The Decalogue or Ten Commandments:
Similarities and Differences in Religious Traditions
by Felix Just, S.J., Ph.D.
The only difference is in the numbering-not the commandments.Your friend is ignorant
The “Ten Commandments” (also called the “Decalogue”) obviously come from the Hebrew Bible, but it is not so obvious to determine exactly what they are or how to count them. These commandments are recorded in two different biblical chapters (Exodus 20:1-17 & Deuteronomy 5:6-21), yet each text is slightly different, and neither passage explicitly numbers the commandments one through ten.
Although there are actually more than ten imperative verbs (at least 15) in each of these texts, several other biblical passages refer specifically to the “ten words” or “ten statements” (Heb: aseret ha-dibrot; Gk: deka logoi) that God gave to Moses (Exod 34:28; Deut 4:13; 10:4). In several books of the New Testament, Jesus, Paul, or other apostles quote some of the Jewish commandments, both from the Decalogue and from other parts of the Torah, although they never ennumerate a list of exactly ten.
Most Christians believe that the Ten Commandments form the core of God’s Law (the “Torah” or “Instruction” given by God through Moses, in the first five books of the Bible). Yet these are far from the only commandments contained in the Hebrew Bible. Rabbinic Jewish tradition maintains that the Torah contains a total of 613 commandments (“mitzvot”): 248 positive ones (injunctions, what one must do) and 365 negative ones (prohibitions, what one must avoid).
Moreover, in Jewish understanding, all 613 mitzvot are equally important, so the Decalogue is not really considered the “core”; ritual and dietary commandments are considered just as important as theological or ethical commands. If you break any one of them, you’ve broken God’s Law. When Jesus is asked which of the commandments is the first or most important, he does not quote the Decalogue directly, but rather combines quotations from Deuteronomy 6:4-5 (love God; the “Shema” of Judaism) and Leviticus 19:18 (love your neighbor).
As a result of all the discrepancies, Jews, Eastern Orthodox Christians, Roman Catholics, Lutherans, and other Protestants have subdivided and numbered the Decalogue differently over the centuries. Jews, Orthodox Christians, and most Protestants more closely follow the version of Exodus 20, while Catholics more closely follow the version of Deuteronomy 5. The main discrepancies come at the beginning and end of the lists of the Ten Commandments, as explained below:
The main discrepancies occur at the BEGINNING of the texts, in the first and/or second commandments:
Most contemporary Jews consider Exod 20:1-2 to be the first commandment, enjoining people to recognize the LORD as their God, while the second commandment forbids both polytheistic beliefs and practices (20:3-6 together).
Many Protestants consider Exod 20:1-2 (and Deut 5:6) to be a preface to the Decalogue, so that the first commandment opposes polytheism (no other gods; Exod 20:3), while the second commandment opposes idolatry (worshiping idols; 20:4-6).
Catholics and Lutherans consider all of Exod 20:1-6 and Deut 5:6-10 to be a single commandment, both enjoining monotheism and forbidding polytheism
The other main discrepancies occur at the END of the texts, in the ninth and/or tenth commandments:
Jews and most Protestants consider the last commandment to be the injuction against coveting anything;
Lutherans follow Martin Luther’s division of Exodus 20:17, which first prohibits coveting someone’s property (#9), then the spouse (#10).
Catholics follow St. Augustine’s division of Deuteronomy 5:21, which first mentions the spouse (#9), and then the property (#10