St. Augustine on How to Divide the Ten Commandments: Did Catholics “Change” the Ten Commandments?

Saint Augustine in His Study, by Botticelli.

Saint Augustine in His Study (1480), by Botticelli (Wikipedia).

Here’s a little something that I shouldn’t spend a lot of time on by way of introduction (I’m presently nearly at the honest-to-goodness final attack of my thesis) — but it is nonetheless an important apologetic topic: Did Catholics change the Ten Commandments? The presentation of the Ten Commandments (or Decalogue) used by Catholics is in fact different from the one used by many Protestants. The “Catholic Ten Commandments” seems, very suspiciously, to omit the commandment that forbids the making of “graven images” — which, to the minds of anti-Catholics, seems to confirm their every accusation: “Catholics worship idols, and not only do they know it, but they changed the Ten Commandments so their gullible followers would never even know it was wrong!”

… No. The Catholic Church condemns idolatry explicitly, both the worship of images and the exaltation of any thing above God. Why, then, did Catholics “leave out” that commandment? Here are several things the critic should realize:

  1. The Ten Commandments are not numbered in Scripture. The original texts of the Bible did not even have verse numbers — the system of verse numbers we have today is a product of the Protestant printer Stephanus.

  2. The listings of the Ten Commandments in Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5 do not even state that there are ten of them; it is only elsewhere (cf. Exodus 34:28) that they are called the Ten Commandments. Taken by themselves, there are actually about fourteen imperative commands given by the Lord to Moses on Mount Sinai.

  3. Ten Commandments

    St. Augustine was really Moses? Or Charlton Heston was really St. Augustine?

  4. When the Church Fathers received this unnumbered, undivided lump of fourteen-ish commandments, it was up to them to formulate them into a list of “Ten,” grouping some commands with others to which they seemed to be related. And different Fathers arrived at different lists.

  5. The Catholic Church follows the tradition of numbering established by St. Augustine — and has been since long before anybody numbered the verses. The Lutheran churches follow the same tradition. The Reformed, I suspect just to be contrary and anti-Catholic, were the ones who “changed” the Ten Commandments, adopting the numbering established by Eastern Christianity.

  6. Rather than dividing “You shall have no other gods before me” and “You shall not make for yourself any graven image” into two separate commandments, as do the Reformed and Evangelicals, Augustine saw that “making for oneself an idol and bowing before it” (Exodus 20:4) was but an elaboration of having other gods before God, and grouped the two into one commandment. In Catholic catechetical formulae, the “graven images” part is often omitted — not because we are abridging Scripture, but because it is easier for kids to memorize that way, and the part about “graven images” is pretty much redundant. Augustine instead divided “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house” and “You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife” into two commandments.

  7. Ten Commandments

  8. Evangelical Protestants (at least, speaking from my experience) tend to overlook any further grouping of the Ten, and take for granted that five would be placed on either tablet. But Augustine rightly saw an internal division: the first three commandments pertain to man’s obligations to God, and the last seven pertain to man’s obligations to his fellow man. The three pertaining to God, fittingly, form a Trinity.

  9. It is worth noting that the commandment against “making a graven image and bowing to it” is not a prohibition against making any image or statue ever. God directly commands the Israelites to fashion images or statues on at least several occasions: the cherubim on the mercy seat of the Ark of the Covenant (Exodus 25:17–22, 37:7–9) and woven into the fabric of the tabernacle (Exodus 26:1, 31, 36:8, 35), the bronze serpent in the desert (Numbers 21:4–9), and the elaborate carvings and adornments of Solomon’s Temple (1 Kings 6–7). This commandment is specifically against idolatry, creating and worshipping images as gods. It is also worth noting that Catholics don’t worship statues.

St. Augustine

St. Augustine (c. 1645-1650), Philippe de Champaigne.

When I read in the Catechism about Augustine’s numbering of the Decalogue, I thought that would be a valuable text to have for refuting anti-Catholic arguments, and I set out to find it. I mostly found only other people similarly looking for it, but did find a reference: Question 71 in Augustine’s Questions in Exodus (Quaestio LXXI, Quaestiones in Exodum). At last I found the Latin text, with no English translation — and thought I would do everyone else a service and here give a translation. I am not an expert on this stuff, so if anyone out there is, please feel free to critique my work and help improve it.

Below is St. Augustine’s reasoning regarding why he chose to divide the Decalogue the way that he did, the way that the Catholic Church continues to observe. There was a bit more to the question following this about divisions between the other commandments, the ones regarding which everyone tends to agree — but this was the part relevant to the commandment against idolatry, and the common anti-Catholic charge.

(If anybody is interested in the rest of it, let me know and I can finish the translation. Also, I did this translation months ago! It is not distracting me from my thesis right now other than this introduction I’m giving — which, as usual, has proven more formidable than I intended.)

St. Augustine on How the Ten Commandments are to Be Divided

Quaestiones in Exodum, Question 71

It is asked, in what way the Ten Commandments of the Law are to be divided: whether there are four up to the commandment concerning the Sabbath, which pertain to God Himself, and six that remain, of which the first is, “Honor thy father and mother,”1 which pertain to man; or whether it is more fitting that the former be three, and the latter seven. Indeed those who say the former to be four, separate the commandment, “You shall have have no other gods before me,” that it might be a separate commandment, “You shall not make for yourself an idol,”2 whereby the worshipping of images is prohibited. However those same wish to combine into one, “You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife; you shall not covet your neighbor’s house,”3 and all the rest up to the end. Certainly those who say the first group to be three, and the second group seven, wish to combine into one whatever is commanded concerning worshipping God, that nothing before God is worshipped. These on the other hand divide the last one into two, that “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house” might be a separate commandment. In neither case is there any doubt that there are Ten Commandments, since Scripture itself testifies to this.

Still it seems to me more fitting that the first group be accepted as three, and the other as seven, because those three which pertain to God seem to make known the Trinity to those diligently contemplating. And truly the commandment, “You shall have no other gods before me,” is itself explicated more completely by the prohibition of worshipping images that follows. Further on, coveting another’s wife, and coveting another’s house, differ as much in the sins as in the commandments themselves. “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house” might also be joined to other things Scripture says, “Nor his field, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor anything of your neighbor’s.”4 Moreover coveting the wife of another seems to be separate from coveting anything else of another, since both begin thus, “You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife; You shall not covet your neighbor’s house”: both commandments begin with the statement “You shall not covet,” but it is only to the latter that it fastens the other things, saying nor his house, nor his field, nor his servant, and the rest. These all appear to have been joined together and seem to be contained by one commandment, and are separate from that commandment where the wife has been named. The commandment which says, “You shall have no other gods before me,” appears more devoted to the carrying out of those things which have been placed under it. To what indeed does this pertain, “You shall not make an idol, nor any likeness of anything which is in heaven on high, or anything on earth below, or anything in the sea beneath the earth; you shall not worship them or serve them,”5 unless to the commandment, “You shall have no other gods before me”?

104 thoughts on “St. Augustine on How to Divide the Ten Commandments: Did Catholics “Change” the Ten Commandments?

  1. Absolutely fascinating! 🙂 To continue my feminist vein, I like how St Augustine divides coveting your neighbors wife and his house etc. I mean, one is lust and the other is greed but it also doesn’t mean a wife is lumped in with the rest of the property! Praying for you in the final assault on the thesis!! 🙂

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  3. I was never a huge fan of numbering the commandments mainly because some people get the impression; the higher the number the more important the commandment, which isn’t really true. Besides, if you follow the first few commandments (obligation to God), the rest fall into place naturally.

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  5. The question may be, “What is the Jewish division into Ten?” Then we would see that neither the Catholics or the Protestants number them the way the original faith has them. We tend to make the 10 commandments all about what we do, when the original is based on God’s saving acts to those who were enslaved.

    • Hi, and thanks for the comment. Jews have the exact same problem that Christians have had: the Ten Commandments are not numbered, and different Jewish traditions arrived at different renditions. From

      “There are 13 sentences in the accepted Jewish version of the Ten Commandments (17 in the Christian), but it is difficult to ascertain with certainty from the text itself what comprises the first commandment, the second, and so forth. For while there are 13 mitzvot [commandments] to be found in the text, their allocation to the Ten Commandments can be done in a variety of ways. Thus there are different traditions.”

      If there were any uniform Jewish tradition, then certainly the Church Fathers would have followed it.

      How is the Christian understanding of the Ten Commandments any less about God’s saving grace than the Jewish understanding? Certainly Jesus said, “If you would enter [eternal] life, keep the commandments” (Matthew 19:17).

      May the peace of Christ be with you.

      • Thanks for the thoughtful response. I do not think Christian understanding is less. I am concerned Christians become legalistic, just as the Jews were with Rabbi Jesus.
        Both Covenants are about God’s relationship of grace with humanity. In the Mosaic covenant: I am the Lord your God, who set you free from the land of Egypt out of the House of Slavery. Jesus Covenant: This is my body, this is my blood poured out for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins, delivering from slavery to sin and death.
        Sometimes we see “commandment” as something legalistic when it is always about a trusting relationship, in all of YHWH’s covenants we are called to trust God. That trust results in obedience. Obedience based in relationship, not based in fear of punishment or loss of reward in breaking a legalistic and impersonal code of behavior.
        The Peace of Christ be also with you.

        • Even in a covenant, even in a trusting relationship, God and Man are not equal parties. God is our Lawgiver as well as Our Father; the Ten Commandments are the epitome of the Law. God calls us to trust in Him, but He also calls us to obey His commandments. We are to obey Him because we love Him; but if we fail to obey Him, we will be judged for our disobedience. What Father would allow His children to run amok and disobey His every command with no consequences? Certainly not the God of Scripture. Jesus came not to abolish the law but to fulfill it (Matthew 5:17–20) — to reveal to us the spirit of the law beyond its legalistic observance, which is love (Matthew 22:34–40). But it is still incumbent upon us to obey His commandments in love (John 15:1–17).

  6. Joseph, wow, what fun to talk to you in an open forum! You are very thoughtful and I appreciate the responses. The guy who taught me most in this is CH Dodd, in his book “The Bible and the Greeks”. Really opened my eyes to so much of the scripture and how the languages of the scriptures have shaped what comes to us in English.
    Have a great day!

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  9. What do call kneeling and bowing down and crying on idols and praying on images are? are these not ways of worship and reverence? trusting on this idols and images to hear them who prays to them. is it not worship? then what do you call them?

      • Well friend, I’m not so sure whether what sort of catholic are you. And you quite confuse me about idols and images, on how do you interpret or consider those acts of adorations and venerations given to those shrines in the Catholic Churches by those not only pilgrims but almost all those Roman Catholic believers. Maybe you don’t have any idea of those festivals and pilgrimages being offered and celebrated in grandeur for these shrines and idols on different places and nations. Those food sacrifices and vigils offered to these idols even in houses of the Roman Catholic believers. How and what do you call them? How about prayers offered and given to the idols or images of the saints? Did GOD commanded anybody to pray to Mary or Peter or Paul?

        • Again, friend, Catholics do not have “idols.” An “idol” is an image that is worshipped as a god, and Catholics do not have those. Catholics do not worship anyone or anything but God. We do not offer any sacrifices but the one our Lord made for us. If you’ve heard otherwise, then you’ve been misinformed.

          • My friend are you a Roman Catholic? If not what sort of catholic are you? Do you also pray to Mary and Peter and Paul who are all dead?

          • Well my friend thanks to hear that! then I’m a bit relieve knowing that you don’t pray to them. But what can you comment about the prayer to Mary being taught and included in the Roman Catholic novenas and prayers? In fact you might not believe this but there are a lot of places where Mary is more prayed to than the LORD JESUS.

          • Oh, I do pray to the Lord’s blessed saints, to ask their intercession — but they are not dead! Our God is the God of the living, not the dead; are who are born again into the Lord have eternal life. Do you not believe this?

          • I’m sorry my friend but correct me if I am wrong to say that do you mean those saints that you are praying to other than the LORD JESUS CHRIST (who is the only advocate between GOD the FATHER and man) have been resurrected and are ruptured with the LORD now? And do you mind telling me who are these blessed saints you are pertaining to as a clarity to our sharing.

          • They are the “great cloud of witnesses” that surround us (Hebrews 12:1), “the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven,” “the spirits of just men made perfect” (Hebrews 12:23). They are the white-robed elders who offer up the prayers of the saints on earth to the throne of God (Revelation 5:8). If they surround us and witness our trials and offer up our prayers to the Father, then why should we not ask them to pray for us?

          • My good friend I really believe it so that there are saints in heaven and even personally believe that there are saints here with us right now. But even though that is a truth within us, there is no instruction from GOD or from the LORD JESUS that we can pray to them and ask the father for something else. The word of the GOD and of the LORD clearly states that the only advocate between GOD and man is the LORD JESUS and also with the help of the HOLY SPIRIT. Again the Trinity working together in one accord. Either we pray and ask the FATHER, or in the Name of the LORD JESUS through the HOLY SPIRIT. No other name but the name of the LORD. As what the bible says. John 14:13-18 says it all. And to me it seems that if you still pray to any other than the FATHER, the SON, and the HOLY SPIRIT, then you are simply saying that the fullness and completeness of the trinity is still not enough for GOD to hear and answer us. The example that the LORD JESUS and the prayer that HE teach to everyone up to now is directly to the FATHER and HE added that everything we ask in HIS precious name as well will be done by HIM. No other name and no other person but the Trinity alone.

          • It seems to me, Romy, that you’re operating from a basic misunderstanding. The word “pray” in English only means to ask, requesting, beseech, petition — and by “praying” to the saints, me mean only that we are asking them to intercede for us. You well acknowledge that there are saints (i.e. Gk. hagioi, “holy ones”) both on heaven and earth. And the Apostle Paul urges that “make intercessions for all people” (1 Tim 2:1) — that is, that we intercede for one another, become intercessors on behalf of one another. And this not despite Jesus being the One Mediator Between God and Man (1 Tim 2:5), but precisely because of it: because now the way is open to offer our prayers up to God. When I ask you to pray for me, friend, am I not asking you in some sense to be a mediator for me, to be an intercessor for me to God? And yet this is precisely what Scripture urges us to do. Am I asking you to pray in some other name than that of God? Of course not. And it is exactly the same thing when I ask my blessed brothers and sisters in heaven to pray for me: I am asking them to *intercede* for me to God, not to pray in any other name than His. We have already seen in Revelation 5:8 that the saints in heaven offer up our prayers to the throne of God: and this is a picture of heavenly intercession.

          • Well my friend I think you are the one who misunderstood some terminology here. Just to make it clear a bit, “we don’t pray to people or to anything else but to GOD alone” but we pray for people or anything, we intercede for it and for each other. And I don’t think Rev. 21:14 proves that the 12 apostles (not Judas escariot)are there now. I truly believe their names are already written even in the book of life just as my name and many saints name but they and I are not there yet. Even Mary’s name is written there now and I do believe that sincerely. And thinking about what you believe in, your theory seems to tell that there will be more than two resurrections to occur which is quite not in accordance with what the bible tells. And when you say you pray the rosary, then you explicitly admit that you pray to Mary more than to the FATHER in Heaven. Again we don’t pray to anybody else or anything else but to GOD only. Just imagine and I hope you are aware of this that there are 53 Hail Mary beads compare to 10 our FATHER beads only. And I do hope you don’t pray the rosary everyday.

          • I don’t understand your first couple of sentences there.

            And in case you missed it, Judas Iscariot was replaced by St. Matthias (Acts 1:12–26) — so there are Twelve Apostles.

            And what is it you believe? Scripture tells us clearly that “the assembly of the first-born … are enrolled in heaven” with “the spirits of just men made perfect” (Hebrews 12:23). And in other places makes clear that heaven is an immediate reward for those who pass away in the grace of Christ.


            And again, I don’t think you know what you are talking about. The Hail Mary is a prayer from Scripture (Luke 1:28, 42), one that extols and blesses Our Lord. Christ is Our Lord and our salvation, not Mary.

          • Well my friend it seems that you have another meaning of prayer. Praying is an act that should only be directed or addressed to GOD (to GOD only). And we pray to GOD for other people. Again we pray for people and not to people. We pray to GOD for people, and not we pray to people for GOD. Because we all have direct acces to HIM. Yes the prayer of a righteous man avails much. But we don’t pray to them to pray for us. We simply ask them to intercede for us but we pray to GOD ourselves directly in the name of the LORD JESUS. Unlike when you pray to Saint Mary, Saint Paul, Saint Peter, and any other saints that you normally pray to in the Roman Catholic way, this is really a direct prayer to them which is not right. And sorry but I don’t think you are mistaken when you say that your Hail Mary prayer is a prayer in the bible. There is only one prayer that the LORD JESUS endorses and teaches and is found in Matthew 6:9-15 / Luke 11:2-4. Saint Mary is a very blessed person so as Saint Paul, Saint Peter, Saint John but nowhere in the bible that the LORD teaches or commanded us to pray to them but to GOD alone. And again it seems that you don’t really understand the implication of the finished work of the LORD JESUS specially the tearing up of the veil when HE died. Only JESUS gave us the way, the free and direct access to GOD. In HIS Precious name and through the HOLY SPIRIT only. No other and no other name. My friend the prepositions to and for has a huge difference that you should consider and understand. And by the way the issue of ressurection, how many resurrections do you believe will happen. And thanks for making your position a bit clearer, at least I know that you pray to the saints more than you pray to The LORD directly. A brotherly advice my friend be warned by Matthew 7:21. Because there is nowhere in the bible that the LORD JESUS teaches anyone to pray to any saints other than to GOD. Hope you think about this hard enough. Again prayer is offered to GOD and for people.

          • As you acknowledge, I am using the word “pray” in a different sense than you are — and that word does have more than one meaning. As you say, we ask (“pray”) our brothers and sisters to pray for us. And that is all. We have direct access to God through the work of Christ — and so do our Christian brothers and sisters. There is no contradiction between our praying to God and our asking our brothers and sisters to pray for us to God: these are entirely different meanings of the word “pray.” We do not “pray to” (in the sense of divine adoration or supplication) anyone other than God: all prayer is to God and through God and because of God. You have apparently come to my blog with a preconception of what Catholics believe and what we do, with the intention of preaching a misguided sermon at me. I’m sorry, but you are mistaken.

          • Well my friend again apiece of advice in order to avoid more confusion with others who might misunderstood you as well. The word pray is normally and I believe should only be use and applied to GOD alone. I don’t know where you got the notion of praying to people as a true Christian. Unless you are use to that tradition in the RC of praying to so many Saints, specially Mary. I’m not here to argue with you with what you believe and practice, because I’ve been there and I know for sure what and how RC do. I might even been doing more than what you are doing now but thanks be to GOD. My eyes were opened by the LORD in HIS words and through HIS HOLY SPIRIT about the truth and righteousness that bring glory to HIM. As what Proverbs 14:12 says be warned and open your eyes to the truth. I know that you probably know more in the word of GOD than I am but you seems to be a bit away from the truth. That is so sad my friend. I’m here to enlighten you about that truth. The LORD JESUS and the HOLY SPIRIT is more than enough to intercede for anybody else who earnestly seek GOD. Don’t forget that. May the HOLY SPIRIT guide you to the truth of the bible.

          • So, friend, you don’t think we should intercede for one another (if the Holy Spirit is “more than enough”)? Was the Apostle Paul teaching something contrary to God when he encouraged us to do that?

          • My dear friend, this is what I’ve been trying to point out very clearly. Yes we intercede for the people, for each other, but to GOD directly. To make it more clearer, I mean you and me pray to GOD interceding for the people or for each other. But I don’t and will never pray to you or to any other saints but only to the LORD JESUS, the HOLY SPIRIT, and GOD the FATHER. But we can, you can and I can pray for you, for somebody else, and you can pray for me too and for somebody else, and of course we can pray and must pray for each other. But you don’t pray to me, and I don’t pray to you. The word to and for must be use accordingly here I should say. I hope I have made my point clear.

          • Romy, I can tell that English is not your first language, so I can see why you are misunderstanding. But here is the definition of the English word “pray,” from the dictionary:

            pray (preɪ)
            1. to offer devout petition, praise, thanks, etc., to (God or an object of worship).
            2. to offer (a prayer).
            3. to make earnest petition to (a person).
            4. to make entreaty for; crave: I pray your forgiveness.
            5. to bring, put, etc., by praying: to pray a soul into heaven.
            6. to offer devout petition, praise, thanks, etc., to God or to an object of worship; engage in prayer.
            7. to make entreaty to a person or for a thing.
            [1250–1300; Middle English preien < Old French preier « Latin precārī to beg, pray, derivative of prex (s. prec-) prayer]

            As you can see, the word “pray” has more than one meaning. One (#1) implies worship to God; another (#3) connotes no such thing, but only to ask or earnestly petition another person for something. The original sense of the word, in both English and Latin, is the latter — there is no implication at all of worship or praise to the divine. The same word, precor or oro, was used for petitioning judges, senators, and all manner of magistrates, or simply for making entreaties of any sort. So in this sense, we do in fact “pray” to one another when we ask each other to intercede for us. And this is the same sense in which we “pray” to our brothers and sisters who have received their heavenly reward. We do not worship one another, and we do not worship the saints, or do anything else that is reserved only for God.

          • My dear friend I have no intention on giving up on you to bring you to the truth and light. But the only way, truth, and person that can settle your misunderstanding about prayer is the LORD JESUS HIMSELF. So why don’t you read Matthew 6. Please, I ask you, beseech you, and urge you, and I will pray to GOD for you in the name of the LORD JESUS and to the HOLY SPIRIT for guidance. This words of the LORD teaches us all about prayers. Where to pray, To whom to pray, and what to pray for.
            And if you still think that there is a better instruction for praying than that of the LORDs then I rest my case and leave you to GOD for proper guidance, but I will never give up praying for your enlightenment. I pray that may GOD our FATHER shows you more mercy and through HIS HOLY SPIRIT brings you to the truth and righteousness in the name of our LORD JESUS…Amen!!! May GOD bless you my dear friend!!!

          • Thanks, Romy. I know Matthew 6 well and it has no bearing on the argument you are making, that there is somehow something wrong with seeking the intercession of our brothers and sisters in the Lord. If you wish to take Our Lord’s words the way you are instructing me to, then you ought not to pray for me at all — I can pray to the Lord for myself. If, on the other hand, you believe that you can and should pray for me, then there is no reason why Saints Peter and Paul and Gregory and Agnes and Our Lord’s Blessed Mother cannot and should not also.

          • My friend allow me to make my point clear for the last time. Intercession is not issue it is a command and needed by the brethren in CHRIST and others who will believe. So we ought to pray for each other but we don’t pray to each other. It’s my duty to pray for you as your brother in CHRIST and so with you to pray for me. But again I will never pray to you and you should not pray to me. We should only pray to GOD alone and not to anybody else. Pray to GOD for people or pray for people to GOD. And I definitely am certain that our issue is answered by the words of the LORD in Matthew 6. And there is no other prayer instructions as profound and as clear as what the LORD says in that chapter. And actually just by that instructions everyone is perfectly guided by the LORD HIMSELF on all aspects of praying. As I have said previously to avoid misunderstanding you might as well use the prepositions to and for accordingly when it comes to prayer. And again you haven’t answer me about the issue of resurrection. Anyway my friend may GOD guide you more.

          • Intercession is the issue and is the only issue here. If you accept that the saints in heaven can and do intercede for us, then we have no dispute. You are hung up on the word “pray” as if you think we are “praying to” other people in a way that is due only to God, and we simply aren’t. You are getting hung up on words and language when clearly there is something being lost in translation: what you are referring to as “prayer” is the kind due only to God, and not the kind which, in the language of the Catholic Church, is merely a petition that may be due to anyone. “Prayers” to the saints are merely requests for their intercession, in exactly the same way as I might request you intercede for me. There is no implication to this of worship or of elevating created humans to a divine stature. We are not “praying to” or “praying in the name of” anyone else save our Lord and God.

            I do not know what question you are referring to about resurrection, but I addressed one question about that below.

  10. What a lie! Do not bow before idols which are carved images or paintings. I have seen popes, priests and many catholics biwing before statues. Best repent.

      • By the way my friend it seems that you believe that probably the 11 first apostles of CHRIST are in Heaven now and have resurrected. How about Mary do you also believe she is there now as well. And what can you say about the rosary? do you pray the rosary? And do you pray to Mary more than you pray to the LORD JESUS? Which most of the traditional Roman Catholics do.

        • Yes, the Apostles are now alive in heaven (and there are Twelve of them) — as the Revelation tells us, they are the foundation stones of the New Jerusalem (Revelation 21:14). But no, we will not all receive our resurrection bodies until the Last Day (John 6:40, 1 Thess 4:14–18, etc.). And yes, Mary the mother of Our Lord is there also.

          Yes, I pray the Rosary. It is a very powerful and meaningful prayer for focusing on the mysteries of Our Lord’s life. And I don’t know what you are talking about.

        • @Romy, You are making many accusations here from an extremely uninformed point of view. The first part of the Hail Mary is taken from Luke. The second part is an intercession asking her to pray along with us. Re the Rosary: Read “How to pray the Rosary” and explain to me what the focus is on. Hint, Everything about Mary is to draw us closer to her Son!

      • My dear friend intercession, petition, request, prayer or whatever you call it, is not the issue here obviously. Because for the simple reason that it is an obligation, commanded and instructed by GOD to be offered to HIM and for the brethren and believers as well. Even if you don’t ask me, I have to pray to GOD for you specially now that I knew you, and we have created a connection between us. Praying for each other is a must and obligation of every one in the body of CHRIST. And I definitely knew that you agree with this. Basically you don’t have to ask me to pray for you. As a Christians we normally and regularly pray for all the believers in the whole world, for all the wellness, and best things to happen, strength, and endurance in the faith, specially those who are in the danger zones. And the real issue here with us right now is that you are not giving proper consideration on the prepositions to and for. These preps are so very important because it defines accurately and specifically the very essence of prayers. The bottom line, we only pray to GOD as what our LORD JESUS taught us. We pray for the people. Again to and for. And mind you having a prayer to Mary, to Saint Paul, to Saint Peter, or any other saints is a bit scary. Because first JESUS doesn’t say that I should pray to them. Second, there is no such prayer to them being taught by the LORD in the bible. Thirdly, you don’t even know where they are. Whether dead awaiting resurrection, or anywhere, because the bible is not clear about their conditions. And even if you scan the Gospel, you won’t find anything that says pray to the saints. Instead you will always see ” pray to GOD ” pray for the saints, brethren, and brothers. Again to and for. But I tell you that I am asking our brethren in our fellowship to pray with me to GOD for all our requests and petitions for our local church and for all CHRIST church in the world. We pray to GOD alone for all parts of the body of CHRIST. Please consider the preps to and for, because will make all the difference and will settle our issue.

        • Romy, the issue is settled. I am repeating myself, and I will not do it again. The issue is not prepositions, but that the word “pray” itself means something different than you think it means. I have done my best to be patient with you, but bear in mind that you are coming to my blog and condemning my beliefs. And I must kindly ask you now to stop.

          • Well my friend, I forgive you for putting another inappropriate words now in my mouth. I never and will never condemn anybody specially when they are still alive. I am simply being used by GOD to bring truth to you. You still have all the chances that GOD is giving you. And my prayer for you to GOD is that may the HOLY SPIRIT open your heart and mind to the truth in JESUS precious name, before it’s too late. May the truth and mercy of GOD be upon you that HE may bless you more, in JESUS name!!!

          • So in your words, I am believing something other than the truth of Christ — but you’re not condemning my beliefs? You have just spent the last several days trying to convince me that the Catholic Church and what she has believed for many centuries are wrong and that somehow you alone have the “truth.” Are you really saying that the Lord has called you to harass Catholic Christians on their own blogs?

          • Well my friend there is no harassment, there is no condemnation that is taking place between us, because we are both Christians believing in GOD the FATHER, JESUS, and the HOLY SPIRIT. And our common denominator is the bible. And with the truth that JESUS don’t condemn anybody and never harass anyone is far be it to happen to us. But if you feel that way, then you have a problem and issue in yourself. The Bible is the word of GOD you believe it and I do. And I believe that everything in it is true from cover to cover. And I haven’t told you anything which is not there. But you did. And again let me just make it clear to you. Whatever traditions you have been practicing which is not in accordance with the word of GOD then as it says same word will be your judge in the end. And by the way having a blog like this, you should be more prepared and have a lot of reserved patience and understanding in you. Or maybe that is what the LORD wants you to have and develop! Again I will continue to pray for you and so with all our friends having same understanding of the word of GOD like you, that may GOD’s truth be revealed to you in JESUS precious name!!!
            Thank you! It’s a great opportunity to share to you the truth of GOD!

  11. How to number the ten commandments? just ask a follower of Judaism. Or how about using the seven Noahic Commandments? Or just go with Our Lord’s two commandments? Does anyone else divide the prohibition of coveting into two separate commandments? And don’t get me started on how some of the ten commandments have been abbreviated.

    • Hi Paul, thanks for the comment. The fact is that historically Jews and Jewish sects have differed in their numbering of the Ten Commandments in exactly the same ways as Christians — just as they’ve differed in their understanding of their biblical canon. And yes, Augustine was not alone in his numbering, but stands at the head of a long western tradition. And why not those other groupings? Well, we accept those too, along with every other dictate of God in Scripture. Why would we limit ourselves to only one set of commandments, if they are all commandments of God? But it’s certain that the Ten Commandments do have a privileged place in the Jewish and Christian traditions. The Lord be with you and bless you this New Year.

      • Joseph,

        All the best in 2015 to you and yours and thanks for your response at this busy season.

        Are we having two different discussions? I’m under the impression the Catholic Church thought the second commandment was redundant so they deleted it. Then to still have a total of ten, they divided the prohibition on coveting into two commandments. I’m not disputing there are several hundred commandments in the Bible and some of the other various facts you have cited. The Ten Commandments I’m disusing are from Exodus 20:3-17. Is this not the verses Judaism and Christianity base the Ten Commandments on? Anyway, based on that information I’m responding as follows:

        If it were new commandments for a new covenant this would not be an issue for me (ie. Our Lord’s two commandments or some variation based on NT writings). But this is not what happened, the Ten Commandments of the OT were used.

        In answer to your question: Yes, Catholics changed the Ten Commandments. Other Christian denominations also changed the Ten Commandments ( even though they left in the second commandment they are abridged).

        Catholics would say: we only worship God so what’s the problem? To that I say great, so why not leave in the second commandment? Or since Catholics think the second commandment is not required, why not just delete it and have Nine Commandments? This is what is causing confusion and concern for people like myself. If you weren’t Catholic, wouldn’t you think some thing funny is going on?

        • Hi, Paul, Happy New Year again.

          I’m under the impression the Catholic Church thought the second commandment was redundant so they deleted it. Then to still have a total of ten, they divided … Yes, Catholics changed the Ten Commandments.

          Well, no. I think you have it backwards. If anything, Augustine’s whole argument about the divison of the commandments stems from a desire and determination not to “delete” anything, but to properly obey and venerate all the commandments of the Lord and to give each of the Ten its proper focus. To the charge that “Catholics changed the Ten Commandments,” I ask: Who changed them? What did they change them from? The fact is that there was no established and universally accepted canon of “the Ten Commandments” at the time of Augustine’s writing: there was wide disagreement about how the Ten should be properly divided, among both Jews and Christians, in particular with regard to the commandments about idolatry and covetousness. (Augustine’s chapter goes on to discuss the division of all the rest of the commandments, too. I didn’t translate it because these seemed to be the most contentious, but perhaps it’s time I did.) Hence, Augustine writes, “it is asked in what way the Ten Commandments are to be divided”; “Indeed [there are] those who say [such] …; [there are] those on the other hand [who say]…” There was no agreement, either among Christians or among Jews. There can’t very well have been a “change” from something canonical if there was no accepted canon to begin with.

          The Ten Commandments I’m disusing are from Exodus 20:3-17. Is this not the verses Judaism and Christianity base the Ten Commandments?

          Yes. And you’ll observe in those verses that God does not dictate a numbering scheme to Moses, i.e. “Number One: Thou shalt not…; Number Two: Thou shalt not…” Indeed, as I write above, if it weren’t for the fact that elsewhere in the Old Testament is this collection is referred to as “the Ten Commandments” (e.g. Exodus 34:28), we could not even conclude from the text of Exodus 20 that there there were ten of them. This is the whole entire reason for disagreements about the division of the commandments and for Augustine’s argument. The verse numbering that we have in our modern Bibles was not added until the sixteenth century A.D., so it cannot be used as any sort of reliable guide. (After all, that numbering is no more than the opinion of one man, Stephanus; and I hold Augustine’s opinion far more influential, both because of his antiquity and because of his brilliance.)

          Again, if you’ll read above: There is no “abridgement” of the Commandments, either. No one has expurgated any word or phrase from the biblical text of the commandments (and they certainly could have over the centuries of the Scriptures’ transmission if they so desired), nor neglected any tittle from the treatment of those commandments in works of catechesis or morals or ethics: The current Catechism of the Catholic Church treats the whole text of all the commandments, and devotes several paragraphs to idolatry (CCC 2110–2128). What you call an “abridgement” is merely a catechetical formula, a distillation of words for memorization. And yes, what Catholics label the first commandment says in about five different ways how “Thou shalt have no other Gods before Me,” whether carved images or likenesses, whether in heaven above or in earth beneath, whether bowing before them or serving them, etc. And, as Augustine argues, I think the main point of all of that was “Thou shalt have no other Gods before Me.”

          Catholics would say: we only worship God so what’s the problem? To that I say great, so why not leave in the second commandment? Or since Catholics think the second commandment is not required, why not just delete it and have Nine Commandments?

          Once again, because (a) no one has “left out” anything or has any desire to, and (b) there are Ten Commandments (Exodus 34:28, etc.), not Nine. (c) No one says anything in Scripture is “not required”: All the text of all the Commandments, all the talk of bowing and worshipping idols, is still quite there in Scripture, even in Catholic Bibles, and is still quite there in the Catechism and in various other catechisms and in any meaningful instruction on morality and ethics. Nothing is “left out”: What Protestants label “the second commandment” is all simply part of the first commandment.

          This is what is causing confusion and concern for people like myself. If you weren’t Catholic, wouldn’t you think some thing funny is going on?

          What is causing confusion is ignorance of the truth. I hope you will read my words and learn: Catholics have not “left out” anything. What is “funny” is the fact that many Christians would rather rail against the Catholic Church and point fingers of idolatry and worse than bother to investigate for themselves what Catholics do in fact believe and teach. There was a time, you know, when I wasn’t Catholic: And as a Protestant, any concern I ever had about the numbering of the Ten Commandments was easily answered, since the Catechism addresses the question directly (CCC 2064–2067).

          As a sidenote: Every time you post, I think I’m being visited by Pope Paul V. Was this intentional?

          God bless you and His peace be with you.

          • Joseph,

            Thanks for the info, I’ll put it on my to research pile.

            My use of the word “change” may be causing confusion. Generally speaking, I mean they are shortened, I’m leaving up to each person to decide for themselves if the literal meaning of the commandments was “changed” at all by this shortening. I believe it was, obviously you and the vast majority of Christians don’t. For me, the Ten Commandments should be written out in full as they appear in Exodus 20: 3-17 (ie. nothing added or taken away). The numbering is obvious to me that is why this is all so strange.

            I’ve heard from several Christian sources that the main reason they were shortened is so the faithful could memorize them.

            Why did the Catholic Church make the prohibition of coveting into two commandments? What person or persons were responsible for the Catholic version of the Ten Commandments? I don’t know, I’ve never researched it. All I had to do is read Exodus 20: 3-17 and compare to the Ten Commandments Catholics teach.

            My theory is: When the person or persons were given the task to come up with the Ten Commandments the Catholic Church would use, they thought Exodus 20: 4-6 was a problem. This would cause confusion for the people so they were “changed”. I do not believe this was an evil act just wrong and has caused much confusion in Christendom.

          • Paul,

            I’m confused. Did you even read my article above? In it, I go into considerable detail regarding exactly “What person or persons were responsible for the Catholic version of the Ten Commandments” — that person being Saint Augustine in the fourth century — even going so far as to translate, from the Latin, the exact reasoning of Augustine, from a source that I otherwise couldn’t find available anywhere in English. Augustine explains in some detail why he kept the commandment regarding monotheism as one and why he divided the commandment regarding covetousness into two. Please read again carefully. I hope it will answer many of your questions.

            Once again: No one “shortened the commandments.” The fullness of God’s Commandments is still being observed and taught in the Catholic Church. A catechetical formula is just a learning tool. It is not an abridgement of God’s truth.

            God bless you and His peace be with you.

  12. Joseph,

    Makes me wonder if any one else over the years thought the V was the roman numeral five? Hopefully Pope Paul V was a good pope.

    What we’re experiencing here is what I call the “Tower of Babel effect”. In my 54 years this has happened a few times but only with those who were born and raised in the Catholic Church. Once this helped so I’ll try it again: I’ve seen the Catholic Church version of the Ten Commandments many times in Catholic Churches, Catholic homes, Catholic schools, Catholic text books, Catholic buildings, Catholic prayer cards/bookmarks, Catholic web sites, etc…. Like the other Christian denominations (I disagree with everybody that does this) they are short and sweet. Usually some where in the bottom corner is the reference to Exodus 20: 2 -17 or Exodus 20: 3-17 though. Many years ago I researched this topic, that is when I found out about “A Traditional Catechetical Formula”. Looks like to me the Catholic Church takes Exodus 20: 2-6 and “changes” it to “I am the LORD your God you shall not have strange Gods before me”. This is what I call “changing/shortening”, do you agree this has been “changed/shortened” in regards to wording? Again, obviously you and many others don’t think this has changed the meaning but I do. Thank God for ” The Gideons International”.

    Again, I use every word in Exodus 20: 3-17 for the Ten Commandments, less confusion for me. Some what off topic, but the problem is most Christians are trying to put a square peg in a round hole using Old Covenant commandments for the New Covenant.
    Using Exodus 20: 3-17 only works for those very few New Covenant Churches that have a more first century flavor.

    • Paul,

      Yes, Paul V seems to have been a good pope. 🙂

      Your attitude toward the only the literal word of Scripture in the Ten Commandments and everything else, even in quotation and catechesis, is typical of most Evangelical/Fundamentalist Protestants. But as you yourself admit, these “abbreviated” lists of commandments you are complaining about usually reference the complete text of Scripture. No one supposes that these lists are either Scripture itself or a direct quotation of Scripture. Anyone with a Bible (and yes, Catholics do have Bibles) can (and often does) easily consult the full text. So again, this is not a “change” of the biblical text or an “abridgment” of biblical truth. It simply isn’t.

      You must admit that the whole text of the First Commandment (Exodus 20:2–6, including what Evangelical Protestants would call the “Second Commandment”) is quite a lengthy mouthful — no doubt because it is the most important. When a child is memorizing the Ten Commandments, is every one of these words equally important, as if the words themselves had some “magical” value? No, of course not. In fact, Protestants “shorten” that commandment in catechesis too: I have never, ever seen a formulation that included all the talk about “anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth” — since that would be confusing. Or the part about “for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.” It is part of the commandment and it is important. So why should it be permissible to abbreviate away those parts, if any abbreviation at all is a problem?

      If the words themselves were so uncompromisingly important, then why don’t we memorize or recite them in the original Hebrew — since by any translation into English, by the very nature of translation (especially from such a semantically rich language as Hebrew), something of meaning, connotation, and nuance is “lost in translation”?

      • Joseph,

        Thank you for your reply, glad to hear Pope Paul V was a good pope.

        Are you sure you were a Protestant?

        Allow me to sum up what your position is as I understand it in my own words; When I was Protestant this issue about the different numbering of The Ten Commandments by the Catholic Church seemed a little strange but didn’t bother me that much. Once I read the explanation it became clear and it is not a problem for me.

        • Paul,

          Yes, that pretty much sums it up. There is no problem here, and never has been, apart from problems that Catholic opponents want to create.

          I grew up in a Protestant tradition, Assemblies of God, Charismatic and Pentecostal. In my definition, being the fruit of that tradition made me a Protestant. But no, I never had a “protest” against the Catholic Church. Neither do most children of Protestant traditions today — since the reasons for such “protest” were resolved and reformed many centuries ago.

          • Joseph,

            Thanks for your response. Seems you can’t help me, maybe my story can help you in understanding Protestants?

            If you or any other Christian has a different interpretation than mine that’s okay with me.
            I’d agree to disagree and I’d tell you or that person: “to go in peace to love and serve the Lord”.

            You are an adult convert, your experience with the Catholic Church is much different than mine. I’m not sure if mine is typical though to those born and raised Catholic?
            From personal experience it seems typical
            but I have no empirical data to support this
            belief. May be this is why the Catholic Church is having such troubles?

            I went to Separate School (aka. Catholic)
            K-8 and Public School 9-12. Only
            religion classes taken during K-8. I can’t even remember what they taught and what can a child at that age comprehend anyway? My brothers, sister and myself got extra info at home than most but we didn’t get heavy into doctrine or anything like that. Basically it was do what the Church says and you’ll get to heaven, don’t and you’ll go to hell. Anyway what did it matter the Catholic Church is “The Church”. When I was 13 I asked some questions about this very same topic, I was told pretty much what you said except in a way a 13 year old could understand. Some thing seemed funny still but I didn’t want to keep asking questions so i just said okay and forgot about it. Should I have studied doctrine more? Yes, but I didn’t do it then, I did it later.

            We went to Church always, said the Rosary during Advent and Lent, said my prayers at night, read the Bible once and a while like good Catholics. We had mostly good Priests but the sermons were more about God is love or love your neighbour or be good or brief explanation of the readings for that Mass or about raising money than an in depth discussions about doctrine. So in my mind I came to understand these doctrines as best I could over the years.

            You wrote: “Did Catholics change …….. would never even know it was wrong!” Funny thing is, when I look at the proof the Church provides to prove the Church is not doing this, I see the proof that is exactly what the Church is doing (hopefully you can follow that). Fair? may be not but that was my perception. Now not only was I frustrated I was even more suspicious and really researched.

            In my mid 20’s is when I started researching doctrines, I was shocked as to what the Church actually taught. It was nothing like I believed on several subjects. As a result of my research: I left the Catholic Church, stopped celebrating certain Holy Days, started celebrating other Holy Days, stopped saying prayers I said most of my life, got rid of personal items I always wore or kept as memorials, improved my relationship with God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit and have never been better.

            Side note: IMO, the Catholic version doesn’t have the same balance with the two prohibitions on coveting and my research indicates “murder” is more appropriate than “kill” and “man-stealing” is more appropriate than “stealing”.

          • Seems you can’t help me, maybe my story can help you in understanding Protestants?

            I don’t know what it is you think I don’t understand. I was a Protestant for more than thirty years of my life. My entire family and the vast majority of my friends remain Protestant. Just because we’ve had different experiences does not mean I was not a Protestant or that I don’t understand Protestants.

            If you or any other Christian has a different interpretation than mine that’s okay with me. I’d agree to disagree and I’d tell you or that person: “to go in peace to love and serve the Lord”.

            And yet you complain about ecumenism that dismisses doctrinal differences between Christians. Are you not doing the same thing?

            May be this is why the Catholic Church is having such troubles?

            Forgive me, but I’m really not sure what troubles you’re referring to.

            I can’t even remember what they taught and what can a child at that age comprehend anyway?

            As a teacher and a catechist, I can attest that even young children can comprehend quite a lot with proper and age-appropriate instruction.

            My brothers, sister and myself got extra info at home than most but we didn’t get heavy into doctrine or anything like that. Basically it was do what the Church says and you’ll get to heaven, don’t and you’ll go to hell. Anyway what did it matter the Catholic Church is “The Church”. When I was 13 I asked some questions about this very same topic, I was told pretty much what you said except in a way a 13 year old could understand. Some thing seemed funny still but I didn’t want to keep asking questions so i just said okay and forgot about it.

            It sounds to me that your catechesis was not very good — which sadly became a very serious problem in the post—Vatican II Church. My heart breaks for the very many children we lost in those years, and it goes out to you.

            You wrote: “Did Catholics change …….. would never even know it was wrong!” Funny thing is, when I look at the proof the Church provides to prove the Church is not doing this, I see the proof that is exactly what the Church is doing (hopefully you can follow that).

            Actually, no, I’m very confused by this. You keep pointing fingers at “the Church” for “changing” things, for attempting to mislead or deceive people — when all the historical and scriptural facts, which I’ve presented above and which you have not even addressed at all make several things very clear: (a) There has been no “change” to anything,  no “abridgment” or “abbreviation” of biblical texts or truths; all Ten Commandments are still there in full, whether you are a Catholic or a Protestant; (b) There was nothing to “change” anything from in the first place: The defined formulation of the Ten Commandments you are proceeding from a priori (the “Protestant one”) did not exist in the fourth century when a Augustine wrote; (c) Augustine himself (not “the Church”) established the numbering of the Ten Commandments that has been familiar to Christians in the West for most of history; it was Protestants in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries who made a change from that traditional teaching. Forgive me if I seem impatient, but you seem to be dismissing everything I’ve written, not only above, but also in my comments to you, without so much as a counterargument. Would you be so kind as to explain this “proof” you say you see?

            Side note: IMO, the Catholic version doesn’t have the same balance with the two prohibitions on coveting …

            St. Augustine, you realize, made the very opposite argument, sixteen centuries before you: He thought having two redundant commandments about worshipping other gods was disproportionate, and upset the balance of three commandments governing our relationship with God (suggesting the Trinity) versus seven toward our relationship to men (both three and seven being numbers denoting perfection); and coveting toward a neighbor’s wife together with coveting his house and goods degrading to the dignity of women and human beings in general. Forgive me, but I find Augustine’s argument much more compelling than yours, and so have the vast majority of Christians throughout the ages.


  13. Joseph,

    Thanks for your reply.

    You previously wrote:

    “But no, I never had a “protest” against the Catholic Church …..resolved and reformed many centuries ago.”

    I thought if I told you my “protest” against the Catholic Church it might help you understand the opposing view, obviously I misunderstood.

    God Bless

    • … So, apparently I have actually been blowing smoke all these hours I’ve spent writing thoughtful replies to you? You’re not even interested in engaging my arguments about Augustine and the Ten Commandments? You came here with a preconceived notion that “Catholics changed the Ten Commandments!”, by all appearances did not even bother to read my article, have ignored and not responded to my comments back to you about that matter, and have been more interested in being heard than in being challenged. Am I wrong? If all you wanted was your prejudices confirmed, I think you might have had an easier time of it reading an anti-Catholic book. Here are a few popular ones you might enjoy:

      • I read that the church father Origen came up with the version of the Ten Commandments that Eastern and Reformed Churches use today. Also the Jewish version does include the Scripture regarding bowing down to graven images. I am not Catholic, but there are many things I admire about the Catholic Church. So I find this point very concerning. I understand the Catholic veneration of Mary and that the saints are very much in the presence of Christ. However, there are many Catholics who do not Clarify that going through Mary to Jesus is just one preferred option for them. It is stated dogmatically. If the scriptural segmentation had been left as Origen laid out, many Catholics would not overdo the hyper doula toward Mary in prostrating themselves before her. This particular issue with the commandments is a hard one to swallow. I wish I could see it your way.

        • Amy, thanks for the comment. I’m not sure whether we can say that Origen “came up with” the formulation of the Ten Commandments used in the East — only that the formulation he expressed is consistent or typical of the formulation used in the East. Yes, his is perhaps the earliest on record of Eastern writers. But priority does not necessarily mean originality. We don’t know if he was following someone else, or if the other, later authors who expressed the same formulation were necessarily following Origen, since Origen has had a problematic position and a controversial reputation in Christian tradition. We can confidently say, however, that he is a prime example of the Eastern tradition in this matter.

          I can’t speak to how some Catholics might view Mary and her veneration. But as a rule, and in terms of the Church’s teaching, yes, the Church has made it very clear that devotion to Mary does not obscure or impede our relationship to Christ. Lumen Gentium, the Second Vatican Council’s Dogmatic Constitution on the Church (1964), proclaims that “The maternal duty of Mary toward men in no wise obscures or diminishes this unique mediation of Christ [as the “one Mediator”], but rather shows His power” and that Mary’s role “flows forth from the superabundance of the merits of Christ, rests on His mediation, depends entirely on it and draws all its power from it. In no way does it impede, but rather does it foster the immediate union of the faithful with Christ.”

          I appreciate your theory, but I don’t see how the delimitation of the Ten Commandments has anything to do with the veneration of Mary. As I pointed out in my article, the scriptural language forbidding idolatry is still very much a part of the Catholic Bible and the Catholic understanding of the Ten Commandments. Augustine’s formulation of the Ten Commandments includes it just as well as Origen’s. The Ten Commandments have not been abridged: the abbreviation sometimes seen in catechetical formulae is a modern (as in the past couple centuries) development. The condemnation of idolatry, of any placing of a created thing on the level of a god, is explicit in Catholic teaching and in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. The concept of hyperdulia is only that Mary is deserving of dulia (the reverence we hold for all the saints) above and beyond (hyper) that given to all the rest. It still does not approach latria, the worship we reserve only for God.

          I have never seen, and would challenge you to present, Catholics “prostrating themselves” before Mary. Prostration — lying prone — is a very specific posture of worship that is generally only directed at Christ Himself in the Blessed Sacrament, so far as the Catholic Church is concerned. Kneeling, what is commonly seen in the presence of statues, is primarily a posture of prayer. But no physical posture in itself constitutes idolatryworship is a willful and intentional act, and without a clear intention to do so, the act is not there. When the Ten Commandments in Scripture condemn bowing, it is in the specific context of bowing before a graven image and serving it.

          • Thank you for getting back to me. Because of prayers like the Salve Regina, I do believe that this is a blind spot, and that’s ok to me. Honestly, every denomination has its own blind spots because we are humans trying to understand heavenly matters by grace and through faith. I am thankful for the Catholic Church and all of the ways it does strive to follow Jesus.

  14. Joseph,

    I apologize if I wasted your time, that was not my intention. I did finally figure out what this “numbering” thing was all about and that will save me a lot of future grief in the future. I wish to thank you for that.

    I read your article and all of your replies. You are correct that I’m not not even interested in engaging your arguments about Augustine and the Ten Commandments. You are also correct that I do have a preconceived notion that “Catholics changed the Ten Commandments”, I have believed this for 41 years and as a result totally changed the way I worship God.

    I was trying to have a totally different discussion than the one you wanted. I realize now, even if you could understand me, your response would be the Catholic Church has the authority to do that. But I’ll try to explain anyway. First I wanted to see how you reconciled your Protestant beliefs with your Catholic beliefs regarding this topic, which you very kindly provided. The other topic was on the lines of the Nisan 14th controversy. But I’ve lost interest in further discussions on this topic as I’m sure you have.

    Sorry to hear you think I’m an anti-Catholic bigot. I thank you for not saying I’m going to burn in hell forever.

    God Bless,


    • Paul,

      I didn’t see this response earlier.

      You are correct that I’m not not even interested in engaging your arguments about Augustine and the Ten Commandments. You are also correct that I do have a preconceived notion that “Catholics changed the Ten Commandments”, I have believed this for 41 years and as a result totally changed the way I worship God.

      So you came here to preach, not to question. Thank you for admitting as such. Your open-mindedness does you credit.

      I realize now, even if you could understand me, your response would be the Catholic Church has the authority to do that.

      The Catholic Church had the authority… to do what? No, I would not make this response, because my contention all along has been that that the Catholic Church didn’t do anything, didn’t have to do anything, because nothing was done. This is the way the Christian Tradition developed organically. There was never any dictate of the Church or the pope or the Magisterium or anyone to “change” the Ten Commandments: What you see is merely what developed, what has been handed down, what Christians in the West have kept, without any “official” proclamation and certainly not any “change” from anything else. (In fact, it was the Protestant churches who made positive dictates to “change” the Ten Commandments, from what had been kept in the Catholic Church for centuries.) The numbering and the formulations of the Commandments are not fixed, or required, or obligatory: If any Catholic wants to use, or distribute, or reproduce, or even publish in a Catholic publication, the “Protestant version” of the Ten Commandments, he is perfectly well within his rights to do so. There is no “Catholic version” of the Ten Commandments, merely a Catholic tradition, in only the sense of the word “tradition” that there are “Christmas traditions”: i.e. something that is entirely optional and optative and changeable. This is the way Catholics have traditionally done things, and most prefer that, but there is no prohibition at all on doing things another way. But again, I suppose, I am only blowing smoke, at someone who settled his own unflappable opinion 41 years ago and only wanted to assert it.

      But I’ll try to explain anyway. First I wanted to see how you reconciled your Protestant beliefs with your Catholic beliefs regarding this topic, which you very kindly provided.

      There is nothing to reconcile, because there is no conflict. Your insistence to find conflict where there is none, perhaps to justify your own leaving of your Mother Church, I think is your primary problem.

      The other topic was on the lines of the Nisan 14th controversy.

      If you had wanted to talk about that, you should have brought it up. I have plenty to say on that matter, too. But I suppose that likewise, you made up your mind about that 41 years ago and were more interested in asserting your own opinion than discussing.

      But I’ve lost interest in further discussions on this topic as I’m sure you have.

      I enjoy discussions, and would be glad to continue one — but this has not been a “discussion.”

      I do not think you are an anti-Catholic bigot and I do not think you will burn in hell. I do think you love the Lord and seem to be a good and kind person. But you are certainly not open to having your ideas challenged or to discussing them with an open mind. I should have realized that a long time ago, and I’m sorry I didn’t: it’s as much my fault as yours. May His peace be with you.

  15. What about Origen in the 2nd century? Weren’t the 10 commandments placed in the “traditional order” protestants understand today?

    • Hi, Bonnie. Thanks for the comment. Yes, as I said in the article, different Church Fathers and early writers arrived at different numberings for the Ten Commandments than others. At issue was the numbering and division of the commandments, not the order. The numbering adopted by Reformed and Evangelical Protestants is consistent with the numbering carried forward by many Eastern writers, of which Origen was one.

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  17. Hi Joseph,

    The Images or statutes ‘ you refer to were fashioned by the commandments of God The statues of (so called) Mary etc are made from mans imagination not the Will of God. No where in scripture does it tell you, me or anyone else that we can make these items. There is plenty of scripture forbidding it.
    My reasoning for “(so called) Mary etc is… once again nowhere in scripture does it tell us the colour of eyes, hair, skin etc of Mary or Jesus. In fact for Jesus’ physical form. Isaiah described Him in 53: 2b “he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him.” And his heavenly appearance as described in Ezekiel 1:27-28. And I saw as the colour of amber, as the appearance of fire round about within it, from the appearance of his loins even upward, and from the appearance of his loins even downward, I saw as it were the appearance of fire, and it had brightness round about.Like the appearance of a rainbow in the clouds on a rainy day, so was the radiance around him. This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the LORD. .
    I do understand your writing is inititally around the changing of the Commandments, however it is in part related. Therefore this is an excellent opportunity to enlighten yourself and others on the making of images etc…God has not said one can and should make images.

    • Hi Sharron, thanks for the comment. A few things to think about with regard to images: First, no, not all of the images I mentioned above were the explicit commandment of God. God commanded the images in the Tabernacle, but when Solomon constructed the Temple, the plan was not dictated by God, but designed according to what would be pleasing to God, as revealed in the Tabernacle. Solomon certainly understood Scripture to sanction his use of images. And God approved of his design — and its images — and consecrated the Temple (1 Kings 9:3). This would not be the case if the Commandment were, as Protestants take it, an absolute prohibition of religious images.

      You argue that because Scripture does not tell us the specific appearance of Jesus or Mary or others, we should not presume to depict their appearances. But the fact is, Jesus was a real man, and took on real human flesh, and had a real, visible, human appearance. He appeared to His disciples not only through the Word of Scripture, but in the flesh; God revealed Himself in a human face, a human image, with visible and memorable features. Are you really suggesting that Christians of the Early Church, those who knew Him in the flesh, should have forgotten what He looked like because it was not written in Scripture?

      Mary, likewise — and Peter, Paul, and all the rest — were real people who walked the earth, who had real faces and left real memories. Should we not depict them, either, because their likenesses are not detailed in Scripture?

      Christians, from the earliest times, have held that because God revealed Himself in Christ as a human figure and image, Christ may be depicted as those who saw Him remembered Him. No Christian has ever believed in depicting God the Father or the Holy Spirit, except in symbolic representations. The vast majority of Christians in history have held this. Perhaps you should enlighten yourself as to this age-old tradition.

  18. This thread may be out of date now, but I’ll comment anyway. You say “When the Church Fathers received this unnumbered, undivided lump of fourteen-ish commandments, it was up to them to formulate them into a list of “Ten,”.”

    You also say “The Catholic Church follows the tradition of numbering established by St. Augustine — and has been since long before anybody numbered the verses. ”

    That presupposes that there was never a numbering applied to them before then, which is false. Both the LXX and the Talmud before that, applied numberings. The Protestant churches returned the numbering back to those.

    • Thanks for the comment. Can you cite references for this? I have never seen numbering applied in either the Septuagint or the Talmud. As you may be aware, the early Reformers were as hostile to Jews as they were to the established Western Church. — The fact is that the Christian tradition very often was, such that Church Fathers like Augustine (who knew no Hebrew and little if any Greek) similarly didn’t look to the Jewish tradition when coming to such formulations as this. As I understand it and wrote in the article, the nearest antecedent to the numbering assumed by Reformed Protestants was the numbering of the Eastern Church. Also, it’s my understanding that the Jewish tradition, in exactly the same way as the Christian one, has had divergent and competing divisions and numberings of the Commandments.

      • Augustine’s lack of knowledge of earlier numberings aside, there had to have been others in the Catholic church who had this knowledge, if not at that time then surely since then. But even now Roman Catholics act as though there was no earlier numbering.

        Augustine predates the East-West Schism by centuries. I don’t know the history of the Ten Commandment numbering within the Orthodox churches. Either they never accepted Augustine’s numbering and continued to use the LXX numbering or they turned back to the LXX numbering. In either case they were aware of the LXX numbering. Therefore, it isn’t likely correct to say that the Reformed Protestants turned to the Orthodox numbering. It is more likely they both returned to the LXX numbering.

        • I have the Septuagint in front of me — multiple editions of it (H.B. Swete, Alfred Rahlfs, the Codex Sinaiticus). As a scriptural text, I can assure you that it offers no more numbering to the Decalogue that any other text of Scripture does. The LXX scribes did not add their own commentary. The original text of the Septuagint, like every other scriptural text, did not have verse numbers or divisions until they were added in the sixteenth century. I do not really know what Wikipedia is referring to when it labels the “LXX” tradition of numbering the Ten Commandments. Apparently, per the comment above the table, it refers to the Orthodox tradition — which is what I’ve been telling you all along.

          I consulted the linked references from the Wiki, which are readable for the most part on Google Books — especially the first one, which addresses the question of numbering specifically. You should too. They are good and very informative articles:

          This makes clear, as I’ve suggested, that there was just as much diversity in Jewish traditions of numbering the Decalogue as there are in Christian ones. Whether Reformed Protestants looked to the Jews or to the Orthodox is apparently a question that is very important to you. It really isn’t to me. My motive in writing this article is to defend the Catholic Church from the charge that Catholics “changed the Ten Commandments,” especially that they purposefully abridged Scripture to remove prohibitions against idolatry, etc., which is a common anti-Catholic cudgel but, as I hope I’ve shown, is ludicrous. As far as I’m concerned, all of this argument about numbering is therefore a niggling and empty point. Both Catholics and Protestants accept the whole of Scripture, the whole of the Ten Commandments, without abridgement. If you find it legitimizing to your tradition to appeal to the Jews rather than the Orthodox, then by all means, have at that. But I’d encourage you to research what the Protestant Reformers actually said and wrote about it rather than simply assume they adopted the Jewish tradition because it’s more palatable to you.

          Peace be with you.

  19. JTR: What a fascinating string of discussion you have elicited; most of it heartfelt, respectful and useful. As a Catholic Christian who has deep connections with Pentecostal and Evangelical Christianity, plus a burgeoning interest in Orthodox Theology, there is much that you and they have posted that informs my understanding.

    Working as evangelists, sometimes on the streets, sometimes the campuses, we have to be informed, prayed-up, Holy Spirit-led, and supported by a strong intercessory team. Impacting souls for Christ is not mainly done by prolonged philosophical, theological and dogmatic debate, you’ll appreciate!!!

    Old and New Testaments must come into accessible synergy. Denominational distinctives pale into insignificance. For example, with the 10 Commandments the “Two hand analogy” has proved helpful.

    The RIGHT hand has the clean and holy commands:
    THUMB: “Worship God alone with all your mind, heart, strength and soul.” INDEX: “Have no other gods nor idols of any kind.” MIDDLE: “Never use God’s name in vain.” RING: “Keep holy the Sabbath day.” PINKIE: “Honour your dad and your mum.”

    Semitic peoples distinguish the cleanliness of their right hand from the uncleanness of their LEFT hand:
    THUMB: “Do not murder or hate or harm another person.” INDEX: “Do not commit adultery or even look at someone with lust.” MIDDLE: “Never steal or take what belongs to another person.” RING: “Never tell lies or deceive or defame someone.” PINKIE: “Don’t covet other people’s things, because God gives you what you need each day.”

    One very bright student said to us: “I’ve kept all these commandments. Why do I need to be a Christian?” We – inspired by God – said: “Yes, we believe you are an exceptionally good person. But, only this: Have you done all that God is asking you to do?” That really had a huge effect.

    Open-air evangelism is what Jesus Christ our Lord and King specialised in. Out there we get away from ecclesiastical rivalries; and it’s surprising how sweetly the Word flows forth. If Christianity was to be a matter of philosophical theology and doctrinal disputes about who has the correct formula, Jesus would have left us a huge encyclopaedia! No! He just left us with His practical example and the dear Holy Spirit to counsel us.

    It’s not about numbers of people in perfect pews but about Christ’s life flowing in us, who are His living branches. Have we observed a fruitful grapevine? We’d notice that not all the branches arise from the same place or run in the same direction; not all have the same number of leaves or flowers or bunches of fruit. Yet, it is certain that the life in all this plurality of branches is singular, coming from the one vine.

    Forever in the grace and mercy of Jesus; love and blessings from Marty

    • Hi, Marty. Thanks for the comment. While I agree that the “plurality of branches” generally proceeds from the “one vine,” I would argue, as I think you would, that some branches are healthier vessels of divine life than others, giving that life more ably and more fruitfully. I am troubled to think that “denominational distinctives pale” or that doctrinal distinction is not important. True, doctrinal debate is not generally the way to win souls. But doctrinal truth marks the most unobstructed path to salvation, while theological error can lead to ruination.

      Peace be with you.

      • Thanks for taking the trouble to reply Joseph; much appreciated.

        Am a bit puzzled why you think we need a doctrinal ‘path to salvation’.
        In its extreme form hasn’t this been ecclesiolatry and caused splitting of The Body?
        From experiences in America, Africa, Asia, Europe, and Australia, I definitely have not found that all Roman Catholics are walking a common path; far from it in fact.

        Reading John 10:27-30 in both Catholic and Protestant exegeses suggests (like Jesus told Martha: “only one thing is needed”) that we are saved by listening to, relating to, and following The Lord Jesus Christ.

        After much experimenting, I personally found this easiest to do in the Roman Catholic Church but can’t help noticing that many Catholics do not know Jesus and do not love and obey Him (including an awful lot of clergy; some of whom have a greater affiliation with freemasonry than with Christ). It’s also unmistakeable that some of the Protestant fold have a very close relationship with Jesus and love and obey Him implicitly.

        The 10 commandments are surely much easier to give joyful loving assent to once we’re relating with their Mediator (see Mathew 5). As in Philippians 2:13, we will only succeed if we have an internal partnership with Jesus (also Romans 8:9; II Corinthians 13:5)..

        ‘Tis great to be following Christ with many others in the Church (and, indeed any church must have good order) but no one in the Church can substitute for The Lamb each one of us must be in partnership with. A path of good order is no substitute and if it blocks our relationship with Jesus it tends towards a path to perdition not salvation.

        This has been expressed a bit more strongly than I was planning; my apologies for that. But I’d still appreciate any reflections, critique or comments in reply.

        All the best in Jesus from Marty

        • Knowledge of and a relationship with Christ are certainly the most important and necessary element of our salvation. I did not say otherwise. This does not mean that doctrine is unimportant. Doctrine — what the Church teaches — answers the essential questions of who Jesus is and “how can I be saved?” I said that doctrine “marks the most unobstructed path to salvation” — not that doctrine itself is the path to salvation, as you took. Whether you understand, as the common Protestant argument, that “faith alone” is all that is needed for salvation, or you understand, as the Catholic Church has always taught, that salvation is found in the life of grace through the Sacraments, of which faith is the essential ground — this is doctrine. Your reduction of doctrine to only simple faith and knowledge being required is in fact a doctrine also, and a Protestant one.

          Many Protestants are truly saved, I can attest. Most are saved despite this cry of “faith alone,” and the practice of most Protestant churches in fact belies this simplification. Most thoughtful Protestant theology (e.g. Lutheranism, Calvinism) will present that good works are necessary fruit of true faith in Christ. But this nonetheless presents good works as a necessary condition of salvation; i.e. if anyone says he has faith but has no works, his faith is dead (James 2:14-26).

          The real danger in the Protestant doctrine, I can likewise attest, is in deluding many with an incomplete understanding of this to think that sin doesn’t matter, holiness doesn’t matter, only knowledge of Christ matters. But even the devils know Christ and believe (James 2:19)! Our faith does indeed save us, but only if it is “faith working in love” (Galatians 5:6), a faith that transforms the whole person and bears good fruit.

          Doctrine does matter, now more than ever. Liberal Protestantism is increasingly surrendering to the vices and agenda of the age, affirming the legitimacy if not the good of homosexuality, transgenderism, abortion, and sexual immorality, in a denial of the authority of Scripture and indeed the revealed truth of Christ. Would you say, in the face of this, that only “one thing is needed,” knowledge of the teachings of Christ? What about obedience and submission to those teachings and to His Lordship?

  20. I can only pray to God because He is Omnipresent = means He can hear me everywhere.. but I can not pray to a dead human because human is not Omnipresent. Let us therefore know who really God is, He is Omnipresent,=he is everywhere, Omnipotent = All Powerful and Omniscient = All Knowing…

    • God is the God of the living and not the dead, for all live to Him (Luke 20:38). Those who have passed away in Christ are not “dead,” but live forever in Him (John 11:26). So, if a believer in Christ is in Him, and He is omnipresent — and we are ourselves are likewise united with Him in the Body (Romans 12:5) — why shouldn’t a believer in Him be able to hear our prayers?

    • Victor, thanks for the comment. As far as I could find, the text is not available anywhere in English. This book, available online, contains the Latin text, from which I made the above translation: both his Locutiones de Exodo (Speeches on Exodus, beginning page 33) and his Quaestiones in Exodum (Questions into Exodus, beginning page 209). If there’s any particular passage you’d like me to take a look at and give a quick reading into English, I’ll do my best, though I’ve been pretty busy lately.

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  22. Dear Joseph,
    Great article and responses. I read that one Wiki article – well, portions of a book- about the numbering of the Commandments through “Benedict”. At one point he stated that the Old Testament refers to the “commandments “ in 3 places: Exodus 34, Deut. 10:4, and another in Deut. He said that the real meaning of the word usually translated as “commandment” was “word”. In other words, the 10 Words of God. Therefore, the Talmud, according to the Wiki article, considers the first “Word” of God to be the “preamble”, so to speak. The part in which He reminds the Israelites what he has done for them. The traditional Catholic or Protestant 10 commands are actually combined into 9 in this method of numbering. I have been contemplating these as “9” for some time, and I wondered if you could confirm for me that those 3 places in Exodus and Deuteronomy actually refer to the Decalogue as the “10 Words” of God.

    • Yes, the Hebrew word traditionally translated as “commandment” in the context of the Decalogue or Ten Commandments is דָּבָר (dēbar), which is most literally “words,” or “sayings,” or “matters.” Exodus 34:28, etc., does refer to them as being a collection of ten.

  23. …and St. Augustine wouldn’t have had any knowledge of the way the Talmud had numbered the commandments? I don’t know much about the Talmud. He would have known about the orthodox numbering, though; you said he considered it appropriate that the commandments directly relating to God would be three. Who came up with the Orthodox numbering? Were they iconoclasts? I have always been suspicious that that was the reason Protestants divided the commandments as they do. What interests me now, though, is that if you look at the “Words” in the way that the Talmud does, you have 9 commandments. I understand St. Augustine wanting to make it clear that wives are not property, but this way of the Talmud combines the Protestant and traditional catholic numbering. And it makes for three references to the Blessed Trinity. Actually, I think it makes three Trinities of Trinities if you look at it carefully.

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  25. Ex 20:4 clearly says: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. So then why make images of Jesus and Mary at all. The riots involving Paul at Ephesus and the silversmiths are a good early church example. Paul could have said: Hey friends, why not switch to making images of Jesus and Mary instead of Diana? The riots would have been over. But no, Paul did not do this because it would be wrong.
    V17 reads: Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife…, clearly wife comes second, so you’ve taken the second item and made a separate commandment, not quite good practice, but politically correct.
    The 3 trinity-ness is not an argument.
    My wife knew a dear departed Catholic friend who would ask in front of her statue of Mary to find her car-house keys. Isn’t that treating Mary as a God?

    • Hi, thanks for the comment. If you believe that there is a problem with the making of any likeness of any living thing, terrestrial or divine — then that excludes from our lives virtually all visual art and entertainment. There would be no painting and no sculpture, but also no photography, no movies, no TV. But not many people take the words of Scripture that literally, thankfully. The context of the commandment, as St. Augustine rightly observed, is the worship of God, having no other Gods before Him. “Idolatry” is not merely the creation of images but the worship of images. In other places in Scripture, as I pointed out, the Jews are commanded, even by God, to fashion images of animals (things of the earth) or angels (things in heaven above) — not to worship them, but to use them.

      I personally wouldn’t count on Mary to help my find my car keys, but if someone wants to ask for her help, what’s wrong with that? What about that is equating her with a God?

      The peace of the Lord be with you.

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