and History: An Introduction To the Bible In Context. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press. ISBN 0-664-22313-3.
- Friedman, Richard Elliott (1987). Who Wrote the Bible?. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice Hall. ISBN 0-671-63161-6.
- Mendenhall, George E. (1973). The Tenth Generation: The Origins of the Biblical Tradition. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. ISBN 0-8018-1267-4.
- Kaufmann, Yehezkel (1960). The Religion of Israel, From Its Beginnings To the Babylonian Exile, trans. Moshe Greenberg, Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
- Freedman, David Noel (2000). The Nine Commandments. Uncovering a Hidden Pattern of Crime and Punishment in the Hebrew Bible. Doubleday. ISBN 0-385-49986-8.
- Budge, E. A. Wallis (1967). The Egyptian Book of the Dead. Dover Publications. ISBN 0-486-21866-X.
- Kuntz, Paul Grimley (2004). The Ten Commandments in History: Mosaic Paradigms for a Well-Ordered Society. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, Emory University Studies in Law and Religion. ISBN 0-8028-2660-1.
- ^ Bibliotheca Rosenthaliana, Amsterdam
- ^ In Biblical Hebrew language, the commandments are termed עשרת הדברים (translit. Aseret ha-Dvarîm) and in Rabbinical Hebrew עשרת הדברות (translit. Aseret ha-Dibrot), both translatable as "the ten statements." The name "Decalogue" is derived from the Greek name δεκάλογος or "dekalogos" ("ten statements") found in the Septuagint (Exodus 34:28, Deuteronomy 10:4), which is the Greek translation of the Hebrew name.
- ^ Exodus 34:28, Deuteronomy 4:13, Deuteronomy 10:4
- ^ Exodus 34:28, Deuteronomy 4:13, Deuteronomy 10:4
- ^ Catechism of Catholic Church , also see Ten Commandments#Killing or murder
- ^ Catechism Christian Doctrine of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland (Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland Church Council Helsinki 2000) PDF (126 KiB)
- ^ Exodus 24:12
- ^ Exodus 31:18, 32:15
- ^ Deuteronomy 9 verses 9, 11, 15
- ^ Exodus 19
- ^ Rabbi Ishmael. in Horowitz-Rabin (ed.): Mekhilta, 233, Tractate de-ba-Hodesh, 5.
- ^ Margaliot, Dr. Meshulam (July 2004). What was Written on the Two Tablets?. Bar-Ilan University. Retrieved on 2006-09-20.
- ^ Exodus 32:15
- ^ Babylonian Talmud, tractate Shabbat 104a.
- ^ Exodus 32:19
- ^ Exodus 34:1, 34:27–28
- ^ Deuteronomy 4:13, 5:18, 9:10, 10:4
- ^ Exodus 34:29
- ^ Exodus 25:16, 25:21, 40:20
- ^ Exodus 25:22, Numbers 4:5; cf. 1 Kings 8:9
- ^ i.e. Matthew 19:16–19
- ^ Matthew 22:34-40; cf. Ethic of reciprocity
- ^ Talmud. tractate Berachot 12a.
- ^ Exceptions being the First Commandment, Honoring your father and mother, saying God's name in vain, and coveting).
- ^ a b c Rashi
- ^ Sefer ha-Chinuch
- ^ Gaster, Moses (1923). The Samaritan Tenth Commandment. The Samaritans, Their History, Doctrines and Literature. The Schweich Lectures.
- ^ See also Antithesis of the Law.
- ^ Islam By S. A. Nigosian, p.117, Indiana University Press
- Ten Commandments: Ex. 20 version (text, mp3), Deut. 5 version (text, mp3) in The Hebrew Bible in English by Jewish Publication Society, 1917 ed.
- Decalogue by Emil G. Hirsch, Eduard König (Jewish Encyclopedia, 1906 ed.)
- The Ten Commandments from a Messianic Jewish perspective
- Catechism of the Catholic Church
- Decalogue in the 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica
- The Ten Commandments from the Catholic Encyclopedia
- Comments on The Ten Commandments from the Freedom From Religion Foundation
|Traditions||Jews • Muslims • Christians|
|People||Israelites • Levites • High Priest • Bezalel • Tribe of Judah • Aholiab • Tribe of Dan • Kohath • Tribe of Levi • Jeremiah • Mahdi • Joshua • Menelik I • Samuel • Solomon|
|Contents||Stone tablets • Ten Commandments • Manna • Aaron's rod • Cherub • Nehushtan • Copper Scroll|
|Construction||Techash skins • Acacia • Shittah-tree • Gold • Mercy seat • Two wooden poles|
|Locations||Mount Sinai • Jericho • Jordan River • Holy of Holies • Kodesh Hakodashim • Jericho • Ai • Shiloh • Gibeah • Gilgal • Eben-ezer • Temple Mount • Dome of the Rock • Well of Souls • Cathedral of Chartres • Church of Our Lady Mary of Zion|
|References||Bible • Qur'an • Deuterocanonical books • Mishnah • Raiders of the Lost Ark • Old Testament • Book of Judges • Books of Chronicles • Exodus|