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Sunday, July 5, 2015


The most common Protestant numbering of the Ten Commandments:

The Catholic numbering of the Ten Commandments:

When I was studying the Catholic Church, but still trying to find errors, I came across her version of the Ten Commandments. The first commandment was: "I am the Lord your God: you shall not have strange gods before me." The second commandment was: "You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain." Aha! I thought: They did away with the second commandment! They worship graven images, and so simply just deleted the second commandment--"Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image."

But there were still ten in the list. Deleting the second commandment threw the numbering out of order, and then I saw that the tenth commandment, "Thou shalt not covet," was split into two: "You shall not covet your neighbor's wife," and "You shall not covet your neighbor's goods." Pretty tricky, I thought.

St. Augustine of Hippo, who
turned out to be my Patron Saint
when I joined the Church.
Well, it turns out to be St. Augustine who was "tricky" in the early years of the Church. This odd "Catholic" arrangement was his fault. He seemed to think that your neighbor's wife was different than your neighbor's goods, that the coveting involved two differing sins, and so numbered them as two separate commandments.

As the Catechism of the Catholic Church simply states in paragraph 2066: "The division and numbering of the Commandments have varied in the course of history. The present catechism follows the division of the Commandments established by St. Augustine, which has become traditional in the Catholic Church. It is also that of the Lutheran confessions. The Greek Fathers worked out a slightly different division, which is found in the Orthodox Churches and Reformed communities."

It wasn't long before I learned that Catholics do not worship graven images or statues, as I had been taught in my Protestant upbringing. There is a great difference between veneration and worship. Veneration is a feeling of profound respect for someone or something, and, at most, a Catholic will look with veneration upon an image which helps them recall something sacred. Worship, though, is something Catholics reserve for God alone. (Catholics also venerate St. Mary; they do not worship her.)

And so St. Augustine put the first commandment in the proper perspective. He didn't take the second one out of context. I know of very few Protestants who would consider a man condemned who has crafted a beautiful carving of, say, a mare and her colt, now sitting proudly on a shelf in their living room. Read the "Catholic," Augustinian version of the first commandment in context: "I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself a graven 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." It makes a lot more sense when understood has a whole. Sometimes, though, the commandment is shortened simply to, "You shall have no other gods before me," or something similar, and this is what had thrown me when I was anti-Catholic.

For a further explanation, from Catholic Answers, see Do Catholics Worship Statues? Catholic Answers is also a great resource for any other questions you may have concerning the Church.

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