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What are the Catholic Ten Commandments?

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The biblical Ten Commandments, found in Exodus 20:1–17 and Deuteronomy 5:6–21, are listed as follows:

(1) “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me” (Exodus 20:2–3; Deuteronomy 5:6–7).

(2) “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, 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” (Exodus 20:4–6; Deuteronomy 5:8–10).

(3) “You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain” (Exodus 20:7; Deuteronomy 5:11).

(4) “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy” (Exodus 20:8–11; Deuteronomy 5:12–15).

(5) “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the LORD your God is giving you” (Exodus 20:12; Deuteronomy 5:16).

(6) “You shall not murder” (Exodus 20:13; Deuteronomy 5:17).

(7) “You shall not commit adultery” (Exodus 20:14; Deuteronomy 5:18).

(8) “You shall not steal” (Exodus 20:15; Deuteronomy 5:19).

(9) “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor” (Exodus 20:16; Deuteronomy 5:20).

(10) “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s” (Exodus 20:17; Deuteronomy 5:21).

However, in the Catholic Catechism and most official Catholic documents (see the official Vatican website), the first and second commandments are combined to read, “I am the Lord your God. You shall not have other gods beside me.” To get the number of commandments back to ten, the tenth commandment is then split into “you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife” and “you shall not covet your neighbor’s goods.”

It is not necessarily wrong for the Catholic Church to combine the first and second commandments and split the tenth commandment into two commandments. After all, the numerals 1—10 do not appear in any ancient Hebrew manuscripts that contain the Ten Commandments to officially settle how the commandments should be divided. Technically, the second commandment contains two commandments: “you shall not make for yourself a carved image” and “you shall not bow down to them or serve them.” Further, the tenth commandment contains seven different, but related, prohibitions.

It is suspect, though, that the Catholic Church would summarize the second commandment as “you shall not have other gods beside me” and leave out “you shall not make for yourself a carved image” and “you shall not bow down to them or serve them,” considering that the Catholic Church has long been accused of idolatry for its use of images and iconography in worship.

Due to the importance of the first two commandments, and in light of the fact that the ancient Israelites greatly struggled with idolatry, maintaining the clear and explicit condemnation of graven images seems to be the biblically prudent choice. The Catholic Church leaves out part of the second commandment, apparently trying to hide the fact that their own images and icons are violations of that very command.

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What are the Catholic Ten Commandments?
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This page last updated: January 4, 2022