St. Augustine on How to Divide the Ten Commandments: Did Catholics “Change” the Ten Commandments? (2022)

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.

    (Video) Did the Catholic Church Change the 10 Commandments?

  3. 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. (Video) Did the Catholic Church change the 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 (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.

(Video) Did the Catholic Church Change the Ten Commandments? | Karlo Broussard | Catholic Answers Live

(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.)

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”?

1. Exodus 20:12

(Video) Ten Commandments in Catholic theology | Wikipedia audio article

5. Exodus 20:4-5

(Video) Was St Augustine of Hippo On The Side Of The Protestant Reformation ?

FAQs

Did Catholics change the 10 Commandments? ›

VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Francis didn't say that God had told him to revise the Ten Commandments as claimed in a widely shared story. Francis never made the purported comments and has not changed or added to the Ten Commandments.

Do Catholics have their own 10 Commandments? ›

Notwithstanding different numerical designations, Jews, Catholics and Protestants all end up with a total of 10 commandments. All believe, as well, that God gave Moses the Ten Commandments on Mount Sinai.

Who changed the Ten Commandments in the Bible? ›

Samaritans changed the original Ten Commandments

In his fundamental study, the author analyses all Jewish and Christian sources from about 300 BC to 200 AD that have recourse to the Decalogue.

What does the Catholic Church say about the Ten Commandments? ›

According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church—the official exposition of the Catholic Church's Christian beliefs—the Commandments are considered essential for spiritual good health and growth, and serve as the basis for Catholic social teaching.

Did the Catholic Church edit the Bible? ›

U.S. Catholic Church Rolls Out New Bible Translation The New American Bible, Revised Edition is the first new Catholic Bible in 40 years. The new version updates many Old Testament passages based on newly translated manuscripts discovered in the past 50 years.

Did the Catholic Church change the Sabbath day? ›

Catholic Church Admits They Made the Change of Sabbath - YouTube

What are the Ten Commandments Catholic version? ›

The Ten Commandments
  • I am the LORD your God: you shall not have strange Gods before me.
  • You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain.
  • Remember to keep holy the LORD'S Day.
  • Honor your father and your mother.
  • You shall not kill.
  • You shall not commit adultery.
  • You shall not steal.

Are there three versions of the Ten Commandments? ›

First, if we take the Bible just as it is, without splitting up its texts or rearranging them in a different order as some scholars do (including me, at times), we find three versions of the Ten Commandments. The two best known are in Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5.

Are the 10 Commandments the same in all religions? ›

The numbering of the Ten Commandments differs in different religious traditions. In Talmudic Judaism, the “prologue” is the first commandment, or utterance, and the prohibitions against false gods and idols are the second.

Did Jesus get rid of the 10 Commandments? ›

The Ten Commandments and the rest of the Mosaic Law were nailed to the cross with Christ (Jesus didn't eliminate the Law, but perfectly fulfilled it — i.e. the contract was completed) and didn't carry over into the Christian age.

What happened to the original Ten Commandments? ›

The Ten Commandments fragment was found in the famous Cave 4 not far from the Qumran ruins in the Judean Desert of the West Bank, where the scrolls had rested, undisturbed and preserved for two millennia, in darkness and dry desert air. After the discovery, all sorts of crazy things happened to the scrolls.

What did Jesus say about the Ten Commandments? ›

In Matthew 19:16–19 Jesus repeated five of the Ten Commandments, followed by that commandment called "the second" (Matthew 22:34–40) after the first and great commandment. And, behold, one came and said unto him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?

Who changed the Sabbath day to Sunday? ›

On March 7, 321, however, Roman Emperor Constantine I issued a civil decree making Sunday a day of rest from labor, stating: All judges and city people and the craftsmen shall rest upon the venerable day of the sun.

What are the seven rules of the Catholic Church? ›

There are seven Sacraments: Baptism, Confirmation, Eucharist, Reconciliation, Anointing of the Sick, Matrimony, and Holy Orders.

What is the 9th commandment Catholic? ›

"Thou shalt not covet" under the Augustinian division used by Roman Catholics and Lutherans. Roman Catholics consider the prohibition on coveting one's neighbor's wife as the ninth commandment while Lutherans make it wife, servants, or anything else.

What books did the Catholic Church remove from the Bible? ›

List of deuterocanonicals
  • Tobit.
  • Judith.
  • Baruch.
  • Sirach.
  • 1 Maccabees.
  • 2 Maccabees.
  • Wisdom.
  • Additions to Esther, Daniel, and Baruch: Esther: Fulfillment of Mordecai's Dream (Esther 10:4–13) Interpretation of Mordecai's Dream (Vulgate Esther 11) Conspiracy of the Two Eunuchs (Vulgate Esther 12)

Where in the Bible does it say the Catholic Church is the one true church? ›

Their doctrine of the one true church, based on Matthew 16:18 and other Scriptures, emphasizes the succession of true doctrine, practice, and teachers through the centuries, and the authority of the church under Christ.

Why is the Catholic Bible different? ›

The Differences

In short, Catholics have 46 books, while Protestants have 39. Thus, Catholics have seven more books and also some additions within shared books: Tobit, Judith, Wisdom of Solomon, Ecclesiasticus / Sirach / Ben Sira, 1–2 Maccabees, Baruch, and the additions to Daniel and Esther.

Where in the Bible does it say the Sabbath was changed from Saturday to Sunday? ›

Does the Bible say the Sabbath changed from Saturday to Sunday?

Which pope changed the Sabbath to Sunday? ›

In fact, many theologians believe that ended in A.D. 321 with Constantine when he “changed” the Sabbath to Sunday.

Why did the Catholic Church change the words in Mass? ›

“I think the new words add more beauty and dignity to the Mass.” Bishop Walter Hurley discussed the changes in FAITH magazine. “For those of us who experienced the shift from Latin to English, these changes are minor and meant to be a more faith rendition of the official Latin texts,” he said.

Why do Catholics follow the 10 Commandments? ›

In Basic Beliefs of Catholicism, the Ten Commandments are considered divine law because God himself revealed them. And because they were spelled out specifically with no room for ambiguity, they're also positive law. That's why they're also known as divine positive law.

What is the 7th commandment in the Catholic Bible? ›

The seventh commandment forbids unjustly taking or keeping the goods of one's neighbor and wronging him in any way with respect to his goods. It commands justice and charity in the care of earthly goods and the fruits of men's labor.

What does Jesus say is the second greatest commandment? ›

“Jesus replied: 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. ' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbour as yourself. ' All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.

Are there two different 10 Commandments? ›

The Bible actually contains two complete sets of the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:2-17 and Deut. 5:6-21). In addition, Leviticus 19 contains a partial set of the Ten Commandments (see verses 3-4, 11-13, 15-16, 30, 32), and Exodus 34:10-26 is sometimes considered a ritual decalogue.

Why are the 10 Commandments numbered differently? ›

The Answer:

Putting aside differences in interpretation and translation (which could fill a library), various groups do number the Ten Commandments differently.

Did Moses change the Ten Commandments? ›

Moses attempted to remind those present about the circumstances that led to where they were, and his words in Deuteronomy indicate some differences along with added laws and observances. The Ten Commandments had some changes in the 4th, 5th and 10th Commandments that you can see below.

What did Jesus say about the law of Moses? ›

Jesus Christ, in speaking to the Nephite multitude, proclaimed He was the Giver of the law of Moses and that the law was fulfilled in Him: "Behold, I say unto you that the law is fulfilled that was given unto Moses.

Do Christians follow the 10 Commandments? ›

According to Christian belief, the Ten Commandments are important rules from God that tell Christians how to live.

Why did God make the 10 Commandments? ›

He gave them to us to make sure that WE would also become aware that we could not fulfill them on our own, through our own power, to make it painfully clear to us that every one of us sins and falls short of the holiness, righteousness and glory of God (Rom 3:23) and, therefore, are in need of a Savior.

Does the New Covenant replace the old covenant? ›

God's covenant with Israel has not been overtaken and replaced by the new covenant. God has not abrogated his covenant with this people; he has not rejected or forgotten his people.

How many commandments did Jesus give in the New Testament? ›

Here is what Jesus taught about the second of these things: the commandments as he saw them. In the story, a man asks what must be done to inherit eternal life. In answer, Jesus recites six Commandments, seemingly drawn from the usual Mosaic Ten, except that five are missing, and one against fraud has been added.

Should Christians follow the law? ›

The moral law, which is summarized in the Ten Commandments, is indeed binding on you today, dear Christian! The commandments were given to you and for you. They were given to help you live a blessed life that is good for you and is glorifying to your God!

Do the tablets of the Ten Commandments still exist? ›

Described as a "national treasure" of Israel, the stone was first uncovered in 1913 during excavations for a railroad station near Yavneh in Israel and is the only intact tablet version of the Commandments thought to exist.

Why did Moses break the tablets of the Ten Commandments? ›

According to the foregoing, Moses wished to punish the Israelites severely, when he beheld that they were unworthy of the precious gift he carried. By their rash deed they had broken the covenant between them and their Father in heaven. He therefore broke them at the foot of the mount in front of them.

Are the 10 commandments part of the 613 commandments? ›

The most well-known of these laws are the Ten Commandments , but the Torah contains a total of 613 commandments or mitzvah covering many aspects of daily life, including family, personal hygiene and diet.

Did Jesus break the law? ›

Breaking the Jewish law would have been a sin and Scripture repeatedly affirms that Jesus was sinless (2 Corinthians 5:21, 1 Peter 2:22, Hebrews 4:15). James 2:10 says whoever stumbles at one point of the law is guilty of breaking it all, which means Jesus did not break any Old Testament laws.

Why did Jesus give a new commandment? ›

The "New Commandment", the Wycliffe Bible Commentary states, "was new in that the love was to be exercised toward others not because they belonged to the same nation, but because they belonged to Christ ... and the love of Christ which the disciples had seen ... would be a testimony to the world".

Are the 10 Commandments in the New Testament or old? ›

The 10 Commandments are in chapter 20 of Exodus, the second book of the Old Testament (sometimes called the Hebrew Bible).

Is Sunday a pagan day of worship? ›

Pagan correspondence

In Roman culture, Sunday was the day of the Sun god. In pagan theology, the Sun was the source of life, giving warmth and illumination to mankind. It was the center of a popular cult among Romans, who would stand at dawn to catch the first rays of sunshine as they prayed.

What religion does not believe in the Trinity? ›

The largest nontrinitarian Christian denominations are The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Oneness Pentecostals, Jehovah's Witnesses, La Luz del Mundo, and the Iglesia ni Cristo.

Where in the Bible does it say the Sabbath is Saturday? ›

4:1-11; Lev. 23:32; Mark 1:32.) The Doctrinal Points of the Church of God (7th day) (Salem Conference, at 17) state: We should observe the seventh day of the week (Saturday), from even to even, as the Sabbath of the Lord our God.

What rules do Catholics have to follow? ›

These are:
  • to observe certain feasts.
  • to keep the prescribed fasts.
  • to attend Mass on Sundays and Holy Days.
  • to confess once a year.
  • to receive Holy Communion during paschal time.
  • to pay tithes.
  • to abstain from any act upon which an interdict has been placed entailing excommunication.

What happens if a Catholic does not receive last rites? ›

Nothing physically happens to a person who dies without having the last rites administered to them. These are the final prayers and blessings a person receives that give spiritual comfort and a renewed faith that they will walk with Christ to meet their maker.

How do Catholics Remember the Ten Commandments? ›

Ten Commandments with Hand Motions [Catholic/Orthodox]

What are the Catholic 10 commandments in order? ›

The Ten Commandments
  • I am the LORD your God: you shall not have strange Gods before me.
  • You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain.
  • Remember to keep holy the LORD'S Day.
  • Honor your father and your mother.
  • You shall not kill.
  • You shall not commit adultery.
  • You shall not steal.

What is the 8th commandment Catholic? ›

Eighth commandment

False witness and perjury: statements made publicly in court which obstruct justice by condemning the innocent or exonerating the guilty, or which may increase the punishment of the accused.

What are the Catholic 10 commandments in order? ›

The Ten Commandments
  • I am the LORD your God: you shall not have strange Gods before me.
  • You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain.
  • Remember to keep holy the LORD'S Day.
  • Honor your father and your mother.
  • You shall not kill.
  • You shall not commit adultery.
  • You shall not steal.

Who changed the Sabbath day to Sunday? ›

On March 7, 321, however, Roman Emperor Constantine I issued a civil decree making Sunday a day of rest from labor, stating: All judges and city people and the craftsmen shall rest upon the venerable day of the sun.

Why are commandments numbered differently? ›

The Answer:

Putting aside differences in interpretation and translation (which could fill a library), various groups do number the Ten Commandments differently.

What are the commandment of the Catholic Church? ›

Catechism of the Catholic Church

You shall attend Mass on Sundays and holy days of obligation. You shall confess your sins at least once a year. You shall humbly receive your Creator in Holy Communion at least during the Easter season. You shall observe the prescribed days of fasting and abstinence.

Why do Catholics follow the 10 Commandments? ›

In Basic Beliefs of Catholicism, the Ten Commandments are considered divine law because God himself revealed them. And because they were spelled out specifically with no room for ambiguity, they're also positive law. That's why they're also known as divine positive law.

What did Jesus say about the Ten Commandments? ›

In Matthew 19:16–19 Jesus repeated five of the Ten Commandments, followed by that commandment called "the second" (Matthew 22:34–40) after the first and great commandment. And, behold, one came and said unto him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?

Is the golden rule one of the 10 Commandments? ›

True or false — the Golden Rule is one of the Ten Commandments. False. The so-called "Golden Rule" ("Do unto others as you would have them do unto you") doesn't appear in the Old Testament but in the New Testament (Matthew 7:12, Luke 6:31). 3.

Which pope changed the Sabbath to Sunday? ›

In fact, many theologians believe that ended in A.D. 321 with Constantine when he “changed” the Sabbath to Sunday.

Is Sunday a pagan day of worship? ›

Pagan correspondence

In Roman culture, Sunday was the day of the Sun god. In pagan theology, the Sun was the source of life, giving warmth and illumination to mankind. It was the center of a popular cult among Romans, who would stand at dawn to catch the first rays of sunshine as they prayed.

What religion does not believe in the Trinity? ›

The largest nontrinitarian Christian denominations are The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Oneness Pentecostals, Jehovah's Witnesses, La Luz del Mundo, and the Iglesia ni Cristo.

Are the 10 Commandments the same in all religions? ›

The numbering of the Ten Commandments differs in different religious traditions. In Talmudic Judaism, the “prologue” is the first commandment, or utterance, and the prohibitions against false gods and idols are the second.

How many versions of the Ten Commandments are there? ›

First, if we take the Bible just as it is, without splitting up its texts or rearranging them in a different order as some scholars do (including me, at times), we find three versions of the Ten Commandments. The two best known are in Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5.

Why did Moses break the Ten Commandments? ›

According to the above three Midrashim, Moses' motive in breaking the tablets was in defense of Israel, to provide an extenuation for their sin, to throw his lot in with theirs.

What are the seven rules of the Catholic Church? ›

There are seven Sacraments: Baptism, Confirmation, Eucharist, Reconciliation, Anointing of the Sick, Matrimony, and Holy Orders.

How many canon laws are there in the Catholic Church? ›

Containing 1752 canons, it is the law currently binding on the Latin Church. This codification is referred to as the 1983 Code of Canon Law to distinguish it from the 1917 Code.

What is the 9th commandment Catholic? ›

"Thou shalt not covet" under the Augustinian division used by Roman Catholics and Lutherans. Roman Catholics consider the prohibition on coveting one's neighbor's wife as the ninth commandment while Lutherans make it wife, servants, or anything else.

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