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Ten Commentdments

There are different versions of the Ten Commandments, which are based on interpretations of the original based on the understanding within each Christian denomination. Even with the variety present, they fundamentally have the same message.

  1. I am the Lord, your God.

    The first commandment states that idolatry is not something that God will tolerate. This is the fundamental commandment which lays the groundwork for the rest. Further details about the First Commandment

    "I am the Lord, thy God" are the first words of the Ten Commandments. In the Hebrew text the "the Lord" portion of the first commandment is romanized as Yahweh. The first commandment establishes God with his proper name, Yahweh, setting him apart from other gods which had come before (e.g., the gods of Egypt).

    "I am the Lord, your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery."

    This brief, yet important, introduction firmly places Yahweh as the supreme God, by utilizing the traditional way in which royal treaties were formulated--the king/monarch identifies himself by name, and lists his notable accomplishments.

    The New and Old Testaments state that idolatry is not tolerated by God, and the first commandments is a clear indication of this basic law. This ties directly into the second commandments: Thou shall bring no false idols before me.

  2. Thou shall bring no false idols before me.

    The importance of only worshiping God is emphasized in the second commandment (building on the first), specifically saying that no false Gods should be worshiped. Further details about the Second Commandment

    "Thou shall bring no false idols before me," is the second commandments which builds on the all important first commandment "I am the Lord, thy God."

    The second testament is at its core a warning against worshiping inanimate objects such as statues or likenesses of false gods. Idolatry, in Judaism, is one of three sins (including) adultery, and murder, which have to be resisted up to and to the point of death.

    In The New Testament, the commandments takes a different form as spoken by Jesus, who said, "love the Lord, thy God, with all your heart, soul, and mind." Saying that this was the greatest of commandments.

  3. Do not take the name of the Lord in vain.

    The third commandment further solidifies the importance of not taking one's faith lightly by frivolous use of God's name. Further details about the Third Commandment

    "Do not take the name of the Lord in vain," prohibits the blasphemous use of the Lord's name. Over the centuries, this commandment has been understood in different ways. For example, it was taken to mean the utterance of the name of God in any instance was blasphemous. Today, it is mainly taken to mean that the name of the Lord shall not be used to bear false witness, or to curse (e.g., "God damn it!").

    Jesus, in his Sermon on the Mount, talked about avoiding the use of the Lords name in vain, by being honest, and not inviting a situation in which one might be compelled to invoke the Lord?s name in order to earn credibility.

    The Catholic Church has a slightly different approach, and instructs that the Lord's name should only be used to glorify, bless, and praise him.

  4. Remember the Sabbath and keep it holy.

    This refers to the time of resting and prayerfulness which is observed on Sundays, symbolizing the seventh day of rest that God took after creating the world. Further details about the Fourth Commandment

    The Sabbath, is the day of resting. The commandments instructs believers to follow the Lord's example and labor for six days, and rest on the seventh. The complete text of the commandment is more lengthy and says:

    "Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy." - Exodus 20:8 through 11

    According to the book of Genesis, God created the world, and everything in it in six days, and then rested on the seventh. This testament is based on this understanding of the world's creation.

  5. Honor thy father and thy mother.

    As you should honor God, so should you honor those who brought you into this world. Further details about the Fifth Commandment

    As with the other commandments, the 5th (or 4th, depending on the source/religion) commandment is somewhat longer in its entirety.

    "Honor thy father and thy mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you." - Exodus 20:12

    Originally, the honoring of ones parents was the equivalent of honoring God, and striking or cursing ones parents was punishable by death. In The New Testament, the commandment is stated in a softer tone, saying that disobedience to parents is a big sin. And Jesus reaffirms that the honoring of the Lord is far more important than the honoring of ones parents.

  6. Thou shall not kill/murder.

    There are different interpretations of this commandment. Some claiming that killing in self defense or in defense of another is not against the commandment. Further details about the Sixth Commandment

    In the original Hebrew test, the word 'retzach' means to break, or slash to pieces, as much as it means to kill or murder, but in more modern interpretations it has come to mean kill or murder. In the Book of Numbers, the killing of any person outside of the theater of war is considered murder; however, in the Bible, retzach is never used with war, so it provides a much more strict meaning for the commandment.

    In Judaism, as well as many forms of Christianity, justifiable killing does exist in cases of war, protection of family and the innocent.

  7. Thou shall not commit adultery.

    The seventh commandment states that adulterous relationships go against God?s commands. This commandment specifically deals with the physical aspect of adultery. Further details about the Seventh Commandment

    This commandment comes from the Old Testament, Exodus 20:14, but has been the subject of much debate in both Judaism and Christianity, as the passage is not defined as what exactly it means.

    Christian churches deem adultery as sexual relations where one of the persons engaging in the sexual activity is married to a third person. This interpretation is often based on Genesis 2:24, which says, "Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and cleaves to his wife, and they become one flesh."

    In the Proverbs, adultery is described as something done by someone who lacks sense.

    "...he who does it destroys himself. He will get wounds and dishonor, and his disgrace will not be wiped away. For jealousy makes a man furious, and he will not spare when he takes revenge. He will accept no compensation; he will refuse though you multiply gifts."

    Jesus takes the concept of adultery even further, saying...

    "But I say to you, anyone who looks on a woman to lust after her has committed adultery with her already in his heart." - Matthew 5:28
  8. Thou shall not steal.

    ††The eighth commandment is often simplified in interpretation to mean that stealing is a sin, be it from a neighbor or not. Further details about the Eighth Commandment

    In Jewish interpretation of the commandment has been that the stealing refers to the stealing of an actual person (kidnapping in modern term). So in the context of Jewish texts and translations, the commandment would be interpreted as "Thou shall not kidnap."

    The New Testament repeats the importance of not stealing, and warns of the dire consequences of this morally corrupt behavior.

    There are a variety of interpretations of this commandment, but essentially they all agree that the stealing of chattel is the most likely meaning intended.

  9. Thou shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.

    Fundamentally, the ninth commandment states that one should not lie. Though the commandment is specific, it is well understood that any kind of lying is considered a sin. Further details about the Ninth Commandment

    This commandment has a fairly agreed-upon interpretation by Jewish and Christian scholars and theologians. This interpretation is made easier as there are other instances of commands by the Lord which instruct to be equitable to neighbors.

    "Love thy neighbor as yourself." - Mark 12:31

    In Jewish theology, lying is one of the things that God hates. This notion is states a bit differently in the New Testament. Jesus says that false testimony is among the things that defile a person.

  10. Thou shall not covet your neighbor's wife.

    The tenth commandment expands on the seventh commandment and forbids lusting after one that is not your spouse. Even without a physical component, lust is a sin. Further details about the Tenth Commandment

    More succinctly, "Thou shall not covet," is the 10th commandment.

    "You shall not covet your neighbor's house. You shall not covet your neighbor's wife, or his manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor." - Exodus 20:17

    Though there is some disagreement as how the word 'covet' has been used, it is generally accepted that the 10th commandment, unlike the nine that come before it, concentrates on thought rather than deed. Jesus warns against all covetousness, as something that destroys a person from the inside.

    "You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God." - James 4:2 through 4

† The Catholic Church uses the translation 'kill'. †† Some within Judaism state that this is a reference to kidnapping, whereas Leviticus 19:11 is the Biblical reference forbidding the stealing of chattel. This interpretation is based on the Talmudical hermeneutic known as davar ha-lamed me-inyano (literally 'something proved by the context'); in this context, it is argued, that this must refer to a capital offense similar to the previous two commandments. ‡ More recent translations assert that "take" may be more accurate than "covet."

Dead Sea Scrolls parchment containing the oldest known copy of the Ten Commandments

Parchment from the Dead Sea Scrolls containing the oldest copy of the Ten Commandments (Courtesy of Wikipedia)

Jewish Ten Commandments

The Ten Commandments appear twice in the Torah. Initially, in Exodus chapter 20, verses 1 through 17. They appear a second time in Deuteronomy chapter 5, verses 4 through 21.

  1. I am the Lord thy God
  2. You shall worship no other gods beside me
  3. Do not take the name of your Lord in vain
  4. Remember the Sabbath and keep it holy
  5. Honor your father and mother
  6. You shall not kill/murder
  7. You shall not commit adultery
  8. You shall not steal
  9. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor
  10. You shall not covet your neighbor's house, nor his wife

* The "Talmudic Division" is the grouping used by modern Judaism, and dates back to the third century. The "Philonic Division", dating back to the first century, is taken from the texts of Philo and Josephus. In their writing the first commandment ends after verse 3 and has the second commandment as verses 4-6.

Anglican Ten Commandments

The Anglican church's (Church of England) Ten Commandments are slightly different than the one in the Old Testament. Most noticeably, "I am the Lord Your God" is separated as a preface to the Ten Commandments.

    Preface: I am the Lord your God

  1. You shall have no other gods before me
  2. You shall not make for yourself an idol
  3. Do not take the name of the Lord in vain
  4. Remember the Sabbath and keep it holy
  5. Honor your father and mother
  6. You shall not kill/murder
  7. You shall not commit adultery
  8. You shall not steal
  9. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor
  10. You shall not covet your neighbor's wife

Catholic & Lutheran Ten Commandments

Catholicism considers the Ten Commandments as divine law, since God himself gave the commandments to Moses. The Catholic church considers them positive laws as they are very concrete in nature, and leave no room for interpretation.

  1. I am the Lord your God
  2. Do not take the name of the Lord in vain
  3. Remember the Sabbath and keep it holy
  4. Honor your father and mother
  5. You shall not kill/murder
  6. You shall not commit adultery
  7. You shall not steal
  8. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor
  9. You shall not covet your neighbor's wife
  10. You shall not covet anything that belongs to your neighbor

* Some Lutheran churches utilize a version which divides 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).

Orthodox Ten Commandments

Unlike most other churches the Eastern Orthodox Christian church does not combine the first two commandments (as follows):

I am the Lord your God. You shall not make for yourselves any idols

The Orthodox church considers these two to be separate commandments, as illustrated by the churche's version of the Ten Commandments below.

  1. I am the Lord your God
  2. You shall not make for yourself an idol
  3. Do not take the name of the Lord in vain
  4. Remember the Sabbath and keep it holy
  5. Honor your father and mother
  6. You shall not kill/murder
  7. You shall not commit adultery
  8. You shall not steal
  9. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor
  10. You shall not covet your neighbor's wife

Ten Commandments for Kids

  1. Love God more than anything.
  2. Worship God, and only God.
  3. Always respect God's name.
  4. Make Sunday a day of prayer.
  5. Love and respect your parents.
  6. Do not hurt anyone, and respect life.
  7. Be a faithful and respectful spouse.
  8. Do not take what is not yours.
  9. Always tell the truth.
  10. Be happy with what you have.
cartoon of Moses holding ten commandments tablets
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