Compassion Blogs

Which Ten Commandments?

The Ten Commandments

The Sunday School children have been learning the Ten Commandments this school year.  They have been learning about one commandment a month.  This month they are working on the 6th and 7th Commandments.  They are doing a great job.  When they have memorized the Commandment, they get aK.I.D.S. Stamp”, (formally known as Tracky Stamps).10commandment

Well, it was brought to the Sunday School teachers that there was a little confusion on the numbering of the Ten Commandments.  It was brought to a parent’s attention, that the Lutheran Church numbers the Commandments different than other Protestant denominations.

While it is easy to find the Ten Commandments in Exodus 20:1-17 and Deuteronomy 5:6-21, the Bible does not number the Commandments, nor does it determine their respective position in order.  God did not explicitly set out for us how they should be numbered. In the original scrolls there were no chapters, verses, no book titles written.  The Catholic Church added there for easy reference for access and study.

If you count all of the imperative statements, depending on the translation, you will find between 12 and 15 statements. The arrangements of the Commandments are different depending on how you group the paragraphs.

Around 400 A.D., Augustine, who is considered one of the greatest theologians in Christian history, began the tradition of numbering the commandments that the Roman Catholic and Lutheran denominations use. Martin Luther had begun his theological studies as a Catholic monk, and was familiar with Augustine’s writings.  Luther saw no deficiencies with the number of the commandments.  Around 200 A.D., Origin, a Christian teacher, began the numbering of the commandments the way most Protestants and Eastern Orthodox use.

To make it easy to memorize the Commandments, the Jews and Christians abbreviate the Ten Commandments.  For example, the Third Commandment takes four verses to state (Exodus 20:8-11), but is summarized as “Remember the Sabbath and keep it holy”.


Exodus   20:1-17 ~ Verses Grouped Together
Counted as Commandment   #  Jewish Latin Catholic, Lutheran Eastern Catholic, Orthodox, Most   Protestant
1 2 * 3, 4, 5, 6 3
2 3, 4, 5, 6 7 4, 5, 6
3 7 8, 9, 10, 11 7
4 8, 9, 10, 11 12 8, 9, 10, 11
5 12 13 12
6 13 14 13
7 14 15 14
8 15 16 15
9 16 17a ** 16
10 17 17b *** 17
(* Commandment to believe)
(** Commandment against lust)
(*** Commandment against greed)

No Matter what numbering system that is used, no commandment is left out. Luther believed that “You shall not make for yourself a graven image” was part of the First Commandment, ”Thou shall have no other Gods before Me.” Again, the Commandments were condensed to “summarize”, not to “omit”.

While there are different versions of the Commandments, the children are learning them the way they are found in Luther’s Small Catechism.  This will help the children as they transition into Confirmation, where they will learn the meanings of the Ten Commandments.   If you get a chance, ask our youth about the Commandments, they will be happy to tell you.

What is more important than the way the Ten Commandments are number, is that our youth learn to examine their life based on them, and repent where they have failed, to receive the forgiveness of sins from Jesus.  Going forth, they should have the desire to be thankful for the grace we are given though Jesus’ death on the Cross for us.


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