How the Orthodox list the Ten Commandments

I was recently shocked to find out that the Orthodox–who are so close Catholics in their doctrine–list the Ten Commandments the same way that Protestants do.

Theirs mentions the fashioning of false idols as a distinct commandment, and unites the prohibitions against coveting property or wife.

Shocked, I say, especially given that their church is likewise ancient.

So Catholics, as far as I know, are the only ones who enumerate the Commandments in the way they do. Why does the Catholic Church stand alone on this?

Here’s a link, one of a possible many:

oca.org/orthodoxy/the-orthodox-faith/bible-history/the-old-testament/the-ten-commandments

We’re not quite alone in combining “You shall have no other god before me” with the prohibition on idols. The Jews do that AND combine the types of coveting, because they consider “I am the Lord your God” to be the First Commandment all by itself, whereas Christians of every stripe tend to consider it a prelude or part of “You shall have no other God before me.”

I don’t really think it matters how we list the ten commandments. In the end they are all saying the same thing.

This has nothing to do with protestants or idols. The Orthodox are simply following the Septuagint (which pre-dates Christianity, BTW). Catholics follow the grouping of St. Augustine. Before Augustine, everyone used the Septuagint version.

In fact, Luther’s Large Catechism completely omits the command about graven images.

The Ten Commandments are actually twelve instructions. The Septuagint grouped the three “coveting” commands into one. Augustine apparently thought coveting someone’s wife was more serious than coveting his house or possessions, so he broke that commandment out from the others. To balance it out, he needed to combine two other instructions. It seems like “Thou shalt have no other gods” and “Thou shalt not create idols” (which are false gods) are very similar (or actually the same) and belong together.

Both versions have all twelve instructions. The only version to omit one (idols) is Martin Luther’s.

The Decalogue actually consists of 14 imperative statements that we’re told group into 10 commandments. Except we’re given no indication of how. Some are obviously on their own, like the prohibition on murder. Some are obviously together, like “Keep holy the Sabbath” consisting of 3 imperative statements. We’re then left with 4* imperatives and 3 commandments. False gods, idolatry, and the two covets.

Catholics and Lutherans follow the Augustinian Reckoning. We group idolatry and false gods, and split the covets into two commandments.

Orthodox and (most) Protestants follow a different method- the aptly named Orthodox-Reformed Reckoning. It splits idolatry and false gods, and groups the covets.

Judaism follows yet another order, and lumps both idolatry and false gods AND the two covets. Instead, they separate “I am the LORD your God…” into its own first commandment.

Notably, the divisions aren’t dogmatic. The imperative statements and the number 10 ARE. (And, to be honest, I like the Jewish method the best)

From there, you get shortened versions. No one wants to memorize the massive passage that is the actual 3rd Commandment. Much easier is just to say “Keep holy the Sabbath” or “Keep holy the Lord’s Day”. Similarly, sometimes Catholics and Lutherans will shorten the prohibitions on false gods and idols to just “Thou shalt have no other gods before me”, only implying the prohibition on idols. And, alas, this causes anti-Catholic Protestants (like CARM) to accuse us of removing the idolatry commandment.

(And while I can’t say for certain, I feel like that might be what happened with Luther)

*Idolatry is actually 2 imperatives. It’s just much easier to refer to it in this explanation as a single statement.

Others have given the answer concerning the different numbering. But Catholics make up the majority of all Christians, so it’s not like we’re “standing alone” as if we’re the odd duck. Most Christians do it our way. It’s a minority opinion to do it the other way. As has been mentioned though, both are fine and ultimately say the same thing. :slight_smile:

Very interesting comment. :thumbsup:

Excellent! :thumbsup:

Thank you sir, for a very succinct and informative reply.

There is nothing shocking about it. This enumeration of the Ten Commandments is not the “Protestant” one; it’s the Greek one. The Orthodox have been using it from the beginning.

Further, the Augustinian enumeration Catholics use is also the one used by Lutherans, so there’s nothing particularly “Catholic” about that enumeration either.

The only details I’d add:

The Decalogue (trying to divorce the passage from preconceived grouping) actually consists of 14 imperatives, not 12. Also, there are only 2 covets.

Also, I’m not entirely certain that was Augustine’s motivation in splitting them. There were already grounds for lumping false gods and idolatry, which Judaism did. The logic being that to the Ancient Israelites, they were the same concept. You didn’t have a false god without making an idol, and you didn’t make idols without worshiping them as gods. If anything, I would say the “new” division may have been driven by a bit of poetic numerology. 3 and 7 are important numbers in the Bible, and the Decalogue, under the Augustinian-Lutheran Reckoning, is split into 3 commandments about God and 7 about men.

As implied earlier in this correction, the LXX numbering was not universal. Judaism, again, splits it differently to this day. 1 is “I am the LORD your God…”, 2 is our 1st, and 3-10 are as LXX.

And, finally, really? A jab against Luther? Admittedly I haven’t seen the version you’re referring to, but Lutherans (and Jews) do the same thing we do. The three of us (Catholicism, Lutheranism, and Judaism) ALL shorten the “no other gods” commandment to just that, instead of explicitly adding a reminder not to worship idols. So I’m willing to give Luther the benefit of the doubt and assume he WAS doing the same.

The counting has never been established. Per the Douay, there are six “covets:”

Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s house [1]: neither shalt thou desire his wife, [2] nor his servant,[3] nor his handmaid, [4] nor his ox [5], nor his asx [5], nor any thing that is his [6].

Also, I’m not entirely certain that was Augustine’s motivation in splitting them.

Alas, Augustine did not leave us an account of his reasoning (which is why I said that it “appears” that he did such and such). I happen to agree that it is a superior grouping.

And, finally, really? A jab against Luther?

It was not a jab. Protestants sometimes accuse Catholics of downplaying (or even omitting) the prohibition against idols. It is ironic (and factual) that the only notable person to actually do this was the “father of protestantism.” I don’t ascribe any evil intent to Luther’s Large Catechism, but I think it’s ironic that the people who accuse the Catholic Church of obscuring this doctrine were founded by someone who completely omitted it.

^^^I’d point out that the ‘covets’ are properly divided, since the underlying sins to which they are addressed, are different: avarice to goods, vs. lust to ‘wife’ (spouse).

Where as “I am the Lord Your God…you shall put no others before me” clearly covers ‘idolatry’, and ‘graven images’, since the sin in both cases isn’t just in worshiping anything in particular–it’s in not ***worshiping and revering God–as God; as the singular Omnipotent, highest authority, the First Principle, the First Cause, the Creator and Master of the universe, Our Father, etc.***.

NB: wrt ‘graven images’, that goes to reverence, as a ‘graven image’ of the Divine Omnipotent Infinite Father, seeks to reduce the divine, to the tangible; the invisible, to visible; the infinite, to finite.

It doesn’t matter if you make a statute, or a ‘graven image’, or money, or sex, or pleasure, or even another person or cause, your ‘god’–if you make anyone(s), or anything(s), your ‘god’, or a god, or gods’, and/or praise it/them as such–above, next to, or aside from GOD, you violate the First Commandment.

Basic. Elementary.

NB: also worth noting–the Seven Deadly Sins were first pronounced in the 4th century–St. Augustine lived in the latter 4th, into the early 5th–so he would most likely have been informed of the 7 deadly sins by the time he formulated his summary of the 10 Commandments, which probably sheds light on the context by which he viewed the Commandments.

FWIW.

But even in the Douay, “wife…” to the end of the verse all share a “you shall not covet”. That’s what we’re enumerating.

It was not a jab. Protestants sometimes accuse Catholics of downplaying (or even omitting) the prohibition against idols. It is ironic (and factual) that the only notable person to actually do this was the “father of protestantism.” I don’t ascribe any evil intent to Luther’s Large Catechism, but I think it’s ironic that the people who accuse the Catholic Church of obscuring this doctrine were founded by someone who completely omitted it.

I checked. The Large Catechism also shortens the 3rd to “Thou shalt sanctify the holy day”, completely leaving off the instruction to labor for 6 days, and the instruction not to work on the seventh. Evidence points in favor of my interpretation: He just shortened them to the catechismal forms. The “abridged” versions, because no one wants to remember

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; in it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your manservant, or your maidservant, or your cattle, 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 the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day and hallowed it.
RSV-CE Ex 20:8-11

as the 3rd/4th Commandment. MUCH simpler is just, to quote Luther, “Thou shalt sanctify the holy day.”

Really? A final jab against Luther? Shame on you.

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